Op-Ed: After a weekend of ups and downs, the Minutemen will look to bounce back in an important series against Providence

UMass needs to put the momentum killer overtime loss behind them and start out strong against Providence.

After a thrilling overtime win against the Merrimack Warriors at home, the Minutemen came up short in overtime in the second game. Merrimack’s win last Saturday marked their first against UMass since December 6, 2020, almost two years ago. However, the Warriors always seem to give the men in maroon a hard time. Last year two of the four games between the two teams went to overtime with UMass ultimately winning all of those games.

UMass wasn’t as lucky last weekend. Merrimack forward Mac Welsher scored very late in the third period with the goalie pulled, tying the game 1-1. Then the game winner came for Merrimack roughly three minutes into overtime, courtesy of forward Ben Brar. Backup goaltender Cole Brady was handed his first loss of the year in heartbreaking fashion.

The Minutemen looked a step behind all weekend long. This is surprising considering Merrimack, at the time, was ranked all the way down at #37 by PairWise. They now move all the way up to 20th on the rankings. This was just another surprise series for UMass. On a good note, the men in maroon were able to squeak out a win at home in the Friday night game. Forward Taylor Makar was the hero in overtime for the Minutemen at the Mullins Center.

More positive news: freshman forward Kenny Connors received Rookie of the Month honors from Hockey East. Connors has been on a tear so far this season, leading the Minutemen in scoring with 9 points through 7 games. The L.A. Kings draftee certainly deserved those honors. Good news like this becomes great news in the locker room, boosting the players’ confidence, especially after a tough loss.

That tough loss fuels the huge weekend series starting tonight at Schneider Arena against the Providence College Friars, the Minutemen need to put the Merrimack series behind them and focus on the task at hand: beating the #14 ranked Friars. This is the biggest weekend of hockey for UMass since the Denver series. Two weekends of subpar opponents and one subpar outcome may weigh down the Minutemen.

On the other side, Providence is coming off of a shaky weekend of hockey themselves. The Friars were almost upset by the New Hampshire Wildcats last Friday, ultimately tying 2-2 but winning in a shootout. Fortunately for them, the Friars bounced back on Saturday with a 3-1 win, downing the Wildcats. Providence matched up against former #1 Denver and lost both games late in October. As it is well known, UMass upset Denver, sweeping them the weekend before.

Above all, this should be a fierce weekend matchup starting tonight. Look for UMass star goaltender Luke Pavicich to start both games against the Friars. The Minutemen need a strong showing tonight in an attempt to rebound from the Merrimack loss. That being said, Providence has a hot goaltender as well in freshman Philip Svedebäck. The Swede has a 1.97 GAA and a .915 SV%, strong numbers, especially for a freshman. 

With two of the best goalies on paper in the country going up against each other, this paves way for a competitive, fiery series between the 4-2-1 Friars and the 5-1-1 Minutemen. Speaking of the adjective “fiery,” that is exactly what the Mullins Maniacs need to be on Saturday when the two teams head to the Mullins Center after a battle in Providence. As shown before, the men in maroon feed off of that fiery energy from the Militia student section and the rest of the crowd.

Don’t miss a thing on Saturday, the puck drops at 7 p.m. in Amherst. Be there! UMass hockey is a force to be reckoned with the men on the ice and that fiery force of loud fans behind them.

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