Penalties come back to bite UMass in 4-3 OT loss to BU

UMass let in just one power play goal

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Noah Bortle, Sports Editor

Monday afternoon, the Massachusetts hockey team held Boston University to 1-for-7 on the power play. The stat line doesn’t fall far out of line with UMass’ season-long numbers on the penalty kill—a unit that ranked fourth in the country coming into the weekend.

It is, however, the number of penalties that have been alarming to the Minutemen and coach Greg Carvel and what proved the downfall in their 4-3 OT loss.

“Against a team that has a good power play, you lose your momentum,” Carvel said about his team taking penalties. “I thought we were playing tremendously well…you lose momentum.”

UMass (9-5-1, 9-5-1 Hockey East) might have an elite penalty killing unit but killing nearly 90 percent of penalties doesn’t matter when the Minutemen are going to the box as often as they are.

Coming into the series, UMass had the most penalty kill opportunities in the country and the 10th-most penalty kill opportunities per game. That number only climbed as the Minutemen served 13 penalties across the two losses against BU (3-1-0, 3-1-0 HEA).

Monday’s loss showed the harm that excess penalty minutes can cause. After killing off all four penalties it’d faced and holding a 3-1 lead, UMass went to the box to start to the third.

Jake Gaudet was issued a game misconduct and the Minutemen were forced to serve a five-minute major for a hit to the head just 35 seconds into the closing frame. The Terriers wasted no time, pulling the game within one goal just 15 seconds into their man advantage. Then, with momentum squarely on its side, BU struck again soon after the penalty seconds ticked away to knot the game.

The five-minute major, while an extreme example, showed what could happen to UMass when getting sent to the box too often; teams can flip momentum and get back in games that looked all but over.

After all, it looked as though the Minutemen had the game in hand heading into the third and the numbers seem to show a similar story. Despite the loss, the maroon and white still heavily outshot BU, controlling much of the game 5-on-5.

More disappointing than the numbers of penalties UMass has been taking is the types of penalties.

“I think that five-minute major was the only penalty that was anything kind of [based on physicality],” Carvel said. “I don’t think we had a roughing or charging or anything like that. We had some stick penalties. The five-minute major is a head shot. That’s a place where we don’t need a guy to be physical.”

Granted, the Minutemen’s penalty kill is still near the top of the country and cutting down on the sheer numbers of penalties should help UMass rebound from the weekend sweep.

Noah Bortle can be reached at [email protected] He can be followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.