UMass defeats UNH 4-2 on the road

Luke Pavicich makes 35 saves in net for the Minutemen

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Matt Skillings, Collegian Staff

DURHAM, N.H. — The Massachusetts hockey team ended its five-game skid Friday night, defeating a scrappy team in the University of New Hampshire (3-10-1, 0-9-1 HEA). Backed by a strong performance in net from Luke Pavicich, as well as scoring from each of the four lines, the No. 16 Minutemen (6-5-1, 2-5 Hockey East) were able to grab their second win in Hockey East play this season, their first since they defeated Merrimack College three weeks ago.

After a rocky start to the game, a three-goal second period proved to be the difference for UMass, as they overcame a 2-0 deficit in the frame.

Getting the scoring going for the Minutemen was Kenny Connors just under three minutes into the period, when he was sprung on a breakaway after Scott Morrow found him open down the ice from his own defensive zone. Connors smoothly received the puck on his forehand in front of the UMass bench and broke towards UNH goalie David Fessenden. The freshman sold Fessenden that he was taking him wide, but at the last second after the netminder had taken the bait, Connors flipped the puck across his body and into the net.

“That was a great play by Scotty to see that,” head coach Greg Carvel said postgame. “That goal was huge to give us a little life to get going.”

Connors finished the night with a goal and an assist bringing his point total to 13 on the season with five goals and eight helpers, good for a first-place tie on the team with Reed Lebster.

Lebster had a good night for himself as well, scoring what would end up being the game winning goal on the power play 6:24 into the second period. Following a Ryan Sullivan snipe that made it 2-2 just minutes before, Lebster netted his fifth goal of the season from the right faceoff dot after a well-executed passing play from teammates Scott Morrow, Cal Kiefiuk and Kenny Connors allowed for a clean zone entry and plenty of shooting space for Lebster.

The nation leading powerplay was once again effective for the Minutemen, as they were 1-3 on the man advantage on the night, using the extra opportunities to their advantage.

Though the ice was tilted in favor of UMass for the final 40 minutes of the game, things could not have gotten off to a worse start. The first period was all UNH as the Wildcats outshot UMass 21-5 en route to a 2-0 lead after one. UNH dictated the pace of play for the entirety of the 20-minute frame as the Minutemen seemed to still be stuck in whatever rut they’ve been in for the better part of a month.

“That was definitely two extremes from the first to the second period,” Head coach Greg Carvel said. “UNH came out with tremendous pace and execution. We weren’t ready to play.”

UNH started the scoring with a power play goal off the stick of freshman Cy LeClerc. LeClerc received a pass from across the blueline and stepped up to the top of the left circle where he picked his corner on Luke Pavicich, tucking the puck neatly over the netminders right shoulder.

Just under five minutes later, it would be senior Ryan Black with an impressive individual skill play, finding the puck off the faceoff and maneuvering his way to the front of the net where he beat Pavicich to his glove side, making it 2-0 Wildcats at the time.

Luke Pavicich looked like the goalie who stepped between the pipes in the Denver series Friday night, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced. Head coach Greg Carvel was looking for a strong performance in net from his netminder after a few weeks of subpar play in net from both Pavicich and Cole Brady. The sophomore stood up for his team against UNH, stopping an onslaught of shots in the first period when the Wildcats were most dangerous.

Despite letting two goals in, he kept the Minutemen in the game when the score could have been far worse than 2-0 after one period.

“We need a goalie to step up and take the reins,” Carvel said. “Tonight was definitely an excellent job by him, and he needs to provide that to us, he’s capable. But he was excellent tonight.”

Also scoring for the Minutemen tonight was Ryan Lautenbach who scored his third goal of the season that made the score 4-2 late in the game, effectively icing it for UMass. Each line contributed to the goal scoring with a goal apiece for all four forward lines.

Next up for the Minutemen is a trip to Ireland, where they will play two games, the first being against in state rival UMass Lowell. The puck will drop in Belfast Friday, Nov. 25 at 2 p.m.

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