Accumulating 29 total saves and fending off the No. 1 power play in all of college hockey, freshman goaltender Matt Murray anchored the Massachusetts hockey team in a 3-0 surge past the No. 8 Northeastern in the first of two contests.
The Huskie special team has been credited as their most lethal weapon and partial reason for managing to get on the scoreboard every game.
Though before a home crowd at the Mullins Center, Murray repelled two man-advantage opportunities and handed the Huskies their first shut out of the season and the second shutout of his career.
“They only had two. That was key,” Massachusetts coach Greg Carvel said. “That was probably our number one focus point tonight was to play really well without the puck so that they couldn’t get power plays.
“It’s tough to go a whole game without taking any penalties but to take just two, if you told me before we were only going to take two penalties tonight I would’ve paid you a lot of money for that to come true.”
Despite going scoreless through the first period, the Huskies held a major advantage in play across the board. Murray was forced to make 15 saves in the first frame of play alone, before going on to face just three shots in the second and 11 in the third.
More than doubling UMass’ shot advantage 15-7 in the first 20 minutes, Northeastern played to their ranking.
“We needed a goaltender to step up,” Carvel said. “I don’t want it to be a tough decision every night who we play in net. I want them to make the decision for me.”
Carvel believes that practices aren’t always the best place to evaluate a goaltender’s potential for an upcoming game, he relies on game time performance. Though tonight it was Murray’s turn in net after Carvel’s consistent rotation between his two netminders.
“Our team deserves solid goaltending, the way they play, they deserve solid goaltending and they got it tonight,” Carvel said. “I think if we can get solid goaltending we will win a lot of games down the stretch.”
The Minutemen and Murray would get the first taste of a Northeastern special team at 9:44 of the first period, after senior Jake Horton took a holding penalty. The Huskies forced Murray to make five saves to keep the game scoreless.
“I wouldn’t say [I was] intimidated but I was prepared for it,” Murray said. “You know what they have in their arsenal and you got to research and study them and make yourself as ready as you can be for what’s coming at you.”
The second period would see two goals from freshman Mitchell Chaffee, an even-strength goal as well as a power play tally, to slide the freshman into the team goal-leading spot. Despite going 1-for-7 on the man-advantage, Carvel was pleased with the Minutemen’s special team performance.
Though Carvel believes UMass’ ability to stay out of the penalty box made conquering the Huskies much more plausible.
“You got to be locked in, there’s no room for error,” Murray said. “Especially with a team like that with the power play they have there. You got to be 100 percent or nothing.”
Northeastern on the other hand had 38 total minutes of penalty killing time on the eight penalties the Huskies took including two five-minute majors.
Josh Couturier took the Minutemen’s last penalty of the game at 3:46 in the second period after getting called for boarding. Northeastern was only able to register one shot on Murray.
“That was a very well officiated game,” Carvel said. “They’re signs that we were able to frustrate their team and that was our game plan.”
By Murray’s display, Carvel was able to confirm he would be in between the pipes come the second matchup, which is set to commence at 8 p.m. in Matthews Arena in Boston.
Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at MWalker2019.