UML and AIC kick start the 2019 slate for UMass hockey

Minutemen play twice in 19 hours


Will Katcher/Daily Collegian

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts hockey team returns to the ice this weekend with games against UMass Lowell and American International College, in its first two games of the second semester.

UMass (14-2-0, 7-0-0 Hockey East Association) first hosts the River Hawks (8-8-1, 4-4-1 HEA) Friday night at the Mullins Center, before traveling to Springfield on Saturday for an afternoon matchup against the Yellow Jackets (8-8-1, 8-5-1 Atlantic Hockey Conference).

The Minutemen look to pick up where they left off after a tremendous first half in which they ascended to the top spot in Hockey East as well as the No. 2 ranking in the USCHO poll after 16 games.

Friday’s matchup against UML will mark the 82nd meeting between the two Massachusetts Hockey East public universities. UMass won the last meeting, 3-0, on Feb. 10, however the River Hawks claimed victories in 17 of the previous 19 games between the two clubs.

“I think we’re going to get Lowell’s best game,” coach Greg Carvel said. “They’ve walked over our program for awhile but we’re first place in the league and one of the better teams in the country. If we don’t want to compete with them, we’ll lose.”

UML, a former power in the league, have been mediocre through the first half of the season. Sitting in sixth place, the River Hawks have the fourth-best scoring offense in Hockey East but are middle of the pack in just about every other team statistic.

Ryan Lohin leads UML with 13 points in 13 games played and also serves as the top goal-scorer with six strikes. Tyler Wall has seen much of the action in net for the River Hawks compiling a 2.22 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in 12 games.

Mitchell Chaffee, Jacob Pritchard and Cale Makar remain atop the Minutemen stat sheet with the trio combining for 24 goals and 59 points.

In goal, UMass will counter with Matt Murray, who put together one of the best performances in team history through the first semester.

The sophomore is 11-0-0 with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. Murray is also one of three netminders in the nation who are still undefeated, along with Quinnipiac’s Andrew Shortridge and St. Cloud State’s David Hrenak.

“He looks really good in practice,” Carvel said about his top goalie. “We’ve only had two goalies in practice but I think Matt’s in a real good place.”

Filip Lindberg, the Minutemen’s backup, is representing Team Finland in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

Carvel doesn’t expect his freshman goalie back until UMass’ series against Vermont next weekend.

Saturday, the Minutemen square off against AIC at the MassMutual Center. The Yellow Jackets already have two games under their belt in the second half, splitting a two-game set with Robert Morris Dec. 29-30.

UMass holds a 3-2 record in its prior five games against AIC, including a 3-1 win last season at Mullins.

Blake Christensen leads the Yellow Jackets with 18 points while Tobias Fladeby has registered a team-high nine goals. Zackarias Skog has started the previous six games in net, boasting a 5-1 record during that span.

Puck drop against UML is set for 7 p.m. on Friday before a quick turnaround with a 2 p.m. start time against AIC on Saturday.

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