UMass starting to find offensive groove in win over Vermont

The Minutemen have found scoring from 12 different players already this season

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Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Collegian Staff

The focus of the Massachusetts hockey team’s offense has not wavered so far this season: Score by committee.

In Saturday’s 4-0 win over Vermont (0-1, 0-1 Hockey East), that remained the case for No. 10 UMass (3-3-1, 3-3-1 HEA). It has seen scoring come from all four forward lines and has gotten a lot of help from its backend as well.

The Minutemen were unable to register a goal in the first period, although they took 15 shots and generated plenty of scoring opportunities.

“We talked about being around the front of the net,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said of the adjustments after the first period. “That’s an area that we’re always trying to focus on and we always need to be better at.”

That focus helped UMass very quickly in the second frame, as some action in front of the net helped Cal Kiefiuk slip one past Tyler Harmon to notch the first goal of the night for the Minutemen.

Kiefiuk added an assist later in the game to finish with two points, and he is expected to ramp up the offensive production more as the season progresses.

“He’s probably the most skilled, best hands, he’s the best with the puck of our forwards,” Carvel said. “But he needs to be pushed… He’s a very capable player of getting points, and we need that.”

And despite a heavy dose of freshmen scoring so far this season, Saturday was powered by upperclassmen. The senior pairing of Jake Gaudet and Oliver Chau combined to make a shorthanded goal look easy near the end of the second period.

UMass’ third goal of the night came from Matthew Kessel in a similar fashion to the first of the night. A couple of Catamount defenders crowded the crease and Oliver MacDonald screened Harmon in front as well.

There were some questions about how potent the Minutemen offense would be this season, having lost John Leonard, the leading goal scorer in college hockey last year, as well as Mitchell Chafee.

“We don’t have high end finishers this year like we’ve had in the past,” Carvel said. “We knew that was going to be the case.”

Understanding this has helped UMass develop a more rounded approach to its offense. It has been stressed since the beginning that although there may not be a Hobey Baker nominee coming out of the group this year, there is enough offense to win games, as long as the defense does its job.

In seven games this season, 12 different Minutemen have lit the lamp. At this point last season, only nine different players scored goals for UMass, despite scoring 31 total goals in 2019 through seven contests, compared to 22 this year.

So even though the offense has understandably taken a step back, the plan to involve everybody in the scoring has worked to this point.

And with a decisive win on both sides of the puck against Vermont, the Minutemen will have an opportunity to build their momentum on offense on Sunday for the second half of their double header against the Catamounts.

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