AMHERST, Mass. — Massachusetts finally had life, hope and a chance.
Dennis Kravchenko led the rush into the offensive zone and fed Patrick Lee with a pinpoint cross-ice pass to the left faceoff circle. Lee finished the play with a low shot that beat Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt for the Minutemen’s first goal of the game 7:34 into the second period.
For the first time all night, UMass’ bench displayed emotion on a perfectly executed play by its exciting freshman duo.
Perhaps this would be the night the Minutemen overcame the odds, the night that everything finally clicked for a team riding its third three-game losing streak of the season.
Adam Reid scored 46 seconds later to push the Northeastern lead to 5-1.
It was another barren night on the ice for UMass save for some meaningless goals and Northeastern took advantage, scoring three goals in each of the first two periods on its way to an 8-3 victory at Mullins Center in nonconference action. It was the Huskies’ fourth win in their last five games, while the Minutemen go into the break on a four-game slide.
Mike Szmatula and Kevin Roy led Northeastern with two goals apiece, while the Huskies were 5-for-9 on the power play. Frank Vatrano served as the Minutemen’s lone bright spot with a pair of goals for a team-high nine for the season.
UMass outshot Northeastern 34-24 for the game, but the Huskies made their shots count, scoring three goals on their first four shots.
“We got a lot of grade-A chances [and] that’s the important thing,” Roy said. “They got more shots than us, but I think when you look at great opportunities, we had a lot more. We had the players to put the puck in the back of the net and that’s what we did today.”
Northeastern to got on the board 4:09 into the game. Ryan Rosenthal’s shot was initially stopped by UMass goaltender Henry Dill, but the puck landed over the freshman’s right pad and slowly trickled into the net.
The Huskies doubled their advantage at 6:36 on Szmatula’s first goal of the night. Roy gathered the puck at the goal line and fed a wide open Szmatula in the slot. The sophomore ripped a shot into the top left corner to beat Dill and put Northeastern up 2-0.
Szmatula made it 3-0 with another goal at 10:51 on assists from Matt Benning and Roy. It was the last goal Dill faced before being pulled in favor of Steve Mastalerz.
“Certainly would’ve been nice to have not been down 3-0 after outshooting them 10-4 in the first period,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “That put us in a difficult hole. It’s very difficult to come away with positive results when that happens.”
The Minutemen’s senior goalie fared no better, allowing five goals in 49:07 of play, including Roy’s goal on a shot from the slot 1:52 into the second to extend the Huskies’ lead to 4-0.
While Northeastern coach Jim Madigan was pleased with the 4-0 lead, he was even more impressed with the determination his team showed in the way it responded to UMass’ first tally.
“[UMass] is an explosive team offensively [and] t was nice to respond right away,” Madigan said. “We still had a three-goal lead when they scored, but we just wanted to get back into our identity and that’s what allowed us to get that next goal.
“I don’t think we ever relaxed. I thought we got out of our rhythm a little trying to do too much at times and sticking to our identity and chipping pucks in and getting pucks out. For the most part, we did stick within in the game plan, and it’s hard to do that and not be relaxed. It’s human nature.”
Zach Aston-Reese buried a rebound chance on the power play to give Northeastern a 6-2 advantage at the end of the second.
Roy and Colton Saucerman each scored power-play goals in the third, while Vatrano scored his second tally at 17:04.
One event worth noting for UMass was the debut of defenseman Brandon Montour, who was ineligible to play for the first semester due to eligibility issues. The freshman, who was selected in the second round by the Anaheim Ducks in the NHL entry draft last summer, finished with an even rating and saw significant ice time paired up alongside Oleg Yevenko.
“It’s been a long road for sure,” Montour said. “As far as the game goes, I thought I was a little rusty to begin with during the first period. I haven’t been on the ice too much recently. I thought as the game went on I sharpened up and played a pretty good game.”