MINNEAPOLIS - The UMass Hockey team battled in its 2010-11 season opener, but fell to No. 15 Minnesota on Friday night at Mariucci Arena, 5-3. The Gophers (1-0-0) took a 2-0 lead early in the second period before the Minutemen (0-1-0) brought it close with two third period goals from Darren Rowe and T.J. Syner to make it a one-goal game late in regulation. Michael Pereira also scored for Massachusetts while Paul Dainton made 29 saves in goal. The two teams will complete the weekend series tomorrow night at 7 PM CST.
Minnesota held a slight shot advantage in the game 34-32 while each team netted two power play goals; the Minutemen were 2-for-6 on the man-advantage while the Gophers went 2-for-3.
The Minutemen had several chances to take an early lead throughout the first period with two power play opportunities, including a five-minute man-advantage. Nick Bjugstad was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct just four minutes into the game after he hit Michael Marcou into the boards from behind down below Dainton's net. T.J. Syner nearly put UMass on top during the extended power play when Marcou faked a shot from inside the blue line and instead spotted Syner in front of the cage, but the puck caught on edge and sailed over the net.
Massachusetts continued to pressure as the period wore on as Darren Rowe almost snuck one past Kangas on a rebound following a low Syner shot into the netminder's pads. The Gophers got on the board on their second man-advantage of the evening when Jay Barriball tucked a loose puck past Dainton's right pad after a scrum in the slot to take a 1-0 lead into intermission.
Minnesota got off to a quick start in the second period as the Gophers took a two-goal lead right off the opening draw. A Minnesota forward dumped the puck into the UMass end and behind the goal. The puck wrapped around the boards to a waiting Dainton behind the net, where the puck then tipped off the senior goaltender's stick and out below the faceoff dot. Dainton recovered to stop the initial bid from Mike Hoeffel, but the rebound squirted right back to Hoeffel who finished the play for a 2-0 Minnesota lead just 12 seconds into the frame.
The Minutemen were persistent throughout the period and continued to generate scoring opportunities, and Pereira got UMass on the board near the midway mark of the period off a failed clearing attempt from the Gophers. With the Minutemen on the power play, a Minnesota defenseman attempted to sling the puck along the boards from behind the goal. Pereira was stationed behind Kangas' net and knocked the puck down before skating out above the crease and trying to jam the puck through the Gopher netminder. Pereira's first effort was saved by Kangas, but Pereira hung in front long enough to find the rebound and bury it for his first collegiate tally.
Minnesota made it a two-goal game yet again with 5:46 to play in the period when Seth Helgeson received an indirect pass off the boards from Jacob Cepis. Helgeson took a stride towards goal and let a low slap-shot go that deflected off the skate of a UMass forward before getting through Dainton's pads to make it 3-1.
Massachusetts brought it back to a one-goal game five minutes into the third period when Rowe potted his first collegiate goal with the Minutemen on the power play. Marcou's shot from the point was deflected to the left of the net, where Rowe picked up the rebound. Rowe, patient with the puck, carried it through the slot before firing a shot into the top right corner over Kangas' glove.
The Gophers made it 4-2 with eight minutes to play in regulation on Justin Holl's first goal of the season following a big save by Dainton. After the glove stop, the puck nearly escaped the UMass zone, but Holl chased it down, carried the puck around the faceoff dot and wristed a shot under Dainton's arm for the score.
Syner responded less than three minutes later off a transition from the Massachusetts zone and a pass from Pereira. Syner received the puck in the neutral zone and used his speed to break away from Minnesota defenseman Cade Fairchild. Syner then turned his body towards the net and backhanded a shot through Kangas five-hole with a delayed penalty on Fairchild. A new NCAA rule this season sent the Gopher defender to the penalty box for hooking despite the UMass goal during the delayed penalty.
The Minutemen pulled Dainton with under a minute to play in regulation, but Massachusetts could not find the equalizer as Zach Budish sent a shot into the empty net to ice the game.