Flaherty: No. 7 UMass playing better than January record indicates

The Minutemen are 4-4-1 since returning from winter break

Collegian File Photo

By Liam Flaherty, Assistant Sports Editor

Sometimes, records can be deceiving.

From the outside looking in, a 4-4-1 record to start the second half, with just three wins in January, could spell future trouble for the Massachusetts hockey team. But on the inside, it’s actually quite the opposite — it’s not like the sky is falling.

Not even close.

Despite the four losses and a tie since the second half began Dec. 29, the Minutemen (16-8-2, 9-5-2 Hockey East) have performed up to par against several high-end teams and a great deal of travel.

They lost two hard-fought games against Denver in Colorado, kept up with Boston College in a home-and-home split, took care of business with two grind-it-out wins on the road against UVM and, most recently, earned a key point against a New Hampshire team that’s much improved this season.

Coach Greg Carvel doesn’t see the last month as too much adversity. When it comes down to it, it’s just good hockey between good teams; nothing unusual for a team chasing the conference crown.

“I’ve been happy with the team,” Carvel said on Tuesday. “Every game since we’ve been back. We’ve played consistent. Just playing good teams and it’s not easy to win. Some nights it’s really hard to win.”

Granted, there are some things that need to be addressed moving forward, like the power play and figuring out consistent forward lines to dress on a nightly basis, but, still, No. 7 UMass is doing fine.

“Every game’s tough, UNH is a good hockey team, but I give my guys credit,” Carvel added. “We found a way to get a point on the road in a game where five minutes [left] we hadn’t scored. Sure, I’d love to win every game, but I don’t consider this adversity. Every game down the stretch is going to be tight. If we need to win 5-0 for it not to be adversity, then we’re going to have adversity the rest of the way.”

As for the season-long struggles with the man advantage, Carvel is optimistic the production will show up at some point in the coming weeks, citing the sheer amount of talent the unit possesses.

If the gears start turning on the power play soon, it would be the perfect boost at the perfect time.

“It’s a normal course of a season, you go through ups and downs,” he said. “You can have parts of your game that are really going, sometimes your goaltending’s not going, sometimes your power play’s not going – we attack it, whatever it is. We play in a really good league, it’s tough to win.”

With eight games left, things are about to pick up, and it all starts Friday with the No. 5 Eagles.

Heading into the season’s rubber-match with BC, it’ll come down to 20 individuals doing their jobs.

“You look at the games last weekend and it’s just like that little extra that could change the game,” Bobby Trivigno said. “Those were really close games and we do one thing wrong that leads to a goal. So, it’s just everyone doing all the right things. There’s no shifts off, no plays off, nothing like that. That’s the margin right now. It’s so small that as soon as we close that gap, we’ll be winning games.”

Trivigno echoed Carvel’s sentiments of it being a good sign the team is playing as well as it has been against high caliber opponents, all the while working tirelessly to fix the struggling power play.

“We know we’re not firing on all cylinders,” Trivigno said. “We’re 4-4-1 and we’re not at our best, so it’s almost encouraging to us that once our power play gets going, once we have all 20 guys that are playing the same way out there, everyone’s going and doing the right things, we should take off.”

In other words, everything’s fine, and if the power play can get a rhythm going, it’ll be even more so.

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.