History will be on the line Friday night when the Massachusetts hockey team hosts Connecticut at the Mullins Center.
No. 3 UMass (11-1-0, 6-0-0 Hockey East Association) will be looking for its ninth straight win in its game against UConn (5-8-1, 2-6-1 HEA), a feat that has never been reached in the history of the program.
The Minutemen’s 3-2, overtime win over then-No. 18 Princeton last Saturday brought the win streak to eight games, tying the longest stretch since 1970.
The Huskies enter the showdown on the opposite end of the spectrum as they are losers of four straight, yet they still present a challenge for UMass to achieve its record-breaking mark.
“Watching them, they’re young and [have] energy and they do have some size, but they compete hard,” coach Greg Carvel said. “I tell our guys all the time, ‘watch how many times at the end of the game the losing coach says well we just got outcompeted tonight’. That’s always our biggest concern is that we don’t get outcompeted. Princeton was a team that I was a little more worried about their skill because they got some high-end guys, than I was about their compete. UConn I’m worried about their compete because they play hard.”
It’ll be the first of three meetings this season between the two squads as well as the seventh and final Hockey East contest before the semester break for the Minutemen. UMass currently sits in first place in the conference standings with 12 points. UConn slots in at eighth with five points.
Sophomores John Leonard and Cale Makar lead Hockey East in scoring with 16 points each while Mitchell Chaffee’s eight goals puts him in a tie for fourth with Maine’s Chase Pearson.
The Huskies boast three skaters in the top 20 in scoring among Hockey East skaters with Alexander Payusov, Jachym Kondelik (12 points) and Karl El-Mir (11 points).
“We know that they’re a hard-working team and very physical,” Mario Ferraro said. “It’s Hockey East, it’s what you’re going to get. We know that UConn, they obviously have that skill, but they definitely work hard and we have to make sure we’re very poised with the puck and we play strong defense because defense leads to strong offense for us and that’s a big area of our game that we have to focus on for this week.”
Sophomore Matt Murray remains perfect in net for the Minutemen with an 8-0-0 record, a 1.74 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Adam Huska has started nine of UConn’s 13 total games in the cage, compiling a 3-5-1 record, a 2.65 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
Over the past five games, the record holds at 2-2-1 with UMass winning the previous matchup 3-2 on Feb. 22, 2018.
“I don’t think we’ve taken anybody lightly,” Carvel said. “Pick anybody on our schedule, whether they’re ranked or not ranked, conference or non-conference, we haven’t taken anybody lightly. I’ve been very happy with our effort game in and game out.”
Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @_RyanAmes.