Colleges: Samuli Niinisaari scores pair, UMass hockey overcomes adversity in 3-2 win over New Hampshire

Aydar Suniev and the UMass hockey team hosted New Hampshire in the first game of a home-and-home series this weekend.

Aydar Suniev and the UMass hockey team hosted New Hampshire in the first game of a home-and-home series this weekend. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Reports

Published: 02-23-2024 9:40 PM

Modified: 02-23-2024 9:55 PM

Challenges, disallowed goals, penalties… it was all on display Friday night at the Mullins Center.

The 14th-ranked UMass hockey team had two goals disallowed due to video replay, and survived five shorthanded situations to No. 16 New Hampshire. Despite those issues, the Minutemen earned a much-needed 3-2 Hockey East victory in Amherst.

It was the Minutemen’s first win over a ranked opponent since November, and they improved to 17-9-3, 10-7-2 in the league.

Clinging to a 2-1 lead late, UMass defenseman Samuli Niinisaari sent a shot from his own zone that somehow found the back of an empty net to secure the two-goal cushion with 1:48 to play. UNH’s Marty Lavins scored a last-second goal, bringing the visitors within 3-2 with 2.4 seconds to play, but the Minutemen held on.

UMass goalie Michael Hrabal had another outstanding outing between the pipes, making 30 saves on 32 shots. The Minutemen killed all five UNH power plays, and held a decisive 37-23 edge in faceoffs won.

The teams will meet for the second game of the home-and-home on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Durham, N.H.

The Minutemen took a 1-0 lead with 8:19 left in the first period when Niinisaari finished off a nice feed from Ryan Lautenbach.

It looked like that lead would grow to 2-0 just three minutes later, when Taylor Makar tipped home a shot from Linden Alger. But UNH challenged the call, and after video review, officials deemed Makar’s stick was too high and waved off the tally.

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UNH tied the game 1-1 early in the second period. Robert Cronin finished off a goal on the backpost with a feed from JP Turner, who got past a UMass defender and made them pay. 

With challenges the theme of the night, Michael Cameron temporarily gave the Minutemen a 2-1 lead with 7:51 remaining in the second when he tipped a shot from Alger past UNH goalie Jakob Hellsten. But the Wildcats challenged the call again, and once again officials deemed the UMass player scored the goal with a high stick.

There was no denying the Minutemen for the go-ahead goal late in the second period however, as Jack Musa buried a shot that finished off a 2-on-1 breakaway started by Cole O’Hara. With a UNH defenseman falling down, O’Hara kicked it into overdrive and fed across to Musa, who played the puck to his backhand and finished into an open net with 1:51 left to make it 2-1.

Women’s basketball

Smith 85, MIT 66 – After a tight first half, the Pioneers exploded out of gates in the third quarter to punch their ticket to the NEWMAC title game.

Ally Yamada hit a pair of 3-pointers as part of a 13-2 run to start the third, helping No. 2 Smith capture a 85-66 victory over No. 3 MIT in the conference semifinals on Friday night at Ainsworth Gymnasium in Northampton.

Smith (24-3) will host No. 4 Babson in the tournament final for the third year in a row on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Beavers upset top-seeded Springfield College in Friday’s other semifinal, scoring a 64-59 overtime win at Blake Arena in Springfield.

The Pioneers led just 37-34 at halftime, but took control of the game at both ends of the floor in the third to create a double-digit lead.

Smith trailed 19-16 after one quarter, and fell behind by as many as eight points early before righting the ship.

Yamada led Smith with 24 points, while Sofia Rosa (19 points) and Hannah Martin (17) also had big offensive nights. Jessie Ruffner did it all for the Pioneer, scoring seven points to go with nine rebounds and eight assists. The hosts shot 55.7 percent from the floor and 13-for-28 from 3-point land. They lead the nation in both two-point and three-point shooting percentages.