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 sweeps Minnesota State 1-0 on Saturday

The Minutemen closes out series against Minnesota State with a sweep
Kira Johnson
Daily Collegian (2023)

On Saturday night, the Massachusetts hockey team defeated No. 19 Minnesota State, 1-0. Despite coming out in the first period with a slow start, the Minutemen (4-1) powered through seven penalties to shutout the Mavericks (2-3).

Just over ten minutes left of the second period on the power play, Aaron Bohlinger and Lucas Mercuri found freshman forward Aydar Suniev. Suniev, just above the blue line, had the puck for a split second before taking a long slap shot and putting up the first goal of the night. The puck grazed past the Minnesota State defense and cradled in the net behind Maverick goaltender Alex Tracy’s right side. The freshman forward also opened the scoring for the first night of the series in Mankato.

Saturday night’s victory, though, was powered by the Minutemen defense and special teams.

On a five-minute major on Liam Gorman for contact to the head, the penalty kill swept the puck away time after time. In attempts to power through and create a one-on-one, UMass locked down in the neutral zone and found opportunities to poke out the puck from the Mavericks’ control.

“We took a lot of penalties,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “The special teams were the difference, our penalty kill was outstanding… The last three games, we’ve been the better team on the special teams.”

As for defense, graduate Samuli Niinisaari who has found stability with the Minutemen early in the season put his offensive strategies away and kept himself in front of the net to block shots. The defenseman totaled six blocks during the second night against the Mavericks. As the minutes ticked down in third period with Minnesota State trying to slot in a goal, Niinisaari shot out his stick to deflect the puck as goaltender Michael Hrabal composed himself between the pipes. The puck swiped wide and the Mavericks were unable to collect the puck in time to find another scoring opportunity.

“That’s what we brought [Niinisaari] in for. We knew he was an elite penalty killer, adding some offense too, but it’s nice having him in the lineup,” Carvel said.

Senior defenseman Linden Alger also stepped out onto the ice with confidence to make up for the lack of energy in the first period. Despite only logging in one block for the night, the senior kept his control over the puck and poise on the ice. With Hrabal struggling to find consistent stability, Alger was a defenseman that could be relied on.

With captain Ryan Ufko taking a penalty less than two minutes left of regulation, Minnesota State took out Tracy for a six-on-four matchup as a last-ditch effort to tie the game. However, the Minutemen used their physicality to keep the Mavericks against the glass until the game-closing buzzer sounded a UMass victory.

On Saturday night, Hrabal dished out a shutout against Minnesota. The Minutemen’s last shutout against a ranked opponent was on Oct. 15, 2022 in UMass’ second game of the series sweep against Denver at the Mullins Center.

After the Minutemen took the one-goal lead, the Mavericks were adamant about putting the pressure on Hrabal. The true freshman, though, continued to use his size and athleticism to keep the puck out of the net. He faced over twenty shots on goal, putting his whole body forward to dive over the puck.

However, the Saturday night matchup did not start off easy for the Minutemen. Coming off of a 6-3 win in the previous night, UMass lacked the same fire hitting the rink from the start in the second night. This showed in the scoring opportunities as well with many shots attempting to break through a number of bodies on the ice and not seeing a glimpse of Tracy in the net. The Minutemen were only able to find a little over ten shots on goal on Saturday.

UMass will take the road again, heading to Boston University’s Agganis Arena on Friday, Oct. 27. Puck drop against the Terriers is set for 7 p.m.

“We’re still growing… We [have] enough pieces to win, either way offensively or defensively, that’s a good sign,” Carvel said. “There’s no bad win.”

Sydney Ciano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SydneyCiano.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *