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 looks to stop Merrimack’s three-game win streak in weekend series

Minutemen search for first victory of 2024
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

The Massachusetts hockey team looks to get in the win column for the first time of 2024 in its upcoming two-game series against Merrimack. The Minutemen (11-5-3, 4-3-2 Hockey East) will play one home game and one away game for their first two games against the Warriors (9-9-1, 2-6-1 HEA) of the season.

UMass started off 2024 in its previous game at the Mullins Center against UConn and played 65 minutes of solid hockey en route to a 3-3 tie that the Huskies ended up taking in a shootout. Losing the lead in their last game with just two minutes left to play will be motivation for the Minutemen, who look to get back on track on Friday.

Another source of motivation for UMass comes with its hope to have some of its players return to play after participating in the World Junior Championship. Dans Locmelis reached the Quarterfinal round and Michael Hrabal won bronze and should be back just in time to suit up for the Minutemen.

“I don’t think it feels [back to normal] yet,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “We did have Michael Hrabal back, I’ve not yet seen Dans Locmelis, we still don’t have [Aydar] Suniev back, so we’re not as close as I wished we were to normal… When we get everybody back healthy and refreshed, I’ll be very excited.”

The return of the young stars will be integral in the attempt to defeat the Warriors over the weekend. Merrimack comes into the series with a three-game winning streak, defeating Brown, Stonehill and Holy Cross in its last three contests.

Even with the hot streak, the Warriors sit in 10th in the HEA standings, looking to continue to turn things around after a slow start to the season.

“It’s hard in [the Hockey East] to stay on top of the league,” Carvel said. “But I don’t imagine that [Merrimack’s] lost their identity of how hard they play. We’ll be as prepared as we can for that this weekend.”

Merrimack has a pretty even two-man split in goal, with Zachary Borgiel starting 11 games and Hugo Ollas getting the nod in the other eight between the pipes. The two netminders have combined for a 2.67 goals against average and a .910 save percentage.

The Warriors’ skaters are led by senior forward Alex Jefferies who has scored 10 goals to go along with six assists in 14 games played. Junior forward Matt Copponi and sophomore defenseman Zach Bookman have also been point-per-game players, with 21 points in 18 games played and 20 points in 19 games played, respectively.

Merrimack’s offense has scored 3.2 goals per game over the course of the season, compared to its 2.8 goals against per game. These numbers compare similarly to UMass, who finds the back of the net 3.6 times per game and surrenders 2.9 goals against.

The Minutemen aim to right the ship, not having an addition to the win column since defeating Alaska Anchorage on Dec. 9. Two ties and an overtime loss over the winter break haven’t been what the team’s been looking for. After starting strong, UMass sits in sixth place in the Hockey East and has the opportunity to move up in the ranks with the upcoming matchup.

The two conference foes will face off twice over the coming weekend with each team getting a chance to play on their home ice. The Minutemen host the first game at the Mullins Center on Friday, Jan 12 at 7 p.m. and the Warriors will host game two at Lawler Rink on Saturday, Jan 13 also at 7 p.m. Both matchups can be watched on ESPN+.

Mike Maynard can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @mikecmaynard.

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