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Tampa, Fla. - The #9 UMass Men's Hockey Team defeated #4 Colorado College 5-4 in overtime Sunday evening to win the Lightning College Hockey Classic. Matt Burto scored the game winner 1:55 into overtime to propel the Minutemen to their first Tournament Championship in team history. UMass is now 5-1-1 against nationally ranked opponents this season. The Minutemen have also won their last three games against top-10 teams.
UMass rallied after trailing by two goals after the first period by responding with three goals in the second period. With the score tied after two periods, UMass took the lead early in the third period on a goal from Cory Quirk. Colorado College answered with a goal of their own to tie the score and set up the game-winner by Burto.
After the Minutemen took a penalty just one minute into the first period, Colorado College went to work attempting to take the early lead. As the penalty expired Colorado threw a barrage of shots on UMass netminder Paul Dainton, but Dainton was there to keep the game scoreless. The Tigers struck first nearly five minutes into the opening frame when Jack Hillen skated around a UMass defenseman and fired a shot on goal. The puck hit Dainton on his shoulder and trickled into the net for the 1-0 Tiger lead.
The lack of discipline by UMass continued as the Minutemen took another penalty just after the goal. While on the penalty-kill, Alex Berry had a shorthanded chance as he skated down the right side and shot five-hole on O'Connell, but the Tiger goalie closed up his pads to refute the scoring opportunity.
Midway through the period, Colorado College started increasing their pressure in the Minutemen defensive zone and forced UMass into icing the puck constantly. UMass looked to get back into the game when they were awarded a five-on-three power play, but the aggressive penalty killing of the Tigers did not allow the Minutemen to set up their power play, as Colorado College was able to get their sticks in the passing lanes and block shot attempts by the UMass defensemen.
The Tigers extended their lead to two when Eric Walsky scored his seventh goal of the season on a great individual effort. Walsky skated into the UMass zone, spun around a UMass defenseman and threw the puck past Dainton.
UMass turned up the heat in the second period, scoring three goals in the middle frame. But a late goal by Colorado College sent both teams into the locker room tied at three. The Minutemen began the period on the power play, and Mike Kostka nearly got UMass on the board when he hit the post after some good puck movement by the UMass power play unit.
Just after the penalty expired, Berry scored his third goal of the season when he ripped a shot from the point that got through traffic and past O'Connell. Martin Nolet and Chris Davis assisted on the goal. The line of Burto, Brian Keane and Scott Crowder put lots of pressure on the Colorado College defense and threw multiple shots on net throughout the middle stanza.
UMass tied the score with five minutes to play in the frame when Mike Lecomte netted his fifth goal of the season as he banged home a rebound. Justin Braun and James Marcou assisted on the tally. Two minutes later the Minutemen took their first lead of the game while on a five-on-three power play. P.J. Fenton took a pass and fired a shot from the left faceoff dot that beat O'Connell top corner.
The Tigers answered right back, however, as Chad Rau scored a shorthanded goal just 14 seconds after UMass had taken the lead. The Minutemen finished the period outshooting the Tigers 13-6.
UMass continued their offensive explosion early in the third period, as Cory Quirk scored his sixth goal of the season just 48 seconds into the period to give UMass the 4-3 lead. The Minutemen followed the goal by pressuring the Colorado College defense and peppering O'Connell with shots. Burto looked to extend the lead when he streaked down the left side of the ice and deeked to the right, but O'Connell made a glove save to keep his team in the game.
After the Minutemen took another penalty, the Tigers scored to tie the game at four when Rau took a pass from the corner of the rink and rocketed a shot that beat Dainton to the right side. The teams traded chances for the rest of the period, but neither squad could put themselves ahead and the game headed into overtime.
Looking to avoid a shootout to decide a winner, the Minutemen set out to work in hopes of taking home the Championship trophy. Colorado College opened the overtime period with tons of pressure in the UMass end, and Dainton did his best to scramble around the net to prevent the puck from crossing the goal line. The Minutemen ended the game when Marcou took a pass from Lecomte and fired a shot from the right. The initial shot was saved by O'Connell, but he left the rebound out to the left where Burto crashed in and buried the puck for the game winner.
The Minutemen will take next weekend off before they return to action on January 11 and 12 for a home and home series against the New Hampshire Wildcats. The January 11 contest will be broadcast from the Mullins Center on NESN as part of Hockey East's "Friday Night Ice." Gametime is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.