Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutemen fall flat in semifinal at TD Garden

Minutemen await release of NCAA seedings on Sunday

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Minutemen fall flat in semifinal at TD Garden

(Photo by Jon Asgeirsson)

(Photo by Jon Asgeirsson)

(Photo by Jon Asgeirsson)

(Photo by Jon Asgeirsson)

By Liam Flaherty, Collegian Staff

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BOSTON —The Massachusetts hockey team wasn’t ready to go on Friday night, and it showed.

In its first Hockey East semifinal at TD Garden in over a decade, No. (28-9-0, 18-7-0 HEA) 3 UMass appeared flat from the jump; failing to connect on a majority of its passes, breaks out of the neutral zone to set up its offensive systems, and, uncharacteristically, not showing urgency as the game progressed.

In a game of the highest proportions that should’ve brought out their best, the Minutemen looked lost and weren’t hungry enough to pull out the win. For coach Greg Carvel, a big part of it was experience.

“It’s definitely a factor that we didn’t want to discuss all week with our kids. We didn’t want to give them an excuse,” he said. “But I’m sure most of those kids have played six, eight, ten games here and that’s a distinct advantage. This is a big stage that they’re not used to. It’s like home ice advantage.

“They competed hard and we didn’t. Not many nights this year that I can say we got outcompeted.”

But UMass’ third shutout-loss came down to more than just the Eagles’ (14-21-3, 18-6-0) experience.

After dropping seven of its last eight games to end the regular season, and falling in Game 1 of the quarterfinals, BC captured three straight playoff games en route to the Hockey East Championship.

“They looked like a team playing with a purpose tonight,” Carvel added. “With desperation and the appropriate enthusiasm for a game of this magnitude and my team just wasn’t; very discouraging. It was a big opportunity for our program and honestly, it was one of the poorer games we’ve played this year.”

Although matched up with a red-hot, Cinderella squad, the Minutemen did nothing to help their cause.

“I thought there were a lot of times when our forwards were chipping pucks in on those long passes that they had time and space to make plays,” Carvel said. “I think that really revealed a lot of where we were. Just uncomfortable. In the first period, nobody wanted the puck on their stick. When they got it on their stick, they wouldn’t move their feet. To me, it was glaring how our mindset was so far off tonight.”

Upon the defeat and falling short of their foremost goal, the Hockey East title, UMass awaits its fate in the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced during the Selection Show on Sunday night at 7 p.m.

When asked what the Minutemen need to do before heading out on an even bigger stage, Carvel’s response was simple.

“I don’t think we’ll have to do anything now,” he said. “We all feel pretty bad that we let a great opportunity slide by. I can’t imagine we’ll let that happen twice in a row.”

In fact, UMass has yet to lose back-to-back contests throughout its entire 37-game schedule to date.

“I would hope we learn a lot from tonight,” Carvel added. “We just spoke as a team. The kids are upset about it and some kids stepped up in the locker room and said, ‘It’s unacceptable that some guys weren’t ready to play. So, again, we’ll learn from it and maybe, in the long run, it’ll be a good thing.”

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.

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