Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Gregoire: A look into UMass’ season at the halfway mark

The Minutemen are 3-6-2 in Hockey East
Kayla Wong/Daily Collegian (2022)

The Massachusetts hockey team had a lot of expectations to adhere to at the start of the season. With the Minutemen (7-6-3, 3-6-1 Hockey East) losing impact players and adding 12 freshmen and transfers, there was a sense of uncertainty surrounding the performance of UMass.

The first two-game series was against a No.1 ranked Denver team at the time, so it was easy to count the Minutemen out. UMass was coming off its first game that ended in a tie against American International College. With the help of the home crowd at Mullins Center and depth scoring, the Minutemen exceeded expectations and took down the Pioneers.

After a sweep of Union and going into its first HEA game with a win against Merrimack, UMass looked to be in good shape. As conference play went along, though, the Minutemen started to slip through the cracks. Five straight losses in HEA play dropped UMass in the polls and created the same sense of uncertainty there was at the beginning of the season.

With multiple freshmen scoring in the first series, including Kenny Connors, Tyson Dyck and Cole O’Hara, the young players were making immediate impacts. Now, at the halfway point of the season, Dyck has not found himself a consistent spot in the lineup.

Although Dyck started out hot, it’s been O’Hara coming into his own lately as the second best freshman forward, generating assists in seven games this season. Connors is leading the entire team in points with 17 points from seven goals and 10 assists, making him the Minutemen’s most consistent forward. Michael Cameron, who was not in the lineup at the beginning of the season, has become one of UMass’ everyday players. With Cameron’s speed and ability to get to the net, it would be hard to see him taken out of the lineup.

On defense, Kennedy O’Connor and Noah Ellis have been the Minutemen’s third defensive pairing, and Carvel likes what he’s getting out of them even though they lack experience.

Even with freshmen adding offense, depth scoring in general has not been a constant for UMass in its recent games. Taylor Makar has scored in the Minutemen’s last three games and in two of those games he was the only one to show up on the score sheet.

While it’s good to see the growth in Makar’s game, he and Connors cannot be the only two showing up every night for UMass.

Connors will be away from the team for the two games of the Kwik Trip Holiday Face-Off on Dec. 28 and Dec. 29 while he plays for Team USA in the World Juniors Championship. He’ll also miss Brown on Jan. 3, but he will likely be back in time for Frozen Fenway. With none of these teams being ranked, those three games could be a shot for UMass to mix up lines and see scoring from other players. Players like Ryan Lautenbach, Lucas Mercuri or even someone like O’Hara will look for bigger offensive roles during that time.

There will also be a hole in the defense without Ufko who is also playing at the WJC. Aaron Bohlinger will have to take on an even bigger role on defense during that time. O’Connor and Ellis will also need to step up and be a larger presence on the ice.

A positive change from the beginning of the season is the goaltender situation which has evolved over the course of the year. At the beginning of the season, Luke Pavicich, Cole Brady and Henry Graham all had a shot at being Carvel’s No. 1 guy.

As the season went along, Pavicich and Brady were both having solid starts in net with neither making a clear case for being the starter. When UMass hit its five-game losing streak, both goaltenders were shaky, making it hard to lean on either one of them.

When the Minutemen travelled to Northern Ireland to play in the Friendship Four tournament, the goaltender situation changed. Pavicich started both games in net and proved himself as the clear-cut starting netminder. He did not just prove that to fans, but also to himself and Carvel. After the tie to Quinnipiac where Pavicich made 31 saves, Carvel said that it is pretty clear that Pavicich is the answer in net.

Despite going into the next few games without two major guys, the Minutemen will look to have a more promising second half of the season. With Pavicich at the starting goaltender and a chance to improve depth scoring, UMass will look to improve in both NCAA and HEA standings.

Kayla Gregoire can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kaygregoire.

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