UMass hockey is in a rut

Minutemen are on a four-game losing streak

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Kayla Wong/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Colin McCarthy, Video Editor

After one of the hottest starts in program history, the Massachusetts hockey team has cooled off considerably ever since Hockey East play began. No. 11 UMass (5-4-1, 1-4 HEA) has lost four games in a row, including two occasions where it allowed seven goals.

For a team whose identity is built on strong defense and winning games 3-2, the Minutemen have struggled to meet those expectations against conference opponents. Head coach Greg Carvel made it clear after Friday night’s loss to Boston University that there needs to be a shift in energy from top to bottom.

“We’re in a hole here for the first time in a long time, and we’re going to have to find a way as a group to pull out of it,” Carvel said. “I didn’t think our compete was great [on Friday], I didn’t think our puck management was great, it turned out to be an ugly game.”

“We need to come together as a group and figure out how to play better hockey.”

Carvel knows everybody needs to be better, including himself. He took a lot of the blame for UMass not coming out competitive enough lately, and also owned a mistake he made on Friday night.

Usually, Carvel and his coaching staff walk onto the ice with just under two minutes remaining in intermission. The players follow them and begin to skate onto the ice with a little under a minute. But on Friday night, between the second and third period, Carvel and the coaching staff was nowhere to be found. The team got a late start onto the ice, and the team didn’t fully make it to the bench until about 30 seconds after the third frame was set to begin. The officials gathered and called a penalty on the Minutemen for a protocol violation.

What was supposed to be a five minute power play for UMass turned into two minutes of 4-on-4 followed by a condensed three minute power play.

“I was speaking to the team, and there were things I needed to say, and I went too long,” Carvel said. “That’s on me.”

It was a rare misstep by Carvel, but the Minutemen were already down a handful of goals, and he was trying to spark something in his team; that penalty wasn’t the difference in the game.

Carvel is still looking for that spark, and for someone to provide it. Ideally, the messaging would come from the senior leaders. Eric Faith, Reed Lebster, Jerry Harding and Cal Kiefiuk are all major presences in the locker room. But it doesn’t need to come from them. The work is on everyone.

“We all need to come together,” Carvel said. “I need to coach better, captains need to lead better, everybody needs to be better. It’s great to win, but the biggest part of my job is helping them find answers when they need them, and we need answers right now.”

The Minutemen’s back is against a wall right now, but Carvel also reminded the team that they’ve seen success this season. They played exceptionally well against then-No. 1 Denver in mid-October. Those wins feel like the distant past, but they provide an example of the potential UMass has.

The Minutemen are looking to shake out of their rut on Saturday night on the road when they take on the No. 14 Terriers in the second half of their weekend series. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. from Agganis Arena.

“When you’re struggling to win games, the worst thing you can do is fall apart, so we got to lean hard on each other,” Carvel said.

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