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

Heartbreaker: UMass season ends in 2OT Marathon

Minutemen fall to Denver 2-1 in NCAA Regional semifinal
Kalina Kornacki

The UMass hockey team’s season is over, after falling to the Denver Pioneers 2-1 in double overtime. Denver center Tristan Broz’s wrister found its way past UMass freshman goaltender Michael Hrabal at the 12:28 mark of the fifth frame, sending the Pioneers to the NCAA Regional Final.

“So proud of our team tonight,” UMass head coach Greg Carvel said. “Extremely proud of the way we played and the way we represented Hockey East.”

In front of a packed MassMutual Center in Springfield dominated by Minutemen fans, UMass put forth one of their best defensive efforts of the season, stifling the lethal Denver offense. The Pioneers came into the game averaging nearly five goals a game. The Minutemen held them to two through almost 100 minutes of hockey.

“That’s our first 2-1 game, either way, the whole year,” Denver head coach David Carle said. “You get to this time of year, everyone’s a great team.”

Both goalies were calm and steady Thursday afternoon in a game with limited chances. Denver goaltender Matt Davis had a career-high 46 saves, while Hrabal stopped 41 shots. 

“I said, ‘It’s up to the goalie. I think we’ll be there and we’re gonna play hard. If we get saves we got a good chance.’ And then Michael did that tonight.” Carvel said. “I give him a lot of credit. He’s a high-profile, high-draft pick, but he was 18 years old when he stepped on campus… The BC game was a down, but for him to jump back in and give us a backbone tonight – he made some huge saves. I’ll be happy to have him back next year.”

The Minutemen end the season with a 20-14-3 record, after finishing with only 13 wins last year. 

“This is my eighth year at UMass, and I’m probably most proud this year,” Carvel said. “We bottomed out last year. It’s the most I ever learned as a coach and adjusted and evolved. A lot of heavy lifting. We brought in great kids.”

Denver opened the scoring 5:12 into the second period, after defenseman Boston Buckberger sniped one past Hrabal from above the faceoff circle.

The Minutemen were able to even it up, after graduate student Liam Gorman scored his first goal of the season, sliding a loose puck from a net-front scramble into the open goal. 

“I’ve been joking around, saying I’ve been saving [goals] for the playoffs,” Gorman said. 

The Minutemen gave Denver all they could handle in the 92-minute and 38-second affair, with a punishing forecheck and physical gameplan in a game where the referees kept the whistles in their pockets for most of the game. 

“We just had to stick to our foundation and our identity,” junior defenseman and captain Ryan Ufko said. “We know that we’re a big, fast team so that physicality part was something that we really preached and I feel like that really helped us.”

After plenty of debate over whether UMass truly deserved to make the tournament, only making it ironically enough due to Denver’s win in the NCHC championship, the Minutemen silenced any of those questions with their effort on Thursday afternoon.

“I know there was a lot of chatter about whether we deserved to be in the tournament,” Carvel said. “I didn’t doubt it for a second. I thought we’d give Denver a hell of a game, and we did.”

The Minutemen will not return to action until next October, but it will be a busy offseason for Carvel and his staff in their efforts to bring a national championship back to Amherst.

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