UMass looks to fix power play issues heading into UNH game

Power play percentage 36th in the country

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UMass looks to fix power play issues heading into UNH game

Parker Peters

Parker Peters

Parker Peters

By Noah Bortle, Assistant Sports Editor

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After finishing last season with the best power play unit in the country, the Massachusetts hockey team now sits 36th in the NCAA, scoring on just 14.8 percent of its chances.

Four power play goals on 27 tries has prompted the Minutemen (6-1, 2-1 Hockey East) and coach Greg Carvel to turn their attention to improving that facet of the special teams.

“We get on the power play and we stop working,” Carvel said. “We do better at five on five in the offensive zone than we do on the power play…So our power play is pretty much ineffective.”

After scoring on 28.5 percent of power plays in their Frozen Four run a year ago, this season has seen UMass look less than stellar. After losing Cale Makar from the first power play unit, somewhat of a drop-off could’ve been expected. However, with the increase in scoring depth, the hope was for the Minutemen to feature two even-skilled power play lines, but their lack of success thus far is forcing a change.

“We thought we could have two pretty balanced units,” Carvel said, “but it looks like we’re going to go back to maybe one—heavy on one unit.”

The absence of Marc Del Gaizo has been felt heavily on the power play. While important in nearly all facets of the game, Del Gaizo’s offensive ability made him a key cog in what Carvel hoped the power play unit specifically could do this year.

“It’s a little bit of personnel,” Carvel said of the power play struggles, “and, you know, missing Marc.”

Even with the downturn in power play productivity, the Minutemen haven’t seen the same downturn in their overall offense. With 4.43 goals per game, UMass stands sixth in the country in scoring. That same offensive firepower just has yet to manifest itself for the Minuteman power play units.

“5-on-5, we hold the puck in [the offensive zone] for 30 seconds at a time,” Carvel said. “We get on the power play and nobody wants to really work for the puck.”

While seven games are a small sample size and the Minutemen could easily adjust solve their power play woes, the elite 5-on-4 unit from a year ago avoided such a stretch. In their first seven games, UMass featured a 26.7 power play percentage.

On Sunday, UMass heads to Durham, where the Wildcats (4-2-1, 2-1-0 HEA) feature a middle of the road penalty kill. Through seven games, UNH sports an 83.3 penalty kill percentage, tied for 28th in the country. Their pedestrian penalty kill could offer the Minutemen an opportunity to break out of their power play slump.

One difficulty UMass may face trying to breakthrough on the power play is getting themselves in man-advantage situations at all. The Wildcats don’t go to the box very often. In their seven games, UNH has served only 24 penalties, ranking ninth in the NCAA.

UMass and its reworked power play will have the chance to improve on the slow start to the season Sunday afternoon. The puck drop with the Wildcats is set for 1 p.m. in Durham.

“For some reason I’m not worried about it,” Carvel said. “Although we haven’t scored much, there’s a lot of things I like. I think once we get a couple, they’ll start coming.”

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