The No. 8 University of Massachusetts men’s hockey team dominated possession and special-teams play in its 4-0 victory over the University of New Hampshire Wednesday at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass.
The Minutemen, who defeated UNH (2-3-1) by the same score last Wednesday, went 3-for-6 on the power play, 5-for-5 on the penalty kill and set up camp in UNH’s zone for long stretches in each period.
UMass (9-3-1) outshot the Wildcats, 12-2, in the second period and 26-21 overall. UMass senior goaltender Matt Murray made 21 saves to earn the shutout.
“We got outplayed for 60 minutes. Plain and simple,” UNH coach Mike Souza said. “I don’t have much to say beyond that other than UMass is a heck of a hockey team. They’re an elite team. I know they’ve played a lot and we can sit here and make excuses but that’s not who we are.”
In his first game back since suffering an injury in November, UMass sophomore forward Reed Lebster opened the game’s scoring with 8:03 remaining in the opening period. Lebster got behind the UNH defense and scored glove side on Wildcats senior goaltender Mike Robinson after receiving a stretch pass from Marc Del Gaizo.
Bobby Trivigno scored a rebound power-play tally on an out-of-position Robinson (22 saves) from the right circle 6:38 into the second period to double UMass’ lead. Matthew Kessel scored on a slap shot from the high slot on the man advantage 2:09 after Trivigno’s goal to give the Minutemen a three-goal cushion.
Kessel capped the game’s scoring with a power-play goal from the left circle with 5:09 remaining following a blast by teammate Zac Jones, who logged three assists.
The Minutemen scored their second-period power-play goals during penalties on Robinson (interference) and Ryan Verrier (slashing). Verrier received a warning from a referee shortly before his penalty. UNH also drew two penalties over the final 2:10 of the game.
UNH had three power-play opportunities in the second period and one each in the first and third frames. UMass’ penalty-kill unit went 7-for-7 against the Wildcats last Wednesday.
“I thought we had a pretty good plan going into the game, especially against their penalty kill and we just didn’t execute,” Souza said. “We were just slow moving the puck. We looked like the Keystone Cops running into each other.”
UNH senior captain and forward Charlie Kelleher, who did not play against Connecticut last Saturday, returned to the lineup Wednesday. Forwards Joe Cipollone (upper-body injury), Eric MacAdams, Nick Cafarelli, Chase Stevenson and Lucas Herrmann and defenseman Drew Hickey did not play for the Wildcats.
UNH has had two full team practices since the week entering is Dec. 11-12 home series with Maine. The Wildcats’ scheduled December series with UMass, Merrimack and Providence were postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests within their program.
UNH is scheduled to play at No. 2 Boston College Friday night and host the Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
“Those aren’t excuses because every team’s battling through those types of situations,” Souza said of his team’s limited practice time. “I was just disappointed in the way we played (Wednesday) ... It was uncharacteristic, I thought, of our team and the direction we want to take our team in and we’ve all got to look ourselves in the mirror starting with me.”