AMHERST, Mass. — In vintage soothsayer fashion, Massachusetts coach Don Cahoon warned all week of a letdown against MAAC opponent Iona. But instead of deflecting the responsibility, he instead placed it squarely on the maturity of his players.
Those players responded with a 5-3 win in a one-sided game.
The Minutemen (5-4-0) dominated play, outshooting Iona (1-10-1) 45-18, but Gael goalie Mike Fraser kept his team in it with an abundance of miracle stops.
“You just have to keep battling,” Cahoon said. “Especially when you run into a hot hand in the net.”
Fraser made 40 saves against an onslaught of shots. His counterpart in net, Tim Warner, wasn’t nearly as busy with 15 saves.
“It’s a tough game to play,” Warner said. “Not that I want more shots, but it’s easier to play in a game when there are more shots.”
Despite his limited action, Warner made a few key saves to keep his team in control. The first was on a Kelly Bararuk breakaway in the first period, when Warner stepped up to cut down the angle before stacking the pads and poking the puck to safety.
“I came out pretty far,” Warner said. “[Goalie coach Jim] Stewart has been helping me with my confidence and aggressiveness.”
Warner got plenty of support from a suddenly balanced and dangerous UMass offense. Four different Minutemen scored, and for the third straight game they topped the four-goal mark.
Sophomore Peter Trovato scored the game winner off a wrist shot from the slot. Matt Walsh fed Trovato on a three-on-two to give the Minutemen a 4-2 lead.
Iona cut the deficit to 4-3 when Kelly Sickavish deflected a centering pass into his own net, but Stephen Werner’s tally at 12:22 iced the contest.
Werner entered the offensive zone facing two defensemen. He blew past one and nutmegged the other before beating Fraser on a backhand deke for a 5-3 lead.
“At this level its not too often that you get a chance to try something like that,” Werner said. “I had a lot of speed; the defenders were kind of on their heels, so I had the chance to do something I used to do in youth hockey.”
“That was a real pretty goal,” Cahoon said, laughing.
UMass swayed the momentum in its favor in the third, outshooting and outscoring (3-1) Iona for the period. Cahoon attributed the tilt in play to Mike Warner’s power-play goal under a minute into the third.
“The coaches drew up what they wanted before we went out there,” Warner said. “Tommy [Pock] told me to go to the net and he’d shoot it when he saw me. He let go a laser and I’m just lucky I got a piece of it.”
Warner’s deflection gave the Minutemen a 3-2 lead and the impetus to control the rest of the game.
The first 40 minutes, however, were more even. The two teams traded goals in each period, starting with Iona’s opening tally.
After a strong cycle along the right wing boards, Tim Krueckl slid the puck in front to Jamie Carroll (two goals), who beat Warner five-hole.
The Minutemen tied the game at one with under a half minute left in the first on Greg Mauldin’s fourth goal of the season. Mauldin won the draw back to Thomas Pock, who shot low from the point. Fraser made the initial save but Mauldin stuffed home the rebound.
Iona took its second lead of the game on a counterattack just 2:06 into the second stanza. Mark Hallam skated down the left wing and beat Tim Warner with a five-hole slapshot.
It took UMass over 10 minutes to respond to Iona’s second score with Tim Turner’s fourth goal of the year. Turner was the beneficiary of a hard forecheck by Chris Capraro, as he took a cross-crease pass and went shelf over Fraser.