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 hosts Maine in regular season finale on Friday afternoon

A win could prove crucial for the Minutemen’s HEA Tournament seed
Nina Walat / Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts hockey team is slated to finish off its regular season at home, meeting Maine for the first time this season on Friday.

No. 6 UMass (13-5-3, 13-5-3 Hockey East) is riding a four-game win streak into the afternoon clash, including an 8-1 win over Providence in its return from an athletics-wide pause, and most recently a 3-2 overtime win over then No. 1 Boston College.

On the other side, the Black Bears (3-10-1, 3-10-1 HEA) have not had the season they hoped for but are coming off of a series spilt against Connecticut. And regardless of record or standings, Minutemen coach Greg Carvel knows better than to overlook Maine this weekend.

“They’re a big heavy team,” Carvel said on Tuesday. “It’s underappreciated how much skill they have, they have one of the better power plays. I watched them play, they can score.”

A win on Friday will be huge in building momentum towards the HEA Tournament next week and could pay dividends towards seeding of the NCAA Tournament as well.

UMass currently holds the No. 3 seed but is only behind No. 2 seed Boston University by .05 in the Hockey East Power Index. Because of that, this weekend’s game against the Black Bears, as well as the Terriers matchup with UMass Lowell, will be the deciding factor for who gets home ice for longer in the postseason.

“The difference between finishing second and third is really important as far as who would host a semifinal game if everything broke down as it should,” Carvel said. “We just have to take care of our own business and let things play out.”

Things have played out well for the Minutemen as of late, particularly on the offensive side of the puck. An all-around team effort has pushed the goal scoring to much higher heights than had been anticipated at the beginning of the season.

“I think we have a really hard-working group of guys who help each other succeed,” Carson Gicewicz said. “We rarely have highlight reel goals. I think a lot of the goals our team has scored this year have been tap in goals or goals where we’ve gotten a lot of help from our teammates.”

Gicewicz has been on the receiving end of a lot of that help from his teammates, as he leads UMass with 12 goals this season, his most recent coming in the closing stages of Friday’s contest at B.C. to tie the game.

On the defensive end, the Minutemen had the bar set pretty high for them early on and have met those expectations thus far. After a small hiccup in the first half of the game against the Eagles, UMass bounced back defensively and will look to build on that momentum.

“Obviously you’re not going to be perfect every game, you’re going to be making mistakes,” defenseman Zac Jones said. “Playing against the No. 1 team in the country you have to be good defensively, and I thought after those two goals went in, we really stepped up our game. It also helps when you have Filip [Lindberg] on the ice.”

Lindberg has played a big role in the success of the Minutemen. He has not allowed more than two goals in any of his starts since he returned from injury, and was recently named HEA goaltender of the month for the second time in a row.

In terms of preparation, UMass refuses to overlook Maine, and has a postseason mindset heading into the weekend. In fact, it has had a postseason mindset for quite some time now.

“We’ve kind of been thinking of every game since pretty much the new year as a playoff game,” Gicewicz said. “So whether this weekend is a playoff game or not we’re kind of treating them all the same.”

The Minutemen cap off their season at home against the Black Bears at 2:30 p.m. on Friday ahead of the conference tournament, which begins next week.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.

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