The Massachusetts hockey team showed they still have some work to do after getting shutout by Ohio State 3-0 Saturday night at the Mullins Center.
UMass (3-3) looked overmatched going up against a Buckeye (3-1-2, 1-1-0-0 Big Ten) squad that only featured eight underclassmen in their 21-man lineup.
OSU forward Tanner Laczynski registered three points (all assists) topping all Buckeye players Saturday, while forwards Kevin Miller, Matthew Weis, and defenseman Janik Moser recorded the goals.
Junior goaltender Sean Romeo earned his first shutout of the season for OSU, stopping all 23 shots that came his way.
“They’re just a really good hockey team,” Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said. “Up and down their lineup, I can’t tell which line is their first line and which line is their fourth line. They all really possess the puck, make plays, their backend shoots the puck a ton, [and] they checked well.”
As the eighth-youngest team in the country, UMass was severely lacking in experience compared to the veteran-laden Buckeyes and that gap presented itself in the series finale.
“When you’ve got good skill and you’ve played for three or four years at this level your confidence… their execution with the puck was really good tonight, our execution was not very good,” said Carvel. “You look down the road and you hope in a couple years we’re as effective as they are.”
“They’re a good team, they’re a veteran team,” Minuteman defenseman Jake Horton said. “They got a bunch of older guys. They play [in the] Big Ten so they’re used to tough competition like that and everything. We’re a young team so we’re still learning.”
UMass was without freshman first-liner John Leonard, as he sustained an upper-body injury in Friday night’s 3-1 loss to OSU, and Carvel admitted to the Amherst native’s absence being a critical loss.
“I think he threw the balance of our forwards off. He’s such a big, powerful offensive guy who is far from a perfect player, but in the last number of games he’s been creating a lot of scoring chances for us,” Carvel said. “We’re a fragile team, our depth is still not great so when you take a guy who is basically a first line player out of the lineup, I think that was a big factor tonight.”
The Minutemen didn’t seem to have the same jump in their step as they did the night prior as evidenced by the low shot total (23 shots) compared to the Buckeyes (32 shots) through 60 minutes.
“It’s tough to play a tough team back-to-back nights,” said Horton. “It’s never easy when you lose on a Friday night to a team coming into your rink. We wanted to jump out early on these guys but they bounced back and threw the first punch. It was kind of tough for us to find that counter-punch but it’s something we’ll grow from.”
Freshman Matt Murray surrendered his first loss of the season while making 29 saves, a season-high, in the defeat.
“It’s motivating in the way that I have the coaches confidence and respect and I got to keep pushing myself and keep getting better and better and make sure I still earn that every day,” Murray said.
OSU struck first when Miller put the Buckeyes up 1-0, beating Murray low off the rush at 11:12 of the first period.
Moser doubled OSU’s lead in the second period on a howitzer from the slot, at the tail end of a dominant Buckeye shift.
With 30 seconds remaining in the second stanza, Murray made a spectacular glove save robbing OSU defenseman Matt Miller on a grade-A scoring chance.
Murray’s save, his best of the night, was reviewed as his glove was close to crossing the plane of the goal line, but the call stood at no goal keeping UMass within striking distance.
It was a penalty-filled period for the Minutemen as they committed five infractions, with three of the five penalties being boarding calls.
The final Buckeye marker came at 17:19 0f the third period when Weis snuck past the UMass defense and slid one past Murray to seal the deal for OSU.
“I think a big thing is learning how to respond when something goes wrong,” Horton said about the necessary adjustments heading into next week. “[Other] teams score a goal and we got to learn how to bounce back and kind of put it in the past and step forward and do all the right things.”
“I don’t come away from this weekend upset at my team. They tried their hardest against a really good team and kept it close,” added Carvel. “Ohio State did it all tonight, they controlled the game.”
Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.