Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ames: Looking back at a perfect November

UMass hockey went 7-0-0

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Ames: Looking back at a perfect November

(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 not only won its ninth straight game in its 7-4 win over Connecticut on Friday night to remain unbeaten in Hockey East Association action, but the victory also pushed No. 3 UMass to a perfect 7-0-0 in the month of November.

The Minutemen went from being a surprise squad to a legit, nationwide power in just 30 days.

Beating five different opponents that included three wins over ranked clubs, UMass’ November stretch saw wins pile up in a multitude of ways. Whether it was the special teams shining or goalie Matt Murray standing on his head, or just putting together a complete 60-minute effort, the Minutemen proved they are among the best of the best in the second month of the season.

I’d like to look back at all seven contests UMass underwent and share my thoughts on what was an incredible month for the Minutemen:

Nov. 3 at New Hampshire: Heading into this bout, UMass hadn’t won at the Whittemore Center since 2006 and had only beaten the Wildcats three times on their home ice since 1994. With revenge on their minds, the Minutemen reversed the curse with a 5-1 win, thanks in large part to three-point efforts from John Leonard and Mitchell Chaffee. Oliver Chau also dished one of the silkiest passes you’ll ever see. That’s what I remember most from this game, if I’m being honest.

Nov. 8 vs No. 4 Providence: Aside from UMass’ series split with then-top ranked Ohio State in October, the series with Providence was its other defining moment. It started with a 3-2 win, Thursday at the Mullins Center with Ty Farmer’s game-winning goal coming with just 1:25 showing on the clock. Bobby Trivigno sticks out in my memory in this one because he drew a penalty early in the first period that immediately snatched the momentum away from the Friars. The Minutemen wound up scoring on the ensuing power play and controlled play for the rest of the frame. Coach Greg Carvel characterized the win as “the biggest one” in his tenure.

Nov. 10 at No. 4 Providence: Two words: Matt Murray. The sophomore goaltender put in one of his best performances in a maroon and white sweater in UMass’ 3-2 win at Schneider Arena. Heavily outshot 31-13, the Minutemen probably should have lost this game but Murray’s stellar focus late in the third period pushed UMass to the sweep. It also served as some redemption for Murray as his first career game at Providence was a 7-2 loss in 2017.

Nov. 16 at Holy Cross: I can’t comment too much on this game because I had some external issues that forced me to miss the first period. However, what I saw was a game that should have ended with a much larger gap than the final 3-1 outcome. Bobby Kaiser notched the game-winner in the third period, but this game was much closer than I anticipated. The Crusaders were one of the worst teams in all of college hockey before the matchup, but they worked their tails off all night to keep it a two-goal game. The Minutemen were far and away the better team, they just lacked their usual finish in Worcester. Filip Lindberg made his first start in net in four games, stopping 20 shots.

Nov 18 vs New Hampshire: The power play made all the difference in this one. Three goals on the man-advantage catapulted UMass to a 4-2 win past UNH. Jacob Pritchard, Leonard and Chaffee tallied 5-on-4 goals. It was the fifth time two or more power play goals were scored in a game. Returning to the net, Murray made 18 saves to bump his record to 7-0-0.

Nov. 24 vs No. 18 Princeton: A lot of hype surrounded this game as two dangerous offenses, including two potent power plays, met up and it did not disappoint. The Minutemen skated away with a 3-2 overtime victory thanks to Chau’s game-winner. This was Chau’s best game of the season not just because he scored but I thought he looked fantastic all night, making smart plays, crisp passes and creating chance after chance in the offensive zone. UMass let a 2-0 lead slip away in the second and third periods, but it never really felt like the Minutemen would lose this game. They threw 46 shots on goal and could’ve potted a few more, Chaffee in particular, but couldn’t capitalize until Chau’s marker in the extra frame.

Nov. 30 vs Connecticut: This game shocked me. I did not expect much of anything from UConn in this one because I don’t think they’re that skilled and they just returned from the Friendship Four in Ireland, which I thought would be prevalent in their legs. It was just the opposite. The Huskies put a real scare into UMass, despite what the 7-4 final score might indicate. UConn has some big bodies and in the first period, the Minutemen couldn’t defend them well enough, leading to the Huskies taking a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. It was the first time UMass trailed after the opening 20 minutes all year.  The Minutemen eventually pulled away in the third, scoring four goals, but it was a harder-fought game than I thought it would be. Once again though, UMass found yet another way to win. At this moment, I can confidently say that is this team’s identity.

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

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