Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Hockey mailbag: Goalies, Chau and the power play

Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg still splitting time

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Hockey mailbag: Goalies, Chau and the power play

(Caroline O'Connor/UMass Athletics)

(Caroline O'Connor/UMass Athletics)

(Caroline O'Connor/UMass Athletics)

(Caroline O'Connor/UMass Athletics)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts hockey team recently wrapped up its first month of play with a 5-1-0 record. After last weekend’s sweep of Hockey East Association foe Merrimack, this seemed like an optimal time to introduce a mailbag into The Massachusetts Daily Collegian’s coverage of UMass hockey.

A few interesting storylines and some fascinating developments have already sprung up with this season’s Minutemen group after just completing their October slate.

This will be the first installment of what will hopefully be a semi-regular mailbag, depending on scheduling and engagement, but if the amount of questions is anything like it was this week, The Collegian will absolutely be pumping out more of these.

So without further ado, let’s get started:

Question: Mel Webster asked, “Is Coach Carvel planning on alternating goalies all season?”

Answer: Before I start, I want to say that coming into this season, the battle between Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg in net was the top story surrounding the 2018-19 UMass team, in my opinion. I addressed the goalie competition in an earlier article and I continue to be compelled by it.

I got a couple questions regarding this topic so I gather this has peaked the interest of others as well. To answer the question, no, I don’t think coach Greg Carvel will alternate between the two all season.

He’s mentioned multiple times already this year that over his tenure, the goaltending hasn’t been where he’s wanted it to be and having to continually swap between two netminders is not something he enjoyed doing.

Based on that, I am inclined to believe either Murray or Lindberg will be the go-to-guy at some point.

I will say that I am surprised Murray hasn’t been given the nod as the No. 1 already. He was in the cage when the Minutemen upset then-No. 1 Ohio State, then followed that up with a performance dubbed as the best of his career by Carvel, in UMass’ 5-1 win over the Warriors.

I’m not quite sure what more Murray has to do to “win” the job, but again, I think the fact that Lindberg has played as much as he has can be attributed to his potential rather than any sort of shot to Murray.

There should be some clarity to this situation as UMass only plays once this week with a game at New Hampshire this Saturday, then hosts Providence Nov. 8 at Mullins. Unless whoever starts against the Wildcats plays poorly or gets hurt, this could be the first time all season where we see a goalie make consecutive starts.

Q: MatthewParent1 asked, “How has Chau’s reintroduction shifted the lineups, and what has his impact been this last weekend?”

A: Oliver Chau slotted right back with Mitchell Chaffee and Jake Gaudet, his primary location last year. He replaced Bobby Trivigno, who performed quite well with those other two in UMass’ first four games. Trivigno slid down to the second line, moving John Leonard to the third line.

I really didn’t notice Chau all that much this past weekend. Carvel admitted after Friday night’s game he wanted to limit his minutes his first game back, so he didn’t see the ice a ton. Saturday night he played more but he wasn’t that much more involved. He committed a turnover in the neutral zone that directly resulted in Merrimack’s third goal.

Chau will need some time to get his legs under him but once he does, he’ll be one of the top Minutemen scorers by season’s end.

Q: JakeBarnesUM asked, “What are the biggest changes you see on the power play between this year and last year? New schemes? Better finishing abilities?”

A: Confidence would be my answer. Each unit just seems to be more confident with the puck and the decisions they make stem from that. Passes are much cleaner and plays aren’t forced as much as they were last year. If a man is open, he will get the puck. It’s really that simple.

The power play was an area Carvel really wanted to see take a step forward and so far it has. It was worked on extensively this preseason and I think that’s another reason why it has been as effective as it has. It’s essentially in midseason form because they’ve been practicing it for almost two months now.

Jacob Pritchard has been a weapon on the man-advantage, as well. He’s showcased a veteran’s finish with all three of his goals coming while up a man. Chaffee and Marc Del Gaizo have tallied two, adding to the Minutemen’s potent first unit.

Q: GarDRe3 asked, “While this team has looked excellent in every game this year, both players and coaches continue to say they can get better. What areas specifically, do you think they mean?”

A: I would say managing the puck. They’ve had some shifts where they’ve gotten trapped in their own zone because of sloppy puck management, which led to turnovers, which led to high-scoring chances for the opposition.

Carvel has mentioned that repeatedly in post-game interviews as an area he wants to shore up and I think it’s the one aspect that has hurt them the most.

At Merrimack on Saturday, UMass allowed two goals within the opening minute of both the first and third periods. That hasn’t been an issue in any other game, yet it almost cost the Minutemen dearly in North Andover. Carvel hopes they can nip that in the bud now, and not let it sprout into a recurring problem.

 

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

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