AMHERST, Mass. — Massachusetts defenseman Justin Braun gave the Minutemen a 2-0 lead over American International with a shorthanded goal at 18 minutes, 30 seconds of the second period.
The Minutemen won, 4-0, and the game was never really in doubt. But Brauns tally cushioned the UMass advantage and sent a palpable ease through the UMass bench.
It was good to have a little insurance after that, Braun said following the game. We finally cracked the armor again. We had a lot of chances, but we werent capitalizing on them.
The Minutemen have now won two consecutive games — both against Atlantic Hockey opponents. AIC, on the other hand, has lost its last four matchups, being outscored 27-4 during that stretch.
The game looked like another blowout for the Yellow Jackets, 26 seconds into the first period when UMass freshman defenseman Matt Irwin gave UMass a 1-0 lead.
Sophomore winger James Marcou broke in alone on AIC netminder Dan Ramirez moments earlier. He tried to stuff the puck passed a sprawled out Ramirez, but the goaltender made a left skate save. Marcou picked up the rebound and moved it back to Irwin who quickly wristed it past Ramirez.
To skate with the more talented Minutemen, AIC relied on its physicality. The Yellow Jackets took every opportunity they had to take an extra poke or jab at the Minutemen trying to induce retaliation calls against UMass.
I thought for the most part that it was positive physical play, AIC coach Gary Wright said. Its part of our game. It wasnt a particular strategy of ours, but a strategy of ours was to really compete hard in the one-on-one battles and along the boards in the corners.
The Minutemen did let the Yellow Jackets jabs put them in the penalty box a couple of times, but UMass held them scoreless on their three power plays.
Like their win over Connecticut one week ago, the Minutemen entered the third period with a smaller lead than the game itself would have dictated. UMass controlled play for the games entirety, and goaltender Paul Dainton (18 saves) brushed away any attempts the Yellow Jackets made.
In the third period, AIC faltered. The Minutemen outshot the Yellow Jackets, 16-3, in the final 20 minutes, padding their lead with two goals. Senior winger Chris Davis poked the puck into the net from under Ramirez right pad on the power, and freshman T.J. Syner deflected a shot from senior Topher Bevis into the AIC goal.
Early in the game, we really didnt play as hard as were capable of playing, UMass captain Cory Quirk said. Toward the end of the game, we play our game. We got pucks deep and got to the net. It resulted in a couple of goals at the end. In future games, we need to put together more of a complete game as opposed to one really good period.
UMass win made coach Don Cahoon the winningest in UMass history with his 121st victory with the program.
With a stoppage at the 15:39 mark of the third period, Cahoon inserted reserve goaltender Matt Gedman into the game. Gedman, a sophomore, wasnt expected to see any action unless injury made it a necessity.
When I got out there, the referee told me that I had to buckle my chinstrap. I told him that I didnt even know I had one, Gedman joked after the game.
UMass is off until Dec. 28 when it travels to Hanover, N.H., for the Dartmouth Ledyard Bank National Classic. The Minutemen will play Bemidji State in the first round and either host Dartmouth or Army in the following round. The Yellow Jackets next game isnt until the new year, when they travel to Moon Township, Penn., for a pair with conference foe Robert Morris.