Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass club hockey focused on regionals despite shutout loss to Northeastern

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(Collegian File Photo)

The Massachusetts club hockey team was banged up heading into Friday’s match up with Northeastern. Minutemen senior defenseman Adam Kmetz had a bruised knee, senior defenseman Alan Haynes had a separated shoulder and junior alternate-captain and forward Anthony Lespasio had his chin stitched up and had to nurse a fractured wrist.

Kmetz was the lone injured player above that suited up against the Huskies, and he did what he could to play the role of “leader” for Mike DeFazio’s team, but it wasn’t enough as UMass (15-12-3) was shut out by NU (14-5-1) in the semifinals of the Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs Friday night 4-0 at Conway Arena.

“Yeah, I’m a little disappointed, it’s never good to lose a game,” DeFazio said. “The guys are still focused on this coming weekend though. It’s always disappointing to lose, but we’re trying to regroup this weekend.”

Leading 1-0 going into the second period after a power-play goal seven minutes into the first period put them in front early, the Huskies scored three goals in the second period to put the nail in the Minutemen’s coffin.

The second goal came two minutes into the second period, the third 11 minutes in and the fourth with 8:30 left in the period.

DeFazio gave junior Connor Walker the night off and played freshman Ryan LaCroix in net. Despite allowing four goals in the loss, DeFazio was impressed with how LaCroix played.

“Ryan didn’t play bad at all,” DeFazio said. “We had a 10 minute window where we didn’t play well. None of their goals were his fault. It was a lot of bad puck handling, bad passes that led to breakaways, odd-man rushes. I don’t fault him at all for anything, he did look good when he had to make saves.”

DeFazio said he and the rest of the coaching staff missed Haynes and Lespasio the most on the bench with their role as leaders on the team, not necessarily for their roles on the ice.

DeFazio said while it would be nice to have them on the ice to help get the Minutemen on the board after going down 1-0 in the first period, he would have liked to have them on the bench to boost team morale.

A look ahead

DeFazio says he expects Haynes and Lespasio to be healthy enough to play Saturday when they take on sixth-seeded RPI Saturday at Danbury Arena in Connecticut in the regional playoffs.

The Minutemen played RPI twice earlier in the season. They fell in their first matchup at Mullins Center Practice Rink on Nov. 4, 5-3. The two met again Dec. 9 on the road where UMass came out victorious with a 2-1 overtime win.

The Minutemen will play Sunday with a victory Saturday, but in order to make it to the national playoffs—which take place in mid-March—they have to win both games. Their season would end with a loss this weekend.

“This week is going to be a lot of work, you have to make sure you’re physically ready,” DeFazio said. “We’re trying to put [Friday] behind us and look on the bright side. We don’t have to play Keene, a hard-hitting rivalry game. Our goal is nationals.”

DeFazio says the team’s focus in practice Monday and Wednesday will be on fundamentals, mostly scoring goals and battling for the puck in both the offensive and defensive zone.

DeFazio is looking forward to the playoffs and to get another look at the Red Hawks, a team they’ve played well against and is hoping they can defeat for a second time. Puck drop is slated for 7:50 p.m.

Zander Manning can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @ZMSportsReport.

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