Gregoire: Takeaways from UMass’ exhibition game against Sacred Heart

The Minutemen have 12 new additions to the roster

Dylan+Nguyen%2F+Daily+Collegian+%282022%29

Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Kayla Gregoire, Assistant Sports Editor

An exhibition game that ended in a 3-2 loss with the additions of overtime and a shootout showed a lot about what the Massachusetts hockey team must improve on heading into the start of the regular season on Oct. 8.

Keep in mind, when UMass head coach Greg Carvel set up the lines, he most likely did not go in with the mindset of these being the official lines, but rather evaluating how the new players mix with the returners and allowing everyone to get the rust off.

This was the first time Carvel had the chance to see what his new team will look when playing together in a fast-paced game. However, this was not an official look at everyone, with captain Eric Faith, junior Aaron Bohlinger, and freshman Noah Ellis out for unknown reasons.

Goaltender situation

The goaltending situation is different than what the Minutemen have seen in recent years. Three goaltenders are battling for the shot at the starting job, with Luke Pavicich and Henry Graham returning and Cole Brady joining the ranks after transferring in from Arizona State.

Last year Matt Murray was awarded the starting job for UMass in most games, with Filip Lindberg being the primary starter in the year prior. Heading into both those seasons, it was evident who would have the starting job, but this year is different.

Pavicich got the start in net against the Pioneers and played one of his worst college games. The sophomore played a few games last season, showing promise in net. On Saturday, Pavicich allowed the first shot on goal he faced by him and it continued to go downhill for the goaltender, allowing another goal by him less than three minutes later. Pavicich finished the period with two saves.

Graham, a player who hasn’t seen playing time in his past two years played the second period. With players pilling in front of the goal the puck slipped past Graham, which would result in the only goal he allowed throughout his 20 minutes of play. For the rest of the period, he looked strong in net, coming up with seven saves.

Brady, the newest goaltender for the Minutemen did not give up a single goal and out of the three, appeared to look the best in the net. He made nine saves and when put in for the shootout, gave up one goal after facing two men. If I had to guess, The Arizona State transfer would be most likely to have the start I net against AIC after his performance.

Handling the puck and communication

Off the bat, UMass did not look in sync with one another on the ice. Players were running into each other and were not communicating, with miscommunications leading to turnovers and breakaways that the defense could not keep up with.

When the Minutemen’s third line which consisted of Taylor Makar, Lucas Mercuri, and Ryan Lautenbach came out for their first shift, the communication was off. At one point as Lautenbach put the puck on his stick, Mercuri ran into him due to miscommunication. This was not the only time this would happen between the other players throughout the game.

When asked about what players took away from the game, Reed Lebster said that Carvel talked to them a lot after the game about puck management. Puck management helps with not causing turnovers and creating more offense for the Minutemen and will be a major focus in practice for UMass to eliminate the mistakes prior to the start of the regular season.

New faces

With eight freshmen and four transfers, there were a lot of new faces in the lineup. Of the 12 new faces, 11 of them stepped on the ice on Saturday, along with Eric Dedobbelaer, who missed last season due to injury.

The fourth line consisted of all freshmen: Tyson Dyck, Kenny Connors, and Cole O’Hara. Despite inexperience from the line, they scored the last goal for the Minutemen. Connors was the one to net the goal, with Dyck as the primary assist and transfer Elliott McDermott as the secondary.

Inexperience does come with guys not making an immediate impact. Even with freshman not being a huge factor on the ice, there is a lot to be excited about as they gain experience throughout the season.

First line

The first line has an entirely new group of guys to start off the season and it’s Cal Kiefiuk, Josh Nodler, and Lebster who appear to be taking the job, at least while Eric Faith was out of the lineup. Out of all the lines, the first line was and should be the line that made the largest impact in the game.

A pass from Lebster to Kiefiuk ended as a lamp lighter for Kiefiuk for the first goal of the game. It would be a surprise to not see that pair doing that for the rest of the season. Last year, as members of the second line, the pair showed flashes of offense, but were not able to do it consistently.

On top of offense, Kiefiuk was using physicality to add on to defense. Players were not using too much physicality while on the ice, most likely due to not wanting to cause an injury during the exhibition. Despite the thought of injury, Kiefiuk continued to check guys into the board and keep the puck away from the Pioneers.

Faceoffs

Faceoffs have always been a factor of UMass’ game that they have taken pride in. Josh Lopina took most of the faceoffs for the past two years, but with him gone the Minutemen were faced with finding another guy for the job.

Nodler, the Michigan State transfer, took on the challenge and succeeded. Nodler had seven wins with five losses in the circle, giving him a 58.3 faceoff win percentage. He was not the only one to do well in the circle, with Mercuri winning five of his eight faceoffs and Connors winning five of nine faceoffs.

Continuing to win faceoffs will be beneficial to UMass on offense. Winning faceoffs is how to ignite the offense and pressure the opposing team.

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