Ames: Second half of the season didn’t start exactly as planned for UMass hockey

Minutemen couldn’t find their offense until Saturday

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Ames: Second half of the season didn’t start exactly as planned for UMass hockey

(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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SPRINGFIELD— Like trying to start your car in the middle of winter in New England, the Massachusetts hockey team took a bit to get going in its first weekend of play of the second semester.

No. 2 UMass (15-3-0) dropped its first game to UMass Lowell Friday night at the Mullins Center before rebounding Saturday with a convincing 6-1 victory over American International.

Neither game was picture perfect since the Minutemen were without game action for about three weeks but after the win over the Yellow Jackets, UMass began to get back to what was making them so successful in the first half.

Granted, AIC isn’t exactly a dominant college hockey team, but with puck drop coming less than 24 hours after a hard-fought loss it wasn’t a given the Minutemen would walk away victorious.

However, the offense came alive in a big way for UMass as its six goals scored were the most since its 7-4 win over UConn on Nov. 30th, leaving no doubt the Minutemen were back on the right track.

“As much as you want to try through practice, you can’t get your team to the compete level with three weeks off and it was very evident last night,” coach Greg Carvel said. “We didn’t hound the puck, we were not as hard and heavy as we were before break and unfortunately, I wish the games were flip-flopped being that last night was a league game and today wasn’t.”

I really liked Jacob Pritchard’s weekend. He compiled two points Saturday but I thought he was one of the few UMass skaters who brought a consistent energy level for 120 minutes.

The Jake Gaudet-Mitchell Chaffee-Oliver Chau line was also strong both games but that’s like saying the sky is blue. What else is new?

Matt Murray didn’t have an overly busy weekend combining for 39 saves in the two outings and I thought he gave the Minutemen a chance to win both instances. There were iffy moments in the cage but it wasn’t unlike the rest of the squad.

The biggest concern I had was the amount of shots and chances UMass passed up. This applied more for the UML game but there were times players had clear looks to the net and made a pass instead of firing a shot on net.

I guess the long layoff could be to blame yet the amount of times it happened was uncharacteristic of UMass.

Defensive zone play was another weakness as the Minutemen weren’t sharp enough in coverage at times and made some undisciplined decisions.

Again, it’s difficult to get the motor running again once it’s been dormant for weeks but UMass will have to clean those two areas up moving forward if it wants to replicate the success it had in October through December.

Seeing the power play rediscover it’s groove on Saturday was a positive as that seems to be a driving force behind the Minutemen’s overall success.

The loss to UML was a disappointment, yes, but the response shown on Saturday showed the Minutemen are capable of putting such a loss behind them quickly.

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