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 swept by Maine, set for Hockey East quarterfinal matchup at Providence

Late goals quash hopes for home playoff game at the Mullins Center
Kalina Kornacki

The No. 12 UMass hockey team was swept by the University of Maine Black Bears over the weekend. The Minutemen finish the regular season at 19-12-3, and enter the Hockey East Tournament as the fifth seed, with a matchup against the fourth-seeded Providence Friars set for Saturday in Providence.

Game One

Special teams were the difference on Friday night in Orono, as a late third-period tripping penalty from freshman forward Aydar Suniev gave Maine’s powerplay a chance to take the lead. The Black Bears took advantage, as forward Thomas Freel deflected a shot past freshman goaltender Michael Hrabal to take a 2-1 lead.

The goal proved to be the game-winner for the Black Bears, as UMass head coach Greg Carvel’s lineup adjustments failed to produce much offense for the Minutemen.

“This is a step back for us,” Carvel said. “We didn’t compete at our usual level. A lot of guys didn’t give us their normal games and it wasn’t enough tonight.

The UMass powerplay was stifled by the Maine penalty kill, coming up scoreless on three opportunities and failing to sustain much offensive zone time in any of them. Carvel mentioned that the Black Bears’ penalty kill put a lot of pressure on the Minutemen unit.

“Pressure does really well, we didn’t handle it well,” Carvel said. “Special teams was the biggest difference tonight.”

Carvel’s efforts to spark more offense included promoting sophomore forward Kenny Connors to the top-line center spot while moving junior forward Lucas Mercuri to the second line.

UMass struck first less than 3 minutes into the opening frame after sophomore forward Michael Cameron tapped his rebound past Maine goaltender Albin Boija. Junior defenseman Ryan Ufko stayed hot, picking up an assist on the goal.

The Minutemen offense was unable to generate any more goals on Friday Night. The Black Bears controlled the pace of play after scoring their first goal 15:50 into the first period. 

“We had a few chances tonight but not a ton,” Carvel said. “We’re trying to find combinations, not sure what to make of it.”

Game Two

After the Minutemen came back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead, the Black Bears pulled out a comeback of their own to take the game 4-3. The Minutemen fell victim to another late game-winner, this one coming with just over a minute remaining.

Maine forward Lyndon Breen was able to force a defensive zone turnover off senior defenseman Scott Morrow, and he sent home a quick shot by Hrabal to give the Black Bears the dramatic victory.

Despite the loss, Carvel was pleased with the Minutemen’s performance. 

“It was a really good bounce back by our team,” Carvel said. “We played really well and I thought we deserved better.”

The Black Bears special teams stayed hot on Saturday, opening the game with two powerplay goals. The tallies gave Maine a quick lead just over ten minutes into the game, as a raucous crowd at the Alfond Arena in Orono came alive.

Mercuri was able to quiet the crowd just 38 seconds later, however, sending one by Boija from the top of the crease. 

The Minutemen then were able to capitalize off rebounds, after sophomore forward Cole O’Hara and freshman forward Jack Musa were both able to bang home back-door rebounds, UMass found themselves holding a 3-2 lead with just over six minutes left in the second period.

“The two power-play goals against early were a big hurdle,” Carvel said. “But we overcame it and took a lead.”

Maine was able to tie it five minutes later from the stick of forward Josh Nadeau off a pretty passing play and then took the lead off the late Breen goal.

“We make a mistake, throw a puck in the middle of the ice and it’s in the back of our net,” Carvel said. “So that’s the margin, but the kids played really hard tonight.”

Maine secured the No. 3 seed in the Hockey East Tournament and will face the highest remaining seed after the opening round on Mar. 12.

Do or Die in Providence

After getting swept by the Black Bears, the Minutemen dropped to No. 15 in the Pairwise rankings, which is on the bubble line to make the NCAA tournament. UMass Hockey East quarterfinals opponent, Providence ranks 14th in the Pairwise.

The stakes are massive for both teams, as not only does the winner get a chance to play at the TD Garden in the Hockey East semifinals, but the loser’s season could very well be over. 

The Minutemen won both matchups against the Friars this season in dramatic fashion. On Nov. 16, Mercuri scored with 48 seconds left to give UMass the 3-2 win. Then, two days later, Ufko scored the first of his three overtime goals this season to give the Minutemen the 2-1 victory. 

The puck drop is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Schneider Arena in Providence.


Facebook Comments
More to Discover