Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hockey prepares for Merrimack

Minutemen kicks off Hockey East play on Friday
Dylan Nguyen/Daily Collegian (2022)

It has been nothing short of a powerful start to the season for the Massachusetts hockey team. No. 5 UMass (4-0-1) has been firing on all cylinders behind strong goaltending, depth scoring, and a lethal power play. The Minutemen currently have the best powerplay percentage in the country at 50 percent and have given up the fewest number of goals of any team in the country, only ceding five goals through their first five games.

This weekend however, the Minutemen will begin Hockey East play against newer rival Merrimack College. The Warriors (3-2) play a grittier, more physical brand of hockey than UMass has seen so far. With that in mind, the coaching staff has been preparing the team for battle this weekend, preaching durability and composure.

“From what I’ve heard it’s a lot harder, a lot more physical, so coach has been preaching to go hard this week in practice and prepare to be hit this weekend,” freshman Michael Cameron said on Tuesday.

The two teams matched up four times last season, with the Minutemen prevailing in each meeting. Each game was decided by one goal, and two of the four required an overtime period.

“We played them four times last year, we played four really tight, hard-fought games,” said head Coach Greg Carvel. “I’m sure Merrimack after last year with the number of games that we found a way to come out on the right side, it cranks up the rivalry a little bit.”

Merrimack enters the weekend with a 3-2 record in what has been an up and down first five games. The Warriors dropped their first game to Greg Carvel’s alma mater St. Lawrence and split a two-game set with Colgate. Merrimack did, however, defeat Hockey East opponent New Hampshire in a dominant fashion, and a strong ECAC team in Clarkson.

Junior Alex Jefferies leads the Warriors in scoring with seven points in five games played. Like UMass, Merrimack’s goal scoring has been spread out across the lineup, with 12 different players in the goal column. On top of a balanced attack on the front end, the Warriors have also been stingy defensively, allowing just over two goals per game.

UMass will also run into a familiar face this weekend. Slava Demin is now a member of the Merrimack Warriors, after transferring from UMass. Demin played just one season with the Minutemen, appearing in 22 games and recording a goal and three assists.

Friday and Saturday kick off an eight-game stretch where the Minutemen will play only Hockey East foes, going all the way to the end of November when they take on UMass Lowell in Ireland in the Friendship Four. This stretch will be a massive test for the Minutemen as each Hockey East opponent has extensive experience against each other. Every game is a rivalry game within the conference.

“For me as a coach, the difference in the games is knowing your opponent, and there’s history,” Carvel said.

Hockey East is off to a strong start this year with six Hockey East teams in the men’s poll as of Oct.26. UMass will take on three of these teams in this month-long stretch: Providence, Boston University and UMass Lowell.

UMass will have its work cut out for the next eight games, but this weekend, all of the Minutemen’s focus is tilted towards Merrimack.

“It’s going to be harder, but nothing changes we still do the same thing” junior defenseman Aaron Bohlinger said. “Same mindset, it’s no different. Doesn’t matter if it’s Denver, Union, Merrimack, whoever it is we come out the same way every game.”

Matt Skillings can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @matt_skillings.



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