UMass looks to win first Hockey East game of season against Connecticut

By Kyle DaLuz

Jong Man Kim/Collegian
Jong Man Kim/Collegian

The Massachusetts hockey team is still in search of its first Hockey East victory of the season after dropping the first two conference games at the Mullins Center last weekend to New Hampshire and No. 5 Boston College.

Friday night presents another opportunity for UMass (2-4, 0-2 Hockey East Association) to defeat a conference opponent at its home rink with Connecticut coming to Amherst.

The Minutemen have been outshot handily over the course of the first six games, registering 125 shots on goal to the 210 they have allowed.

In Saturday’s 7-4 loss to BC, the Eagles doubled the UMass shot total 36-18 – an 18-shot advantage for the road team.

Although there is no NCAA stat for high-quality scoring chances, the Minutemen have kept pace with the opposition’s opportunities to capitalize close to the net.

“I don’t like the fact that we’re getting out shot handily,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said following Tuesday’s practice. “We need to have more of a shot-first mentality, which we don’t. At the same time, I know we give up a lot of shots. A lot of them are insignificant and from the outside.

“That’s part of it. We’ve got to get pucks to the net because we’re not a high skilled team and we have to get a higher volume of pucks to the net.”

Center Dominic Trento, who leads the team with six assists in as many games this season, admits that offensive zone turnovers and a lack of shots on net has led to struggles in finding the back of the net.

“I think if we can clean that part of our game up we’ll do a lot better in terms of scoring goals,” Trento said Tuesday. “I think it’s always good to get pucks to the net obviously – that’s how you score goals. As far as scoring chances goes, I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job with those. It just comes down to capitalizing on other team’s mistakes and we get our opportunities, capitalizing on those. If we keep doing that going forward the goals will come.”

The entirety of Trento’s second line, featuring wingers Patrick Lee (two goals, four assists) and freshman Jonny Lazarus (two goals, three assists), are atop the UMass stat sheet as the team’s point leader’s heading into the third weekend of the season.

Goaltenders Nic Renyard and Ryan Wischow both saw ice time over the weekend as each started a game at Mullins Center.

Wischow started in Friday’s 4-1 loss to UNH, stopping 27 shots in net, while Renyard allowed seven goals and made 29 saves in the loss to BC.

To this point, it is unclear which goalie will be between the pipes Friday night and have the task of shutting down the UConn (3-2-3, 1-1-0 HEA) offense.

“They’re going to compete all week in practice and see which guy is on top,” Carvel said. “It’s too early to tell.”

The Huskies are averaging 3.1 goals and 32.4 shots per game. UConn is led by four players that have registered four goals through eight games – Tage Thompson, Evan Richardson, Karl El-Mir and Spencer Naas.

Like the Minutemen, the Huskies fell to Quinnipiac – falling to the Bobcats 5-2 ­– and are coming off a weekend split with Notre Dame in Indiana.

Both Huskie goalies have posted impressive numbers this season, as Rob Nichols (2.32 goals against average, .906 save percentage) and Adam Huska (2.59, .938) could start Friday.

Regardless of who is in net, UMass will look to put together a full 60 minutes for the first time in conference play this season and the team is hopeful that formula will lead to success in the win column come puck drop at Mullins.

“That’s what we’re trying to learn as a team – how to maintain a certain level and maintain it for a full 60 minutes,” Carvel said. “We have to grow in that regard for sure. For the first time I think I’d like to see some more desperation out of our team, we need to learn. We need to win the game and we have to learn quick how to do that.”

“I think with the talent we have in the room and the system we have in place, if we play a full 60 minutes, wins will start to come with that,” Trento said.

Puck drop from the Mullins Center is set for 7 p.m. Friday.

Kyle DaLuz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.