AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center
Flipping the calendar from 2016 to 2017 hasn’t brought any new found success to the Massachusetts hockey team just yet.
On the third day of the New Year, UMass (5-14-2, 2-7-1 Hockey East Association) looked disheveled in a 3-0 shutout loss to American International College at Mullins Center.
The Yellow Jackets (4-9-6, 3-5-5 Atlantic Hockey Association) scored three unanswered goals and AIC goaltender Zackarias Skog stopped all 27 shots thrown his way to hand the Minutemen their seventh loss in their last eight games.
“Frustrating game for me because I don’t think my team was ready to compete,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I don’t know if we disrespected our opponent, which is shameful, but I didn’t think we were good tonight.”
Trailing 1-0, the Minutemen were in the driver’s seat a little over halfway through the first period after the Yellow Jackets committed two penalties in the same sequence, giving UMass an extended five-on-three opportunity.
However, a tired bunch of Minutemen combined with the stout defense from AIC prevented UMass from breaking the game open and swinging the game their way.
“I think that not converting is just an extension of what we brought to the game tonight,” Carvel said about the crucial man-advantage. “Didn’t think we were very excited, didn’t think we had a high enough energy level and didn’t want to work hard enough tonight.”
Two third period goals from Yellow Jackets forwards Johnny Mueller and Joel Kocur sealed the victory for the visitors, who earned their first win since late November.
Sophomore Nic Renyard got his first start in goal for UMass since Nov. 18 against New Hampshire and played well despite the loss, finishing with 18 saves.
“We gave up a lot of two-on-ones and breakaways and guys all alone in front of our net,” Carvel said. “Again, that’s what happens when you don’t come ready to play, but I thought Nic was pretty solid.
From the drop of the first puck, the Minutemen employed man-on-man defensive zone coverage and for the most part it worked, but when it broke down the Yellow Jackets pounced and scored their first and third goals off of blown coverage from UMass.
Billy Vizzo scored a rebound goal after line mate Marc Dubeau broke free from Minuteman defenseman Shane Bear and was untouched in front of Renyard two minutes, 37 seconds into the middle frame to open the scoring.
Similarly in the third period, UMass was running around in their own zone, franticly trying to keep pace with AIC, and again they made the Minutemen pay with Kocur easily tapping in a point pass from Janis Jaks through Renyard at 15:55 of the final period to make it 3-0.
“Everybody does man-to-man for the most part,” Carvel said. “The problem is you’re going to have breakdowns eventually. At times someone is going to get beat one-on-one and the rest of the guys have to see that and adjust.”
“It’s awareness that wasn’t there tonight and that goes hand-in-hand with our guys who just weren’t ready to play,” Carvel added.
The man-advantage for UMass was essentially a no-show as the Minutemen went 0-for-7 on the power play, highlighted by the early five-on-three they couldn’t exploit.
When asked if the power play let the team down, Carvel agreed explicitly.
“Yeah, [we] went 0-7 looks like we had six shots on net but that five-on-three you got to score there. We had guys with two or three decent chances, just couldn’t bury it.”
UMass will have to put that game in the past quickly as it heads to Fenway Park Saturday Jan. 7 to play outdoors in the Frozen Fenway game opposite Boston University. Puck drop is set for 1:30 p.m.
Ryan Ames can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @_RyanAmes.