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UMass hockey prepares for hardworking Merrimack team hoping to avoid third straight loss

(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts hockey team looks to have its first winning series this weekend, welcoming Merrimack to the Mullins Center Friday night before heading to North Andover to finish the matchup Saturday.

UMass dropped to 3-3 after losing twice to Ohio State last weekend—a 3-1 loss Friday, and a 3-0 defeat Saturday—with the sweep counting as its first consecutive losses of the season. The Minutemen gave up six goals and only netted one in the two contests.

“We knew that they were going to be a good team,” UMass freshman defenseman Mario Ferraro said about the Buckeyes. “They’ve got a lot of chemistry together because they’ve been playing together for a while. We still don’t use our age as an excuse, but we just didn’t bring that energy.”

Minutemen coach Greg Carvel anticipates this upcoming weekend to be a good challenge.

“We know what we’re going to get from Merrimack, they play real hard and they check very well,” Carvel said. “They don’t give you anything for free, and if you think you’re going to show up and play an easy game and win, you’ll lose for sure. We have to be able to match what they do and try to be better at it, and that’s not easy to do.”

The Warriors (0-3-2) are still searching for their first win this season and recently suffered a 7-2 loss to Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 21. MC’s two ties came in overtime draws against Colgate on Oct. 7 (2-2) and Minnesota Duluth (5-5) on Oct. 20.

“We know that none of these games are going to be a cakewalk. We know that we’ve got to go in there hard,” Ferraro said. “Coming up in this weekend we face a very hard-working team, they’re going to come out really strong on us, that’s their brand as a hockey team.”

Jared Kolquist ranks as Merrimack’s leading point getter with six (two goals, four assists). The senior captain scored goals in both games against Minnesota Duluth, while also tallying three assists in last Friday’s game for a four-point performance.

Warriors netminder Drew Vogler has allowed 19 goals in his five starts this season, registering a season-high 38 saves in their 5-5 overtime tie against the Bulldogs on Oct. 20.

UMass has averaged 2.7 goals per game, despite the recent struggles in the attacking zone, and have netted 16 in total so far this season. Of those goals, only three were counted on the power play, revealing a major gap in the Minutemen offense.

“Special teams will decide most games, so it did on [last] Friday night,” Carvel said in reference to the two OSU power play goals scored in the 3-1 loss. “It was a really big factor last weekend and most weekends it is.”

Ferraro believes that having efficient special teams is essential to winning hockey games but also acknowledged it’s not where it needs to be in terms of production with the man-advantage.

“I think having more poise with the puck and being more patient, myself included, on the power play is really important,” Ferraro said.

Through six games, UMass has allowed an average of 3.0 goals per game while Merrimack has netted 11 total goals (5 PPG) this season while surrendering an average of 4.0 pucks to pass through their net a game.

Minutemen freshman and points leader John Leonard (7) suffered an upper-body injury in the first OSU loss and did not suit up for the final contest. Carvel said Leonard will not be in the lineup Friday.

Carvel believes the outcome of this weekend relies on where UMass’s energy level falls, stating that without a high intensity performance their chances to achieve a win will be slim.

“We were predicted to finish last in our league so every game every team is expected to do better than us so we’ve got to be ready,” Carvel said.

Mollie Walker can be reached at molliewalker@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @MWalker2019.

 

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