Five Observations: UMass 3, UVM 2 @ Fenway

With apologies to our own Marisa Ingemi, I’m going to steal her “Five Observations” format to break down Saturday Night’s Hockey East contests at Fenway.

Here’s a look at some notables and quotables from game one, in which UMass won, 3-2, on Michael Marcou’s overtime goal with 23 seconds to play.

Bid you Marcou – Marcou put Frozen Fenway’s first game to rest with a power-play strike 4:37 into the five-minute overtime. The senior assistant captain started and finished the play himself, pinching from his point position and rifling a shot from the high slot into a slew of bodies.

UVM goalie Rob Madore made a flashy glove save on the initial shot, but left the rebound to bounce among the bodies. UMass’ Conor Sheary briefly juggled the puck, trying and failing to settle the bouncing biscuit atop the crease. Sheary’s loss was Marcou’s gain, though, as the senior scooped the loose rubber and lifted it into an emptied cage from an off angle.

“I think I can relate to Big Papi and his walk-off home run in the eleventh,” coach Don Cahoon said, referencing Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

The walk-off winner was the first of Marcou’s career.

“It’s a pretty good experience to have it here at Fenway,” he said.

A key kill – With 2:43 left in the third, and the game tied at two, UMass’ Patrick Kiley leveled UVM’s Drew MacKenzie from behind in the UVM zone. The official’s immediately blew the play dead, and eventually called a five-minute penalty on Kiley for the infraction. The call was delayed, though, after Stalberg cross-checked Kiley after the play. Stalberg was penalized for the late-hit, but Kiley earned another two minutes for flopping on Stalberg’s tap.

The result was a five-minute power play for UVM that would tick to and through the end of regulation. UMass killed the penalty through the end of the third, leaving 2:17 of five-on-four left to start OT. UMass killed that time, too.

“I thought our PK was exceptional,” Cahoon said. “I thought we had one shift in that sequence where we were a little on our heels. The rest of the time, I thought we were in pretty good shape.”

Possession is 9/10ths of the game – You can’t score if you don’t have the puck. Duh. Saturday, UMass dominated the possession game five-on-five, routinely creating effective cycles in the UVM zone that led to looks in close at Catamount goalie Rob Madore. The Minutemen agitated UVM defensemen on the forecheck, creating turnovers like the one that led to Danny Hobbs’ second period tally. UMass’ in-zone effectiveness led to a stark disparity in Grade-A scoring chances, where UMass carried a 17-6 advantage

About that other 1/10th – UMass was mostly effective in the defensive zone, forcing Catamounts off the puck and transitioning the prize the other way with relative ease. UVM still generated shots at net, only trailing UMass 28-26 in the department at game’s end. But UVM mostly assailed the Minuteman net with perimeter looks. Of UVM’s shots on goal, 14 game from above the faceoff dots.

All that said, UVM still managed 2 goals thanks to quick conversions on chances created by Sebastian Stalberg. The first came on the power-play, where Stalberg noted green jerseys surrounding the UMass net and flipped a shot to the crease. The puck was knocked down and swatted in by Kyle Reynolds. UVM had a pair of players atop goalie Jeff Teglia’s crease to one Minuteman, one of few lapses on UMass’ part on the day.

The second came on an odd-man rush. Stalberg drove wide right, and at the goal line, centered back to defenseman Drew MacKenzie. The blueliner corralled in the low-slot, and wristed a shot around Teglia to square the score at 2 in the second.

Goldy Blocks – It’s been a disappointing senior year for UVM goalie Rob Madore, but “Goldy Blocks” was stellar Saturday. The keeper turned away 25 shots, with a slew coming from Grade-A or nearly Grade-A areas. UMass continually pressured the puck to the slot, and created a lot of odd looks off deflections or pucks that trickled in and out of masses of sticks and skates into the crease.

Madore has posted a .921 save percentage since returning from the winter holiday, driving his season-long save percentage from .857 to .874.

“Rob’s been playing sensational for us since he came back from break,” coach Kevin Sneddon said. “He’s the backbone of our team. That position is for most teams. He’d be the first one to admit he was inconsistent and poor at times in the first half. It became a mental game more than a physical game for him. I think he’s done a great job. The break was important for all of us, but certainly for him. He’s come back and played the way he’s capable of playing.”

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