Penalties plague UMass in 2-1 loss against Merrimack

Minutemen take 25 penalty minutes against Merrimack

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Kayla Wong/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Matt Skillings, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts hockey team lost to Merrimack for the second time this season on Wednesday night, largely due to 25 penalty minutes.

The Minutemen (7-6-3, 3-6-1 Hockey East) were plagued by the penalty kill due to it draining momentum from the offense and forced No. 13 UMass to play on its heels for a large portion of the game.

Despite keeping No. 11 Merrimack (12-4-0, 8-2-0 HEA) off the board on the power play, UMass had a hard time sustaining pressure throughout the game due to how often it was down a man.

Just past eight minutes into the second period, forward Lucas Mercuri was handed a game misconduct for slew footing, giving the Warriors a five-minute power play. Despite successfully killing it off, just 12 seconds later, Taylor Makar took a tripping penalty giving Merrimack another two-minute man advantage. That penalty gave the Warriors seven straight minutes of 5-on-4.

Killing off a five-minute penalty is often seen as a momentum boost for the shorthanded team, and it seemed like it could be for the Minutemen, but Makar’s penalty hurt any momentum UMass could’ve potentially gained from their big kill.

“It just felt like the whole second period we just killed penalties, and lost bodies, which makes it tough,” head coach Greg Carvel said.

UMass has been strong on the penalty kill recently, after going through a bit of a rut in that area earlier in the season.

“That’s been something we’ve worked on in practice a lot,” senior Eric Faith said. “Just working on our rotations, working on staying our structure, and it’s been good to see. When we do get kills, we can build momentum that way, but we don’t want to be killing that many penalties to start with.”

Lucas Mercuri had 19 penalty minutes alone on Wednesday, putting the Minutemen at a disadvantage for almost half of the second period. The slew footing misconduct, eliminated him from the game. The Minutemen also lost Reed Lebster midway through the second period, putting them at only 10 forwards, as the extra skater tonight was a defenseman, Mikey Adamson.

Playing with less than 18 skaters is less than optimal for college hockey, especially when playing a physical team like Merrimack. Playing with just 10 forwards and spending almost half of the second period on the penalty kill fatigued players. Those extra shifts for the forwards combined with the taxing role of killing a penalty was more than enough to cause the Minutemen to struggle coming down the stretch in the third period.

Even when the Minutemen were able to put pressure on Merrimack’s defense, sustaining pressure was a different story. The Warriors locked up UMass around the net and kept it from holding the zone for too long.

“We did a much better job in the goalie pocket of not allowing second shots,” Merrimack head coach Scott Borek said. “I can’t tell you in the five years I’ve played here how many times I’ve watched a rebound goal go in that we just haven’t done a great job. We did a much better job tonight, and you have to do that against them.”

The Minutemen will look to stay out of the penalty box when they come back from their three-week holiday break.

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