Luke Pavicich shines in net for UMass against AIC

Sophomore netminder makes 34 saves for the Minutemen

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

SPRINGFIELD — Massachusetts hockey coach Greg Carvel doesn’t like answering goaltending questions. But after losing veteran netminder Matt Murray in the offseason, he needed to find a new answer to who was starting in net.

On Saturday’s season opener against American International, Carvel gave Luke Pavicich the nod, and the sophomore goaltender rose to the occasion. Pavicich finished the night with 34 saves and guided the No. 13 Minutemen (0-0-1) to their first win of the season.

“I thought Pavicich was really good tonight, which is something I’m still trying to figure out,” Carvel said. “I thought he played really well so that was a really positive sign.”

UMass’ defense struggled at times to properly communicate who was playing the puck, and that left wide open chances for Yellowjackets (0-1-2) forwards to shoot on Pavicich from close range. Pavicich stood tall through those moments and kept turning away pucks, even on dangerous scoring chances.

Midway through the second period, the sophomore faced his toughest challenge of the night to that point. AIC had a lengthy offensive possession where the Minutemen defense couldn’t clear the zone, and that forced Pavicich to make four consecutive saves before covering the puck and getting a whistle.

“I was encouraged by the way he played, he looked like a big solid goalie,” Carvel said. “He made a lot of big saves; we left him out to dry a lot tonight and he made some huge saves.”

Pavicich’s ability to track the puck also deflated a few key chances for the Yellowjackets, who established a strong presence in front of the net in front of him. AIC got sticks on pucks and redirected them, but Pavicich was able to make the necessary adjustments to keep those deflections from sneaking past him.

Thanks to Pavicich’s play between the pipes, UMass remained in the game late in the third period despite over 50 minutes of unsuccessful offense. Once the Minutemen did even the score out, their young goaltender was faced with a tall task of keeping the game tied. In the final four minutes, Pavicich made a key save and fell to his back, but still made a second chance stop and scrambled to cover the puck up.

“I thought he was outstanding, obviously he made some clutch saves especially when they had some [offensive] zone time,” UMass captain Eric Faith said. “I was really impressed with how he played.”

Pavicich continued that play into overtime, where he made another key save on a 2-on-1 breakaway. He remained poised a minute later when the Yellowjackets walked in and once again got a clear shooter right in front of the net. The play looked eerily similar to how AIC scored its first goal of the night, but on the latter attempt, Pavicich turned the shot away.

Pavicich gave up his first goal on Saturday because of a 2-on-2 rush that UMass misplayed defensively. Both Minutemen were playing the pass and neither stepped up to the puck carrier Blake Bennett, who skated right up into the slot and fired a shot over Pavicich’s shoulder. AIC scored again on a perfectly placed pass to the far post that Pavicich couldn’t get to with his pad.

“I didn’t like the second goal, not that it was his fault,” Carvel said.

Carvel still doesn’t know exactly how the goaltending situation will play out this season, but Pavicich showed a lot of promise in his first start of the season.

“I told the goalies its day-to-day, just see how things go,” Carvel said. “But [Pavicich] probably earned another start the way he played tonight.”

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.