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 hockey prepares for matchup with Michigan

Minutemen await tough test
Kira Johnson
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts hockey team started its season with a win against American International College, but a two-game matchup against a talented Michigan Wolverines team will provide a unique challenge for the Minutemen (1-0).

The No.6 Wolverines (1-1-0) have a stacked lineup that has the ability to make it tough for the Minutemen this weekend.

Forward Rutger McGroarty was a star for Michigan in his freshman year and is already off to a hot start to his sophomore season with a goal and four assists in just two games. McGroarty was part of the Big Ten All-Tournament team and NCAA Midwest All-Region team as a freshman and is primed for a strong second season. He will be facing Kenny Connors and Ryan Ufko, his teammates when USA took home a bronze medal in the 2023 World Junior Championships.

One of McGroarty’s linemates Gavin Brindley also makes for a hard matchup for the Minutemen. The two played together on the first line with Hobey Baker winner Adam Fantilli last season. The sophomores learned from Fantilli and are bringing that experience playing with an elite player into their sophomore seasons.

Like UMass, Michigan has a young team, so inexperience is likely a common factor in the series. The Wolverines come into this season with 15 underclassmen, and the Minutemen not far behind with 14.

“It going to be tough, but [head coach Greg Carvel] is getting us ready for it so it’s going to be good,” freshman Jack Musa said.

Another area that has been similar for the two teams to start the season is the number of penalties they have taken. In two games against the Providence Friars, the Wolverines took 10 total penalties, while UMass took five in their one game, with three of them coming in the third period.

The Minutemen converted on the power play with a goal from Musa against AIC. If UMass can continue to thrive on the power play, it will have a an advantage over the Wolverines who struggled on special teams to start the season.

In two games, the Wolverines gave up four power play goals to the Friars. UMass’ strong special teams units can help the Minutemen thrive in an area where the Wolverines struggle.

Carvel has taken advantage of Michigan opening up its schedule with a Hockey East opponent. While the Minutemen prepare for every series the same way, Carvel called up Providence head coach Nate Leaman for some advice.

“It also helps when you call the coach of the other team and ask him for some insight, which I did,” Carvel said. “It’s important that teams in the other conference help each other out in these situation.”

The last time the Minutemen played the Wolverines was the 2021-22 season where they lost twice by scores of 4-1 and 4-2. With both teams having almost entirely new teams and Michigan under a new head coach, this game will be different for UMass. Assistant coaches Tom Upton and Nolan Gluchowski are familiar with head coach Brandon Naurato.

“Both my assistants are friends with Naurato,” Carvel said. “We’ve got a pretty good feel for their team. I’ve done some pre-scouting and I feel like, yeah, a much differently coached team. I don’t think too much will surprise us.”

While Michigan will be a tough opponent, the players are focused on building off their 5-3 win against AIC.

“We’re not too focused on [Michigan], we have a lot of good things to build off of from this past weekend,” junior defenseman Scott Morrow said. “We’re really optimistic about the type of hockey we can play, obviously we have a big home advantage here at Mullins. We get to play on the big ice and we’re pretty physical. I think we’ll be a good matchup for them.”

UMass matchups against Michigan on Friday, Oct. 13 at the Mullins Center for the first game of the series. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m.

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

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