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AMHERST, Mass. - Sophomore Michael Pereira posted his second hat trick of the season, but the UMass hockey team was unable to recover from an early two-goal deficit, falling 5-4 to Providence at the Mullins Center on Saturday night. Following the setback, the Minutemen are now 10-13-5 overall and 6-11-4 in Hockey East, while the Friars improve to 12-14-2 and 10-10-1 in league action.
Surpassing his goal total from his freshman season, Pereira notched his team-leading 13th, 14th and 15th of the year for the Mass Attack and now has seven points in the past four games. It marked his second hat trick of 2011-12, having previously posted his first of his career on Oct. 14 vs. Bentley. Junior Darren Rowe had a multi-point night, as well, with two assists.
UMass found itself in a quick 2-0 hole after two goals by Providence in the first five minutes of the contest. Matt Montesano set up David Brown for the opening tally just 3:02 into the period. Tim Schaller followed up with a shot from close range that found its way past Minutemen netminder Kevin Boyle at 4:39 off a feed from Matt Bergland.
Then in the final minutes of the frame, UMass cut its deficit in half. Pereira stole the puck in the neutral zone, skated into the Friars' end, had his initial shot stopped, but got his own rebound to put the Minutemen on the board at 17:47.
Providence once again made it a two-goal lead, capitalizing on a power play opportunity 13:05 into the second. Daniel New's slapper from the slot pushed the score to 3-1. Just 23 ticks later, Damian Cross added the Friars' fourth from Derek Army to chase Boyle from the UMass net.
Pereira brought the Minutemen back into striking distance by scoring twice in the first 5:20 of the third period. His second of the evening came in a similar fashion to his first as he stole the puck for the score at the 3:54 mark. Then 5:20 in, Pereira completed the hat trick with a wrap-around goal from Rowe on the power play.
However, Providence converted a man advantage situation of its own 9:11 into the frame to bring the score to 5-3. Shane Luke came through with the tally that was the difference in the game, assisted by Kevin Hart and Army.
UMass pulled back to within one at 14:09. Catching the Friars on a change, Rowe passed the puck to his defensive partner, sophomore Conor Allen, who sent it up ice to sophomore Patrick Kiley on the Providence blue line. Kiley skated into the zone and netted his third of the season to make it 5-4. The Minutemen had several chances in the closing minutes, including a power play with 3:15 to go, but could not manage to get the equalizer.
Alex Beaudry totaled 31 saves for Providence, as the Friars were out-shot by UMass 35-29. Boyle and freshman Steve Mastalerz finished with 13 and 11, respectively. The Minutemen went 1-for-6 on the power play in the contest, while Providence was 2-for-2.
UMass returns to action next weekend, when the squad will play a pair on the road at Maine on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 17-18.