Oct. 18, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. - A pair of second-period goals helped the Massachusetts Minutemen defeat the Michigan State hockey team, 3-1, in the Spartans' season opener on Friday night at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. Greg Wolfe scored for the Spartans with just over seven minutes to play in the third period, but the Green and White were unable to produce the tying goal and the Minutemen added an empty-netter in the final minute.
"I think our guys played hard and we certainly made our share of errors," said MSU head coach Tom Anastos. "Some of our errors were forced by our opponent, so I give them all the credit. But I thought our guys competed hard. We are a youthful group, so we're going through the growing pains of making mistakes and when you do that on the road often times you pay the price."
The Spartans outshot the Minutemen (1-2) in the first period by a count of 15-10. MSU got its first power play opportunity of the game at 13:01 of the first when Mike Busillo went off for charging. The Spartans generated five shots on the man advantage, while Jake Hildebrand turned away all six shots he faced on a UMass power play in the final two minutes of the period.
The game remained scoreless early in the second period until the Minutemen grabbed a 1-0 lead on the power play at the 3:26 mark. Joel Hanley's shot from the point found its way to the front of the net where Branden Gracel redirected it past Hildebrand.
The Minutemen made it 2-0 with 4:10 to play in the second period when Shane Walsh corralled a loose puck just outside the crease and beat Hildebrand. Brandon Wahlin and Colin Shea drew assists on the goal.
Despite being outshot, 10-5, in the third period, the Spartans (0-1) generated several quality scoring opportunities. A quick 2-on-1 with Ryan Keller and Matt DeBlouw turned into an excellent chance as UMass goaltender Steve Mastalerz stopped DeBlouw's shot, but left a rebound just outside the crease. The Spartans crashed the net, but were unable to get another shot off before UMass cleared the zone.
DeBlouw had another chance later in the period when he walked around a Massachusetts defenseman from the left side, but his backhand sailed just high over the right corner of the net.
MSU broke through with 7:17 to play in the third when Wolfe took a pass from Dean Chelios in the MSU zone and raced down the right side. The play turned into a 2-on-1, but Wolfe calmly held the puck from the right side and beat Mastalerz with a wrist shot to make it a 2-1 game. Rhett Holland also picked up an assist on the goal.
Gracel took a penalty on the Wolfe goal, giving the Spartans their third power play of the game. Michigan State generated a handful of chances on the ensuing man advantage, but couldn't come up with the tying goal.
"I think the guys battled hard tonight. We didn't get all the bounces, but overall it was a good effort," said Wolfe. "I thought our younger guys played with some confidence tonight. Obviously, we didn't get the result we wanted, but I thought they did a pretty good job."
Gracel scored an empty-net goal with 44 seconds to play to make the final score 3-1.
Hildebrand finished the game with 32 saves, while Mastalerz made 31.
Michigan State finished the game 0-for-3 on the power play; UMass went 1-for-5.
"I thought we got pretty much what we expected from UMass," said Anastos. "We thought they would play very hard and that their crowd would be a big factor in their energy level and they scored some timely goals. For us, as a first game at this tempo, you could see fatigue a little bit. We thought that would happen and we just have to fight through it."
The two teams will complete the series, which is part of the Big Ten-Hockey East Challenge, tomorrow at 7 p.m.