Amherst, Mass. - Josh Manson scored his first goal of the season 4 minutes, 4 seconds into overtime to complete a 5-4 comeback win for Northeastern over Massachusetts Tuesday night at the Mullins Center.
Robbie Vrolyk scored the game-tying goal 13:07 into the third, his second tally of the night, while his linemates Adam Reid and Cody Ferriero each had a goal of their own.
Michael Pereira led the Minutemen with two goals and an assist to push his point total to 25 for the year (12 goals, 13 assists).
Chris Rawlings got the start in goal for Northeastern, but was pulled after the second period after allowing four goals on 32 shots faced. Bryan Mountain took over for the third period and overtime and shut out UMass.
Steve Mastalerz made 40 saves for the Minutemen in a losing effort.
What I Saw
- Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said after the game that his decision to bring Mountain in was because he believed that Mountain was a more aggressive goalie than Rawlings, and it would be more fitting going up against UMass’ fast-paced, aggressive style of play. That move paid dividends for Madigan and the Huskies as Mountain gave the Minutemen no room to operate in the offensive zone. This style of play instilled life into the entire Northeastern squad. Mountain may not provide as big a target as Rawlings, but he was aggressive in his crease as UMass continued to drive the net and wasn’t afraid to play out against that attack.
- Northeastern’s second forward line of Vrolyk, Ferriero and Reid was better than any other line on either side of the ice. Not only was the group successful in scoring, they did it by being aggressive and taking chances, while also playing smart. Vrolyk led a two-on-two break after a turnover in the neutral zone with his team down 4-3 in the latter stages of the game. But instead of trying to force a pass with a pair of defenseman in position to make a play, Vrolyk fired a snapshot high and out of the reach of Mastalerz for the goal. Northeastern’s ability to capitalize on its chances proved to be a major story in the night, and Reid and Ferriero exemplified that with a power-play goal each.
- The lone highlight for the Minutemen in this one was the play of Michael Pereira. The junior forward continues to establish himself as one of the premier play-makers in Hockey East, and can also be a dangerous goal-scorer. Both of Pereira’s goals were big-time tallies for UMass at a point in the game where the momentum seemed to belong to the Minutemen. The first broke a 1-1 tie on a power play with 30 seconds left in the first period. The second goal broke a 3-3 tie with 1:07 remaining in the second. Defenseman Colin Shea found Pereira for a breakaway opportunity that the junior capitalized on to basically end Rawlings’ night. Had UMass held on for the win, Pereira’s timely goals would’ve served as key spark-plugs to the victory.
What I Thought
- The energy level from each side took a complete 180-degree turn after the first two periods. The Minutemen were seemingly in control for the first 40 minutes of play. UMass was constantly pressuring Rawlings and creating quality chances in both the first of the second period. Much of that can be attributed to the Minutemen being the aggressor, winning the race for the puck and unloading some physical hits to establish control. That quickly changed in the third as a hooking call on Pereira 15 seconds into the frame had UMass coach John Micheletto livid from the bench and simply deflated the team from there. Northeastern possessed the puck for most of the third period, and spent a majority of the time in the offensive zone. The Huskies established an even greater dominance in overtime that went well beyond outshooting UMass, 6-0. They controlled possession for the entire period, and the Minutemen’s only form of pressure came on a pair of failed chances on the odd-man rush.
- While some may point to Pereira’s hooking call or Madigan’s goalie substitution as the turning-points in the game, I thought Vrolyk’s goal 10:24 into the second period was that moment. Down 3-1, Northeastern dumped the puck into the offensive zone and Mastalerz tried to play the puck from behind the goal. Instead of clearing the puck, Mastalerz instead got it to the stick of a crashing Vrolyk who buried it into the wide-open net. This was a goal that was completely preventable, and instilled life into a Huskies team that was being outplayed up to that point. Without that crucial mistake, the events of the third period and overtime may never come about.
- Tuesday’s game was crucial for both teams as each came into the contest in the midst of a three-game losing streak while battling for the final playoff spot in the Hockey East standings. The Minutemen continued to do what has haunted them for most of the season by blowing yet another third period advantage, while Northeastern puts itself in position to make a run at that final postseason bid. The Huskies had been nearly ruled out of the running, but showed some resiliency in Tuesday’s win. Northeastern won this game in an unlikely way under less-than-ideal circumstances, and this could serve as a building block for the stretch run. UMass, on the other hand, is falling apart at the wrong time. The same uncharacteristic mistakes cost the Minutemen yet another chance at a much-needed two points, and it reveals that little progress has been made for a team that appeared to hit its stride in January.
What They Said
“It was a win we needed to get back into the playoff hunt. I just loved the way our guys battled for 60 minutes. When we got down 3-1 in the second period, there was a believability in our bench. There was a poise and composure on our bench that our guys knew we were coming back.” -Northeastern coach Jim Madigan
“We got a two-goal lead, we need to maintain the puck and reel the momentum back in at those opportunities when you lose it. It’s like in basketball: everyone gets their runs. You gotta ring it back in, so giving up the next two is not the way we play.” -UMass coach John Micheletto when asked about the change in momentum following Northeastern’s second goal.
What Else You Should Know
The game was delayed 35 minutes after a zamboni issue left a hole in the Mullins Center ice prior to warm ups.
With the loss, UMass remains just one point ahead of Maine for eighth in the conference standings with the Huskies just two points back. The Minutemen host Maine for a pivotal two-game series this weekend. Northeastern begins a home-and-home series with Providence on Friday.