UMass defeats UMass Lowell 2-1 in Friendship Four matchup

Pavicich records 32 saves for Minutemen

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Colin McCarthy/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Colin McCarthy, Video Editor

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Games between the Massachusetts hockey team and UMass Lowell almost always go down to the wire, and No. 17 UMass (7-5-1, 3-5-0 Hockey East) coach Greg Carvel is all too familiar with that. That’s why he didn’t do any preparation for Quinnipiac or Dartmouth.

His only focus was on the No. 14 River Hawks (8-6-0, 5-3-0 HEA).

Another nail biter was in store on Friday night in the Minutemen’s first Friendship Four matchup, but when the clock hit zero, it was the flagship school standing tall. UMass defeated UML 3-1.

“I thought that was a great hockey game,” Carvel said. “I thought our kids executed our game plan extremely well and competed … I’m extremely proud of that victory, that was a big victory for our team this year.”

Pavicich was back between the pipes for the Minutemen and looked sound throughout the contest, making 32 saves while only allowing one goal. Carvel wasn’t thrilled about how his goaltenders played during UMass’ losing streak, but over the last two games Pavicich looked strong just as he was to start the season. His only shaky moment of the night came in the second period when he needed to retrieve his stick from behind the net. As he was coming back to the crease, a shot from center ice nearly beat him to the finish line. Pavicich got his blocker down to keep it away.

“I thought he was great, steady, saw the puck, really under control,” Carvel said. “It felt like he had control of the rebounds even though they we’re jumping around a little bit … I thought he gave us another great game tonight.”

Aaron Bohlinger and Taylor Makar both returned to the lineup after missing a few games in recent weeks, and both had their impact felt against the River Hawks.

Makar slotted in beside Kenny Connors and Cole O’Hara, and his speed and physicality complimented the two freshmen well. Connors scored twice on Friday, and one of those came courtesy of an initial shot attempt by Makar.

Bohlinger didn’t appear on the stat sheet, but he still played an important role for the Minutemen. Bohlinger’s presence in the lineup has a direct result on the defense; when he’s playing well, they’re playing well, and when he isn’t playing well or isn’t in the lineup at all, it shows.

In Bohlinger’s four-game absence, UMass went 1-3 and allowed 18 goals, an average of 4.5 per game. on Friday night, the Minutemen allowed one goal. Overall, UMass is 6-2 this season when Bohlinger is in the lineup, and 1-3-1 when he isn’t.

On Friday, the Minutemen had a two goal lead early in the third period, but a strike by TJ Schweighardt with 10 minutes remaining brought new life to UML. The River Hawks pushed for a tying goal with their net empty and had two dangerous opportunities to find the back of the net. Eric Faith and Matt Koopman were the only two people standing in the way, quite literally.

UML took a one-time shot that should have beat Pavicich, who hadn’t made it over in time to cover the net. It never got there because Koopman put a stick on it and deflected the puck backwards. The River Hawks regathered the puck at the top of the circle and fired another shot off their stick, but Eric Faith absorbed it with his body and put it in the corner. One final clear out of the zone by Ryan Lautenbach sealed the deal and sent the Minutemen back to the locker room with a win.

“They’re not on the stat sheet very much but that’s what they do,” Carvel said of Koopman and Faith. “They’re character kid, they sacrifice, do the little things. Those were huge blocks at the end of the game.”

Special teams had an up-and-down day for UMass; its penalty kill overwhelmed UML and went a perfect 3-3 killing off penalties, but the power play unit couldn’t find any success. Scoring chances arose, but the Minutemen ended the night 0-4 with the man advantage.

UMass returns to the ice in Belfast on Saturday night to take on No. 4 ranked Quinnipiac for the Friendship Four championship. Face off is set for 7 p.m. local time, 2 p.m. EDT.

“I have a lot of respect for what they do, they’re very successful,” Carvel said of the Bobcats. “We’re going to have to have a really good game plan like we did [Friday] to try and neutralize what they do, but that will be a heck of a challenge, they’re a top-five team in the country.”

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