UMass will finish regular season play with series against Boston College

Minutemen are currently in first place in Hockey East standings

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Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

Coming off a weekend sweep against Vermont, the Massachusetts hockey team will look to build off its success in its final weekend of the regular season against Boston College.

The Minutemen (19-10-2, 14-6-2, Hockey East) are currently seated in first place in Hockey East standings, with Northeastern right behind them. However, the Huskies suffered a loss to Vermont on Tuesday night, meaning that UMass can clinch the HEA regular season title with a win on Friday or Saturday.

“It’s a good place to be in,” head coach Greg Carvel said of UMass’ ability to control its own destiny. “But it doesn’t guarantee us anything. I think Boston College is starting to play some really good hockey. They got their players back from the Olympics, which as you would expect, has given them a push.”

Marc McLaughlin and Drew Helleson were named to the United States men’s Olympic hockey team and forward Jack McBain represented Canada. Despite being away for several games, McLaughlin and McBain lead the Eagles (12-17-5, 7-12-3 HEA) in points with 27 each. With such depth in scoring for the Minutemen this past weekend against Vermont, the focus shifted back to defense this week in practice.

“I’m always more concerned with the defensive side of the game,” Carvel said. “We have enough offense but just make sure we play good defense, so we don’t need to score more goals.”

Although BC is ranked No. 8 in HEA standings, the addition of its Olympic players has given the Eagles key victories against Northeastern and BU in the month of February. UMass understands the importance of not overlooking BC given its recent success and history of dominance within the conference.

“Their record isn’t indicative of what they have as a program,” Matt Murray said. “They have highly touted, well-skilled guys that everyone knows are on the ice. They have all the pieces there, coach [Jerry] York has proven himself, he knows what to do and its always a battle against them so it’s never a year that you can take anything lightly.”

Carvel challenged the second line last weekend to score and they stepped up to the challenge, with Reed Lebster recording one goal each on Friday and Saturday, and Cal Kiefiuk earning a goal and an assist. Eric Faith also earned an assist on Saturday.

“As a group we’re pretty excited obviously with the opportunity this weekend to get some points and possibly clinch first place,” Kiefiuk said. “As a trio and us three [being] new together, we talked about it. We were kind of frustrated with how things were going so we took a step back and focused on the little things.”

While there appears to be a lot of pressure riding on the Minutemen this week for postseason positioning, Carvel’s mentality remains the same it has been all season. Just another week of practice.

“We’re aware that if we come off our process, it’s not going to put us in a good place,” Carvel said. “I really enjoy this time of the year, practices get shorter, energy starts to build, championships are there to be won. But this is where coaches have to do a really good job of keeping focused, processed, proper perspectives. We know what makes us win, so we have to practice that way.”

UMass will travel to Chestnut Hill for a 7 p.m. puck drop on Friday, before returning to the Mullins Center on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. for senior night to close out the regular season.

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