Minutemen Finish Regular Season Above .500
March 1, 2003
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts hockey team got nine points from the "WAM" line and responded every time Merrimack rallied to gain a 5-2 victory over the host Warriors on Saturday night. The Minutemen ended the regular season with a 17-16-1 record and 10-14-0 in Hockey East. It marked the first time since the Minutemen joined Hockey East that UMass was over .500 in the regular season. UMass gained the sixth seed for the Hockey East Playoffs that begin Thursday.
After a relatively quiet first half of the first period in which both teams killed off power plays, UMass got on the board first. The Minutemen executed a strong breakout opportunity in which Greg Mauldin (Holliston, Mass.) shoveled the puck to Stephen Werner (Chevy Chase, Md.) along the left boards. Werner put a deke on the Merrimack defender, causing the defenseman to slip. Werner brought the puck towards the goal and dished a pass to Matt Anderson (West Islip, N.Y.). Anderson faked a shot, causing Merrimack goalie Joe Exter to fall to his side. Anderson waited patiently and sniped a shot from the right slot top-shelf at the 13:34 mark for a 1-0 advantage. The trio was at it again under three minutes later as Werner and Mauldin faced Exter on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Werner brought the puck in and dished to Mauldin at the last moment for a wide-open goal and a 2-0 lead at the 16:11 mark. Anderson also assisted on the goal.
Merrimack crawled to within one at 2-1 at the 8:17 mark of the second period when Ryan Cordeiro rocketed a shot into the right top corner off a Bryan Schmidt rebound. But UMass answered when Mike Warner (Waltham, Mass.) scored his seventh goal of the season at the 15:22 mark. Tim Turner (Saginaw, Mich.) fed Warner with a pass to in front of the net. Warner was turned away on the first two shots, but kept after the puck and batted it out of mid-air into the back of the net for a 3-1 cushion. Chris Capraro (Medford, Mass.) also assisted on Warner's netter.
After Merrimack trimmed the lead to one at 3-2 on a power-play goal by Cordeiro 9:07 into the third period. But UMass responded just 13 seconds later when Werner intercepted a Merrimack pass, and rocketed a slapshot from the right face-off circle that beat Exter shortside. The lead stayed at 4-2 when Mauldin tallied an empty-net goal at the 19:09 mark with an assist from Werner to conclude the scoring.
The Minutemen now will head to Orono, Maine, for a best 2-out-of-3 quarterfinal round of the Hockey East playoffs against Maine. UMass is making its first appearance in the Hockey East playoffs in three years. The Black Bears won the season series against the Minutemen, two games to one. For ticket information for the series, which starts on Thursday night at 7:00 p.m., call the UMass Athletics ticket office at 1-866-UMASS-TIX.
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