UMass gets back to its identity in second period at UNH

Carvel stresses importance of playing hard and fast

Dylan+Nguyen%2FDaily+Collegian+%282022%29

Dylan Nguyen/Daily Collegian (2022)

By Colin McCarthy, Video Editor

DURHAM, N.H. — The Massachusetts hockey team’s Hockey East struggles didn’t look like it was going away in the early part of its Friday night matchup with New Hampshire. The No. 16 Minutemen (6-5-1, 2-5 HEA) came out flat and allowed the Wildcats (3-10-1, 0-9-1) to take a two goal lead into the first intermission.

Another long chat, if you could call it that, between UMass head coach Greg Carvel and the rest of the team changed the dynamic of the game heading into the second period.

“I didn’t say anything, I screamed everything,” Carvel said. “Just unacceptable, we’re on a losing streak playing another team that’s really desperate to win, and we had no desperation in our game. I had to rattle the cages and saw a completely different second period.”

For the first time in weeks, the Minutemen really got back to their identity of playing hard and fast hockey, and that created countless opportunities for them offensively.

UMass scored three straight goals in the second frame, and all of those tallies came on the breakout leading into odd-man rushes. The Minutemen had over six chances to score on either 2-on-1 or 1-on-0 breakaways and could have buried more goals had it not been for a few key saves by UNH’s goaltender David Fessenden.

Scott Morrow created the first UMass goal with good ice vision; he found Kenny Connors streaking through the neutral zone and sent a perfect stretch pass down the middle of the ice right to Connors’ stick. That sprung the freshman forward free for a breakaway, which he buried five-hole past Fessenden.

Ryan Sullivan added a goal of his own 30 seconds later in similar fashion. Elliot McDermott sent a pass across the ice for Sullivan which generated a 2-on-1 rush towards the Wildcats’ net. Sullivan skated in and looked like he’d pass the puck off, but instead shot it himself and found the back of the net.

The Minutemen continued to be effective, using their speed, and the icing on the cake came on the power play. With even more room to work with on the ice, UMass found another breakaway opportunity; Reed Lebster skated free with the puck on his stick and lit a lamp of his own on what turned out to be the game-winner.

“We were able to generate a lot of speed up the ice in the second period,” Carvel said. “We had a fair number of odd-man rushes and breakaways. That [first] goal was huge to give us a little bit of life to get going and I think we scored the second one shortly after that.”

That fast play was coupled by a physical effort up and down the lineup. The Wildcats and Minutemen got chippy early and often, but in the second period UMass cranked up the intensity to a level UNH couldn’t match.

Bodies flopped all over the ice on both sides, but the Minutemen were dishing out more than they took back. Jerry Harding and Kennedy O’Connor were looking for contact whenever the play deemed it appropriate, and they used that physicality to get pucks back and generate more possessions of offense.

“The kid that I thought played really good tonight was Kennedy O’Connor,” Carvel said. “It’s only his third or fourth game and he played a really big strong game for us which is what we need, I thought he was excellent tonight.”

Fast and physical play is what brought UMass success in previous years, and after the slow first period, the Minutemen worked their way back towards that style. The result was a snapping of their five-game losing streak.

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