Weller: UMass needs consistency throughout entire game for success

Early goal by Michigan proves costly for the Minutemen

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Chris Tucci/ UMass Athletics

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

On Saturday night, the Massachusetts hockey team took the ice for a top ten matchup against Michigan but were outplayed throughout the first 10 minutes, with the Wolverines (15-6-1, 7-5-0 Big 10) dominating play.

“Came out to a slow start,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “Thought we got out feet under us but made a lot of mistakes.”

While there were moments of success in the first period, UMass (10-5-2, 7-2-2 Hockey East) was left searching for an equalizer. Brendan Brisson gave Michigan the lead early, with UMass’ defense unable to control the pick. Odd man rushes remained a consistent struggle for the Minutemen throughout the entire game, but in the first 20 minutes, it allowed Michigan to get most of the offensive opportunities.

Jerry Harding was sent to the penalty box for holding, but a successful penalty kill by UMass showed signs of things beginning to turn around. Two minutes later, Garrett Wait found the equalizer that the Minutemen had been searching for and gave them motivation heading into the second period. At the conclusion of the first period, UMass was able to bounce back, winning 12 of 22 face offs and recording nine shots compared to the 11 by Michigan. But that pressure did not come soon enough, and also didn’t last very long.

“This was a big game and I think our guy’s eyes were a little too big and weren’t ready to start,” Carvel said. “We didn’t do a great job creating offense. We didn’t have any odd many rushes really. We scored by getting the puck below the goal line and scoring in the back post. We’ve got to do more of that tomorrow.”

Throughout the season, UMass has allowed in nine goals and has been outshot 149 to 135 during the first period. In its season opener, Minnesota State scored within in the first minute of play and were unable to create offensive opportunities throughout the remainder of the game. That slow start would plague the Minutemen a few more times over the first half of the season.

Injuries effected UMass throughout November and December, with multiple forwards sidelined. This gave many of the younger members the opportunity to step up, earning more minutes on the ice. However, it also accounted for many of the slow starts, as the players were learning how to play with one another and create cohesion.

Monday’s matchup against Merrimack showed the return of Garret Wait, Josh Lopina, Cal Kiefiuk, and Oliver MacDonald, with younger members such as Lucas Mercuri and Ryan Lautenbach pushed down to the third line, but still making an impact. With such depth at forward, UMass’ offense should be able to create more opportunities and provide a challenge for the opposing team’s defense, but they have to apply pressure from the opening whistle.

Defensemen Scott Morrow leads the team in points with 18, including eight goals and 10 assists. Before the injury, Lopina aided the team with six points and dominated face-offs. However, his fellow lineman Wait, was moved off the first line early in the season, with Carvel challenging him and wanting to see more. With his first game back on Monday, he added to his point total with the only goal of the game against Michigan.

Wait’s line, along with the rest of the Minutemen, will look to find more offense when they return to Yost Ice Arena Sunday to finish the series against Michigan at 4 p.m.

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