UMass fails to find offense, falling to UConn 3-1

Luke Pavicich makes 39 saves in net

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Colin McCarthy/ Daily Collegian (2023)

By Kayla Gregoire, Assistant Sports Editor

STORRS, Conn. — The Massachusetts hockey team scored 12 seconds into the game but could not find the back of the net in the remaining 59 minutes, falling to Connecticut 3-1 on Saturday evening.

Ryan Lautenbach scored a wrist shot past goaltender Logan Terness off of the opening face off in the first period. The goal marks Lautenbach’s first goal since Nov. 11, allowing the sophomore to show off his offensive capabilities.

The sophomore line was one of the Minutemen’s (9-12-3, 3-10-1 Hockey East) biggest offensive lines in the series. The line that consists of Lautenbach, Taylor Makar and Lucas Mercuri had two goals over the two game stretch. On Saturday, Mercuri led UMass in face-off win percentage, winning 15 of his 25. For as good as they played offensively, the sophomores struggled a bit on the defensive side and were on the ice for a few of No. 13 UConn’s (15-7-3, 10-6-2 HEA) goals over the weekend.

“I like their energy, they were ready to go,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “They’re very vocal and the energy seemed good so when they scored that goal you could feel that line came out flying.”

Luke Pavicich started on Saturday and stood tall in net. Pavicich looked like a different goaltender, not allowing rebounds that he has typically allowed by him. Many of the shots he faced slipped by him but landed on the goal line. In the second frame, the Minutemen were put on a power play where defense was not up to par. Pavicich made important saves in the two minutes to keep UConn at zero. The sophomore ended his night with 39 saves.

“It was stellar, he was outstanding,” Carvel said about Pavicich. “The third goal he had no chance , second goal no chance. He did absolutely everything that he could to give us a chance. If we get that goaltending every night then we’ll be alright.”

The Huskies capitalized on the Minutemen’s mistakes and Pavicich had to back up most of the errors. With Ryan Ufko on him, Nick Capone stick handled his way from the right side of the ice to the front of the crease. With a wrist shot, Capone made it 1-1 to knot the game heading into the third period.

The Huskies came out ready to play in the third period and got another one past Pavicich to take a lead. A UConn player tried a lacrosse goal on Pavicich, which he dropped before he could make it past the goaltender’s shoulder. On the same shift, Hudson Schandor passed to Matthew Wood on the left post. Pavicich shifted towards Wood to leave a wide open net for Nick Capone on the right side, which Capone easily buried.

With five penalties, the lineup had to step up on defense to eliminate chances. Multiple players had two blocks. Despite blocks, the defense was not up to its best. In the first period, the Minutemen had played a solid defensive game to attempt to keep the Huskies off of Pavicich. They started to slip through the cracks, not being able to keep up with UConn in the next frames.

Injuries have plagued UMass in the series with three forwards going down in two games. Cole O’Hara and Reed Lebster got banged up on Friday, taking them out of playing Saturday. On Saturday, Eric Faith took a hit behind the net in the second period to take him out for the rest of the game. Before the captain took the hit, he was 100 percent on face offs.

“He plays the game the right way,” Carvel said about Faith. “He’s reliable, he leads that way. He plays the game honestly and he’s got some decent size. I usually put him deeper in the lineup. I know he’s not going to make mistakes.”

UMass will stay on the road and to take on UMass Lowell on Friday, Jan 27 at 7:15 p.m.

“We’ll just get back to it Monday,” Carvel said. “We play one game next week and we’ll just keep preparing and following the plan. You’ve just got to make sure guys don’t get frustrated and start coming off the page.”

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