Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hockey shuts down No. 7 Providence 1-0 to clinch home-ice advantage in Hockey East Playoffs

Minutemen to face Vermont in the first round of the playoffs

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(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

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There’s no place like home.

Saturday night at the Mullins Center, the Massachusetts hockey team beat No. 7 Providence, 1-0, to secure home-ice advantage in the first round of the Hockey East Playoffs.

Freshman Austin Albrecht notched the game’s only goal and freshman goaltender Matt Murray earned his fourth shutout of the season, in UMass’ (15-17-2, 9-13-2 Hockey East Association) second win over the Friars (20-10-4, 13-7-4 Hockey East) in Amherst.

“Providence makes you play real hard and we matched them tonight, which was our mindset going in,” Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said. “We know how hard they play and they make you play honest. Other than taking a few too many penalties in the first half of the game, I thought we did a great job and on top of it Murray was excellent tonight.”

Murray made 31 saves in the shutout performance, giving the St. Albert, Alberta native his eighth win of the season, in his sixth straight start in the cage for UMass.

“I thought we tested [Murray],” Friar coach Nate Leaman said. “Twice we’ve come in this building and I’ve liked our chances. I’ve liked the chances we’ve had a lot but I just think he stood the test and their other guys did a good job making sure we didn’t get second chances.”

Providence tested Murray early, throwing 14 shots toward the net in the first period, with five of those shots coming on three power play opportunities for the Friars, but Murray and the rest of the Minutemen stood tall.

“Everyone is just putting in their work, everyone is giving it their all and that’s all you can ask for from a team,” Murray said.

“When we played at Providence, when they piled on us, I think they scored five or six power play goals in that game. To take those penalties early and to pretty much keep them…they didn’t really get a ton of chances off of them,” said Carvel. “That was a real key, I thought both team’s penalty units were very good tonight.”

UMass went 0-for-2 on the power play while the Friars were unsuccessful in all four of their opportunities.

The first and only goal was scored when Hildenbrand raced down the left side of the Providence defensive zone, tucked his shoulder in and drove to the net but Friar goalie Hayden Hawkey (21 saves) turned aside the initial shot. Luckily for the Minutemen, Albrecht was trailing the play and picked up the loose rebound and hit the empty cage, giving UMass the 1-0 lead at 4:57.

“No, absolutely not, (Hildenbrand) did all the work I just put it into the empty net so it was a pretty easy goal but he did the right thing,” Albrecht said.

With the victory UMass’ 15 total wins marks the most for the program since the 2009-10 season and it’s nine wins in Hockey East is the most since 2012-13, and on Senior Night, the win couldn’t have come at better time for Jake Horton and Niko Rufo.

“I mean my four years here we’ve never had the opportunity to host a playoff series and with that win tonight it clinched it so it’s something that we’re looking forward to,” Horton said. “Definitely something we’re excited for next weekend.”

The Minutemen will welcome Vermont next week in the first round, marking UMass’ first home playoff game since 2006-07.

“They’re a team that’s played real well in the second half of the year. They play hard,” Carvel said about the Catamounts. “When we were up there in January, I was really impressed with how aggressively they played, how hard they checked. It’ll come down to goaltending and creating bounces. I’m excited, it’ll be fun.”

 

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

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