UMass skates past Friars, 5-2

For The Recorder
Thursday, November 09, 2017

AMHERST — When Providence erased UMass’ early two-goal lead, it looked like the top 10 team had settled down to douse the upstart’s hopes.

But freshman Austin Albrecht’s goal early in the third period gave the Minutemen the lead and momentum that propelled them to a 5-2 win over the No. 8-ranked Friars, Thursday at the Mullins Center.

“That was a tremendous win for our program,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I don’t feel like we stole it. I’m real proud of our team. It was a great stepping stone for our program.

“To lose a 2-0 lead can be psychologically tough. But I didn’t feel anything on our bench,” Carvel continued. “That’s been a nice sign of our group. They were ready to play and played hard for 60 minutes. It was real good hockey game and I thought we got what we deserved tonight.”

With the scored tied 2-2, UMass forced a face-off to the right of Friar goalie Hayden Hawkey early in the third. George Mika won the draw, but not cleanly, as the puck squirted to Albrecht who jammed it in, 1 minute, 43 seconds into the third period.

Sophomore goalie Ryan Wischow made his first start in over a month and made 33 saves, including 14 in the third period to protect the lead.

“He’s a battler. He saw everything tonight. I thought he did a tremendous job holding down the fort there,” Carvel said.

The game stayed tense for most of the final frame until Niko Rufo, who spent the first four years of his career at Providence, got the puck just in the Minuteman zone. With Hawkey pulled, Rufo flipped it down the ice.

When the puck bounced across the goal line, the UMass bench erupted in excitement knowing that the goal likely clinched a win and had special meaning for Rufo.

“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Carvel said. “He probably didn’t have the four years he was expecting to have at Providence. He came here because we told him he’d be a really important player here and he is. He’s doing a good job.”

Niko Hildenbrand added a second empty-netter to make the final score look much more comfortable than the game was.

The victory meant UMass (5-5-0, 2-2-0 Hockey East) matched its totals wins, league wins and wins against ranked teams that it had in all of the 2016-17 season.

The Minutemen took a 2-0 lead on goals by Mitchell Chaffee and Oliver Chau. The Friars (5-4-0, 2-3-0 Hockey East) scored late in the first and just under seven minutes into the second to set up the decisive final period.

The teams play again, Saturday at 7 p.m. in Providence.