UMass’ five minute major proves to be beneficial in win against Denver

The Minutemen score two goals on the penalty kill

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Kayla Gregoire, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts hockey team was in trouble before the game started in its home opener against Denver. Many people doubted that the Minutemen (1-0-1) could get past a team that is coming off a National Championship.

When Cal Kiefiuk was called for a five-minute major, putting him out for the rest of the game less than a minute in, UMass was in even deeper water. The momentum of the crowd was out of it, not knowing what could happen in those five minutes, especially without a man from the top line.

That was until UMass was put on an odd man rush, with Reed Lebster leading the play with more than two minutes off the penalty kill. Kenny Connors, skating fast down the ice and gave Lebster a look to finish off the play. As Lebster skated towards the right side of the net, he passed the puck to Connors. The freshman finished the play with a tap-in for his first collegiate goal.

As Lebster was put on the odd man rush, the crowd got back in the game, every person getting on their feet. When Connors tapped it in, all anyone could hear is the sound of one another.

“It’s kind of over whelming with that big crowd first night,” Connors said. “It’s just a weight off your shoulders. You play free after that, get it out of the way a little bit. You kind of want to get back to work and finish the penalty kill.”

With two minutes left on the penalty kill, the Minutemen had a long way to go. They needed to keep the momentum going in their favor to keep the Pioneers (2-1) off goaltender Luke Pavicich. UMass had the crowd back on its side and continued to take advantage of the energy being on its side.

On a two-on-one odd man rush, Lucas Mercuri passed the puck to Ryan Lautenbach. Lautenbach then used his speed to get ahead of the Pioneers in his way. Scott Morrow placed himself in front of the net, setting himself up for a chance for a pass or rebound. Lautenbach close to the net, had a chance for a goal of his own, but passed it to Morrow instead, who netted the second goal of the Minutemen’s penalty kill.

Throughout the penalty kill, UMass looked dominant, using physicality and offense to slow down Denver. One of the most physical of the five minutes was Lebster, who was all over the ice, helping the Minutemen. Along the boards, the captain was checking Pioneer players, keeping them from managing the puck.

“I don’t know if we gave up a scoring chance on that five-minute kill,” Carvel said.

Lebster was awarded with an assist but was also close to being awarded with a goal of his own during the penalty kill.  Eric Faith skated down the ice with Reed not far in front of him, allowing Faith for an easy pass to Lebster. With Pioneers in between both of them, Lebster passed it back to Faith, but he quickly passed it to Lebster. Lebster kept the puck on his stick for not long before he shot it hard at goaltender Magnus Chrona. The goaltender was quick to make the save and have the puck taken away by a Denver defender.

“Reed is not even the guy that I kill with usually,” Connors said. “Having a guy that I see make so many offensive plays in practice and in games. He has that experience and has done it before. I feel confident when I give him the puck and I go to the net that he’s going to make the right play.”

Lebster was not the only player making an impact during the penalty kill, throughout the lineup players were contributing to keeping the puck away from the Pioneers. Linden Alger used his big body to create offense for the Minutemen. Ryan Sullivan on a shift was controlling the puck in the offensive zone, skating around Denver players to find a teammate to pass to.

“That was an unbelievable kill,” Carvel said. “We’ve got new coaches who are in charge of the kill and what a response by our guys. I thought we could come out and jump on them early, it was a long travel, and we were excited to play. Didn’t expect it to be that way, but that was my hope that we could do something early.”

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