UMass will face off against UMass Lowell this weekend in rivalry series

Injuries remain a setback for the Minutemen


Nina Walat / Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

Throughout Thanksgiving break, the Massachusetts hockey team was hard at work, improving problems that were present early in the season and preparing to take on UMass Lowell. The Minutemen (7-4-1, 5-2-1 Hockey East) stressed the importance of teamwork, focusing on themselves rather than their upcoming opponent.

“That break was used to try to just refresh the guys,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “I’m hoping for really good hockey games. You know what to expect and it really usually comes down to winning a battle. Every battle counts. Every puck decision counts.”

UMass faced off against the River Hawks (8-2-2, 6-1-0 HEA) in the Hockey East championship in January 2021. The in-state rivalry game always proves to be a challenge; Both teams have a similar style of play, and it will come down to who executes it better.

“They were the one team that we couldn’t beat for a long time,” Carvel said. “I have complete, total respect for the program, but I think if you look at the last couple of games we have played against each other, they are very low scoring.”

Despite being hopeful for injured players to return, Josh Lopina, Cal Kiefiuk, Garrett Wait and Eric Faith remain sidelined with injuries. Oliver McDonald was added to that list for this weekend’s series.

“We’re now down five of our top nine forwards,” Carvel said. “We’re really banged up and not getting any better, so we need those guys in the back end to be extremely good.”

Carvel explained how certain members of the team have stepped up considering the injuries. Lucas Mercuri and Ryan Lautenbach played on the top line alongside captain Bobby Trivigno, and their games are continuing to improve. Taylor Makar has seen more time after just having played in a few games before the injuries affected the team. Ty Farmer will remain in the top line, with the possibility of Linden Alger also possibly joining the forwards.

“They know that basically they are going to do whatever to better the team,” defenseman Matthew Kessel said. “So, if that means switching positions and playing forward, they will have no problem doing that and they’ve been looking good too.”

Despite having lost many of their forwards, Carvel believes this opportunity for the younger and more inexperienced players will benefit the team later in the season and improve their skills. All injured Minutemen are expected to make their return to the line-up in January, with two players nearing the end of their recovery and potentially dressing for Friday’s game due to limited numbers. They are unlikely to see any time, however, because they have not been training. Carvel did not specify which of his two players might make a return.

This week, defensemen Scott Morrow and back-up goaltender Luke Pavicich were named to the U.S. Junior National Team Preliminary Roster. Despite only being a freshman, Morrow has four goals on the season and has played alongside Aaron Bohlinger and Ryan Ufko throughout the season.

“We’re just going to work our hardest,” Anthony Del Gaizo said when asked about what the focus has been this week. “Get ready to battle and be ready to play.”

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. in Lowell on Friday before the Minutemen return to the Mullins center for a 7:30 p.m. game on Saturday.

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