College hockey fans got their first taste of the new Hockey East overtime rules, as the Massachusetts men’s hockey team was defeated by UConn 3-2 in a shootout.
Head coach Greg Carvel and the minutemen (1-0-1, 1-0-1 HEA) have put an emphasis on the defensive side heading into the weekend, and it showed early as they held the Huskies (1-1, 1-1 HEA) scoreless for the first 50 minutes of hockey.
UConn, however, broke through midway through the period with its first goal, and found the back of the net again on a shorthanded chance just a few minutes later to even the game at two apiece.
“The 5-on-3 kill for us in the third was huge,” Carvel said following the loss. “But then to give up a shorthanded goal to let them tie the game was disarming.”
That carried the game into overtime, where the Minutemen and the Huskies battled 3 on 3 for five minutes. And after a UMass goal was reviewed and waved off, UConn was able to get the better of Lindberg in the first shootout in Hockey East history.
“First shootout experience for us, I thought we had won in overtime,” Carvel said. “Wasn’t good enough, got called back.”
UMass struggled late defensively in part because it lost two of its defenders, one early on in the game and another in the second period. Even with less men, the minutemen defense held strong for the majority of the night.
Offensively, UMass got off the blocks early thanks to a power play goal by Matthew Kessel just 3:25 into the first period.
Philip Lagunov would add another tally to the board midway through the first. After his goal, the Minutemen were unable to find the back of the net despite plenty of opportunities down the stretch.
“I thought we still had a lot of good scoring chances,” Carvel said. “It was an entertaining game, came down to a shootout, and they won.”
Despite the loss, Carvel did not seem down on his team at all. Playing their first game on the road and battling in the new overtime format, there was plenty to learn from the loss.
“It was the first experience, but we have spent a lot of time talking about philosophy,” Carvel said. “I was happy with the way the 3 on 3 was played. Would’ve been nice to win with that goal that was disallowed.”
Surely a nail biter game finishing in a shootout would have UConn fans out of control. But even without all the electricity in the stands, there is still plenty of excitement on the rink to make up for it.
“You find once the games start it doesn’t really matter if there’s people in the stands,” Carvel said. “My players are grateful that they get to play, so it was an enjoyable weekend. Not for a second did I sit there thinking this is no fun cause there’s no fans. It was very good college hockey.”
Question marks lie on the road ahead for UMass, after Vermont delayed their season’s start. The minutemen were slated to play them on the weekend of Nov. 27.
Still, it would be difficult to imagine UMass not filling in an opponent for that slot, seeing as athletic director Ryan Bamford put together the UConn series shortly after Maine cancelled on them.
As of now, you can expect to see the minutemen back in action by Dec. 4, where they are set for another home and home against New Hampshire.
Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @colinmccarth_DC.