Penalty troubles surrounding UMass hockey before set with Providence

By Ryan Ames

(Amy Shaw/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts hockey team is in a rough patch at the moment.

Losing two straight games, UMass (4-5-0, 1-2-0 Hockey East Association) has been its own worst enemy in its two previous defeats combining for 16 penalties in the 5-3 loss at Merrimack Oct. 27, and the 3-0 loss to New Hampshire last Saturday.

The Minutemen have done their best counteracting the exorbitant amount of the oppositions’ powerplays — killing off 23 of their last 26 penalties for an 88.5 PK percentage — however it hasn’t been enough as UNH scored two of its three goals up a man, while MC tallied one man-advantage goal in the win two weekends ago.

“We felt that UNH, with the scoring chances [that] they had, they had 12,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “Eight were on the powerplay, one of them was the fluke goal, [and] one was one [Matt] Murray left behind the net. We felt that they earned one chance  5-on-5. You go into that game and if you say you can, UNH 5-on-5, you think you’re going to win that game handily.”

The Minutemen committed a combined 16 penalties in their two prior defeats — eight in both contests — signifying a trend that will have to decline if UMass is going to compete with the heavyweights of Hockey East.

“It’s been a major focus now for the last couple weekends, ever since the Ohio State game, where again their power play beat us,” Carvel said. “The UNH game was very similar to the Ohio State game where they really didn’t create much 5-on-5, but they scored on the power play twice, 5-on-3 and Ohio State scored on a faceoff play where our center got kicked out. We feel like we’re doing a pretty god job neutralizing good offensive teams, but the amount of penalty kills is killing us.”

With arguably its stiffest opponent on the horizon in Providence this Thursday and Saturday, the Minutemen have an opportunity to show they’ve learned their lesson and prove they can stay out of the penalty box against a well-rounded Friars (5-3-0, 2-2-0 HEA) club.

“It’s really going to show the character of some of our guys down the line, in terms of taking penalties,” freshman defenseman Cale Makar said. “Whether it’s guys just not working hard enough to get their feet back and taking some slashing penalties, obviously me included. I think once we start to build that team intensity and that work ethic is when everything will come and hopefully those penalties will start to slim down.”

UMass is currently the second highest penalized team in Hockey East play, averaging 14.7 penalty minutes per league game, while Providence sits eighth averaging just 11.5 infraction minutes per night.

While the Friars aren’t surrendering that many penalty minutes, their penalty kill also has been spectacular.

In fact, it’s been perfect as Providence has killed off all 18 penalties it’s taken in its first four Hockey East battles.

“The multitude of penalties that we’re taking is just too much for our young team and our powerplay isn’t good enough to balance it out. It’s a real issue right now that we’re spending a ton of time addressing,” Carvel said.

Battling through the penalty troubles, as well as any other weakness to this point, is all the Minutemen will be focusing on before Thursday night’s tilt at the Mullins Center.

“In terms of our mindset of our team, we have to push away everything that we’ve done so far. We’re on a little bit of a downhill right now but those things are going to be figured out quickly, and I think you can expect us to have a pretty hard game on Thursday night and play those guys pretty hard,” Makar said. “They’re not going to be very lenient coming in here and it’s going to be a tough test, we know that. We’ll be ready.”

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.