-by Jamie McNealy, NCLL President
With a one way drive of just over five hours, Maine made the trek Friday before Saturday’s doubleheader at Amherst, Massachusetts as the Bears were weary of getting off the bus without acclimating to their first game in the New England Conference. Expectedly so, the 1st half was what one would expect as the nationally ranked Minuteman were relentless on defense and in transition in racing out to a 6-0 halftime lead at home. It could have been much worse if not for the heroics of Brad Melvin as the right handed net minder was stellar between the pipes in posting 9 saves in the first two quarters (and finished with 14). Failed clears, unforced errors and miscues in the box gave way to a much better second half as the Bears played even with #7 UMass as Thomas Lekousi’s strong right handed heater put Maine on the board as team traded goals in the 4th quarter before UMass secured the 8-1 win. Almost perfectly deadlocked at 50% each on face-offs, UMass made the most of their opportunities as they were whistle ready and continually pushed the ball up field as Evan Mulone led all scorers with 4 goals while Matt Croston pitched in with 2. Joe Bruno had a great high bouncer while Pat Sennott had the only goal in the 3rd on a low to low burner: a great end to end effort as goalie Cadrin Msumba sprinted 40 yards up field to break up a transition opportunity then grabbed the loose ball before dodging across midfield to find Bruno to get the assist to go along with three save.. Left hander Nate Mulone pitched a shutout in the first half for UMass as he recorded three tough saves and the Minutemen defense led by senior Logan Daneza was a highlight reel as each pole played with a high offensively minded IQ, allowing Danenza to not only play on six on six offense but also record a critical early assist.
In the second game of the day, Bryant used a three goal spurt in the 2nd quarter to pull away from Maine 7-4 in their season opening win. Both keepers finished with 8 saves as the Bears freshman Erick Anderson provided quick outlet passes to go along with his defensive presence while Mike Fornal recorded 5 of his saves in the 1st quarter to stave away any opportunities that the Bears had. Coach Hooper’s squad showed flashes of speed and offensive preparedness as the Bulldogs were dominant at the X and cleared extremely well. Particularly outstanding on the day was Brian Abely as the freshman posted a hat trick on several outstanding shots, including a low to high left handed rip on EMO. #7 UMass concluded the day as the hosts were all business in the 13-4 win in the final game of the day.
Photos courtesy of Matthew Beaudet and Shiela Dillon, UMass Lax.