Northeastern gives up 48 shots and falls to UMass 3-0 at home

Despite 45 saves from Clay Witt, Northeastern couldn't get past UMass. - Matt Dewkett (mrd-photos.com)

With the Beanpot Finals only three days away, Northeastern faltered in a Hockey Easy battle with UMass on Friday night, getting badly out-shot by the Minutemen.

BOSTON - Northeastern has gotten by all season leaning on goalie Clay Witt. The Huskies had been out shot in 16 of their 27 games entering Friday night, while going 9-6-1 in that span.

Of course, in all of those wins, they managed to score.

The Huskies were out shot for the 16th time this season on Friday night, and UMass came into Matthews Arena and stole two Hockey East points on the road with a 2-0 win. It marked the second time in its last three games Northeastern has been held scoreless.

"UMass was a much better team than we were," said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. "They played faster, they found their game faster, and we didn't respond, they wanted it more, we didn't play with a sense of urgency.

"There were two big points at stake here, and we didn't respond."

The Huskies had trouble generating consistent offense through the first two periods, to the tune of 13 shots. In that span, UMass took 39.

"We were too soft on pucks," Madigan said. "We were looking to make pretty plays in the middle of the ice, and drop passes, and I don't know if our guys thought they were the Russian Red Army, but in the third period we got pucks more to the net, and drove the net."

For much of the beginning, though, Witt kept the game scoreless. The team's went into the first intermission knotted at zero on the strength of 17 Witt saves, with many coming from off the wall or from the perimeter.

In the second though, the Minutemen opened the scoring on one of those bad-angle shots. Marc Hetnic skated in down the left wing and managed to beat Witt on the short-side to make it 1-0.

"To be honest, I was just trying to get in on net," said Hetnic, who scored the first of his collegiate career. "Since I've played forward, I've just tried to be simple. I was just lucky enough to put it in."

His head coach, John Micheletto, said the goal proved his team was staying the course despite out-shooting Northeastern and being stifled by Witt.

"For Mark, a guy who is new to the forward position at the college level and college hockey, not too many games into his college career, I thought he showed a tremendous amount of poise," Micheletto said, "to hold, and have his head up at the goal line extended, and see the whole upper-90 on the short-side."

UMass would get its second goal of the night on a Northeastern power play, an area where the Minutemen were able to generate chances all game despite being shorthanded. Adam Phillips and Conor Sheary got in on the forecheck to retrieve the puck, before Phillips hit Sheary out front for a one-timer and a 2-0 advantage.

While the third period played more in Northeastern's favor in shot totals (the Huskies took 14 to the Minutemen's nine), Northeastern was unable to find the back of the net, and UMass added an empty-netter from Branden Gracel to seal the deal.

From start to finish, Madigan's side struggled to find an answer to UMass' speed, and the Minutemen outshot the Huskies 48-27.

"That's what we're going to do on any given night; it's the best attribute we have," Micheletto said of his team's speed. "Whether we have the puck or don't, we try to use our speed to our advantage."

Northeastern previously defeated UMass in early January in a non-conference tilt, and Madigan said the coaches stressed in both match ups how important it was to contain UMass' quickness, while in the latter meeting his team failed to do so.

"It's all over our board," he said. "I'd have to line up 21 players, and you could ask them."

With the Beanpot finals on the horizon Monday night at TD Garden, Madigan also dismissed the notion his team was looking past the Hockey East game on Friday.

"Not at all. We talked about our best way to prepare for this Monday coming up was to play against UMass," Madigan said. "I was disappointed because of our execution and lack of urgency."

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