UMass falls short against UConn, 4-3 in overtime

Minutemen outshoot Huskies 37-24 but can’t come away with the win

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Dylan Nguyen/Daily Collegian (2023)

By Colin McCarthy, Video Editor

Frustrations continued for the Massachusetts hockey team on Friday night, but there were no hanging heads at the end of the game.

Despite the Minutemen (9-11-3, 3-9-1 Hockey East) heavily outshooting and out-chancing UConn (14-7-3, 9-6-2 HEA) for the entire 60-plus minutes of hockey, the Huskies took advantage of their few quality chances and snuck out of the Mullins Center with a 4-3 win in overtime.

“The kids brought great energy tonight, we had a great week of practice, really liked our preparation,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “Played really well, I thought the kids deserved better tonight.”

Scott Morrow scored the key go-ahead goal on the power play, cleaning up a rebound in front and firing it up high midway through the third period. That was UMass’ first lead of the night, although it felt like it dominated much of the game until that point.

That third goal wasn’t enough though. UConn responded late in the game with a power play goal of its own to tie before finding the game winner with just 13 seconds left in the extra frame.

“To me it’s the same, pucks in the back of the net for the same reasons,” Carvel said. “Our penalty kill has not been great, that’s been one of the areas we have to get better at.”

There weren’t many chances for the Huskies on Friday, but they took advantage of opportunities they did have to help seal the victory.

In the second period, Cole O’Hara blocked a shot at the point off his leg and looked to be in considerable pain. He slowly got off the ice to make way for Reed Lebster replacing him, but his injury gave UConn about 20 seconds of 5-on-4 action inside the offensive zone. The Huskies capitalized on that time when Jake Percival buried a shot past Henry Graham to give UConn a 2-1 lead.

For the first 15 minutes of action, UConn only registered one shot on net, which was swallowed up easily by Henry Graham. Late in the frame, though, junior Hudson Schandor found an opening in front of Graham and no UMass defender put a stick on him. Schandor used that free space to collect a puck near the crease and fire it into the net, giving the Huskies a 1-0 lead.

“You look up and you’re outshooting them [12-2] and you’re losing 1-0 it’s a little frustrating,” Carvel said.

The Minutemen rebounded from that goal quickly courtesy of a shot from the point by Morrow. Getting that goal back was much needed; UMass dominated the period and to come away down one heading into intermission would have been deflating, especially given the tough stretch the Minutemen are working through.

“It was important,” Carvel said of the first period goal. “I said to the coaches before the game, we played UNH here and had a great first period but didn’t score. [Friday] I said, ‘I hope we have a great first period and we find a way to score a goal,’ … that was a great response.”

Even without the win, Friday’s showcase was a step in the right direction for UMass. Shots favored the Minutemen 37-24 and pucks finally started finding the back of the net. Lucas Mercuri lit a lamp with a greasy goal off a rebound, something that UMass hasn’t done very often all season. Net presence is important, and as one of the Minutemen’s biggest forwards, Mercuri takes responsibility to add that when he’s on the ice.

“I like to play at the net and let [Ryan Lautenbach] and [Taylor Makar] kind of buzz around and cycle the puck,” Mercuri said. “I just try to play big and get to the net.”

UMass won 57.1 percent of its face-offs over the Huskies, led by Mercuri, who finished 10-of-14. Nodler only took two draws before being moved to the wing to help with some of the Minutemen’s injuries. O’Hara tried to get back on the ice following his leg injury, but after just 10 seconds he was brought back to the bench. Lebster went down in the third period and immediately skated to the locker room.

“by the end of the game it felt like we had three defensemen and seven forwards,” Carvel said. “Proud of the team, they played well tonight, puck just didn’t bounce our way.”

UMass is hoping to build its momentum heading into Saturday’s rematch with UConn. Puck drop is set for 4:30 p.m.

“I think [Friday is] a building block game for our team,” Morrow said. “I think we outplayed the other team tonight and I think if we play that way tomorrow, we’ll be a team no one wants to see in the playoffs.”

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