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: UMass hockey needs defensive help

Five goals were allowed in the first period
Dylan Nguyen/Daily Collegian (2023)

CHESTNUT HILL — The Massachusetts hockey team skated off the ice with five goals scored on it in 20 minutes. Luke Pavicich saw 20 minutes and never came back after the first period, symbolizing the struggles of goaltending and defense.

The defense allowed 13 shots on Pavicich in 20 minutes, but the goaltender also allowed five of the shots past him. While Pavicich is to blame for allowing the goals, defense needs to keep the pressure off of him. The Minutemen cannot let defensive mistakes go and have just their goaltender back them up.

The goaltender looked to be in his head in net, not making saves that he has easily made in the past. Pavicich looked lost at times, struggling to find the puck and allowing rebounds that could have been covered up. One of the goals allowed was from the left side of the net and bounced off the back of Pavicich before going in.

With Pavicich’s performance, head coach Greg Carvel was left to put Henry Graham in net on Friday against the Eagles. While Graham lacks the experience in net, the junior had a better performance than Pavicich. Graham let one goal by him in the second period and then stood tall for the rest of the night. Graham may not have the experience that Pavicich has in net but he’s been more of what Carvel has been looking for in games.

Cole Brady has not seen action in the net in over a month, but Carvel gave him ice time in the third period on Friday. With UMass’ defense slowly finding its feet in the third period, Brady did not face too many shots but allowed one goal by him like Graham with over seven minutes left.

With all three goaltenders playing on Friday, Carvel will likely not play Pavicich in the second game of the series on Saturday.

UMass’ best defender, Ryan Ufko, went minus three on the day. While Ufko is not the only one to blame for the goals, the Minutemen need a guy like him to be the best player on the ice. Ufko had rare turnovers against Boston College that cost UMass time in the offensive zone.

Ufko and his partner Scott Morrow have seen the most ice time in games with sometimes over 30 minutes of ice time in a game. While they have continued to be the best pairing of the three, they have showed consistency on offense, but at times can struggle defensively.

Morrow leads in points on the team but has tended to hold the puck for too long which has led into the opposing team grabbing the puck away. Morrow has spun into trouble when he has turned his back and passed right to players. The play has worked for him at times, but cannot always be a go-to play for him.

The third defensive pairing of Kennedy O’Connor and Owen Murray offensively was the best on the ice against the Eagles despite typically being one of the parings to not create offense. Murray started Matt Koopman’s first goal of the game with skating down the ice and using vision to pass across the rink. The assist marked Murray’s first career collegiate point. O’Connor was the primary assist on Koopman’s second goal, making them the only defenseman to show up on the scoresheet.

Murray and O’Connor have still shown inconsistency defensively throughout the season. The third pairing has seen O’Connor there for most of the season but Murray, Noah Ellis and Mikey Adamson have rotated as the second man. O’Connor has added a big body in the games but has still allowed to be known that he is a freshman. At times, Carvel has spoken highly of the pairing but has not been afraid to also show his disapproval when they cause turnovers.

Aaron Bohlinger and Elliott McDermott are the most experienced pairing of the three but also have lacked consistency. McDermott has not necessarily been a liability for the Minutemen but he has not been making big plays in the game to keep pucks off the goaltenders. Bohlinger typically has been one of UMass’ top three defenders especially with his experience on the ice. In the Vermont series and on Friday, Bohlinger made mistakes that were not helpful.

While defense is not the only place where the Minutemen have struggled, if they want to make any sort of run in the Hockey East tournament, they need to be consistent.

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

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