The Minutemen tied the River Hawks Saturday night, ultimately losing in a shootout

UMass Hockey now sets their sights on a crucial midweek Hockey East game against Merrimack.

John Ruggiero, Writer

The UMass Minutemen hung on last night for a tie against UMass Lowell, but ultimately lost in a shootout for the third time this season. This is their second straight tie in a row, having not lost a game in regulation or overtime since the Boston University game on November 12. While UMass hockey has certainly righted the ship, there are still some holes in the ship that need patching.

Penalties held the team back in the game, adding up to six in total. The referees were certainly a talking point after the game for Minutemen Coach Greg Carvel.

“I thought that was a real good college hockey game outside of the penalties,” said Carvel in his post-game press conference, “I am not sure why they were so lopsided, I thought it was a pretty even game… Maybe if we had a couple power plays [the game] would have been different.” 

The Minutemen penalty kill did an outstanding job, killing five of the six penalties. However, it is extremely hard to get the offense rolling for any hockey team if they are always on the penalty kill. Carvel hardly ever mentions the referees when talking to the media, showing the real frustration that the Minutemen had with the referees.

Perfect Players

Aside from the negatives, goaltender Luke Pavicich put up yet another fantastic showing on Saturday, stopping 35 of 36 UML shots. The sophomore goalie’s GAA now falls to a 2.20 and his SV% rises to .934, which puts him in the top ten for best save percentage nationwide. As for the offense, forward Taylor Makar added his fifth goal of the season to the books with the assists coming from defenseman Scott Morrow and forward Lucas Mercuri. Makar is really progressing on the ice and Carvel has shown more confidence in his play.

“We’re definitely working on our relationship and we work really close together so it’s nice to have that [confidence] in the back of my head and know that he is supporting me,” said Makar after the game.

Sophomore Ryan Ufko was the best defenseman on the ice for the Minutemen. He only had one blocked shot but he was physical and made some good plays with his stick to prevent UML players from getting shots on net. 

That being said, the trend in UMass hockey games is that there will always be a high amount of shots on net for not only the Minutemen, but also the opposing team. The River Hawks attempted an absurd 81 shots, with lots of those missing; only 36 found their way on net and 3 hit the post. The men in maroon need to crack down on their defense, preventing these shot opportunities, and not rely on Pavicich to save the puck as much.

That should be a huge point of emphasis for Carvel in practice going into the game on Wednesday against Merrimack. It will be the team’s second middle-of-the-week game of the year.

“You get two days of practice…it’s the end of the semester, finals, there’s just a lot adding up on them,” said Carvel. “You just want to make sure you do everything you can to make them energized and focused. The group is in a good spot right now, we’ve gone four games without a regulation loss.”

Previewing Merrimack

The Minutemen are 1-1 against Merrimack Warriors this season with both games being decided in overtime. Their most recent tilt was back on October 28 at Merrimack College. That game saw the Warriors winning 2-1 in overtime. It started a dominant seven-game stretch for the Warriors. Their most recent game saw them scoring seven goals against a tough UConn Huskies team that is currently ranked No. 8 in the country. With Merrimack sitting at No. 11 and UMass at No. 13, the game on Wednesday night is bound to be a great one.

Merrimack junior forward Alex Jefferies has been on a tear. The Lunenburg, Massachusetts product has an admirable 20 points on the year through 15 games. Great things happen for the Warriors when captain Ben Brar is on the ice. The senior forward’s plus/minus sits at a whopping +14.

As for the goalies, Merrimack has one of the best goaltending tandems in college hockey across the country right now. The starter on Friday against UConn for Merrimack was junior goaltender Zachary Borgiel, with his stats sitting at 1.84 GAA and a .930 SV% while appearing in seven games. As for the second half of the tandem, sophomore goalie Hugo Ollas has seen the most starts with eleven, and he currently holds a 1.80 GAA and a .925 SV%. Ollas has definitely improved since the last time the Minutemen saw the Warriors, helping his team to a solid 11-4 record on the season.

No one saw Merrimack becoming one of the top Hockey East teams across the conference; to beat this team, UMass will need another good performance out of Pavicich, along with a decent amount of goals being put up on the scoreboard. Assuming Carvel keeps them together, look for the line of the Minutemen points leader Kenny Connors, the assistant captain Reed Lebster, and the red-hot Taylor Makar to make an impact on the scoreboard.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. on the Mullins Center home ice on Wednesday. If the Minutemen do not improve their Hockey East record, it will not be good for seeding when it comes to playoff time in one of the most competitive conferences in the nation. The men in maroon currently sit at eighth in the conference. A midweek win regulation would add three much-needed in-conference points during the holiday break.



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