UMass is looking to continue its point streak in weekend series against Union

The Minutemen will have key players slotted back into the lineup

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Nina Walat/ Daily Collegian

By Kayla Gregoire, Collegian Staff

Updated Dec. 30 2021: UMass hockey’s series against Union originally set for Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 has been postponed.

After three weeks off from college hockey play, the Massachusetts hockey team will look for a win in its series against Union College on Friday and Saturday afternoon.

The Minutemen (9-4-2, 7-2-2 Hockey East) will almost have their full team back with Josh Lopina, Garrett Wait, Eric Faith and Oliver MacDonald slotting back into the lineup after battling long term injuries early in the season.

The only missing player for UMass will be Scott Morrow, one of its top offensive defensemen. Morrow is currently playing for team USA in the World Juniors tournament in Edmonton. Though he will not be back for the series against the Dutchmen (5-9-3, 3-4-1 ECAC), he will likely return before the Minutemen’s series against No. 3 Michigan. An upside to this is that defenseman typically have development when they come back from the World Juniors to their hockey team.

“You see a little bump in their play. Anytime you have that experience you’re going to develop a bit,” Head Coach Greg Carvel said. “Hopefully [Morrow] gets in some games so that he can have that growth.”

With some uncertainty around COVID-19 and the new Omicron variant, many other college teams have started to cancel their games. That leaves Carvel and UMass unsure of sure what will happen with their games going forward. Last year the Minutemen had a strong bubble to protect themselves when COVID-19 cases were rising, since the university campus was not operating at maximum capacity and classes were mostly conducted remotely. That same protection is not in place this season.

“We’re in very uncharted waters,” Carvel said. “It’s just going to be the [normal] here for I think the next couple weeks as everyone is probably going to play it safe. You’ll have to ask the Commissioner if he’ll allow us to play with positive cases on the team.”

If the Minutemen can play their weekend series, they will be looking to build off their first half of the season. UMass’s effort kept it from losing many games even with a thin lineup, but Carvel became frustrated with the number of games that went into overtime down the stretch, and an emphasis coming out of the break will be finishing teams in regulation.

The Minutemen have found themselves in the penalty box many times throughout the season. Union has a fundamentally sound power play unit so UMass will have to be very disciplined in the series to prevent easy scoring chances against it.

On the other hand, without Morrow the powerplay and penalty kill will see some changes. Typically, Morrow is paired with defenseman Ryan Ufko on the man-advantage and that pairing has created a large part of UMass’ offense.

The last time the Minutemen matched up against the Dutchmen was in 2019 and they won in big ways. Captain Bobby Trivigno scored three of UMass’ eleven goals in that series. Goalie Matt Murray played one of the games in the series and only allowed one goal past him.

“I know we play [Union] quite often. I just know Rick Bennett is a really good coach and he gets the most out of his kids, they compete… They are a savvy team that can score.”

The Minutemen will travel to Schenectady, NY to play their series against the Dutchmen Friday Dec. 31st and Saturday Jan. 1st. Puck drop for both games will be at 4 p.m.

Kayla Gregoire can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @kaygregoire.