Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutemen look to avoid three straight losses with pair against Vermont

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(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts hockey team faces Vermont at Gutterson Fieldhouse this upcoming weekend in hopes of snapping its two-game losing streak.

Starting January play with two consecutive losses, the Minutemen (9-9-0, 3-5-0 Hockey East Association) now face its first series of 2018 with a chance to break the double-digit mark in total wins, which hasn’t occurred since the 2014-15 season.

“It wasn’t terrible this past weekend but obviously two losses aren’t good enough,” coach Greg Carvel said. “[We need] to get back to better habits and get better goaltending. I think those are the two things that we saw in those games this [past] weekend.”

Traveling to New Haven, Connecticut on Jan. 5, UMass fell 5-3 to Yale before returning to familiar territory and suffering an 8-3 loss to UMass Lowell at the Tsongas Center, in the Minutemen’s first Hockey East matchup of the new year the next night.

“We lost two games but even though the end scores were embarrassing they weren’t embarrassing games,” Carvel said. “When you win you’re not as great as you think you are and when you lose you’re not as bad as you think you are.”

Cale Makar returns to the lineup after making quite some noise at the IIHF World Junior Tournament for Team Canada. Finishing as the highest scoring defensemen in the tournament with eight points, Makar helped his team defeat Sweden 3-1 for the gold medal, and earned the sole all-star honor for Canada.

“We’re excited to have Cale Makar back into the lineup and he proved to be a big hole that was difficult to replace,” Carvel said. “I feel that he was the big factor and the reason why we weren’t able to win most of those games.”

Carvel is sure that his team will welcome Makar back with open arms and continue to express how happy and excited they are for his tournament successes. Though he’s sure that Makar is ready to start focusing his efforts back on UMass.

“He’s a very humble kid and I’m sure [his successes] won’t be mentioned by him,” Carvel said. “We’ll move on like usual.”

Vermont (4-13-3, 1-7-2 HEA) has not registered a win since Nov. 25 in a 2-1 overtime victory against Dartmouth. Vermont is 0-4-1 in its last five contests with its tie coming against Brown Dec. 9.

The Catamounts faced UMass Lowell just the day before UMass and were shut out 6-0 by the third place River Hawks. This will be Vermont’s first series of 2018 as well.

“We’re playing a Vermont team that hasn’t done fairly well lately then we’re going to follow that up with a Maine team that hasn’t lost in nine games so we’re going on a mini road trip to play three games but ultimately we need to find our game,” Carvel said.

Oliver Chau leads UMass with 18 points, recording a team-high eight goals and 10 assists. The freshman has already accumulated three points in the first two games back from winter break.

Since being the final cut from Team Canada’s World Junior Team, Mario Ferraro continues to lead the Minutemen with 30 blocked shots.

Carvel said since the freshman’s return from Team Canada’s selection camp, he has continued to be the hardest working player on the ice.

Ross Colton, a 2016 NHL fourth-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning, leads the Catamounts with 13 points on 11 goals and two assists. Matt O’Donnell and Craig Puffer follow close behind with nine points each.

Matt Murray accumulated 33 saves in UMass’s loss to Yale and Ryan Wischow turned aside 14 shots on net in the loss to UMass Lowell. Both goaltenders have seen considerable game action in net with Wischow edging out Murray with roughly 20 more minutes playing time this season.

“You’re not going to get top notch goaltending every night but we’ve got to have it a little bit better from them and then a little bit better from the guys in front of them and then we’ll be fine,” Carvel said.

Stefanos Lekkas posts a .903 save percentage and a 3.26 goals-against average for Vermont and has been the starting goaltender for the Catamounts for all except two games this season.

Puck is set to drop at 7:05 p.m. Friday in Burlington.


Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MWalker2019.

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