AMHERST, Mass. - A trio of first period goals helped the UMass hockey team to a 5-2 victory over Merrimack on Friday night at the Mullins Center. Following the win, the Minutemen improve to 7-15-3 overall, 3-7-2 in Hockey East, while the Warriors fall to 6-13-3 and 1-7-2 in league action.
Seniors Michael Pereira and Conor Sheary both had multi-point nights for UMass, as did redshirt junior Troy Power who contributed a goal and an assist for his seventh career multi-point game and fourth of the season. Pereira logged his 49th career goal and 49th career assist on the evening to now sit tied for 11th in program history with 98 points. Sheary climbed closer to the 100-point milestone as well, adding two helpers for his 94th and 95th points of his career.
Freshman Steven Iacobellis and senior Branden Gracel each contributed their team-leading 10th goals of the season and senior Adam Phillips provided game-winning tally, his sixth of his career (tied for seventh in UMass history).
Near the midway point of the first period, Iacobellis opened the scoring after Sheary picked off a Merrimack clearing attempt at the blueline and sent the puck ahead for Iacobellis to finish the play at the 8:10 mark.
The Minutemen then caused another turnover to lead to the squad's second of the night 13:20 into the frame. Freshman Ray Pigozzi dug the puck in the corner to Pereira who fed Power in the slot to increase the margin to 2-0.
With just two seconds to go before the first intermission, UMass again won the battle for the puck down low to yield another score. Junior Zack LaRue sent it back to senior Colin Shea at the left point and Shea found Phillips alone in front. Phillips used his long reach to wrap the puck in behind a sprawling Rasmus Tirronen for the Minutemen's third of the night.
Gracel gave UMass a four-goal cushion early in the second period. Off a centering past from Sheary behind the net, he lofted his point-blank strike over Tirronen 5:23 into the stanza.
The Warriors broke up the shutout, capitalizing on a power-play opportunity at 15:43 in the second. Chris LeBlanc buried a rebound from Hampus Gustafsson and Rhett Bly to bring the score to 4-1.
Merrimack struck again at the start of the third period to make it a two-goal deficit. Justin Mansfield tucked a shot from the point in under the cross bar at the 1:49 mark with Kyle Singleton and Bly earning assists on the play.
Pereira later capped off the win for the Minutemen with an empty net goal from Power 18:14 into the final frame.
Merrimack finished with a 27-23 advantage in shots, while UMass won 36 of 58 faceoffs in the contest, including a 13-for-17 showing by Iacobellis. The Warriors went 1-for-3 on the power play and the Minutemen finished 0-for-3.
Junior Steve Mastalerz logged 25 saves en route to the win (7-11-2) for UMass, while Tirronen tallied 18 stops in the setback (5-7-3) for Merrimack.
The teams will meet again tomorrow night, Jan. 25, in North Andover, Mass., at 7 p.m.