AMHERST, Mass. — The temperature on the UMass campus is below freezing, but the Minutemen are hot.
Behind 42 saves from senior netminder Gabe Winer, the Minutemen defeated No. 3 Colorado College 4-3 in front of 3,613 fans at the Mullins Center. It’s the third win in a row for UMass, with all three coming against ranked opponents. UMass defeated No. 20 Boston University on Saturday before winning on the road at No. 5 Vermont on Tuesday.
“Obviously, the mentality in the locker room is a real healthy one,” said Minutemen coach Don “Toot” Cahoon, whose minutemen improved to 4-7-0 (2-5-0 Hockey East) with the win. “We’ve battled pretty hard to play through some adversity. Tonight, we fell behind by two goals and got ours. We’ve got a long way to go before we fill the few holes that we have to become an upper echelon team, but we’re a pretty tough team to play against when we’re at our best, and obviously, getting good goaltending is an important part of that.”
“We threw everything at them and they didn’t buckle,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens, whose Tigers dropped their second nonconference game of the season, after not losing to a single non-WCHA foe in the 2003-04 or 2004-05 campaigns.
The game winner was scored on the power play by junior Chris Capraro, his second goal of the season. With the Minutemen leading 3-2 early in the third period, Capraro potted a rebound of a shot by freshman defenseman Topher Bevis to give his team a two-goal advantage.
“The puck was going around pretty well,” Capraro said. “It got kicked back to the point, and Topher took a pretty nice shot low, and it just kicked right to where I was standing. Right place, right time.”
The Minutemen struggled out of the gate as CC rang up a pair of early goals on Winer. Senior Brett Sterling opened the scoring at 4:29 on a wrist shot from behind the left faceoff circle, and classmate Joey Crabb made it 2-0 on a breakaway at 10:16.
The Minutemen, however, were not about to let the visitors pull away. Team captain Stephen Werner found the puck on his stick during a scramble in front of the Tiger net and buried it at 13:08. His goal was followed less than two minutes later by Kevin Jarman, who fired a shot from Matt Zaba’s glove side that went across his body and into the net.
UMass took its first lead of the game 6:01 into the second period, when freshman Cory Quirk potted a rebound at 6:01 to put the Minutemen up 3-2. It was the only goal of the second period, as Zaba stopped eight UMass shots, while Winer made 16 saves for the Minutemen.
While UMass opened the third period strong, getting Capraro’s power-play tally to make it a two-goal advantage, the Tigers soon asserted themselves. The Tigers outshot UMass 18-5 in the third period, pulling within one on Lee Sweatt’s first goal of the season at 14:58 and creating several other close calls for the Minutemen. That included a waved-off goal knocked in by Crabb’s high stick, several tough shots during an 80-second two-man advantage, and a hit pipe by Sweatt in the waning seconds that some think might have been in the net.
“I thought if we could get it to 4-3, they have five freshman and sophomore defenseman, and we could scare them a bit,” Owens said.
However, 17 saves from Winer sealed the victory, the senior’s first of the season in his first game since November 5.
“Gabe had a great first few weeks of the year,” Cahoon said of Winer. “Then he got himself into a bit of a malaise and kind of lost his rhythm a little bit. I think what’s happened is that he’s in so much better condition that he’s able to rebound, and I think tonight, you saw in the third period, late in the game, that he was alert, quick, active, and as fresh as he was at the start of the game.”
Both teams are back in action tomorrow night. The Tigers visit Boston University at Agganis Arena, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m. ET, while the Minutemen welcome Denver to the Mullins Center with an 8 p.m. start.