AMHERST, Mass. — There was no Atlantic Hockey letdown for the Massachusetts Minutemen on Sunday.
Three weeks after UMass fell to UConn in a shocking 3-2 overtime decision at home, the Minutemen played far worse hosts to Mercyhurst, dropping the Lakers 6-1 at the Mullins Center.
Kevin Jarman’s goal at the 13:36 mark of the first period held on as the game winner, although the Minutemen poured on four more goals in a game that showed complete contrast to UMass’ loss to UConn on Oct. 24.
Where the Huskies stuck with the Minutemen throughout that contest before putting the game winner home with just five seconds to go in overtime, the Lakers struggled to put together any cohesion Sunday, and UMass goaltender Tim Warner went relatively untested, with the Lakers taking just 24 shots.
“We showed [Mercyhurst] the respect they deserved,” said UMass coach Don Cahoon when asked about the difference between Sunday’s effort and the Connecticut loss. “We played system-wise the way we needed to. We did a good job of knowing when we could go on offense, when we could forecheck, we had very good recognition of that.”
With the win, the Minutemen improve to 6-4-1, while the Lakers fall to 4-6-0 this season.
The Minutemen were the whole story in the first period, looking nothing like the team that fell two weeks earlier in a poor matinee showing.
James Solon and Tim Vitek started the music at 9:23, when Solon went behind Mike Ella’s net, slipped the puck through an opening between a Mercyhurst defender and the right wing post to the waiting stick of Vitek, who snapped a one-timer past Ella’s stick hand.
Kevin Jarman added an impressive goal just under four minutes later, when he curled out toward the slot from the left wing boards, carrying Jon Asselstine in his hip pocket, and backhanded a shot under Ella’s legs with 6:24 to go.
P.J. Fenton, who set up Jarman’s goal by taking the puck into the Mercyhurst zone and waiting for help to arrive, scored his sixth of the season 2:37 later, when he took a feed from Mark Matheson behind the net, curled out to Ella’s left side and slipped it past the goaltender, who was replaced by Andy Franck in the second period.
“It’s a big hill to climb against anybody, especially when you’re on the road against a team like UMass,” Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said. “It was just a long way back, and to be successful, you have to have a better start.”
Franck was a marked improvement, stopping 13 Minuteman shots. Franck did allow one goal, when Stephen Jacobs chipped a pass from Peter Trovato toward him, and it trickled through to make it 4-0 UMass with 11:36 to go in the second. Other than the Minuteman goal, the middle frame was woefully devoid of any excitement, although Dusty Demianiuk prevented a Mercyhurst goal with 47 seconds to go, chipping a puck away from the net as Tim Warner scrambled to get back into position.
Otherwise, though, there weren’t many great opportunities for either side, so the Minutemen left the period with a four-goal advantage, and the Lakers left with a large mountain to climb.
The Minutemen continued the onslaught into the third, though they took nine shots compared to their 12 in the first and 14 in the second. Marvin Degon notched a power-play goal at the 3:03 mark, blasting a slapshot off a cross-ice feed from Matt Anderson that beat Franck stick-side high.
Vitek scored his second goal of the game with 5:04 to go, cashing in on a wrister from the slot to make it 6-0.
David Wrigley finally lit the lamp for Mercyhurst on a power play with 2:22 to go in the game, but it was too late to develop any momentum.
The Minutemen next will travel to Alfond Arena Friday to take on the Maine Black Bears, while the Lakers head to Hamilton, N.Y., for a two-game set at Colgate on Friday and Saturday.