Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass Hockey returns from winter break, set for battle with Yale on Friday

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(Amelia Shaw/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts hockey team kicks off the second half of its regular season schedule this weekend with a trip to Yale on Friday and a Hockey East Association matchup at UMass Lowell on Saturday.

The Minutemen (9-7-0, 3-4-0 HEA) began their break on Dec. 10, concluding the first half of the season with a 2-1 win over Union, before returning to the empty university campus on Dec. 28 to resume practice.

“We’re a good team but we can be better,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “We’ve spent a lot of time right now talking about how we can elevate as a program and as a team. Special teams is probably number one on the list. It’s a real focus for us.”

Through the first 16 games of the season, the Minutemen converted on roughly 14 percent (10-72) of their power play opportunities and allowed goals from their opposition on the penalty kill 21 percent (18-85) of the time.

“I think we’re at a point now where players have to realize where they can be better,” Carvel said.

When UMass travels to Connecticut for Friday’s matchup, they will be facing off with a Bulldogs (6-8-0 4-6-0 ECAC) team that has already returned from break. They played twice at the Ledyard Bank Classic in New Hampshire last weekend, falling 5-0 to Minnesota Duluth and defeating New Hampshire 4-2.

“They are a fast team, they have good skill, play a transition game and check well,” Carvel said. “They are a team that I respect and are very well coached. It will be a good hockey game.”

Junior forward Joe Snively leads Yale in scoring midway through the season, with 13 points on six assists and a team-leading seven goals.

Senior Ryan Hitchcock trails closely in the points column with 10, spurred by a pair of goals and eight helpers, the most of any skater on the team. Freshman forward Dante Palecco sits just behind Snively in scoring with six goals in his first season.

Sam Tucker has started 12 of the Bulldogs’ 14 games thus far, with a record of 5-7 between the pipes. The junior has allowed 35 goals on 335 shots.

On Saturday, when the Minutemen travel to Lowell, they will be the fourth opponent that the Riverhawks (10-9-0, 6-6-0 HEA) have faced since returning from break.

After defeating Harvard and falling to St. Lawrence at the Catamount Cup last weekend, UML will take on the University of Vermont Friday night before hosting UMass in both teams’ second game of the weekend.

On the attack, the Riverhawks are propelled by sophomore forwards Kenny Hausinger and Ryan Lohin. Hausinger leads the team with seven goals and 16 points, while Lohin bolsters 15 points on five goals and ten assists.

In net, UML relies on junior goaltender Christoffer Hernberg, who has allowed 28 goals on 387 shots this season, accumulating a .928 save percentage along the way.

Hitting the road for both matchups this weekend will commence a five-game road trip for the Minutemen to start the second half, which, aside from Yale, features a schedule of entirely Hockey East opponents.

“I don’t mind it because we’re in a time of the year where we’re just on campus by ourselves,” Carvel said. “So we would rather be in a group, on a bus or a hotel rather than scattered around campus without anybody else here. We’re looking at it as team bonding time. We see it as a positive more than a negative.”

UMass will be without starting defenseman Cale Makar for both matchups this weekend, as he will conclude play with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo and enjoy a short break at home before joining the Minutemen.

Through five games on the national stage, Makar has totaled six points on three goals and three assists.

“This is part of what happens when you get a player of that caliber,” Carvel said. “He won’t be at either game this weekend, we made that decision way back in September, and he’s gonna take some time off after the tournament. He deserves that. He needs to recharge his batteries.”

Puck drop for the Minutemen is set for 7 p.m. both on Friday in New Haven and Saturday in Lowell.

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.

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