BOSTON — After squandering a two goal lead the previous night against the No. 3 Northeastern Huskies, the Massachusetts Minutemen made sure not to make the same mistake again, rolling to a 4-1 victory in front of 3,587 at Matthews Arena.
Illness had struck Massachusetts and kept goalie Paul Dainton back in Amherst after falling sick. Taking his place was Dan Meyers, who only had 17 career starts as a junior, 11 of them coming this season.
He found out during the morning team meeting that he would be making the start.
“As clich as it sounds, I’m always ready. I’ve seen a lot of action this year and I practiced during the week, me and Paul [Dainton] push each other and when opportunities like this you gotta take advantage of it,” Meyers said about getting ready for the start.
Much like the previous two match-ups between the two teams, Massachusetts opened up a two goal lead before the horn would sound to end the first period. UMass was helped by two power-play goals on both the man advantages they were afforded in the first.
Justin Braun got the first one for the Minutemen when a screened Brad Thiessen couldn’t find the puck between the five players screening him in front. Braun lifted the shot from the point that sailed to the back of the net without Thiessen seeing it until it was behind him.
UMass forward Casey Wellman continued his stellar freshman campaign and registered his eighth goal and 26th point of the season on the second power play of the game for the Minutemen. Thiesssen was once again screened in front and could not find the puck before it clanked off the far corner of the net with only 4.4 seconds reaming in the period giving the Minutemen the two goal edge.
“That was a huge goal because I thought we moved the puck pretty well on the power-play all night long and to be able to capitalize late in the period, it’s worked against us in the past and tonight it worked in our favor getting that last few seconds goal, it gives you a big lift,” UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon said after the game.
Northeastern (20-8-2 overall, 15-4-1 in Hockey East) started the second period with two great scoring chances in the first three minutes. Joe Vitale had a deflection attempt go wide as part of a 2-on-1 and Mike McLaughlin had a second 2-on-1 attempted that was intercepted by a diving James Marcou.
“We had those two chances in the second period, Vitale had an open net, I think he slid it wide and there was a 3-on-0 on a change and McLaughin waited a second before he passed over to McNeely, said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin. That was a 3-0 and the kid dove, again it’s a reflection of desperation. The kid dives for UMass and it hits his shaft and a 3 on 0 turns into a misfire.”
Massachusetts (12-15-3, 6-11-3) increased their lead to three goals when Michael Lecomte netted his fifth of the season from the top of the circles that once again beat a screened Thiessen. Lecomte took the pass from Michael Lecomte who won the puck away during a scrum in the corner.
Matt Irwin would increase the UMass lead to four goals when he sniped off the far side post passed Brad Thiessen at the 12:03 mark of the third.
Northeastern would add their lone tally at 13:44 of the third period when Chris Donovan scored his eight of the season after walking up the goal line on Meyers and finding the top corner on the opposite end of the net.
NU head coach Greg Cronin was impressed with the UMass squad.
“They got off the bus with a stinger desperate to win the game. They played like that for 60 minutes, they were playing hard for 60 minutes. They were blocking shots down to the final shift of the game so I give all kinds of credit to them and their staff for getting ready, it’s a good win for them.”
Northeastern remains in first place in Hockey East by one point thanks to the tie between No. 1 Boston University, the Huskies opponent next week, and Maine, UMass’ next opponent. The third ranked Huskies travel across Boston to Aggainis Arena on Friday night; BU returns to Matthews on Saturday night. Massachusetts is hosting Maine.