UMass women’s hockey finishes 1-1 in home series against McKendree

Minutewomen veterans made their experience known on the ice


Johnny Depin/Daily Collegian

By Johnny Depin, David DuBois, and Shanti Furtado, Collegian Correspondents

The Massachusetts women’s hockey team fell short in completing the sweep of its weekend series against McKendree University at the Mullins Practice Arena. The Minutewomen (5-3) took the first game with a score of 4-2, while the Bearcats (6-3) narrowly came out on top in the following game 2-3.

With this weekend marking divisional matchups between two teams so close in the standings and in style of play, the now No. 15 UMass dropped its rank, while McKendree moved to the No. 9 seed, proving how much every game matters at this point in the season.

Friday’s game established the series’ high tempo from the very start of the first period with a hooking penalty called on UMass’ Captain Holly Russell 31 seconds into regulation. From this one-man advantage, McKendree defenseman Aria Groot found the back of the net for her third of the season.

Russell sounded back with a goal of her own, making her presence known three minutes later from a saucer pass from Katerina Nikolopoulos. Seniors Russell and Nikolopoulos have produced substantial numbers for UMass this year, leading the team in points with eight apiece. The two players found the connection once again with nine minutes remaining in the first period, as Nikolopoulos drove the puck past McKendree’s Goaltender Naomi Leasck. Their chemistry becoming an undeniable highlight of the Minutewomen’s season.

The two goal lead was quickly diminished during the second period. This 20-minute stretch has been a cause of difficulty for UMass this season. McKendree’s Camryn Scully fired a pass to Cassidy Dion, whose shot crossed the five hole of Casey Marshall, making the score two apiece.

UMass’ Katherine Paradis rallied back with 6:06 left in the second period. Russell fired a shot on goal from the right side with traffic in front and Paradis was in perfect position for the tap in, putting the Minutewomen up 3-2 and giving Russell her third point of the night.

The physicality of the teams was present all night, playing neck and neck for a good portion of the 60 minutes. The physical play reached a different level 17:24 into the second period when McKendree’s Kiley Hasenfratz received a five-minute major checking penalty, on top of a 10-minute game misconduct. Hasenfratz, also received an unsportsmanlike conduct minor for delivering a dangerous hit to UMass’ Elizabeth Emerson sending her into the boards and unstable for several minutes.

Unable to capitalize on the power play, the Minutewomen looked to lock it down on the back end, receiving various contributions from the defensive core. McKendree rushed down the ice late in the third resulting in a 2-on-1 which was stopped by a diving Olivia Perenick of UMass.

Marshall stopped 22 of the 24 shots on net, posting a .916 save percentage. The UMass netminder has been pivotal in the back end for UMass.

“It’s everything we can do to try to come out and have some success this weekend,” UMass head coach Bill Wright said earlier at last Tuesday’s practice.

Though UMass was able to pull out the win on Friday the attacking zone faceoff and shot production was cause for concern once again for the Minutewomen who only scored on two of their six chances on the powerplay. With many UMass shots ringing wide, or McKendree’s goaltending and penalty kill being too solid,  the theme of inconsistent offensive production is one the Minutewomen are actively trying to snap.

This theme held true to the following day in Saturday’s matinee with the Bearcats. UMass looked to maintain momentum against McKendree with an emphasis on coming out of the gate hot. However, McKendree scored 3:15 into the first period off the stick of Quinn Atchison who notched her third goal of the season.

The Minutewomen allowed another goal shortly after when Jaynee Smothers scored her second goal of the year for McKendree. 13:37 into the first period, UMass jumped on the scoreboard on a shot from Nikolopoulos, assisted by Russell.

In a game highlighting seven penalties from both teams, the Minutewomen only converted one powerplay. Inconsistencies with the UMass zone entry led to sluggish and ineffective power plays.

The lone powerplay goal came while the Minutewomen were down three to one, late into the third period. With the goalie pulled, UMass had a six on three powerplay and Saoirse Connolly was able to find the back of the net off a pass from Russell.

The Minutewomen are set to face off against No. 17 Rhode Island on Dec. 3 and 4 at the Brad Boss Arena in Kingston, R.I.

Johnny Depin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @jdepin101.

David DuBois can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @daviddubois23. 

Shanti Furtado can be reached at [email protected],edu and followed on Twitter @shantifurtado.