AMHERST, Mass. — Call it irony, coincidence, or even a little supernatural serendipity.
After seeing his Massachusetts Minutemen pull into a 2-2 tie with Maine in front of 4,133 at the Mullins Center last night, UMass coach Don Cahoon was reminded of something that late Maine coach Shawn Walsh told him four years ago.
Walsh’s Black Bears had just beaten Cahoon’s struggling Minutemen 3-2 in overtime on Feb. 9, 2001. A few days later, Walsh called Cahoon, just to talk about each other’s teams, their strengths and weaknesses.
Walsh said that Cahoon’s team — then just an also-ran in Hockey East — had to get its defensemen involved in the scoring.
Last night, a low-scoring defenseman in the form of sophomore Mark Matheson played the role when it mattered, scoring with 9:25 to go in the third period to tie the game at two, where it stayed through a chance-laden overtime.
The Minutemen looked destined to fall to the Black Bears, especially when Greg Moore drew UMass goaltender Gabe Winer out of his net and had a perfect chance at making it 3-1 early in the third. However Moore missed the chance when the puck turned up on its side, and the shot went wide.
Matheson stepped in a few minutes later to tie the game, making the Minutemen’s record 10-11-2, and 4-6-2 in Hockey East. The Black Bears are now 11-8-4, and 6-3-2 against conference foes.
Though the game ended in a draw, the Black Bears held a large advantage in shots (30-22), and especially in faceoffs (42-24).
“That’s something we have to improve on,” Cahoon said. “We dodged a few bullets on that front. We’re just trying to plug it up right now, and that’s definitely a big recruiting direction that we have to take.”
Though his team had a few opportunities to take three points out of the first of two games in Amherst, Maine coach Tim Whitehead was mostly happy about his squad’s effort.
“It was a hard-fought game, and tomorrow is big for both teams,” Whitehead said. “On the faceoffs we had an especially good night for that. We’ve been pretty good with faceoffs all year, but it’s normally not that significant of an advantage.”
Moore’s was the second near-certain chance that the Black Bears saw go by the boards. The first came with five minutes to go in the first period, as Mike Hamilton took an odd-angle shot that went over Winer’s shoulder. The puck seemed to rattle around inside the cage before popping out, but no goal was called and play continued.
Maine responded to the possible injustice quickly, though, as Moore scored on a wrist shot off his own rebound just 40 seconds later to tie the game at one.
“That made it better for our team,” Moore said. “If we hadn’t answered right back [after Hamilton's non-goal], some of the guys might have gotten a little down.”
Hamilton helped out on the go-ahead goal for the Black Bears in the second period, getting an assist on Derek Damon’s tally at the 2:03 mark of the middle frame.
Kevin Jarman opened the scoring for the Minutemen, banging home a rebound off a hard Stephen Jacobs slap shot at the 8:03 mark of the first.