AMHERST, Mass. — Inexperience can do a lot of things to a hockey team. It can be channeled into youthful excitement or it can explode into sloppiness and inconsistency. For Massachusetts, it was the former in a 4-3 win over ECAC opponent Rensselaer.
The Minutemen thoroughly dominated the contest in almost every facet. The shot total was almost laughable (41-13), though the Engineers’ 3-2 lead at the second intermission was certainly no joke.
Two UMass goals within a 55-second span early in the final period erased that deficit however. Sophomore Jeff Lang got his first career goal and point to tie the game at the 1:55 mark of the third. Freshman Matt Anderson (2 assists) won an offensive draw clean back to Lang who faked before sliding a point shot into the upper portion of the net.
“I faked the shot and the kid went down,” Lang said. “I moved a little to the right and saw Matt [Anderson] screen in front so I just let it go.”
“I knew he shot it so I went down,” RPI goalie Kevin Kurk said. “But I just completely lost sight of it.”
Tim Vitek got the game winner under a minute later on a breakaway. Lang sliced a cross-ice, blueline-to-blueline feed to Vitek, who broke in unabated on Kurk before shelfing the winner.
“I put myself in a good position and I was calling for the puck,” Vitek said. “The goalie was shifting and he left that right corner open. He was really leaning on the post so I just shot it over him.”
Engineer coach Dan Fridgen called it a breakdown.
“It was a defenseman that shouldn’t have been coming off the ice,” Fridgen said. “I don’t know what you would call that.”
Freshman Gabe Winer, making his first career start was sterling with two saves in the final minute to preserve the lead. The first came off a point blast from Danny Eberly that Winer took right off the mask. The second was a slot chance from Mikael Hammarstrom.
“It was a tough game for a goaltender,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said of Winer (9 saves). “It was a real mental challenge for him, almost tougher than seeing a lot of rubber. But judging from the way he handled the last five minutes he played well.”
Kurk was certainly the busier of the two keepers as he stopped 37 of 41 shots. Nolan Graham led the way offensively for the Engineers with a goal and an assist. Fridgen however, was unhappy with the effort offensively.
“I think we were guilty of passing up shooting opportunities,” Fridgen said. “If you’re not doing a simple thing like shooting the puck on the four-by-six, you’re not going to win games.”
Senior captain Danny Eberly, who assisted on Vic Pereira’s power play goal in the second period, was unhappy with his team’s overall effort.
“Tonight we came to play,” Eberly said. “But not the full 60 minutes. We made a couple of mistakes and they capitalized on them.”
RPI had two goal leads on a pair of occasions, only to see them go by the boards in the Engineers third straight loss to a Hockey East opponent.
C.J. Hanafin gave RPI its first two-goal lead at 14:31 of the first with a magnificent individual effort. The sophomore pivot flew cut to the middle on defenseman Marvin Degon before pulling a toe-drag between his legs and directing a backhand past Winer.
Thomas Pock cut the deficit in half before the first intermission but Pereira’s blast from the point restored the two-goal lead. Nick Kuiper’s goal just over a minute later started the three-goal Minuteman rush that ended RPI’s night.