Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

No. 7 UMass set for weekend series against UNH

UMass sits in first place in Hockey East
(Nina Walat/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts hockey team moved into first place in the Hockey East with a sweep of Vermont this past weekend. UMass looks to sustain its conference lead with yet another Hockey East series this weekend against New Hampshire.

“As of today, we’re in first place,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “And as of next Monday we want to be in first place.”

The Minutemen’s (16-7-1, 8-2-1 HEA) home-and-home against UNH (12-9-1, 6-6-0 HEA) in what serves as a rematch of a game that the Wildcats won 3-1 back in November.

“We didn’t start strong,” Carvel said. “The first two periods weren’t great. I think we went into the third period down 1-0. I think we outshot them badly, had a ton of chances and couldn’t score.

“Sometimes you need a full 60 minutes to find a way to win. Early in the year that wasn’t the case, I think that was a 20-minute game, and there were others where we were playing 40 and 50-minute games, recently we’ve been better and playing more consistently.”

Since the mid-November matchup, UNH has moved toward more a two-goalie system with sophomore Ty Taylor splitting more time with Mike Robinson.

Four of Taylor’s seven starts in net have come since the new year, an even split of the team’s eight games. On the season, Taylor posted a 6-1 record and a 2.54 goals against average.

The Wildcats offense is led by Angus Crookshank whose 12 goals pace the team. Forward Charlie Kelleher and defenseman Max Gildon lead UNH in points with 21 and 18 respectively.

With a lack of consistent top-end scoring, the Wildcats have been plagued by inconsistent play this season. With losses to 13-loss Bentley, 11-loss Michigan and 16-loss Merrimack on their resume, it might appear as though UNH has struggled so far this year. However, the Wildcats have a 4-2 record against ranked opponents including their defeat of UMass.

To avoid a similar fate to their last game against UNH, the focus for the Minutemen is on playing a complete game against a team that has proven capable of beating the best teams in the country.

“The games where we haven’t done too well, we’ve just been inconsistent throughout the whole game, not playing a full 60 minutes,” freshman d-man Matthew Kessel said. “So just kind of giving effort throughout the whole entire practice is a big thing, staying checked-in. Then it hopefully just transfers to the game.”

Although a 3-1 defeat might not have been the result UMass hoped for in its first game against the Wildcats, there are some positive takeaways for the Minutemen from having a certain level of familiarity with this weekend’s opponent.

“Just like knowing their forecheck, knowing what to expect definitely can help to some extent,” Kessel said. “But, for the most part I think it just comes down to how we compete and if we compete well, I think the results will be good for us.”

One area of concern for UMass this season has been its special teams, especially the team’s power play unit that ranks 51st out of 60 teams nationwide. After a weekend in which Carvel noted improved play on the man-advantage, the Minutemen will look to build on that success against UNH this weekend.

The Wildcats have struggle when a man down. UNH features the third-worst penalty kill in the country at just 71.3 percent. The unit hasn’t been any better of late after a weekend of killing just 66 percent of penalties against Providence.

“We want to stay first place obviously, keep winning games” Kessel said. “That’s our goal, to win Hockey East, so just keep progressing through that.”

“The chip on our shoulder is we’re trying to defend our regular season title,” Carvel said, “and we need to win every game.”

Friday’s game is at the Mullins Center set for 7 p.m. puck drop. Saturday, the two teams head back to Durham with another 7 p.m. start time.

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

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