Senior forward T.J. Syner registers goal and assist as Minutemen secure Hockey East playoff spot

Senior forward T.J. Syner had a goal and an assist for the Minutemen

AMHERST, Mass. - Goals from seniors Danny Hobbs and T.J. Syner helped propel the Minutemen into the Hockey East playoffs as the UMass downed #12 Merrimack, 5-1 on Friday night on Senior Night at the Mullins Center. UMass (13-15-5, 9-13-4 HEA), with a Northeastern loss at Boston University and a Boston College win over Vermont, clinches a spot in the Hockey East Tournament. The Warriors fall to 16-10-7 overall and 12-9-2 in conference play.

Syner scored his 12th of the season and added an assist for his eighth multi-point game of the year. Hobbs' goal extended his point streak to four straight and classmate Kevin Moore appeared in his second career game, playing the final 1:35 in net for the Mass Attack.

The Minutemen appeared to get on the board at the 11:32 mark of the first, but upon a review, the goal was disallowed for goaltender interference. Undeterred, UMass continued to pressure Merrimack, outshooting the Warriors, 10-3 in the period. Then in the closing seconds of the frame, Hobbs redirected a puck sent towards the net by sophomore Joel Hanley at 19:33. Sophomore Branden Gracel added his 19th helper of the season, as well.

Just 22 ticks into the second period, Merrimack appeared to level the score at one, but the second review of the night resulted in the tally being nullified.

Shortly after the third opened with the Mass Attack holding onto a 1-0 lead, Shawn Bates evened the score for Merrimack. Bates' shot from the left faceoff circle came at 1:23 from Josh Myers and Mike Collins.

Syner came through with the would-be game-winning score 5:48 in to the third. Sophomore Conor Allen collected his own rebound and sent the puck across the slot to Syner for the one-timer.

Junior Darren Rowe pushed the margin to two for UMass with his second of the season at 14:28. Sophomore Colin Shea sent a pass along the boards to Syner behind the net and Syner found Rowe in the slot to bring the score to 3-1.

Unassisted empty net goals by sophomore Branden Gracel and junior Kevin Czepiel helped ice the victory for the Minutemen, the team's seventh over a ranked opponent this season and first win in the series since Dec. 12, 2009, snapping a streak of six straight setbacks to the Warriors.

UMass finished the evening with a 26-24 edge in shots and went 1-for-4 on the power play. Holding Merrimack to an 0-for-4 night with the man advantage, the Minutemen extended their streak 12-for-12 on the penalty kill. Freshman Kevin Boyle (8-5-4) made 25 saves for UMass, while Joe Cannata (15-10-7) stopped 19 for the Warriors.

The two teams close out the regular season tomorrow night, March 3, in North Andover, Mass. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m.

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