AMHERST, Mass. — Most Hockey East coaches voted against using shootouts to decide ties in the offseason. Friday night, Massachusetts coach Don Cahoon and Providence coach Tim Army saw one anyway.
The Minutemen (3-1-1, 1-0-1 Hockey East) defeated Providence, 9-4, in their season home opener in front of 5,285 at the Mullins Center.
“This game broke any way but the way I would’ve expected it to,” Cahoon said. “I would’ve thought it would’ve been a fairly low-scoring, intense, defensive-oriented type of game. I thought there’d be some goals scored, but I didn’t expect them to be scored in bunches the way they were.”
The Minutemen scored the final six goals of the game, starting with Alex Berry’s score to the game, 4-4 at 4 minutes, 33 seconds of the second period.
The teams travel to Schneider Arena in Providence tomorrow night for the back end of their weekend pair.
Entering the night, UMass’ top line of center Cory Quirk and wingers Berry and James Marcou combined for nine points through the first four games of the season. The trio chipped in 11 against the Friars (2-3-0, 0-3-0 Hockey East) Friday night; Marcou led the way with two goals and three assists.
The Friars controlled play early, establishing a quick 2-0 lead in the opening period. Junior center John Cavanagh recorded two points in the stretch, sliding a rebound past Meyers for the first goal and beginning the play that led to the second.
Down 2-0, Quirk fought his team back into the game. After a failed 2-on-1, Providence defenseman Daniel New tried to skate the puck out of the PC zone. Quirk trailed him and stole the puck before finding Marcou circling the net. Berry planted himself to the right of PC goaltender Justin Gates; Marcou spotted him and slid the puck to Berry who faked a quick shot. Gates dropped to his knees, and Berry fired the puck over his shoulder. The Minutemen added two more before the period ended with a 3-2 score.
“We’re confident in our abilities, so I just told the guys to relax, take it as it is and go out there and play,” Quirk said of being down 2-0. “We weren’t playing. We weren’t beating them to loose pucks; we weren’t getting on pucks and we weren’t getting to the net.
“I knew we just had to stick with it and do what we do well as a team to win.”
The second period began the same as the first with Providence scoring twice, retaking the lead, 4-3, and chasing Meyers. In UMass’ first four games, Meyers boasted a 1.47 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. He allowed four goals and 11 shots against PC Friday.
Sophomore goaltender Paul Dainton replaced Meyers and made 17 saves in his first action of the season.
“It seemed like right after I came in we scored a few quick goals, so that took a lot of pressure of me” Dainton said. “It seems to be going well so far.”
The Quirk-Marcou-Berry tied the game, 4-4, fewer than 2 minutes after Dainton came in. Marcou found Berry in front of the right face-off circle; Berry quickly fired a backhand shot over Gates who was sprawled on the ice. Twelve seconds later sophomore Chase Langeraap scored his second goal in as many games with a wrist that beat Gates over his glove.
PC had its chances to get back into game with a series of power plays, but the UMass penalty kill continued its recent strong play. The Friars were 0-for-4 on the power play Friday. The Minutemen have killed their last 12 penalties, dating back to their Oct. 12 win over then-No. 5 North Dakota.
“We’ve been getting on guys. [Cahoon] wants us to be aggressive [on the penalty kill],” Quirk said. “We try to do that every game. We look at film all the time to study what each team has and what their weapons are.”