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UMass hockey’s offense smothered in 4-1 loss to Arizona State

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(Jessica Picard/Daily Collegian)

On a frigid night in Amherst where the mercury dipped to 15 degrees, the Massachusetts hockey team’s offense also dropped well below average.

UMass (4-11-2, 2-7-1 Hockey East Association) dropped its fourth consecutive game, falling to Arizona State 4-1 Friday night at Mullins Center.

The Minutemen’s only goal came off a power-play tally from freshman Griff Jeszka, scoring his fourth of the season, at 16:40 of the third period.

This kick-started a maximum effort shift from UMass with under three minutes remaining in regulation, and with freshman goalie Ryan Wischow (18 saves) pulled, the Minutemen had lengthy offensive zone-time but it was too little too late.

After winning a battle to the puck, Sun Devils (6-13-0) forward David Norris slid it in the empty UMass net with 18 seconds left in the game to shore up the victory, leaving the Minutemen faithful unsatisfied.

“A frustrating loss,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said after the game. “[Our] start wasn’t great, we just weren’t able to convert and the goals they scored were a breakdown on our part.”

The Minutemen dug themselves into a deep hole trailing ASU 3-0 before Jeszka’s marker, and didn’t make life too difficult for Sun Devils goalie Robert Levin (30 saves) with shots hitting him square in the pads far too often.

“In the second period we had a fair number of guys that got in tight and I didn’t think they were able to pick their spots or they were shooting from too far out where (Levin) could react quickly,” Carvel said. “We’re struggling to get a presence at the net to make it tougher for goaltenders, it’s an area of our game that really needs to evolve.

Carvel also highlighted the absence of sophomore forward Ryan Badger has being a huge loss to their offensive output.

“Ryan Badger out of our lineup is proving to be a very big loss,” Carvel said. “The last three games without him, we haven’t been the same team.”

When UMass did get their spots to score, an inability to finish the play prevented them from turning this game into a closer contest.

Senior Ray Pigozzi had the best opportunity of the night after breaking in all alone on Levin, taking a pass after exiting the penalty box, however like most of the Minutemen’s chances, he couldn’t convert.

Although most of UMass’ offensive push came from the first line of Pigozzi, Austin Plevy and captain Steven Iacobellis, the trio combined for a minus-7 on the night.

“We don’t have a lot of skill on this team to score goals, it’s just that simple,” Carvel said. “So we have to generate goals and it would help a lot if we were better around the net. We don’t score a lot of rebound goals and it’s just a fact that we need to change if we want to be a more effective team.”

The Minutemen did put more rubber to the net, outshooting ASU 31-22, but the quality of their shots didn’t equate to scores.

Plevy led UMass with four shots on the Sun Devils goal.

“I want these guys to keep the energy and the optimism and the positivity,” Carvel said. “What we’re seeing now is that when you go through some games where you don’t win, guess what happens, they start paying attention to detail not as good. They start losing their assignments because you’re not getting rewarded for doing things the right way so you stop doing things the right way and it catches up to you. That’s what happened in the third period in Princeton and that’s what happened on basically every one of their goals tonight.”

Ryan Ames can be reached at rames@umass.edu or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.

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