Tournament MVP Branden Gracel posts goal and assist for Minutemen

Junior forward Branden Gracel had a goal and an assist for the Minutemen

HANOVER, N.H. - In an evenly matched physical battle, the UMass hockey team fought for its second straight come-from-behind win, defeating #8 Dartmouth 3-2 in the Ledyard National Bank Classic title game. Finishing the tournament with four points, including the game-winner against the Big Green (8-3-2), junior Brandon Gracel was named the Tournament MVP. The Minutemen (7-9-2) handed Dartmouth its first home loss of the season, previously 7-0-0 at Thompson Arena.

Gracel logged his second straight multi-point game with a goal and an assist, while junior Conor Sheary and senior Eddie Olczyk contributed special teams tallies with a power play goal and a short-hander, respectively. Olczyk earned a spot on the all-tournament team, as did netminder Kevin Boyle who totaled 26 saves in the victory.

UMass took an early 1-0 lead as Sheary's shot from the top of the slot found its way past Cab Morris 3:04 into the opening period. To set up the power play tally, which broke a streak of 32 consecutive kills for Dartmouth, Gracel dug the puck out of the corner and sent it up the boards for Conor Allen who fed Sheary.

The Big Green would answer, though, with a short-handed goal at the 9:50 mark to level the score at 1-1. Eric Neiley connected with Brett Patterson on the odd-man rush for Dartmouth.

After a would-be goal for the Minutemen was disallowed for goaltender obstruction, the Big Green pulled in front, 2-1. Dustin Walsh wristed one in, top shelf, from the right faceoff circle 11:13 into the stanza with Tyler Sikura and Matt Lindblad earning the assists.

With 22.7 seconds remaining in the first, Dartmouth had a goal called back as the puck was put in amidst a scrum in front, but UMass was left to kill three minutes of a major penalty to Joel Hanley after the teams skated four aside for two minutes.

With the Minutemen a man down midway through the second period, Olczyk caused a turnover and skated into the offensive zone for a shot and score at 9:50 to level things at 2-2.

Then, just 15 seconds into the start of the third, Gracel scored the game-winner on the power play, cleaning up a rebound from a shot by freshman Shane Walsh to the left of the cage.

UMass ended the night with a 29-28 edge in shots and went 2-for-9 on the power play, while Dartmouth was 0-for-5. The Minutemen won 40 of 72 faceoffs on the night, led by Gracel's 22-for-33 effort.

UMass will be back in action at home against Providence on Friday, Jan. 9, at 7 p.m.