AMHERST, Mass. – UConn freshman Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) scored the game-winning goal at 13:55 of the third period as the Huskies came away with a 4-3 win at the University of Massachusetts Friday night in a Hockey East match-up from the Mullins Center. Naas and senior Trevor Gerling (Seattle, Wash.) each scored a pair of goals for the Huskies who improved to 5-9-4 overall and 3-4-1 in Hockey East.
For the third-straight game and ninth time this season, sophomore Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) posted 30 or more saves for the Huskies, stopping 33 Minutemen shots to earn the win in net Friday night. The Huskies held a 39-36 edge on shots and finished one-for-three on the power play. The road conference win was the first in Hockey East play for the UConn program.
The Huskies got off to a fast start Friday night, building a 2-0 lead after the first period. UConn’s Naas struck for the game’s first goal at 10:45. Sophomore Brent Norris (Ottawa, Ontario) sent the puck into the zone where freshman Jesse Schwartz (Toronto, Ontario) collected along the right boards. Schwartz fed it back to Norris behind the net and he fed Naas right in front who one-timed it past Steve Mastalerz for a 1-0 lead.
Gerling gave UConn a 2-0 lead at 14:53, banging in his own rebound for his sixth goal on the year. Junior Shawn Pauly (Bellingham, Wash.) carried it in and fired on goal just inside the blue line. Mastalerz couldn’t control the rebound and Gerling was waiting at the left post to chip at it twice before burying it for a two-goal edge.
UMass cut the Husky lead in half just 1:44 into the second period as Shane Walsh shoveled a back-hand shot past Nichols for his third on the year. The Minutemen got a power play in the closing seconds of the period but the Huskies got loose for a two-on-one shorthanded breakaway and Gerling was able to get a shot on goal and also draw a high-sticking penalty with four seconds left.
Gerling made the Minutemen pay scoring his second of the night with just one second left on the power play at 1:56 in the third. Freshman Kasperi Ojantakanen (Helsinki, Finland) set up Gerling in the left circle and the senior blasted a slap shot through traffic in front of Mastalerz and in for a 3-1 lead.
The Minutemen chipped away and cut back into the lead at 4:24 as a rebound off a Ben Gallacher shot found the stick of leading scorer Frank Vatrano in the slot who pivoted and slid a shot past Nichols stick side. The Minutemen were 0-for-4 with the extra skater up heading into the third period but found the tying goal at 9:01, scoring 51 seconds into their fifth power play chance of the night. Freshman Brandon Montour carried the puck into the slot and buried a wrist shot top-shelf for his first career goal, knotting the game a 3-3.
Naas gave UConn the lead back at 13:55, scoring his third game-winning goal of the season. The rookie forward took a feed off the boards from senior defenseman Jacob Poe (Arlington, Texas) and streaked up the left win. With a defender closing in, Naas was able to rifle a shot from a sharp angle, beating Mastalerz five-hole for a 4-3 lead.
The Minutemen got one more power play opportunity late as Gerling was called for elbowing at 18:04. UMass used their time-out to set up for a two-man advantage if they pulled goaltender. The Minutemen got Mastalerz off the ice with 1:13 left for the extra skater but the Husky penalty kill was up to the challenge, twice clearing pucks in the closing seconds to preserve the win.
For Gerling, his two-goal effort marks his fourth career multi-goal game and his 14th career multi-point game, both team-leading marks. The two goal game for Naas was the rookie’s first-ever multi-goal game.
Pauly picked up two-assists on the night, his 10th career multi-goal game and also the third time in the last four games he has registered at least a point.
The Huskies return to Bridgeport and the Webster Bank Arena for their next match-up, Tuesday night January 6th against Colorado College. Opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:35 pm.