UMass looks to capitalize on long break ahead of a tough second half of the season

Minutemen typically show improvement when coming out of breaks this year

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Nina Walat/ Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

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

When the Massachusetts Hockey team takes the ice in Friday’s matchup against Union, it will be the first time in 23 days since it played a game. During that time, the Minutemen have been working to fix the problems present throughout the first half of their season.

“We haven’t really played to the standard I think we should be playing at,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “January is going to be a tough month. We have a lot of really good teams on the schedule and I’m just hoping that we are able to play.”

Throughout January, No. 12 UMass (9-4-2, 7-2-2 Hockey East) will travel to Michigan before returning to Massachusetts for a series against Northeastern, and games against Boston University, Providence and UMass Lowell. Knowing that these games will require a strong performance, there is also the added fear with the rise in COVID-19 cases and schools cancelling games due to positive tests, prompting Carvel to wonder if these games will even be played. However, the Minutemen have continued to practice and work, preparing for every game and focusing on themselves and their style of play rather than the opponent.

Looking back on the first half of the season, UMass showed growth after having to overcome obstacles early on. The Minutemen started the season with two losses in their opening weekend against Minnesota State on Oct. 2 and 3. Afterwards, they had two weeks before their next series and spent the time reflecting and letting go of the success from last year and began to focus on what lied ahead. The emphasis during that break was on defense and special teams, with practice showing more intensity and focus from the players. On Oct. 15, UMass stepped onto the ice and defeated American International in dominating fashion further displaying the importance of practice.

On Dec. 8, UMass faced off against Merrimack and battled to an overtime win heading into the long break. With so much time to rest and practice, the focus was getting players back from injury and building on the success of the team along with fixing the troubles.

“This team needs to find a rhythm,” Carvel said. “Needs to find a grove. Needs to build on its identity. Needs to be better than what it’s been the first half.”

UMass is currently ranked No. 12 in the USCHO poll and is the highest ranked team in Hockey East but sits in second place in the conference due to its record. Every conference game has proven to be a tough battle and have been high scoring games, which is different compared to previous seasons.

The first conference game of the season for the Minutemen was Oct. 29 against Merrimack and was also after a break, with UMass winning both games in the series. The following weekend, the Minutemen swept their series against Providence, who was ranked higher than them at the time.

UMass now looks to capitalize on its latest break, and this time there was a focus on bolstering defense and special teams, but there is also optimism in getting back its injured players. The Minutemen will take the ice on Friday and Saturday with one of their deepest lineups of the year.

“We had good growth in the first half,” Carvel said. “A lot of younger guys got a lot of time, combined with the return of veteran guys I expect the team to take a step forward.”

UMass begins the second half of the season with a non-conference matchup against Union in Schenectady, NY at 4 p.m. on Friday.

Sophie Weller can be reach at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SophieeWellerr.