Desperation serving UMass hockey’s recent second period play well

Minutemen scored half of their goals in the middle frame at the Northeast Regionals

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By Ryan Ames, Collegian Staff

Four of the eight total goals the Massachusetts hockey team scored in the NCAA Northeast Regionals came during the second period.

In what was UMass’ (30-9-0) weakest period for the majority of the season, the middle stanza recently has powered the Minutemen during their postseason run.

UMass has scored 45 goals in the second period, matching their total output scored in the first period and slightly trailing its third period total at 54 goals.

Coach Greg Carvel has stressed starting strong in these playoffs and this past weekend UMass did, even without contributing in the goals department. Against Notre Dame, the Minutemen outplayed the Fighting Irish from the drop of the puck and carried that momentum into the second without tallying any goals.

“I think it’s probably more of the urgency and desperation because we were finally in a lose-and-go-home situation,” Carvel said. “That’s how we hoped they would respond after the BC loss because it was a bad pattern that was happening there. We lost to UConn, we got down 3-0 to UConn, we got down 3-0 to UNH, we were a team that needed to be in desperate situations.”

UMass hasn’t had to play desperately compared to most other teams because they had the NCAA tournament slot to fall back on. Now that the Minutemen are in the thick of the national tournament, they fully realize a loss puts an end to their season.

“I think part of playing an elimination game is we don’t want the season to end, we’re leaving it all out there for a whole 60 minutes,” Jake Gaudet said. “We had a really successful start to both games in the first period.”

At the onset and through the middle portion of the season, UMass had tremendous first periods that would essentially put the game away in the Minutemen’s favor after just 20 minutes. As the season progressed, that trend proved harder and harder to withstand as opposing teams started games better and better.

The loss against the Eagles in the Hockey East semifinals proved to be a wakeup call for UMass in that it’s style of play needed to change moving forward and it couldn’t just rely on goals to get the momentum going.

“I think it was a huge learning experience for us and I think we played a team that was desperate, it was the end of their season,” Gaudet said. “But for us, a lot of us were trying to maybe do a bit too much, kind of creating a bigger image in our heads than it was.

“But I think coming away from that game now, it’s like you know what, we just got to focus on the things you can control and just focus on playing on hockey, the rest of it doesn’t really matter,” Gaudet added. “It’s going to come if you win but for the most part just play your game and hopefully keep the season going as long as you can.”

That focused game plan was evident in Manchester as the Minutemen didn’t let the fact that it couldn’t score in the first period sink them. In fact, the opposite proved to be true as both second periods swung each game in UMass’ favor.

“It’s been a tough year, mentally and psychologically, to be the team at the top of our league,” Carvel said. “It’s where you want to be, but it’s not necessarily easy. It’s not like you’re just winning every game. You’re always trying to figure out how to keep the team up, what buttons to push, messaging.”

Now that the Minutemen are set to appear in their first ever Frozen Four next week, they know that sticking to the standard that has made them successful is just as important as having the right mindset.

“That’s kind of been our memo the whole year,” Gaudet said. “No one picked us, we were picked to be sixth in Hockey East, Carvy talks about that a lot, the rest is proving people wrong. We did that last weekend and we’re hoping to do that again this weekend.”

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