Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hockey hopes to fix scoring, power play issues on road against Maine

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Jong Mam Kim/Collegian

Jong Mam Kim/Collegian

The Massachusetts hockey team has reigned in the New Year so far with the toughest stretch on its schedule. Stretches like this are par for the course in the buzzsaw that is the Hockey East, as UMass (5-17-2, 2-9-1 HEA) will be taking a trip to Orono for a two-game series with Maine this weekend.

The Black Bears (8-13-3, 2-9-1 HEA) will be the first unranked team the Minutemen will face in nearly three weeks, as four of their last five opponents have been ranked no lower than 11th in the nation at the time of the game.

While Maine might not jump out at anyone on paper, UMass coach Greg Carvel expects this game against the Black Bears to be anything but easy for the Minutemen.

“I go into this weekend thinking we have to match Maine’s intensity,” Carvel said. “They compete. They play hard and play a very straight-forward game and if you’re not ready to compete at that level it won’t go well for us.”

Sophomore defenseman Ivan Chukarov recognizes this as well and is up for the challenge this weekend.

“They’re going to come out banging bodies,” Chukarov said. “They’re a big team and they play physical especially down low, so we’re going to have to match their physicality.”

Both Maine and UMass are currently at the bottom of the conference standings, and the Black Bears come into the game at Alfond Arena presenting opportunities for the Minutemen to correct some recent problems.

The much maligned power play for UMass has yet to yield a goal in the year 2017, spanning the last four games where it has gone a combined 0-for-22.

“We’ve changed things up in an effort to get more pucks to the net. I’m excited to see how it looks,” Carvel said. “We have to find a way to score on the power play and create scoring chances. We’ve changed the personnel up a bit in hopes of finding that spark and gives us some confidence.”

Forward Austin Plevy—who leads the Minutemen with 61 shots on goal this season—has been relatively encouraged by UMass’ changes on the power play.

“It’s looked good in practice,” Plevy said. “Obviously the power play hasn’t been too successful lately, and we’re struggling to get pucks to the net. I don’t know if we’ve changed up personnel, maybe one or two guys, but mostly we’ve set up a couple new looks to try and open things up.”

Maine enters this weekend’s games at the top of the conference in penalty minutes per game at 15.7, and is tied for the worst penalty kill in the conference at 80.4 percent.

Both teams also feature the two lowest-ranked scoring defenses in Hockey East, which would suggest a potentially high-scoring couple of contests between the Minutemen and Black Bears.

However, Carvel is more concerned with what he has seen on tape than what the statistics say.

“They play hard. They have good size and in their rink–it’s a smaller rink–it’s going to be a very physical game,” Carvel said. “They thrive on crashing the net and getting pucks there. It’s very clear what their game plan is, and I respect that.”

“I think that’s good for us,” Plevy added. “If they want to run around and hit and if that’s how they want to play, it could help us out. We’re a fast team, and we’ve got some pretty fast and smart players that can take advantage of that. “

Puck drop for the first game is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday. 

Nicholas Souza can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @njsouza27.

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