Junior forward Branden Gracel picks up two assists for Minutemen

Junior forward Branden Gracel had two assists for the Minutemen

HANOVER, N.H. - Rallying from a 2-0 first period deficit, the UMass hockey team scored three in the second and sophomore Zack LaRue added his first career tally for the game winner as the Minutemen defeated Bemidji State, 4-3 on Sunday afternoon at Darmouth's Thompson Arena. UMass will face either New Hampshire at 4 p.m. or the host Big Green at 7 p.m. for the Ledyard National Bank Classic title.

Ten Minutemen registered at least one point in the contest, led by junior Branden Gracel's two-assist night, his fourth multi-point game of the season and eighth of his career, and junior Michael Pereira's goal and assist. Conor Allen and Pereira extended their point scoring streaks to four and three games, respectively.

With its first power play opportunity of the afternoon, Bemidji State converted to take a 1-0 lead at the 9:17 mark as Aaron McLeod put in a rebound from close range with Brance Orban and Brady Wacker picking up assists.

The Beavers later made it a 2-0 advantage before the first intermission. After junior Conor Sheary was all alone in the slot, but sent a shot high and wide, Bemidji State countered with a rush the other way. Netminder Kevin Boyle made the initial stop, but the puck squirted free in front for Orban to put home into an open net.

UMass rallied, though, with a three-goal second period to take a 3-2 lead into the third. Following an offensive zone faceoff win, Sheary and Gracel set up Pereira's snipe that found the top corner of the net 5:05 into the stanza.

The Minutemen then equalized with a power play goal at 9:32. Freshman Shane Walsh received the puck down low from Gracel and sent it out to the far point for senior Darren Rowe who rung a slapper off the post and in.

Another tally with the man advantage put UMass on top, 3-2. Putting in a rebound from senior Rocco Carzo and Allen, junior Adam Phillips ripped one past Andrew Walsh at 18:44 for his fourth of the season.

The Minutemen added an insurance goal 9:01 into the third. At the end of a penalty kill, Gracel took the puck coast-to-coast. His initial shot was stopped, but LaRue, fresh out of the penalty box, was there to stuff in the loose puck.

Bemidji State cut the margin to one after scoring with the extra attacker on at the 17:37 mark. Jordan George scored on a rebound from Cory Ward and Ben Kinne.

UMass out-shot the Beavers, 33-20 and won 33-of-64 faceoffs, aided by Gracel's 18-for-24 night over the dots. Boyle totaled 17 saves for the Minutemen, while Walsh stopped 29 for Bemidji State. On the power play, UMass was 2-for-6 and the Beavers went 1-for-4.