UMass offense stumbles out of the gate against Minnesota State

Minutemen only registered one shot on goal in the first period

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Nina Walat/ Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

A lack of sustained pressure in its offensive zone hindered the Massachusetts hockey team in its 2-0 loss to Minnesota State on Saturday night.

Early in the second period, No. 1 UMass (0-1) captain Bobby Trivigno and line mate Josh Lopina skated down the ice on a 2-on-1 breakaway. A feed in front by Trivigno was deflected by Lopina but the shot sailed wide.

That was the story for the majority of the game for the Minutemen. An odd man rush or clean entry into the offensive zone led to a shot that was either off the mark or saved by Mavericks’ (1-0) goaltender Dryden McKay with relative ease. At times UMass would use that momentum to create a small flurry of opportunities, but most of those were low danger and again swallowed up by McKay.

“We did not play very close to our identity,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “We weren’t prepared to start the game.”

Mental mistakes killed a few offensive opportunities for the Minutemen as well. In the first period freshman Ryan Ufko held the puck at the point and had a clear line to the goal but whiffed on his shot. To make matters worse, Ufko then tried to move the puck to a teammate but tossed it into the corner with no UMass player within five feet of his target.

It wasn’t only freshmen making mistakes either. Midway through the final frame, senior Ty Farmer drove towards the crease and tried to make a play on a puck that was passed perfectly to lead him towards the goal. McKay didn’t get over to Farmer in time, but he didn’t have to as the UMass defenseman mishandled the one-timer that could have evened the game.

“We only had five or six new kids in the lineup but Jesus it felt like a lot,” Carvel said. “But our returning guys were making the same mistakes [too] … the whole team just didn’t feel like our usual play.”

The strong powerplay unit that helped guide the Minutemen down the stretch last season was not present on Saturday night. UMass got four extra-man opportunities, but a sluggish offense bled into the unit as it watched Minnesota State fire pucks back down the ice towards Matt Murray, killing all four of their penalties off without much push-back by the Minutemen — who failed to register a single shot in their eight minutes with the man advantage.

“We knew they were going to pressure, and I just don’t think we handled that pressure too well,” Trivigno said of the power play unit. “A couple times along the board I don’t think we won our puck battles and they did, and that’s a difference either you keep the puck in or your skating down the ice.”

UMass entered desperation mode in the third period and turned up its intensity in that frame, peppering McKay with everything it had left. The push came too late though, and the veteran Minnesota State defense still had plenty of wind in its sails to close the game out.

The Minutemen offense will have a short turnaround before taking the ice again at 4 p.m. on Sunday. During that time, they will try to refocus and come into the second half of their doubleheader with heightened intensity.

“Getting shots on net is huge but we’d like to get a net presence as well,” Trivigno said. “I don’t think we did a good enough job getting people to the front of the net … I think late in the third there was a [puck] sitting right behind the net that nobody pounced on, that could be an easy goal if we have guys going to the net.”

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