No. 3 UMass hockey set for top-10 matchup with Northeastern

Northeastern beat UMass earlier this year

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No. 3 UMass hockey set for top-10 matchup with Northeastern

Parker Peters

Parker Peters

Parker Peters

By Noah Bortle, Assistant Sports Editor

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Just over two weeks removed from a 3-1 loss in Boston, the Massachusetts hockey team will travel back to Matthews Arena on Friday for the first of a two-game weekend series with No. 10 Northeastern.

“That was our second game of the year,” coach Greg Carvel said. “It was really early to have to play a league game on the road against a good team.”

Since UMass (4-1, 0-1 Hockey East) lost to the Huskies (4-1-1, 1-0 HEA), the Minutemen have won three straight games. Northeastern, on the other hand, has gone 1-1-1 during that stretch, with the loss coming at the hands of No. 14 St. Cloud State.

“I think we’ve grown in the two weeks since we’ve played them,” Carvel said. “I expect a much better team effort on Friday night.”

The weekend’s series features two top-10 teams looking to get off to a strong start to the heart of their HEA schedule.

“They’re a very skillful team,” sophomore winger Bobby Trivigno said. “We have to play to more of our advantages. We just need to work hard and out-will this team pretty much.”

In the team’s first matchup at Matthews, UMass struggled to get its feet under them. The smaller sheet of ice Northeastern plays on gave the Minutemen trouble getting the puck through the neutral zone.

“You have to simplify your game,” defenseman Ty Farmer said of the smaller sheet at Northeastern. “If you’re a forward, if you’re a defenseman—even if you’re a goalie—you have to think differently. It changes a lot of things out there.”

The teams will bring the series back to Amherst on Saturday for a matchup on the larger Mullins Center ice. UMass has been tough to beat at home, dating back to last year. The Minutemen ride a 13-game home winning streak that stretches across to last season.

Friday’s game will be played without either Del Gaizo brother for UMass. Anthony Del Gaizo will sit out Friday’s contest serving a one-game suspension for a hit that got him ejected against American International, while Marc Del Gaizo is expected to miss the weekend with an injury. Carvel described Marc’s injury as “week-to-week.”

Gianfranco Cassaro will likely step back into the lineup on defense with Marc Del Gaizo out. With Cassaro back in the lineup, the Minutemen will return to skating three freshmen on the back end.

“It’s definitely weird, learning a new system, being on a new team,” Farmer said. “I was there last year. I can totally feel where they’re coming from, but a month into the season they’ve looked great. We have a good freshman class.”

With Anthony Del Gaizo out of the lineup, an opportunity appears to be open for someone on the first line between Oliver Chau and Mitchell Chaffee. Carvel didn’t lend any hints as to who might replace Del Gaizo on the first line, however.

Northeastern features one of the top scoring threats in the country in sophomore Tyler Madden. Through the Huskies’ six games, Madden has netted five goals, seventh-most in the country.

Craig Pantano started in net for all six of Northeastern’s games so far. The Merrimack transfer has been stellar for the Huskies thus far, sporting a .947 save percentage and a 1.32 goals-against average.

“It’ll come down to the battle level,” Carvel said. “It’ll come down to winning battles and good puck decisions and not making the game hard on yourself…because they always have enough skill level to make you pay for it.”

Friday’s game is set to begin at 7 p.m. at Matthews Arena, with Saturday’s game slated for an 8 p.m. puck drop in Amherst.

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