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

Skillings: UMass hockey remains resilient over Alaska Anchorage

Minutemen use strong third period to power their way past the Seawolves
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

After a more than convincing 11-2 victory over Alaska Anchorage on Friday, the Massachusetts hockey team struggled to score on Saturday, but like it has done all year, it remained resilient in the third period. Two late goals from Aydar Suniev and Lucas Mercuri made the difference for the Minutemen (11-4-1, 4-3-1 Hockey East) on Saturday night as they will head into the break with two morale-boosting victories over Anchorage (6-13-1).

Although the Seawolves are not a powerhouse in college hockey by any stretch of the imagination, they play to a very specific identity that allows them to stay with teams that punch above their weight class. This isn’t a big ranked win for UMass, or a victory over a rival in Hockey East, but it is proof that this team can win games even when it doesn’t have its best stuff.

The Minutemen outshot Anchorage 38-21 and completely dominated time of puck possession, as well as quality scoring chances. But until there were less than three minutes left in the third period, UMass was stuck in a stalemate with the Seawolves. No matter how much pressure they applied, Jared Whale was spectacular in net and didn’t allow the Minutemen on the board for most of the game.

When Suniev broke the ice and gave UMass the lead with 2:54 remaining in the game, there was a proverbial sigh of relief throughout the Mullins Center. Because although the Minutemen dominated the game, there was no guarantee that things were going to break in their favor.

The point I’m getting at is that this team has the makeup to win any style of game. Take the game against Harvard a couple of weeks ago for example: UMass dominated puck possession and scoring chances, but just couldn’t seem to get the stops on the defensive end when it needed it. But even with their defense and goaltending struggling mightily, the Minutemen kept the energy and resiliency up on the bench and found a way to win.

We can even look at games at the opposite end of the spectrum, both of UMass’ matchups with Providence, specifically the latter affair. The Minutemen were outshot 33-16 and trailed until the 17:10 mark of the third period. By no means was that a game that UMass deserved to win; it was outplayed and outskated for 55-plus minutes.

Even in that low-scoring, morale-crushing type of environment, the pressure of these moments doesn’t seem to be phasing this team. Jack Musa deflected a puck in and gave the team a new life, and then Ryan Ufko did what he does, electrifying the Mullins Center with a walk-off overtime goal.

This isn’t the same team as last year, that consistently lost games for the exact opposite reason. There is a buy-in, a belief factor within this team that is a sign of a group that has real potential to make noise in the second half of this season.

Junior forward Mercuri has alluded multiple times to a “pound the rock” mentality that UMass has shown in third periods this season, and Saturday night was a perfect example of the grit that team leaders are pushing the group to have.

“After [Friday] night’s game, it can feel a little frustrating that you’re not scoring,” Carvel said. “But this group has shown numerous times this year that they can go into the third period, and you can feel it on the bench that they… are going to find a way to score.”

I’m not saying that UMass is the most talented team in the country, but with the resiliency it has shown, coupled with the talent it has on offense, defense and in net, the ceiling is high for the second half of this season.

Matt Skillings can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at matt_skillings.

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