AMHERST, Mass. — With one minute left in regulation, No. 17 Massachusetts trailed St. Lawrence 4-1, and the previous 59 minutes dictated it would probably end that way.
UMass coach Don Cahoon pulled sophomore goaltender Paul Dainton, and the Minutemen promptly scored two goals with the extra man. With fewer than 20 seconds remaining in regulation, junior defenseman Justin Braun wound up from the point; five UMass skaters headed to the net, but the shot went the way of more than half of UMass’ attempts: a Saints’ defenseman blocked the shot, it skipped harmlessly to the corner and the Saints held on for the 4-3 win at the Mullins Center.
“If we had got more pucks to the net early in the game, maybe we would have saw a better result,” UMass captain Cory Quirk said. “At the end of the game, we got guys to the net and got some shots; goals happened as a result.
“We didn’t compete as hard as they did. From the puck drop, they controlled the play and scored some goals as a result of it. They completely out-battled us, and it’s unacceptable.”
The Minutemen, now losers of four of their last five, went 0-for-6 on the power play while the Saints, playing controlled three-zone hockey, ended a four-game losing streak.
SLU blocked 27 UMass shots and created transition offense off the deflections.
At 16 minutes, 29 seconds of the first period, with both teams at four a side, Braun wristed a shot toward the SLU goal. Kevin DeVergilio blocked the attempt and flipped the puck into the neutral zone. Defenseman Zach Miskovic won a race with UMass’ Martin Nolet for the puck and skated in alone on Dainton. He misfired on his wrist shot attempt but got enough to lift it over Dainton’s glove.
Miskovic’s first goal made it 2-0. His second, which made it 4-0, seemed meaningless at the time, but proved the eventual game-winner.
Sean Flanagan won an offensive zone faceoff back to Miskovic. The defenseman waited for a screen to develop in front of Dainton before picking the top right corner over Dainton’s blocker.
The Saints provided UMass several opportunities to shorten the lead and get back into the game, but the Minutemen’s power play struggled to find any consistent rhythm.
“I thought it was going to be like it’s been lately with the penalties killing us,” Saints’ coach Joe Marsh said. “We’ve been fortunate to get a lot of pretty good kills. We’ve given up eight power-play goals this season; six have been in five-on-threes, so it was a little scary they went up two men.”
SLU’s Jake Klancker and Alex Curran went off within 14 seconds of each other, setting up a five-on-three for the Minutemen. UMass worked the puck around well, but Moss kept the puck in front of him.
“We spent almost two periods trying to force it from the top and, then, we eventually changed our shape and look and worked it a little from the side,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said.
“The turning point for the power play was the five-on-three, which we executed pretty well. [Moss] made a few nice saves, we rang one off a pole; and at that point in the game, I think it was 3-0, if we had gotten that first goal, it might have given us a little lift.”
On the five-on-three, UMass’ best chance came from Quirk at the base of the right faceoff circle. Sophomore winger James Marcou fired the puck through a throng in front of the net to Quirk, who wristed it on net as Moss slid across the crease and picked it out of the air with his glove.
UMass is off until next Friday, when it hosts non-conference opponent Connecticut. The Saints take on No. 8 Boston University Saturday night at Agganis Arena.