UMass Scores Five Unanswered to Advance To Finals
March 19, 2004
BOSTON, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts hockey team spotted UNH a 2-0 lead, but then scored the final five goals of the game to secure a spot in the Hockey East Finals with a 5-2 victory over eighth-ranked New Hampshire. The 19-11-6 Minutemen will battle No. 2-ranked Maine at the FleetCenter at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night.
The Wildcats had the game's first good opportunity in the form of the game's first power play just six minutes in. New Hampshire recorded one shot on net, but Tim Warner (Waltham, Mass.) calmly kicked the lone shot aside and the Minutemen killed it off with no harm done. However, the Wildcats got on the board first when Hockey East's leading scorer Steve Saviano sniped a shot towards Warner. Warner made the initial save, however, the puck bounced into the air. Warner appeared to have control of the puck in his glove, but Saviano came in and batted the puck loose and into the back of the net at the 13:41 mark for a 1-0 advantage. UNH continued on the attack and went on the game's second power-play opportunity of the game with just over four minutes to play. But the Minutemen killed it off, and nearly had a breakaway chance at the end of the UNH attack, but the Wildcats recovered to keep the Minutemen off the board. UMass started to pressure and Peter Trovato (North Attleboro, Mass.) and Stephen Jacobs (Westminster, Mass.) worked an excellent 2-on-2 break as Trovato fired a shot on Ayers that rebounded to Jacobs, but his attempt went wide with just over a minute to play in the frame.
New Hampshire went up 2-0 just 3:30 into the second frame, when Jacob Micflikier picked up a loose puck in the UMass zone, skated past a UMass defender and slid a shot under a diving Tim Warner's stick to the right post. The goal was Micflikier's 11th of the season. New Hampshire went on its third power play of the game seven minutes into the second period, but again the Minutemen PK unit stood tall and Warner kicked aside three shots on the Wildcat chance. The kill seemed to jumpstart the Minutemen, who answered Micflikier's goal with one of their own. Tim Vitek (Dresden, Ontario) picked up a loose puck in the Wildcat zone and sent a shot towards Ayers. Greg Mauldin (Holliston, Mass.) stuck his stick out, deflecting the shot past Ayers into the back of the net at the 10:21 mark. UMass went on two power plays in the last six minutes of the perio, but Ayers and the Wildcats stood tall and killed off both chances, to keep the Minutemen at bay.
The Wildcats went on back-to-back power play three minutes into the third period. The Minutemen killed the first one, and survived the second one. Warner made a great save on a Brian Yandle slapshot and Sean Collins hit the post from the right doorstop to keep UMass within striking distance. The UNH attack ended when Stephen Werner (Chevy Chase, Md.) drew a Wildcat holding penalty to give the Minutemen a power play, spanning 1:43 with 15 minutes to play. UNH killed off the UMass power play, but immediately after the Minutemen tied it up on a great individual effort by Trovato. Trovato batted down a loose puck shot by Sean Regan (South Boston, Mass.). Trovato then cycled the puck between the circles and slid a low shot just inside the left post to knot the score at 2-2 at the 7:02 mark. Kevin Jarman (Aurora, Ontario) also assisted on the goal. UMass almost took a lead on UNH's sixth power play of the game, as Nick Kuiper (Beaconsfield, Quebec) fired a shot from inside the blue-line that Ayers stopped, but the rebound trickled to James Solon (Acton, Mass.). Solon, however, couldn't lift the puck and Ayers stopped it in his body. The Minutemen started to carry the play and took a 3-2 lead at the 14:32 mark when senior Mike Warner (Waltham, Mass.) slapped home a loose puck just out of Ayers' reach from the left doorstop to give the Minutemen the lead. Jarman had an initial shot on Ayers after a nifty feed from Werner, earning the duo assists on the play. UMass put the proverbial nail in the coffin just moments later, when Tim Vitek (Dresden, Ontario) drew a face-off back to Jeff Lang (Westwood, Mass.), who fed the puck to Hobey Baker candidate Thomas Pöck (Klagenfurt, Austria), who rifled a slapshot past Ayers at the 17:04 mark. The goal was Pöck's 100th career point and gave the Minutemen a 4-2 lead. Warner would tally his second goal of the night, an empty-netter at 18:05, with assists to Pöck and Marvin Degon (Millbury, Mass.) for a 5-2 advantage, which was the final score. Warner turned aside 27 shots, as UMass outshot the Wildcats, 33-29.
UMass will battle Maine in the Hockey East Finals on Saturday night at the FleetCenter. Face-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. The winner gets the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.