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

UMass gearing up for pivotal top-20 showdown with rival UMass Lowell

Hockey East standing riding on the line in home-and-home
Nina Walat

After a much-needed week off, the Massachusetts hockey team is gearing up for a major weekend. With only five games left in the season, two huge tilts with Hockey East rival UMass Lowell await.

Revitalized from the break, after surviving the gauntlet to kick off the second half, it’s go time.

“I think the bye week came at a nice time for us,” coach Greg Carvel said. “I can feel the energy of the group, we had a couple banged up guys, so I think it was a great bye week, I think we used it well. I think I can feel the energy of the group is replenished.”

Currently tied atop the conference with Boston College with 24 points, the Minutemen (18-9-2, 11-6-2 HEA) need as many of the four points as they can get this weekend, but it won’t be easy.

In their two meetings last season, the River Hawks (15-9-5, 9-6-4 HEA) had No. 8 UMass’ number, winning both matchups in suffocating fashion, one of which was their only home loss of the season.

Plus, in his fourth season at the helm, Lowell’s Tsongas Center is the only remaining Hockey East barn where Carvel has yet to win a game. On Friday, the Minutemen look at reverse that trend.

“The guys that were here in the past know what’s at stake,” John Leonard said. “They’ve beaten us a few times in our building and in theirs, so I know that we’re all fired up for this weekend, for sure.”

Currently, UML is ranked 14th in the nation and is tied for fourth place in Hockey East with 22 points.

Last weekend, the River Hawks were on the receiving end of a sweep by No. 10 Northeastern. Conversely, before they got the week off, UMass dealt a dominant sweep to No. 15 Providence.

“Lowell, obviously, lost two games — not so sure they deserved to lose two games, so they’ll be hungry,” Carvel said. “At this point in the year, points are huge.”

UML is driven in scoring by its surging trio of freshmen, Matt Brown, Carl Berglund and Andre Lee. Senior and Alaska native Kenny Hausinger also provides a chunk of the scoring punch.

In the grand scheme of things, however, Lowell has scored the second-fewest goals in all of Hockey East this season with 76, only beating out last-place Vermont. They’ve been offset in other areas.

Between the pipes, Tyler Wall has been a stalwart in his senior campaign. In 27 appearances, all starts, the 22-year-old netminder boasts a 2.09 goals-against average and a career-high .930 save percentage. Aided by his play, the River Hawks’ have allowed the third-least goals in Hockey East.

For the Minutemen, the keys to the series will be sticking to the details. They showed a lot of positive signs when they broke out of their three-game slump against the Friars, and both Filip Lindberg and Matt Murray continued to prove their worth for the starting position in the net.

The offense returned to life and the back end suppressed a powerful offense. If they can do it again against another dangerous team, they’ll be in a good position heading into the final three games, as the race for first place in the ever-competitive Hockey East tightens with each passing weekend.

Right now, it’s anybody’s race to win, and UMass is still very much in the hunt in the final stretch.

“I’m fired up,” Leonard said on Tuesday. “I think it’s the point of the year that everyone looks forward to. Hockey East is real tight right now, so this is huge for us. I know we’re looking forward to it.”

“It’s a big weekend,” Carvel added. “Hopefully we look like an energized team, we’re going to need it.”

Puck drop is set for 7:15 p.m. on Friday in Lowell and 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Mullins Center.

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

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