By Dan Harrison
---- — BOSTON — Whether it was the frigid conditions or the condition of the ice, yesterday’s contest between Salem State and UMass Boston at Fenway Park was far from your typical Division 3 men’s hockey game.
There wasn’t much room for skill plays and fancy puck work. Both teams kept it simple, and games like that usually come down to a bounce or two.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, that bounce didn’t go their way.
With the game tied in the third period, the Beacons’ Peter MacIntyre deflected a bouncing puck into the back of the Salem State net and Connor McStravick added an empty netter as UMass Boston claimed a 4-2 victory over the Vikings as part of ‘Frozen Fenway.’
“The conditions were the coldest I’ve ever been a part of. It was so cold it took your breath away at times,” said Salem State (7-5) head coach Bill O’Neill.
“I’m proud of my team. We played a good game. A bounce here, a bounce there; you never know.”
The players realized quickly that the puck wouldn’t settle on the Fenway ice and any long passes were out of the question. So both squads tried to keep the puck along the boards and dump-and-chase became the objective on both benches.
Salem State, which had freshman forward Alex Minter of Peabody and sophomore defenseman Keaton Cashin of Boxford in its lineup yesterday, actually came out and carried play in the opening 10 minutes, but two UMass Boston (10-1-2) power plays to end the period seemed to give the Beacons some momentum.
“(Our strategy was to) keep it simple. We preached that, especially after the first 10 minutes where they took it to us,” explained UMass Boston coach Peter Belisle. “Keep it simple, keep it on the boards and nothing up the middle. Get pucks to the net and crash the net ... and I think it resulted in the game-winning goal.”
The approach netted the Beacons their second goal, although not without a little controversy. After a wraparound attempt by Frankie DeAugus was thwarted by SSU netminder Ryan Sutliffe, the puck lay pinned against the right post. Sutliffe trapped it momentarily with his glove, but there was no whistle and Kit Sitterley was able to jam the puck loose and into the back of the net. The goal made it 2-1 — and the Beacons never trailed thereafter.
“When I saw it on replay, I thought that the puck was tied up. Everyone stopped playing,” said O’Neill. “There was contact with our goalie — then the puck is in the net.”
The Vikings battled back twice from one-goal deficits before MacIntyre’s eventual game-winner. MacIntyre also scored the game’s first marker on a 2-on-1 when he opted not to pass and ripped a shot far side past Sutliffe.
Four minutes later, SSU’s Eric Defelice fired a quick snapshot from just inside the blue line that caught Beacon goalie Zach Andrews off guard and went top shelf.
Then, after Sitterley’s goal, Chris Mastropietro tied the game on an SSU 2-on-1 when he fired a shot that bounced off a UMass Boston defenseman’s stick and up over Andrews’ shoulder.
“It was very difficult to shoot because the snow built up,” explained Mastropietro. “(Andrews) looked like he had a few openings, but for the most part we were just trying to get the puck on net, go for rebounds and try to finish.”
The chilling temperatures and unusual ice conditions made the game tougher for everyone, but the memory of playing under the historic lights of Fenway Park far outweighed any anguish over the outcome.
Salem State senior captain Kyle Phelan, who grew up in Barnstable, reflected on the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It was pretty surreal for me growing up a (Red) Sox fan in Cape Cod. How many guys get to play a hockey game in the shallow outfield of the most beloved stadium in the country?,” said Phelan. “It was like playing pond hockey on the cranberry bog.”