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

UMass heading to Conte Forum to take on BC in Hockey East tournament

Minutemen are 0-3 against the Eagles this season
Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts hockey team is riding late season momentum into the Hockey East tournament, but still finds itself in the opening round, taking on No. 8 seeded Boston College at Conte Forum on Wednesday night.

On top of its struggles within conference play this season, and the fact that the Minutemen (13-16-5, 7-14-3 HEA) are 0-3 against the Eagles (13-15-6, 8-11-5 HEA), this will be the quickest turnaround of the season for UMass, which alters preparation for the playoffs.

The Minutemen closed out the regular season against Maine on Saturday night on the road and had to make the five hour drive back to Amherst after that. They only had limited time in Amherst before hitting the road on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the BC matchup, a big change of pace from the previous two seasons where they earned a full week off between games.

Because of that, the pre-scout was installed early in the week, and there was more of a focus on team meetings than actual on-ice work.

“We’re not going to practice too hard the next two days … not going to tax them at all,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said on Monday. “It’s more about just mentally preparing these guys for the next round.”

This season, UMass hasn’t found much success against the Eagles, losing three separate times in three different venues including Fenway Park. The worst of those losses came at Conte Forum, where the Minutemen allowed five goals in the first period and lost 7-3. There are some things Carvel and UMass can take away from that matchup, but the Minutemen would like to forget those first 20 minutes.

“That was an extreme game, we made some extreme mistakes, and we didn’t get any saves in the first period,” Carvel said. “I think we outscored them 3-2 in the last two periods, not that I’m very proud of that … we finished with almost identical records and eighth and ninth for a reason, we’re two similar teams.”

That blowout did have a positive ripple effect on the Minutemen, though: it paved the way for Cole Brady’s return to the net. Brady competed for the starting role at the beginning of the season before taking a backseat to Luke Pavicich and Henry Graham. He played in the third period against the Eagles and has been the starting goaltender ever since.

While the Arizona State transfer may have come into the net cold, he got hot quickly and exceeded expectations during his run in net, culminating in a weekend sweep of Maine. Brady stopped 64 shots over those two games.

“We just got to a point where we needed some predictability in net, and a guy that was going to make saves that you expect him to make,” Carvel said. “[Brady] did that and a little bit more last weekend … he hasn’t had many breaks this year, but he got one and he’s running with it, and the team is playing harder for him.”

Brady’s biggest strength during his run has been consistency, and that’s a quality Carvel is looking for throughout the lineup. UMass hasn’t been very stable this season; at their best, the Minutemen have competed with — and beaten — top teams in the country. But, there have also been quite a few subpar performances as well.

Getting a more consistent showing from its players benefits UMass greatly. That’s been seen from the likes of Brady as well as a few strong weeks by players like Reed Lebster, Cal Kiefiuk, Owen Murray and Aaron Bohlinger. Carvel relies on knowing exactly what he’s going to get out of a player, and the Minutemen’s recent run of success is a direct result of that stability.

Conference play hasn’t treated UMass kindly in 2022-23, but playoffs are all about the team that gets hot. The Minutemen are remaining confident and looking to make another postseason run starting on Wednesday night. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. from Conte Forum.

“[They’ve had our number lately] and that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth,” Lucas Mercuri said. “We haven’t played our best hockey against them but we’ve been good on the road lately so we’re just going to go in there, have a chip on our shoulder and have that underdog mentality.”

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

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