UMass completes sweep of Denver, winning 3-0 on Saturday

Pavicich shuts out defending national champions

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Matt Skillings, Collegian Correspondent

The Massachusetts hockey team made a statement in its home opening weekend, completing a two-game sweep of the No. 1 team in the nation, the University of Denver, with a 3-0 win Saturday night.

Defense and goaltending came up big in the home opening weekend, allowing Denver just two goals in as many nights. Luke Pavicich continued his stellar play, pitching a 30 save shutout. Saturday night marked the first time that No. 13 UMass (2-0-1) has shut out the No. 1 team in the country, and the first time it’s defeated the No. 1 team two nights in a row.

UMass’s defensive unit stole the show Saturday, with good transition defense and a strong penalty kill. The neutral zone was the Minutemen’s biggest strength, shutting down numerous odd man rushes and fast breaks for the Pioneers (2-2). Each defenseman stood out in a different aspect of the game, and the overall presence of each one of them contributed to UMass’s ability to contain a dangerous offense. Ryan Ufko was especially key on the backend tonight, making plays on both sides of the ice.

“He’s outstanding,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “He doesn’t make mistakes, either side, offense or defense. He’s an outstanding college hockey player.”

Pavicich was outstanding in net for the second night in a row, providing stability for the team going up against a top opponent in Denver.

“I felt pretty good, I knew I had a good team in front of me,” Pavicich said. “We’ve got a lot of trust between us. I mean it was a great team win, a lot of big blocked shots for them, they get me going.”

UMass couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game, getting on the board just 37 seconds into the first frame. Lighting the lamp was sophomore defenseman Scott Morrow who tallied his second goal of the season when the puck trickled in off of Denver goalie Magnus Chrona’s left skate. With the goal, Morrow takes sole possession of the team lead in points early in the season with four.

The goal would stand alone in the period, giving UMass a 1-0 lead heading into the second period.

Denver would not go down quietly, however. It dominated period two, outshooting UMass 17-9 and keeping the puck in the Massachusetts defensive zone for the bulk of the period. This was Luke Pavicich’s best period, as he made several highlight reel saves, and stopped every shot he faced.

Matt Koopman tacked on the second goal of the game, his first as a Minuteman. The Providence College transfer capitalized on a rebound in front of the net, firing the puck past Chrona.

“It was great,” Koopman said. “Good play by Ricky [Eric Faith] to get the puck down low and just try to make a play on the net. Jerry was right there I think, he fired it off my helmet and just kind of shot it into the open net, glad I didn’t miss it, but yeah it was a great feeling.”

Cal Kiefiuk added the cherry on top for the Minutemen, scoring the third goal on a 170-foot shot at an empty net from the defensive zone. Carvel was happy to have Kiefiuk back in the lineup after he was kicked out of last night’s game following an illegal hit from behind.

“We had Cal Kiefiuk for the whole game, which I think was a factor,” Carvel said. “To me he’s really leading us, the way he plays and what he says in the room. Cal is quietly an extremely important player.”

After a roller coaster of a win on Friday, Carvel saw a lot of improvement in the second win of the weekend.

“I was very happy with the way they played, very proud of this group,” Carvel said. “I’m sure everyone will say the team made a statement, but most important we made a statement to ourselves, I think this group created an identity this weekend, very similar to teams in the last couple years.”

UMass will be back at the Mullins Center next Friday when they take on ECAC opponent Union College at 7 p.m.

Matt Skillings can be reached at [email protected]