AMHERST, Mass. — The last time Dave Wilson played a game at the Mullins Center, Massachusetts completed its second consecutive weekend sweep of the Black Bears; that time to boot Maine from the Hockey East playoffs. Wilson started every game of the series with then-starter Ben Bishop on the shelf. His stats: four games, 14 goals, four losses and two long bus rides from Amherst to Orono, Maine.
On Friday, with four minutes left in regulation, he had 37 saves and a 3-2 lead. His return trip was going pretty well. Then, Matt Duffy, a senior, took a run at UMass captain Cory Quirk three strides after the whistle. Duffy went off for two minutes; it only took the Minutemen 22 seconds to tie the game, though.
Overtime was even shorter.
Sophomore winger Brian Keane tipped a pass from senior Jordan Virtue through Wilsons legs 11
seconds into the extra session to give UMass the 4-3 win in the front end of a weekend pair in Amherst.
We got [possession] in the neutral zone, and [junior center Brett] Watson made a nice saucer pass to Virtue. He brought it in, and I was just flying to the net; I redirected it, Keane said following the game.
The teams entered the game tied in seventh place in the conference standings. The two point swing drops Maine into eighth place, five points clear of idle Providence for the final spot in the Hockey East tournament. The Minutemen are now two points behind sixth place Boston College, who fell to New Hampshire Friday night.
Were trying to put together a run here with these five games left, freshman center Casey Wellman said. We felt that wed been carrying the game for a solid two-and-a-half periods, and it was good to get the two points that we needed.
The Black Bears had three separate one goal leads in the game that fell thanks to UMass power-play goals. The Minutemen were 3-of-6 on power plays, while limiting their own penalty minute total to four, none in the second or third periods.
I thought the special teams were the key tonight, Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. We took too many penalties, and we didnt execute on special teams. Those were the big things that hurt us tonight.
We were chasing them all night long, UMass coach Don Cahoon said. We fall behind 1-0, then we catch up, 1-1; we fall behind, 2-1, then catch up, 2-2; we fall behind, 3-2, and then Chase [Langeraap] gets the game-tying goal and Brian gets the winner, but its a great team win and a great identity win.
Long beleaguered, the UMass power play emerged as the backbone of the offense in the last two games. Freshman center Casey Wellman scored one and assisted on the other two power-play goals tonight after scoring on the man advantage in last Saturdays win over then-No. 3 Northeastern.
To kickstart the unit, Cahoon inserted Wellman between sophomore wingers James Marcou and Chase Langeraap, who scored the game-tying goal on a pass from Wellman, on UMass primary power play.
Ive always enjoyed playing with [Marcou], and I feel like we work the puck pretty well together, Wellman said. Weve got two solid guys on the blue line and [Langeraap] in front of the net.
On the defensive end, the Minutemen struggled in the same areas that caused them problems during their most recent losing streak. Sophomore goaltender Paul Dainton makes the first save, but his defensemen allow a second. Brian Flynn put Maine up, 1-0, 1 minute, 17 seconds into the first period when he slipped a rebound off a Tanner House shot past Dainton. Less than a minute after Wellman tied the game, 1-1, Robby Dee tucked a rebound through Daintons legs to regain the lead for the Black Bears.
Wellmans three points added to his Hockey East freshman high of 29 — 10 goals and 19 assists — while James Marcous pair of helpers cut Colin Wilsons lead to three in the race for the conference scoring title.
The Minutemen and the Black Bears play again tomorrow night at the Mullins Center.