Clarkson spoils UMass’ return to action, beats Minutemen 6-3 on Wednesday

O’Hara, Bohlinger and Dyck notch multi-point games for the Minutemen

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Colin McCarthy, Video Editor

For 30 minutes, it looked like the Massachusetts hockey team was going to dodge any rust that may have come from its three week break. It even looked like the losses of its top three players, Kenny Connors, Ryan Ufko and Reed Lebster, wouldn’t be such a big deal after all. The No. 15 Minutemen (7-7-3, 3-6-1 Hockey East) were looking dominant.

Then the second half hit, and Clarkson (7-8-2, 6-4-2 Eastern College Athletic Conference) rattled off six straight goals. All the energy drained from UMass’ bench, replaced by frustration as what once was a three goal lead evaporated right in front of its eyes. the final horn sounded, the scoreboard read 6-3, and all the Minutemen could do was skate off the ice in disappointment. The highs of the night were high, but the lows were especially low, and the loss was painful.

“Kind of at a loss right now,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said after the game. “I don’t know what happened [in the third period], it just seemed like every puck Clarkson threw at the net went in.”

Three UMass players recorded multiple point games on Wednesday night; Cole O’Hara scored a pair of goals, once on the power play and once at even strength. Each of those goals were assisted by Aaron Bohlinger, and Tyson Dyck also notched a pair of assists in his return to the lineup. Those feats didn’t amount to a win, but they did show that the Minutemen can have success without their three key players, none of whom will be back before the new year. Connors and Ufko are in Canada for the World Junior Championship, and Lebster is still working his way back from an injury he suffered before the break.

Bohlinger and Scott Morrow played a lot of minutes against the Golden Knights to help ease the loss of Ufko, and they played well on both sides of the puck. Bohlinger made his presence known on the Minutemen power play as a puck moving defenseman, finding O’Hara wide open for the opening goal of the game in the first period. He’s got the most experience at the blue line for UMass and he needed to be a key player in a backend that is currently featuring three freshmen.

The power play looked a lot different for UMass given that the three missing players all hold spots on the top unit. The man-advantage was tackled much more by committee on Wednesday as Carvel tried to find his best combination, but the success didn’t waiver. The Minutemen went 1-3 on the power play, keeping in line with their .325 season average which is No. 1 in the country.

“I thought the power play actually was pretty good tonight, we got a lot of good looks,” Carvel said.

The momentum shift of the game seemed to come from a five-minute major penalty assessed to the Golden Knights. UMass was unable to convert on that power play, which would have given it a 4-2 lead. Shortly after returning to 5-on-5 action, Lucas Mercuri did find the back of the net for the Minutemen, but that tally was waived off when the referees determined that Taylor Makar interfered with the Clarkson goaltender.

From that moment on, the Golden Knights went on a run. They scored a highlight reel breakaway goal, a hard wrist shot that went bar-down into the net and a picture perfect redirect goal that Luke Pavicich didn’t have a chance to stop.

“I thought we played good enough to win outside of the last 10 minutes,” Carvel said.

Pavicich played a fairly strong game despite what the scoreboard would suggest, but he still allowed six goals and only made 24 saves, good enough for an .800 save percentage. Coming into Wednesday’s contest, Pavicich boasted a nation-leading .935 save percentage.

Josh Nodler played one of his best games of the season in Wisconsin, scoring a goal while going 12-for-2o from the face-off dot. He was UMass’ best center on the night.

The Minutemen will look to regroup in their second game of the tournament on Thursday, taking the positives from the night while avoiding the late collapse.

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