BOSTON ― In the first game of the Frozen Fenway celebration of hockey, Massachusetts defeated Vermont, 3-2, in overtime. With both teams competing at Fenway Park for the first time, UMass defenseman Mike Marcou scored on a rebound late in the extra frame. The Minutemen gave Vermont ample opportunity to score on the power play, including a five-minute chance late in the game through part of overtime.
What I saw
The Catamounts took advantage of many UMass penalties and scored twice on the power play. Vermont spent the last 2:43 of the game on the power play after UMass forward Patrick Kiley received a five-minute, game misconduct penalty for hitting from behind. The remainder of that penalty continued into overtime, providing Vermont with ample opportunities to break the tie.
Special teams, especially the man advantage, has been a weakness for Vermont all season. And Saturday afternoon, it cost the team a victory.
In the first period, UMass responded to Vermont’s first goal 15 seconds later. It was a critical response for the Minutemen at that stage in the game, as the team was having trouble establishing sustained pressure.
The game also included two game misconducts from separate circumstances, and one five-minute major penalty. The teams finished with a combined 53 penalty minutes.
What I thought
Though there was more to the decision to start goaltender Jeff Teglia over Kevin Boyle in the mind of coach Don Cahoon, it appeared that the ice conditions didn’t necessarily complement the goalie’s style. Teglia is an extremely active goaltender who prefers to take sharp angles and uses his stick as the primary means of blocking shots and clearing the crease. The choppy ice conditions occasionally made it challenging for Teglia to move through the crease.
However, the decision was justified as the Minutemen earned the desired result. Cahoon acknowledged that he started Teglia based on the goalie’s maturity level and ability to handle adversity.
“He’s one of the most mature guys in our program,” Cahoon said. “He has the mental disposition to deal with the task at hand. I thought he would be likely to walk into this environment and not get caught up in the moment.”
Boyle played Thursday night at Providence, as the Minutemen earned a 4-4 tie despite losing leads of 2-1 and 3-2.
In addition, the Minutemen took too many penalties in this game — an issue that’s been plaguing the team all season. However, UMass effectively killed the penalties and prevented it from costing the team the game. Moving forward, UMass will not be able to make infractions at this frequency and hope to win hockey games.
Going forward, it’s going to be difficult for Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon to keep his team focused given the challenge of overcoming its 1-11-1 record in conference to qualify for the Hockey East playoffs. The coach admitted after the game that the onus is on him and his coaching staff to keep the team motivated and striving to move up the standings.
“Hockey is about having fun. And the way you have fun is competing and battling for each other,” Sneddon said. “We still are just starting to gel as a team, but we’re starting to see some tremendous growth. We need to ‘find our Fenway’ — what makes it fun to come to the rink everyday and practice. I saw the smiles all weekend here. We just need to dig down and find that for every time we practice.”
What they said
The Fenway experience clearly resonated with Cahoon and his players, which was certainly magnified by the dramatic victory.
“I think I can relate to Big Papi and a walk-off home run in the 11th inning,” Cahoon said. “Given the nature of the overtime — killing the penalty and getting a power play of our own. The emotion and the intensity of it was everything it was billed to be. It was a playoff type of environment.”
For the Minutemen, Teglia earned the first win of his career. Teglia acknowledged after the game that he didn’t have much time to think about — or more accurately — become nervous about his opportunity in net.
“I found out this morning, and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me,” he said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Though disappointed his team couldn’t get the win, Sneddon was satisfied with his team’s play after the game.
“I thought we got better as the game went on,” Sneddon said. “And we had multiple chances to win it in regulation and overtime on that power play. We talked about manufacturing shots, as UMass did a good job of taking away [offensive threat Sebastian] Stalberg at many points.”
In addition, the coach complemented the play of senior Rob Madore in net, who has played well recently after struggling during the first semester.
“Rob has been playing sensationally for us since we got back from break and played the way he’s capable of playing. And he did it again tonight,” the coach said.
What else you should know
Despite temperatures being in the lower-60s at the peak of the afternoon in downtown Boston, ice conditions were excellent given the circumstances. Generally outdoor games are played at a slower pace than their climate-controlled, indoor counterparts because of irregularities in the surface. And Saturday was no exception. The players battled through choppy ice and overcame the frequent odd bounce of the puck, but it did not appreciably detract from the overall quality of play.
In fact, both coaches were surprised that the ice was playable, given the unusual spring-like conditions in New England Saturday.
“It was 50 degrees outside — my goodness — it was anything from what I expected,” Cahoon said. “But the ice was in great shape and the guys made the appropriate adjustments. We talked about keeping it simple and adjusting to the size of the ice surface compared to the Mullins Center.”
Though the uniqueness of the game made for a special afternoon for the players, coaches, and fans, the two points at stake were critical for both teams. With the loss, UVM is now deep in last place. UMass moves up to a tie with Northeastern in seventh.
Saturday’s game was the second hockey event for UMass forward Conor Sheary’s family in two years. The sophomore’s sister, Courtney, participated in a 5-3 win over Northeastern as a player for New Hampshire during the 2009-10 season.
Both teams return to action next Friday with home games. UMass hosts Boston College, while the Catamounts will welcome UMass Lowell to Burlington.