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Oliver Chau providing spark that UMass offense, power play needs

(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

Aside from its first conference win on Friday vs. Merrimack, something the Massachusetts hockey team only garnered two of last season, one point of positivity came from the play of freshman forward Oliver Chau, who was named Rookie of the Week by the Hockey East Association.

In games against the Warriors, Chau, an Ontario native, scored a goal and dished out three assists resulting in four points.

With those four points, the freshman bumped his season total up to nine, a team-leading statistic that has head coach Greg Carvel very pleased.

“We brought [Chau] in to do exactly what he’s doing, help our power play and help our offense,” Carvel said. “His nine points in eight games is pretty impressive for a freshman.”

Chau also leads the Minutemen (4-4, 1-1 Hockey East) in goals, tied for three with fellow freshman John Leonard, who has been out of the lineup for three games nursing an upper-body injury.

“[Chau] has got the ability to make smart offensive decisions in small areas,” Carvel explained. “He’s a gifted offensive kid who’s gaining confidence, and now you can see he’s starting to make plays.”

When asked about being recognized by the Hockey East in just his first weekend of playing in conference competition, Chau was humble and deflected the recognition to the play of his teammates.

“It’s obviously an honor but this is a team sport,” he said. “We had a good first game, we came out a little flat on the second and took a couple penalties, but all in all it was a pretty good weekend.”

On Friday at the Mullins Center, UMass dominated the Warriors in a 4-0 win. Chau tallied an assist on the fourth goal of the night which resulted in Josh Couturier’s first with the Minutemen since transferring from Boston College.

In North Andover the following night, Chau made a conscious effort to “weather the storm,” of playing on the road in front of a big crowd and “tried to create some energy.”

“I knew that I had to show up and work really hard,” he said.

The Minutemen fell behind early on a pair of first period goals, but just minutes after the second, Chau net a goal of his own and cut the deficit in half.

Ten minutes later, the 5-foot-9, 170 pounder was back on the ice and making an impact, this time as a part of the power play unit, dishing an assist to defenseman Mario Ferraro who was able to tie the game and finally net his first collegiate goal.

UMass went on to give up three goals throughout the rest of the game, before Chau registered his second assist on the man-advantage and allowed Ferraro his second tally of the night.

In the absence of Leonard, who shot out to a blazing start with seven points through four games before going down against Ohio State, Chau noted the importance of improving in-game scenarios when the opportunity presents itself.

“Obviously [Leonard’s] a good player and he’s done very well for himself so far,” Chau said. “But with new guys coming into the lineup and trying to prove themselves, I think we can continue to grow and get better.”

Chau also addressed the difficulty of coming into the season as a first year player and how, with time and hard work, things are beginning to work themselves out on the ice.

“Every game I feel like I’m getting a little more comfortable and obviously getting more experience under my belt, which helps,” Chau said. “I think going forward I just have to keep working hard.”

The Minutemen will return to action on Saturday at the Mullins Center when it hosts a single matchup with New Hampshire, which currently sits at the top of the Hockey East standings.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.

 

Liam Flaherty can be reached at lpflaherty@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.

 

 

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