No. 7 UMass unable to score the ugly goal in Friday’s loss against UNH

The Minutemen went 0-for-5 on the power play in the 1-0 defeat

By Liam Flaherty, Assistant Sports Editor

For the second time this year, the Massachusetts hockey team was slowed down by New Hampshire.

Trailing 1-0 with seven seconds remaining and Matt Murray on the bench, the Minutemen (16-8-1, 9-5-1 Hockey East) put together one last attempt to pot the equalizer, but to no avail as UNH netminder Mike Robinson shut the door, handing UMass its first shutout loss since April.

The final seconds were a microcosm of the whole night for the Minutemen, who were helpless to impose their presence in the offensive zone and score a dirty goal by disrupting the goalie’s eyes.

Thanks to Will MacKinnon’s second-period one-timer, the Wildcats (13-9-1, 7-6-0 HEA) came out victorious in the first half of the weekend set, marking UMass’ third home loss of the season.

“The game went as I expected,” Greg Carvel said. “When we played up at UNH earlier in the year it was a pretty tight checking, low scoring game and the difference in that game was they scored a point shot and we didn’t block it. Same way tonight. They get a shot from the point; we don’t block it and we just couldn’t get to the net to find a puck on our stick.”

The power play struggles continued in a big way for the Minutemen, as well. They went 0-for-5 on the man advantage with six shots. UNH went 0-2 with only one shot on the power play, but MacKinnon’s second of the season slipped past Murray’s left shoulder at even strength to make the difference.

“We were lucky a couple of pucks didn’t go in our net too,” said Carvel, alluding to two other chances the Wildcats had in the goal crease. “I think we had the shot advantage and maybe the chance advantage but again our power play was unproductive, just couldn’t score an ugly goal.”

The game started with a slow first period that saw both teams combine for just 10 shots early on.

“First period was very — as a staff, we all felt the same — it didn’t feel like our team,” Carvel said, “the way we usually play. But I thought we came out in the second, third, we were better.

In the early stages of the second, the Minutemen saw their best chance of the night slip away, as Robinson stoned Bobby Trivigno’s penalty shot attempt that came from a slash off a breakaway.

“We came out in the second and we were really good for the first five, six, seven minutes,” Carvel said. “We had the hemmed in and we needed to score there, then we took a penalty.”

Minutes later, MacKinnon’s decisive one-timer through traffic made it 1-0.

UMass came close in the final minutes but just didn’t do enough to get one through Robinson.

“We had a tough time getting inside,” Carvel said. “They kept us to the outside pretty well. They defended pretty well tonight. I was impressed. We just got to work harder, find ways – they did a good job. They neutralized us more than most teams in this building, so job well done by them.”

Within an hour of the final horn sounding, the Minutemen boarded their bus to get to Durham by the end of the night before the rematch in their final regular season meeting against the Wildcats.

Carvel noted the importance of getting more ugly chances in the back half on Saturday, and beyond.

“The understanding that every game we have left is going to be like this,” he said. “Every game’s going to be tight. We have a team that, especially last year, could create a lot of offense using our speed and our skill, and some nights it’s not going to be that easy. Tonight, is one of those nights.

“We have to have a bit of our identity be that we’re just going to throw everything at the net and be there and hope it bounces on our stick. Again, we talk about it, we work on it, we practice, and there’s certain parts of our game we’re good at, and scoring ugly goals is not one of them.”

Puck drops at 7 p.m. at the Whittemore Center.

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