UMass focusing on scoring first in upcoming series with New Hampshire

Minutemen strive to be ready right from the drop of the puck against the Wildcats

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UMass focusing on scoring first in upcoming series with New Hampshire

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

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When the Massachusetts hockey team is at its peak, everything is clicking. Passes are tape-to-tape, pucks are sticking to the goalie and goals are scored in bunches.

If things are really rolling, the first goal of the game is from the Minutemen. Out of the 34 regular season games played this season, No. 3 (26-8-0, 18-6-0 Hockey East Association) UMass scored first 23 times and finished with a 21-2-0 record in those games.

In the Minutemen’s 4-3 loss to UConn last Friday, not only did the Huskies score the first goal, but they scored the next two as well in a game that took UMass 38 minutes to get going. The Minutemen tied the score but dropped the game on the next UConn shot.

Afterward, coach Greg Carvel expressed his displeasure with the uninspiring start and how he felt it was a major factor in the disappointing loss.

With New Hampshire coming to town for the quarterfinal round of the Hockey East playoffs this week, starting on time will be key and scoring the first goal will be a good indicator of whether or not UMass came to play.

“I think scoring the first goal in the game might be the most telling stat,” Carvel said. “Scoring the first goal of the game usually tells you which team came prepared to play, which team came ready to compete. We’ve overcome it a few times but in the playoffs, I think that’s going to be tough to overcome. That’ll be an indicator of where we’re at, I think we’ll be ready to go.”

When the Minutemen don’t score first, they possess a 5-6-0 record. In the final 10 regular season games, UMass only scored first in half of them.

“It’s going to happen throughout the whole week that we gotta be ready and we gotta be prepared that we’re going into the game and that we’re not going to give up the first goal,” Mitchell Chaffee said. “We can’t sit back, we got to be going from the drop of the puck.”

At this point in the season, the intensity of every game rises and because of that, scoring becomes tighter. There aren’t many final scores with multiple-goal leads once the postseason rolls around so that first goal can sway the momentum more so than in the regular season.

During last year’s Hockey East playoffs, 14 of the 18 games played were one-goal games, including three of the five Minutemen contests.

“The team that scores the first goal scores it because they came ready to play,” Carvel said. “You come into the game carrying this intensity and this focus and it usually gets you to score the first goal and the second goal and [so] on.”

It might be even more important to pot that initial goal against the Wildcats (12-13-9, 8-10-6 HEA) since they went 4-10-5 in the regular season when surrendering the first tally.

“You can kind of get caught if you get later on in the game without scoring but definitely, scoring the [first] goal is huge,” Chaffee added. “We’ve looked in the past, we’ve gotten scored on first a lot and it hasn’t affected us, but we would like to be the one scoring first.”

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