AMHERST, Mass. — One night after being abruptly shown the door by the Providence Friars at Schneider Arena, the Massachusetts Minutemen found the best answer to a 6-2 loss: a two-goal shutout.
Junior Gabe Winer made 20 saves, and Matt Anderson and Garrett Summerfield teamed up for both UMass goals as the Minutemen cruised to a 2-0 victory over Providence in front of 3,128 at the Mullins Center. UMass improves to 4-3-0 (2-1-0 Hockey East) and the Friars fall to 3-2-0, with a 2-2-0 conference mark.
It was a complete turnaround by the Minutemen, who slogged through Friday night’s game, compared to the speedy Friars who dominated most of the contest. Saturday night, the teams were much more even, and both UMass coach Don Cahoon and Providence boss Paul Pooley said that the margin of victory came in the one-on-one battles that the Minutemen won.
“We won more puck battles, and we played our system a little better than last night,” Cahoon said. “It was a hard weekend, but the teams went toe to toe and we won the battles.”
Said Pooley, “We lost the one-on-one battles early, and we got a little desperate after the timeout. It’s frustrating, it’s tough to sweep in this league, and we didn’t see the same sense of urgency [as Friday night.].”
Perhaps it was simply a matter of being more comfortable at home, but the Minutemen looked almost entirely different in Saturday’s first period than they had the night before in Providence, where despite a goal by freshman P.J. Fenton, they were outskated by the Friars en route to PC’s 6-2 victory.
Although they took three penalties to the Friars’ one, the Minutemen were otherwise even with their visitors, and showed some real signs of life when Matt Anderson opened the scoring at 13:40. With Summerfield behind the net and looking for a target, Anderson snaked across to the left wing slot, where Summerfield found him with a pass. Anderson spun with a PC defender on top of him, and fired a nearly blind wrist shot that slipped under Providence goaltender David Cacciola (26 saves) to give the Minutemen a 1-0 advantage, which they carried to the first intermission.
In yet another departure from the previous night’s trend, the Minutemen were the ones protecting a lead in the second period, and did so without sitting back on their laurels. After Colin McDonald took a boarding penalty with 7:29 to go, the freshman tandem of Dan Gordon and Matt Burto, along with senior linemate Craig MacDonald, buzzed Cacciola’s net with a number of attempts that seemed destined for the net. Cacciola, however, was a wall, and held off the frenetic attack of UMass for the entire penalty.
The Friars turned things around late in the second period and started applying pressure on Winer’s net. Jon Rheault, who on Friday scored his first and second collegiate goals within a dozen minutes of each other, had two breakaway chances in the final minute of the period. The first, with 50 seconds left, saw Rheault come in ahead of a UMass player across the blueline, but his shot hit Winer squarely, and the keeper covered up. Rheault got another opportunity half a minute later, but was tripped up while cutting back toward the net, drawing a penalty on Dusty Demianiuk.
The Minutemen struck again decisively in the third period, when Anderson repaid Summerfield’s earlier favor, dropping a puck to him near the left wing faceoff dot. Summerfield fired a one-timer off of the leave that beat Cacciola to the short side for the final goal with 6:07.
The Friars took a timeout after the goal, but couldn’t come up with any tricks to turn the tables.
The Minutemen host Merrimack on Friday in the first game of a home-and-home conference weekend, while the Friars entertain Wayne State Friday and Saturday night.