UMass looks to bounce back against Merrimack

The Minutemen lost two in a row to Boston College last week

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Chris Tucci/UMass Athletics

By Colin McCarthy, Collegian Staff

After dropping its last two games against Boston College, the Massachusetts hockey team will look to get back on track against Merrimack on Saturday.

So far, this season in Hockey East has been all about flexibility, and that continues as No. 8 UMass (1-2-1) prepares for its third straight weekend against an opponent that was not originally scheduled.

The Minutemen were set to battle New Hampshire, but after one of its players tested positive for COVID-19, the Wildcats were forced to delay their season’s start. Instead, UMass turns its attention to the Warriors.

Head coach Greg Carvel’s focus this week is simple: clean up the mistakes and sloppy play.

“We took a look back over the last four games and we’re seeing some trends,” Carvel said. “We will attack those in practice and discuss what we saw over the weekend.”

And despite allowing 10 goals in the pair of losses, what Carvel did see on the weekend was not all bad for UMass, who played relatively well even in defeat.

“We did a lot of good things,” Carvel said of the BC losses. “Just any time we broke down BC really was opportunistic and took advantage.”

Over the first four games, all of the Minutemen’s forward lines were given good time on the ice. And, just as Carvel said they would before the season started, all four lines contributed offensively.

“I expect that that’s how our offense is going to be,” Carvel said. “It’s crazy to say we lost on Friday night in BC and I think it’s the best we’ve ever played there… It’s probably the most offense we’ve created.”

One line in particular that has stood out for UMass has been the trio of Bobby Trivigno and two freshmen, Oliver MacDonald and Josh Lopina. They opened the season listed as the third line but skyrocketed to the starting forward group thanks to their consistency and efficiency in the offensive zone.

“It was definitely something cool to come into the locker room and see my number up there first line,” Lopina said of the change. “I think it’s huge props to my linemates… We work hard, we’re in the o-zone a lot, we get chances, we score goals. I think it’s just hard work that’s gotten me to where I am now.”

Lopina and MacDonald each have two goals on the year, and while Trivigno has yet to score a lamp lighter, he has four assists through four games.

Defensively, the Minutemen look to regroup after losing two defensemen in their second game against UConn. Reed Lebster also joined Ty Farmer and Marc Del Gaizo on the injury list, and there is not currently a timetable for any of their returns.

“It sucks, I mean obviously having three of your top guys out is tough,” sophomore defenseman Zac Jones said of the injuries. “The thing is with our team if somebody comes out it’s just a time for somebody new to come in.”

Last year in its series against the Warriors, UMass tied the first game 2-2 and picked up a 3-2 victory the following night.

UMass will be getting a lot of its material this week from that series in 2019, as Merrimack has yet to play this season, unlike the Minutemen who have four games under their belt already.

“I know coach Carvel and every single one of us players, we just want to play every weekend,” Matthew Kessel said via zoom. “It definitely is an advantage being able to stay in game shape.”

The puck is set to drop between UMass and Merrimack at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Mullins Center.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @colinmccarth_DC.