BOSTON, Mass. - Redshirt junior netminder Clay Witt made 45 saves in goal, but Massachusetts (8-16-4, 4-8-3) struck twice in the second period before adding an empty net goal in the final minute of regulation to blank the No. 11/11 Northeastern men's ice hockey team (16-9-3, 8-6-1) on Friday night at Matthews Arena, 3-0.
Witt made at least 40 saves for the fifth time this season as the Minutemen picked up two points in the league standings in the first two of conference meetings between the two squads. His counterpart, Steve Mastalerz, stopped all 27 shots he faced to earn the shutout.
UMass held a substantial 48-27 edge in shots on goal while face-offs were split at 37 apiece. Neither team could capitalize on the power play with NU going 0-of-6 and Massachusetts 0-of-2.
Witt was tested early and often in the first period with the Minutemen holding a 17-5 edge in shots on goal, including a 4-0 mark in power play shots. Northeastern controlled the play in the early going, maintaining puck possession in the UMass end and generating the game's first scoring bid on a wrist shot from Cody Ferriero after a clever pass from Adam Reid in the neutral zone. Witt was then tested for the first time by Troy Power on a shot from the right side, but Witt was quick to flash the pad to make the save.
After the Minutemen killed off a five-on-three NU power play, Reid continued to create chances at the offensive end, and nearly caught Mastalerz napping when he tossed the puck into danger from the left side, but Oleg Yevenko got back just in time to block the bid.
UMass, the league leaders in power play percentage, went on the man advantage midway through the frame and peppered Witt with four shots, including a redirect from Power on the doorstep off an initial shot from the point.
The Minutemen drew first blood less than two minutes into the second period when Marc Hetnik notched his first collegiate tally. After Mastalerz played the puck up to Zack LaRue at center ice, LaRue hit Hetnik with a pass entering the offensive zone. Hetnik then skated the puck down the left side before firing a shot on goal from an odd angle that beat Witt for a 1-0 UMass lead.
Northeastern nearly leveled the score at one nine minutes into the stanza when Matt Benning's shot from the point was tipped by Kevin Roy in between the hash marks, but Mastalerz got a piece of it and the defense was able to clear.
Josh Manson kept the Minutemen at bay four minutes later when he dropped down to impede a shot from Branden Gracel, who was all alone in the slot. Another blocked shot from the captain with six minutes left in the period resulted in a brief three-on-one with Manson, Reid and Mike McMurtry, but strong back-checking from UMass thwarted the scoring bid.
NU went on the power play for the third time in the contest with less than three minutes left in the frame, but it was UMass that buried the special teams tally when Adam Phillips fed Conor Sheary in the slot, and Sheary snapped one over the shoulder of Witt for his sixth of the season.
The Huskies came out in the third period with a sense of urgency, pounding the net and generating chance after chance. Braden Pimm almost cut into the lead when his shot from the left face-off circle was stopped by Mastalerz, but the UMass defense cleared the puck before Roy could pounce on the rebound.
Witt kept the deficit at two with Northeastern on the power play five minutes into the third when he stoned Gracel trying to stuff a shot under his pad.
Another Husky power play resulted in another shorthanded bid form the Minutemen as Michael Pereira went in on a breakaway on Witt, but the junior netminder came up with the big save to send NU the other way. Northeastern sent a flurry of chances on Mastalerz in transition, including a backhand through traffic from Dalen Hedges that Mastalerz just got a piece of.
Northeastern would pull Witt in favor of the extra skater with 3:01 left in regulation, but a diving jab from Gracel in the final 30 seconds of the game seal it for the Minutemen.
The Huskies will be back in action on Monday when they take on No. 2/2 Boston College in the championship game of the 62nd annual Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be aired live on NESN.