Weller: UMass hockey 2022-23 schedule breakdown

A look at the Minutemen’s competition heading into the season

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

Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Sophie Weller, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts hockey team kicks off its 2022-23 season on Oct. 8, against AIC, but from then until March, it will have little time to kick back and relax, with numerous ranked competitors filling its schedule.

Below is a deep dive into the five toughest matchups this season and what to expect heading into each.

No. 1 Denver

UMass certainly wasn’t looking to take the easy way out, inviting Denver to the Mullins Center for its first home game of the season, playing Oct. 14 and 15.  It is no surprise that the Pioneers were ranked first overall heading into the season after putting on a dominate performance in the NCAA Tournament, defeating Minnesota State 5-1 in the championship game.

Senior goaltender Magnus Chrona, junior defenseman Michael Benning, sophomore defenseman Sean Behrens, and sophomore forward Carter Mazur earned NCHC Preseason All-Conference Teams honors. It is expected that Chrona will be in between the posts for the Pioneers after being their predominant starter last season, including in the national championship victory. Following his time at Denver, the senior will head to the pros, being selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL Draft.

Benning and Behrens will stand in front of Chrona, dominating the defense. Both will play professionally after graduation, with Behrens potentially joining former UMass star Cale Makar with the Colorado Avalanche after being selected in the second round in 2021. Switching to forward, Mazur is sure to have a big impact on the ice after a successful freshman year. Receiving the NCHC Rookie of the Year Award and having been selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the third round of the 2021 NHL Draft, it is clear the Michigan native has a bright future ahead.

With so many new members on the UMass roster, the Minutemen will have to create cohesion, following their early struggles in the exhibition game. The matchup against AIC on Saturday will be the true test to see if they are playing as a team or individually.

No. 8/9 Northeastern

As the only conference team ranked higher than UMass in the national poll, Northeastern has garnered interest following its at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament last season. Devon Levi is the most notable name returning for the Huskies after the junior goaltender received numerous awards, last season following his rookie season. Levi was named the National Rookie of the Year, New England’s Best Rookie, Hockey East Goaltender of the Year, and the Hockey East Rookie of the year, all while winning the Mike Richter Award, which is awarded to the goaltender who was voted to be the best during regular season play and being a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

Despite one poor game against the Minutemen last season, Levi proved to be a menace in goal. Without Bobby Trivigno, Josh Lopina, Garrett Wait, UMass will be looking for its notable goal scorers this season, and especially someone who can get the puck past Levi.

No. 12/14 Boston University

Last season, Boston University proved to be a tough matchup for UMass, with the Minutemen unable to pick up a win all season against the Terriers. Boston University won two of the three matchups, with the other game ending as a tie and UMass coming away with the victory in the shootout.

The Minutemen’s first matchup against the Terriers will take place on Nov. 11 at the Mullins Center before traveling to Agganis Arena the following night to conclude the series. On Jan. 11, UMass will travel for a one-off game against Boston University.

Like UMass, the Terriers have set themselves up with a tough series to begin the season, facing off against Michigan, who advanced to the 2022 NCAA Frozen Four. Boston University then fell to reigning national champions Denver. The Terrier’s schedule displays tough competition all the way until March and will set them up for the Hockey East Tournament and a possible NCAA Tournament run.

As for UMass, it should take all three games seriously, because other than Northeastern, the Terriers are a serious contender that UMass might face in the playoffs this season.

 No. 16/17 UMass Lowell

When a school shares the same name, people know it’s going to be competitive and UMass against UMass Lowell always proves to live up to the expectation.

Along with two matchups in Massachusetts, the teams will meet for the Friendship Four in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Nov. 25.

 Last season, the Minutemen reigned victorious in three out of the four games, including a win in the Hockey East Semifinals, sending them to the championship game. However, the River Hawks still earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

In the offseason, UMass Lowell was able to keep most of its defensive line, while relying on Matt Crasa and Carl Berglund on the offensive end. Berglund ended the season tied for the most points on the team last season with 28, while Crass ended with 21.

 UConn

While they did not receive a national ranking heading into the 2022-23 season, UConn shocked many last season. With its impressive run in the Hockey East Tournament, advancing to the finals for the first time in program history. Heading into the tournament, they were ranked 19th nationally and defeated the top-seeded Northeastern in the semi-finals in dominating fashion, winning 4-1. During the title game, it was the Huskies who struck first, but a goal by Trivigno followed by Aaron Bohlinger netting the game-winner in overtime provided UMass with the win.

After their success last year, the Huskies should not be counted out yet and have added a lot of talent to their roster. The team has 16 new players, including four transfer students and 12 freshmen. That combined with the returning talent will be vital throughout the season and could make them one of the most competitive teams in the conference.

The Minutemen will compete against UConn for the first time this season on Jan. 20 in the Mullins Center before traveling to Connecticut the following night.

 Honorable Mentions

On Nov. 25 and 26, UMass will travel to Belfast, Ireland for the Friendship Four, where it will be joined by UMass Lowell, Quinnipiac, and Dartmouth. The Minutemen will first play against the River Hawks, and the winner will advance to play the winner of Quinnipiac against Dartmouth.

UMass will then travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the Kwik Trip Holiday Face-off. The Minutemen will begin to play against No. 18/17 Clarkson, and the winner will advance and compete against the winner of Lake Superior against Wisconsin. This will take place on Dec. 28 and 29.

The Minutemen will also participate in Frozen Fenway, taking on BC at Fenway Park on Jan. 7.

 The full schedule can be found through this link.

Sophie Weller can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SophieeWellerr.