The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department

Amherst Wire

The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department

Amherst Wire

The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department

Amherst Wire

UMass picks up five points in weekend series with Providence

Lucas Mercuri and Ryan Ufko elevate Minutemen past the Friars
Kalina Kornacki

UMass traveled to Schneider Arena in Providence Thursday night and left with a win and three points following a third period come from behind victory. The Minutemen returned home to the Mullins Center on Saturday night, and despite a lack of scoring chances, UMass found a way to win in overtime.

Game One

Providence opened scoring in the first period off of a Minutemen offensive turnover. Forward Jaroslav Chmelar stole the puck and fed it up ice to forward Nick Poisson. He then passed it back to defenseman Luke Krys who unleashed a slapshot from the blue line that flew past UMass goalie Michael Hrabal. 

The Minutemen took two penalties through the remainder of the period. This included a too many men on the ice penalty as well as a slashing penalty by forward Lucas Vanroboys. Providence also landed in the penalty box for a holding penalty by forward Chase Yoder. However, neither team would be able to score on the man advantage. 

The Minutemen would get another chance on the powerplay early in the second period, but once again were unable to get a shot off and only combined for two shots on the first two power plays. 

However, the UMass attack continued. Just over ten minutes into the period, freshman forward Cam O’Neill netted his first collegiate goal. The goal came off of a great offensive sequence that started with a Vanroboys pass to forward Christian Sanda who spun around and passed it to O’Neill. He chipped it past the blocker of Providence goalie Phillip Svedebäck.

The tie would not last long as just over four minutes later, Yoder would put Providence back on the board. The assists once again came from Chmelar and Poisson.

Heading into the third, the odds looked bleak for UMass. Providence was 32-0-2 since the start of the 2021 season when leading after two periods. 

Massachusetts had their chance to tie the game again early in the third when forward Jamie Engellbert went to the box for tripping about six minutes into the period. Despite limited power play success, the Minutemen found the net this time off of a goal by defenseman Ryan Ufko.

The goal sequence started on a pass by forward Kenny Connors to defenseman Scott Morrow who found Ryan Ufko at the top of the zone. He lasered one at the Providence net. The puck made it through traffic to tie the game once again.

UMass would have another chance on the power play from a tripping penalty by defenseman Guillaume Richard. The Minutemen did not get any shots off on the power play.  

With about 55 seconds to go, UMass forced a Friars turnover in the offensive zone and suddenly UMass had a four-on-two rush flying toward the Providence goal. 

Defenseman Samuli Niinisaari passed the puck to forward Ryan Lautenbach who went down the right side of the ice nearly behind the net before sending the puck back to  forward Lucas Mercuri who tapped it into a wide-open net. This gave UMass a 3-2 lead and the victory. 

The Minutemen stayed off the penalty sheet throughout the night especially in the third. They allowed six shots on two Friar power plays. UMass, despite having four power plays, only mustered four shots. However, Ufko’s power play goal would prove to be a difference-maker. Elsewhere on the stat sheet, UMass only won 24 of 59 faceoffs and outshot the Friars 27 to 23.

Game Two

Game two started competitive as UMass and Providence traded barrages of shots back and forth. Massachusetts took two penalties which included another too many men on the ice penalty and an Ufko hook at the end of the period. Despite two early penalties, UMass only allowed five shots on net. 

Providence would pick up their own too many men on the ice penalty, but UMass was unable to capitalize. 20 seconds after the penalty ended, forward Graham Gamache scored off of a pass from former Minuteman and forward Cal Kiefiuk. 

Shortly after, UMass would pick up their third too many men on the ice penalty of the weekend. But once again, Providence was unable to score. 

Yoder would fall victim to an interference penalty with eight minutes left in the period. Just like the Friars, the Minutemen could not capitalize on the man advantage.

Late in the second period, forward Aydar Suniev was called for a penalty in the offensive zone. Upon review, Suniev was given a major penalty for kneeing. Following an injury to Michael Cameron late in the first the Minutemen would be forced to finish the game with ten skaters. 

Providence was unable to score in the final three minutes of the period, but would still have over two more minutes on the power play to start the third. They could not score then either. Massachusetts killed off the major penalty.

The Friars had outshot UMass 21-12 through two periods and would continue the onslaught of shots in the third. Providence dominated the third period and was constantly in possession of the puck. Massachusetts was not able to build any momentum in the offensive zone for the majority of the period. 

However, the Minutemen would break through with just under three minutes to go in the game. Defenseman Aaron Bohlinger fought for the puck along the boards and found Vanroboys in the middle of the offensive zone. Vanroboys fired a low shot that deflected off of the stick of forward Jack Musa. 

The Mullins Center erupted for the freshman Musa who scored his fourth of the year and gave the Minutemen a fighting chance to win despite only recording three shots in the third period. No goals were scored through the rest of regulation and overtime was upon the team. 

The first 45 seconds of overtime were quiet until the puck found the stick of Ufko. The captain stickhandled from the blue line down to the faceoff dot before going back up to the blue line. He flew past the Friar defense and an unsuspecting Svedebäck. Ufko put the puck in the back of the net to win the game for the Minutemen.

“I circled back up and Taylor [Makar] and Kenny [Connors] kind of set a pick play and once I saw that I knew had my man beat,” Ufko said about the goal after the game. 

“That’s an elite play by an elite player,” head coach Carvel said about Ufko’s goal.

The Minutemen faced adversity and showed true grit through difficult games. Hrabal played through it all as he stopped 21 of 23 on Thursday night and 32 of 33 on Saturday in the two wins.

“We stole one tonight, our goaltender stole one tonight,” said Carvel after the game. “That’s a Michael Hrabal victory tonight.”

Harvard Preview

UMass will now set their focus on a Black Friday contest with Harvard in Cambridge. Harvard opened the season at 15th in the USCHO poll. However, Harvard has failed to find top-20 success this season as they currently post a 1-1-3 record. 

The Harvard Crimson’s victory came in their most recent game in a win over ranked Cornell on the road. 

The only common opponent between both UMass and Harvard is Dartmouth. The Minutemen beat Dartmouth 5-1 in an exhibition to start the season while the Crimson finished with a 1-1 draw against the Big Green. 

Harvard’s offense is led by sophomore Joe Miller who has three goals and an assist on the season. Freshman Ben MacDonald has also been a force for the Crimson offense netting a goal and three assists on the season so far. The defense is led by captain Ian Moore who has two assists this year and leads the team with nine blocked shots.

Harvard has had one of the best penalty kills across all of college hockey this season. They are 16 for 18 on the penalty kill which is tied for fifth best in the country. On the other end, Harvard’s powerplay is fifth in the country with four goals on 14 chances.

The Crimson have only played five games which means they have a much smaller sample size than the rest of hockey. But, if the special teams numbers hold, the Crimson will be tough to stop. 

UMass is certainly happy with winning five out of six points last weekend against Providence. The Minutemen can not slow their pace against Harvard. A Massachusetts victory will establish a three-game win streak and will cement themselves in the top 10 of college hockey.

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