After Northeastern loss, UMass hockey looks ahead to Union

Union comes in 0-4 on the year

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After Northeastern loss, UMass hockey looks ahead to Union

By Noah Bortle, Assistant Sports Editor

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Following a midweek loss to No. 15 Northeastern, the Massachusetts hockey team turns its sights to a weekend series against non-conference foe Union.

The Dutchmen (0-4) come into this weekend’s series without a win. Despite nothing to show for the efforts, Union has played teams close, losing their last three games by one goal each.

“They’re very well coached,” coach Greg Carvel said. “They always play hard, they play right.”

The non-conference series gives the Minutemen (1-1, 0-1 Hockey East) an opportunity to put together some early season momentum coming off the 3-1 loss on the road to Northeastern.

“I enjoy playing against [Union coach Rick Bennett]’s teams because they don’t flop around,” Carvel said. “They play the game hard and you know you’re going to have to play well to beat them, they don’t beat themselves.”

Although the Dutchmen sport a winless record, they have faced a tough schedule to start the year. Most notably, Union lost two games at home this past weekend to Northeastern, both by a 2-1 margin.

One thing holding the Dutchman back early in the season has been the amount of time they have spent on the penalty kill. Through four games, Union averages six penalties a game, including nine last week against the Huskies. While the Dutchmen have struggled to stay out of the penalty box thus far, their penalty kill has been up to the challenge for the most part. On 22 power plays, opponents have scored just four goals, good for a .182 penalty kill percentage.

Offensively, Union has scored seven goals in four games. Excluding a three-goal effort in their opening night loss to Boston University, the Dutchman have struggled on the score sheet.

Hurting the Union offense is its lack of top-end scorers. The Dutchman feature two NHL draft picks, forwards Jack Adams and Parker Foo, but neither has skated yet this season. Their absence has forced the scoring gap to be filled elsewhere.

If the Dutchmen are to score goals this weekend, they’ll need to find goals from younger players in their lineup. On top of having two NHL draftees out to start the year, Union lost five of its top seven scorers from a year ago, a season that saw them go 20-13-6.

Through two games, the top six forwards for UMass have also struggled to score. Outside of Mitchell Chaffee’s three points, the only other Minuteman from the top six to record a point is Philip Lagunov. Freshman accounted for four of UMass’ six goals so far while Cal Kiefiuk and Zac Jones have also added assists.

“It’s not just the top six, it’s the whole team,” Carvel said. “Everybody needs to be better. We all understand—its not just the players, the staff, coaches, myself. I take the lead in that.”

Carvel declined to name a starting goaltender for Friday. In the past the UMass has played the hot hand in net. Following the loss to Northeastern, Carvel praised junior goaltender Matt Murray’s play.

“I thought Matt played really well,” Carvel said. “He kept the score in check in the second period to allow us to come into the third with a chance to play.”

Union counters the Minutemen with Darion Hanson in net. The junior goaltender comes into the weekend with a 3.53 goals against average and an .889 save percentage for the year.

UMass will continue to play without Marc Del Gaizo as he recovers from offseason surgery. Carvel circled Oct. 25th against American International as his expected return date.

With Del Gaizo out, the Minutemen have leaned on their freshman defenseman to carry part of the load.

“We’re playing three freshmen [defenseman],” Carvel said following Tuesday’s game. “It’s tough. We’re missing Marc Del Gaizo right now, which is a big hole in the back end and we’re doing our best, but we look like an immature team on the back end right now.”

Friday night will be UMass’ first of three non-conference home games they’ll play over the next two weeks.

“To be an NCAA [Tournament] team, which is our goal,” Carvel said, “you need to take care of business at home and you have to win your non-conference games.”

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. for both Friday and Saturday’s contests.

Noah Bortle can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.