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Minutemen complete weekend sweep of Michigan State, 5-2

AMHERST — Four power-play goals, three of them coming in the second period, were more than enough to turn around an early 2-1 deficit Saturday night as UMass surged to a 5-2 non-conference hockey victory over Michigan State before 5,280 at the Mullins Center.

Freshman Steve Iacobellis scored twice for the Minutemen (2-2), who finished off a weekend sweep of the Spartans. Fellow freshman Ray Pigozzi handed out three assists, Joel Hanley, Adam Phillips and Troy Power also scored goals, and Steve Mastalerz stopped 31 shots to earn the win in net.

“After the first 20 minutes, I didn’t have to urge our guys too much, because they weren’t very happy with their own play,” said UMass head coach John Micheletto. “I thought we got much, much better in the second period, and obviously it’s nice to have the power play clicking a little bit. It’s good to score five.”

Michigan State (0-2) got off to a fast start with a goal by fourth-line center Michael Ferrantino just 4:58 into the game, but UMass was back to even just a couple of minutes later with the Spartans’ Rhett Holland off for hitting from behind. Iacobellis stuffed home the rebound of Power’s initial shot at 6:59 to make it 1-1.

The Minutemen went down two men with penalties to Colin Shea and Branden Gracel and MSU was quick to capitalize on the 5-on-3. Greg Wolfe netted his second of the weekend at 17:06 on a slap shot past Mastalerz from the top of the left circle.

Hanley brought UMass back to even at 7:28 of the second, this time with the Spartans’ Jake Chelios in the box. Ben Gallacher fed Hanley at the right point for a slapper that cleanly beat MSU goalie Will Yanakeff (28 saves). Conor Sheary also assisted.

Iacobellis got his second of the night at 10:28, UMass’ only even-strength goal, with a wrist shot past Yanakeff from the mid-slot assisted by Pigozzi and Power. It was Iacobellis’ third of the season, tying Gracel for the early team lead.

“It’s been a lot of fun, that’s the biggest thing,” said Iacobellis of the quick start to his college career. “When you’re having fun, it’s easy to have success, and when you have a good team around you, it’s also easy.”

Phillips made it 4-2 at 13:34 on the man-up, connecting on a slap shot from the right point for his first of the season, and Power finished the second-period onslaught at 18:57, also on the power play, collecting a rebound and sweeping to his right to beat Yanakeff.

UMass had not scored four power-play goals in a game since a 5-2 win over RPI Oct. 8, 2009 in Amherst.

The ragged third period featured three power plays for each side and few quality scoring chances.

“I don’t think we came out with a lot of speed, I thought we were pretty flat,” said Power, a junior who played in only 11 games last season due to a knee injury. “That’s not the way we want to play hockey. We want to play fast and push teams back. If we wanted to come back and win the game, we had to come out on the ice with some fire, and I think we did that.”

Pigozzi recorded his first three collegiate points with two of his assists coming on power-play goals.

“It seemed like everybody I gave it to, every shot they took kind of went in,” said Pigozzi. “I like that definitely, from my standpoint. We’ve been doing work on (the power play) in practice, it’s working with the big ice. We had a little more space and a little more time to make plays, guys were open and moving around, so it worked out very well.”

The Minutemen play their next four games against Maine, two non-conference tilts in Orono Friday and Saturday followed by a pair of Hockey East games Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 at the Mullins Center.

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