Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

No. 18 Princeton comes to town Saturday in one of UMass hockey’s toughest tests

Tigers bring experienced offensive firepower
(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

Expect some fireworks this Saturday at the Mullins Center when the Massachusetts hockey team hosts Princeton.

No. 4 UMass (10-1-0, 6-0-0 Hockey East Association) is set to square-off with the No. 18 Tigers (3-3-1, 3-2-1 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference) in a battle of two offensively-gifted squads.

The Minutemen are the top-scoring team in Hockey East through 11 games (3.91 goals-per-game), while Princeton boasts a pair of skaters that are a constant threat to score.

Seniors Max Verroneau and Ryan Kuffner each exceeded 50 points a season ago for the Tigers and both have filled the net with ease this year. Kuffner leads Princeton with seven goals and 13 points in seven games, and Verroneau has accumulated nine points to date.

“They’ve got a number of offensive players that did really well last year who are back,” coach Greg Carvel said, noting Verroneau and Kuffner, specifically. “They’re a high-offensive team and are the most offensively creative team we’ve faced so far.”

The Tigers have used that creativity on the power play more than anything, scoring at a 36 percent clip while on the man-advantage. Only Harvard has a better percentage, and slightly at that, with a 36.4 percent conversion rate.

Carvel said that staying out the box will be important so Princeton’s power play can’t take control of the game.

UMass knows a thing or two about power play success as its 34.8 percent mark is third in the nation. Jacob Pritchard, John Leonard and Mitchell Chaffee are a big reason why as the trio have tallied 11, nine and seven power play points respectively, good for the top three slots in Hockey East.

With all this offense on display, Carvel noted how the Minutemen’s play without the puck, in the defensive zone in particular, is going to be key in slowing down the high-flying Tigers attack.

“We’ve identified as a staff that our play without the puck is an area we need to improve,” Carvel said. He also mentioned how teams can get “lazy with the puck” in the D-zone when offense is coming easily combined with a goalie who’s playing well.

Sophomore Matt Murray extended his win streak to seven games after UMass’ 4-2 win against New Hampshire on Sunday and padded his already stellar numbers even more. His 1.72 goals-against average and .938 save percentage is the best in Hockey East.

Meanwhile, Princeton goaltender Ryan Ferland, also a sophomore, has compiled a 2.66 GAA and .913 save percentage.

Out of the 11 games the Minutemen have played already, seven were on the road. UMass now sees a significant home swing with four of its next five contests being played in Amherst before the semester break.

“If we can win on the road, there’s no reason we can’t win at home,” Carvel said.

The last time the Minutemen and Tigers met was a Dec. 13, 2016 matchup that saw Princeton win 4-3 at Hobey Baker Rink. UMass’ last win came Dec. 29, 2004 in a 4-0 win at Mullins.

Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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

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