Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Scoring first proved to be key yet again for UMass in 3-0 victory past UMass Lowell

Niko Hildenbrand scored at 6:49 of period one

%28Amelia+Shaw%2F+Daily+Collegian%29
(Amelia Shaw/ Daily Collegian)

(Amelia Shaw/ Daily Collegian)

(Amelia Shaw/ Daily Collegian)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

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In Saturday night’s 3-0 shutout victory over UMass Lowell, the Massachusetts hockey team furthered its point streak to three straight games.

Looking purely at the final box score of those three consecutive contests—which included a 5-2 win over Merrimack and a 3-3 tie at Boston University—you wouldn’t notice any consistencies running through the trio of games.

A deeper dive into the statistics and there one would find the single constant that has remained intact during this mini-streak UMass (13-16-2, 7-12-2 Hockey East Association) has found itself on: First goal scored.

The Minutemen have scored the game’s first goal in each of the prior three games and have earned at least a point in all three instances.

UMass’ win past UML (16-14-0, 10-10-0 Hockey East) continued the trend when sophomore Niko Hildenbrand scored on a funky bounce off River Hawk goalie Chris Hernberg at 6:49 of the first period.

“We’ve focused real hard on scoring the game’s first goal now,” Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said. “Since we’ve done that, the last three games, we’ve scored the first goal.”

UMass has seen a clear boost all season when tallying the game’s first goal as the Minutemen hold an 11-1-2 record when doing so but are just 2-15-0 conversely.

During UMass’ recent six-game losing streak, the opposition recorded the game’s first goal in each instance, usually early on in the game, which set the Minutemen back each time and ultimately repeated itself for the entirety of the skid.

“I think the team that comes out ready to play scores the first goal,” Carvel said on why scoring first makes such a difference for his team. “As I said to them Friday night before BU, that’s my job as a coach to do everything I can to make sure they’re ready to play, ready to compete. It’s the identity of the teams that I want to coach is that they play real hard and they play real fair, play the right way and when they have the puck they’re fun to watch.”

Freshman goalie Matt Murray has been the other constant for UMass in this stretch and No. 31 admits to benefiting just as much from a strong start as his teammates in front of him do.

“If I have a good start a lot of times that energy will feed off into the rest of the team as well,” Murray said. “It gets me into the game early and keeps me focused throughout.”

With the 1-0 advantage late in the first period, freshman defenseman Mario Ferraro was called for holding, granting UML its first man-advantage of the night.

The River Hawks could have used that power play to tie the score and shift the flow of the game entirely heading into the second period, yet instead it was the Minutemen who benefitted, snuffing out any UML chance it got while up a man.

“After we killed it off there was a lot of chatter on the bench about it being a solid kill,” Carvel said. “The penalty he took, those are the ones you like to kill-off because he made a guy probably hurt a little bit, so we killed that off for him.”

Using that momentum, UMass scored twice more, both in empty UML nets in the third period, to preserve the victory as well as leave the Minutemen feeling good about their game with just three battles left before playoffs begin.

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.

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