AMHERST, Mass. - The UMass hockey team trimmed a 5-1 deficit to one with a three-goal third period, but the comeback fell just short in a 5-4 loss to #12 Northeastern on Saturday night at the Mullins Center. The setback leaves the Minutemen at 8-19-4 overall, 4-11-3 in Hockey East, while the Huskies improve to 17-10-3 overall and 9-6-1 in league action.
UMass had four different goal scorers on the evening, including junior Zack LaRue and sophomore Ben Gallacher who both notched their first tallies of the season, Gallacher's first in a UMass uniform.
Seniors Conor Sheary and Michael Pereira both had multi-point nights each with a shorthanded goal and an assist. Sheary extended his goal-scoring streak to five straight and his point streak to seven, both career highs for the senior who has nine points (5g, 4a) during that span. Pereira's points were his 19th and 20th of the year to give him 20 or more points in each of his four seasons at UMass.
Senior Colin Shea logged his 14th assist of the season for a new career best in points. Classmate Adam Phillips had a helper, as well, to tie his career single-season best for points with his 15th of the year and 50th of his career.
UMass controlled the majority of possession in the first period but it was Northeastern that went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead. After recovering the puck in the defensive zone, Mike Szmatula set up Kevin Roy's 16th of the season on the rush at the 14:53 mark.
The Huskies then expanded their lead to 2-0 early in the second period. Adam Reid's wraparound from Torin Snyderman found the back of the net 3:43 into the stanza.
At the 17:06 mark, the Minutemen cut their deficit in half. Sheary carried the puck into the zone, setting up a shot by Phillips from the left faceoff circle. Phillips' attempt was turned aside, but Gallacher cleaned up the rebound in the slot.
Exactly two minutes later, however, Northeastern regained its two-goal cushion. Roy set up Belonger on the rush for a shot that trickled in at 19:06.
Two early third period goals helped the Huskies extend the lead to 5-1. Tanner Pond stuffed in a puck from Zach Aston-Reese and Braden Primm at the goal post 1:53 into the frame. Then Zach Aston-Reese added the final tally for Northeastern on a breakaway at the 4:10 mark.
UMass responded, though, with two quick shorthanded goals to close the gap to 5-3. Pereira's came just 10 seconds after the Aston-Reese tally. Then, on the same penalty kill, Pereira fed Sheary on a 2-on-1 at 5:41.
The Minutemen scored again at the 10:24 mark to make it a one-goal game. LaRue redirected in a shot from the point by Shea with junior Oleg Yevenko earning an assist on the play, as well, for his first point of the season.
Huskies' goaltender Clay Witt held off UMass to thwart the comeback, however, and finished with 32 saves. Steve Mastalerz made 16 stops for the Minutemen, who out-shot Northeastern 36-21. Both teams were 0-for-4 on the power play in the contest.
The Minutemen will return to action next Friday, Feb. 21, beginning their final weekend of the regular season at #9 Providence. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m.