By Matthew F. Sacco USCHO Arena Reporter
After spending the last few weeks in the “others receiving votes category,” Massachusetts staked its claim for its first-ever national ranking by following a 3-2 win over No. 7 Boston College on Friday, with a 5-4 pulse-pounding victory over Providence.
Defenseman Thomas Pock got the game winner, a hat-trick goal, with just :27 remaining to secure the win.
Freshman Stephen Werner carried the puck through the neutral zone with speed before recycling at the left faceoff circle and feeding linemate Greg Mauldin for a shot. The blast was blocked and headed out of the zone before Pock retrieved it, spun and fired a seeing-eye shot past Nolan Schaefer.
“[Pock] just turned around and shot it,” Providence coach Paul Pooley said. “It got past Schaefer like it had eyes.”
With the three goals, the first such feat by a defenseman in school history, and his play on the blue line, Pock almost singlehandedly saw UMass through to victory.
“You look at him on tape and he’s one of the reasons they’re playing so well,” Pooley said of Pock. “That was a great move putting him back there.”
The goal came just five minutes after Cody Loughlean had tied the game for the second time in the third period. Devin Rask outmuscled Sean Regan behind the UMass net and fed Loughlean in front for a shortside goal past Gabe Winer to knot the game at four.
“We got caught system-wise in the middle of the rink that started a 2-on-1,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “We got caught puck watching
After the Friars’ Stephen Wood tied the contest at three on a power-play goal at 5:20 of the third, Tim Vitek restored UMass’ one-goal lead with his second tally of the game. Mike Mullen let a wrist shot go from the faceoff circle that Vitek tipped past Schaefer.
“My linemate shot it,” Vitek said. “It bounced off Peter Trovato, off my skate and stick and in.”
“Tim is going to be a player,” Cahoon said. “We knew there was going to be a waiting period with him. But I think you’ll see him continue to produce for the rest of the year.”
Following a first period in which UMass [12-7-1, 6-5-0 HE] was thoroughly dominated and outscored, 1-0, the Minutemen turned the tables in the middle stanza to gain a one-goal advantage entering the third.
Vitek scored the equalizer just over a minute into the period off of a pretty feed from Tim Turner. Turner, currently on a school-record 10-game scoring streak, shed his mark with a pass to himself off the back of the net before sliding a feed to Vitek, who was charging in the slot off a line change. The sophomore one-timed the feed high over Schaefer’s glove.
Providence [10-7-1, 4-6-1 HE] answered at 7:37 when Cody Loughlean outmuscled Vitek on the left wing before sliding a pass to Rask in the slot for a one-touch shot past Winer’s glove.
But the Friar goal only seemed to spark more life in the Minutemen. Cahoon cycled all four of its forward lines to keep fresh legs pressuring Schaefer and his defense. UMass was finally able to break through for the tie after the halfway mark of the period.
It started with a strong shift from the Minutemen’s fourth line. Matt Walsh beat David Carpentier on the right wing and headed to the net before being hauled down for a high-sticking penalty.
It took UMass just over a minute to capitalize with Pock’s eighth goal of the season.
Turner controlled behind the net and slid a pass to Capraro on the left wing. The freshman faked a shot before feeding Pock for a one-timer that deflected in front and past Schaefer.
Following the goal, UMass did not relent, as Pock struck again to give his team a lead entering the second intermission.
This time it was Greg Mauldin who had the puck on the left wing before feeding Pock for the slapshot and a clean roasting of Schaefer on the power play.
UMass’ lethal power play, which was 2-for-3 on the night, was the difference in the game.
“We took three penalties,” Pooley said. “I thought we could’ve executed better in the game. Three penalties isn’t a major breakdown, but that changed the game.”
Though both teams were coming off emotional Hockey East wins, with Providence taking a Friday night victory over No. 2 Maine, it was UMass that looked flat in the first period of play.
The Friars put pressure on Winer by generating speed through the neutral zone with their top two scoring lines. After outshooting the Minutemen 4-1 in the first five minutes, it was the second line of Peter Zingoni, Doug Wright and Jon DiSalvatore that broke through.
Zingoni took a wrist shot from the slot he crashed the net hard and was checked into Winer. With the goalie out of the play, Wright swept in and netted his first goal of the year.