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

Five successful penalty kills allow UMass to overcome missed chances

Minutemen work through 10 minutes of penalty kill time
Kira Johnson
Daily Collegian (2024)

The Massachusetts hockey team killed off five straight penalties to hold on against the University of New Hampshire and take home a 3-2 victory Friday night. Even with three potential goals being called back, UMass’ (17-9-3, 10-7-2 Hockey East) penalty kill kept it in the game.

The end of the first and a large chunk of the second period was plagued with penalties for the Minutemen. After the Wildcats (16-12-1, 9-9-1 HEA) were called for two of their own in the first period, UMass suffered the next five calls in a row, spending 10 minutes down a man.

“I thought that had a real effect on our group,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “Took away any momentum.”

The Minutemen’s offense was dealing with problems with Aydar Suniev nearly scoring a goal in the first period that hit the crossbar and fooled the crowd and the Minutemen.

This wasn’t the only time that the Mullins Center expected a goal that didn’t follow through. Taylor Makar also had a goal in the first period that was called back due to a high stick. Later in the game, the same thing happened on a Michael Cameron goal that was reversed.

“It’s to the point now where basically every goal we score, I’m expecting it to get called back,” Carvel said. “You keep scoring and you feel like ‘All right, we gave ourselves a little breathing room’ and then it’s taken back.”

Breathing room may not have been there for the Minutemen tonight, but their defense and goaltending while down a man for one-sixth of the contest proved to truly be the difference.

UNH came into Friday’s contest with a .221 conversion percentage on its power play, matching up evenly with UMass’ .221 opponent conversion percentage.

“[UNH] gave us trouble, but our penalty kill, we adjusted it after Christmas, and since Christmas, we’ve been very strong,” Carvel said. “Just the system that we’re using. I thought our forecheck was very good tonight, but five [penalties] in a row is tough.”

A big part of what gave the Minutemen success on the kill was their dominance at the faceoff dot. UMass finished the game 37-23 in faceoffs. Winning defensive zone faceoffs with a man in the box can help out the unit as a whole, taking extra time off the clock, and keeping possession of the puck.

“We’re kind of a hot and cold team, generally pretty good on them, especially on our powerplay,” UNH head coach Mike Souza said of his team’s faceoff struggles. “When you’re chasing pucks down the ice, it just knocks off 15-20 seconds, and then if you don’t get an entry, the next thing you know your two-minute power play goes to a minute power play.”

Another major factor was the success of the Minutemen at creating turnovers in the neutral zone and preventing zone entries for the Wildcats. Keeping the puck away from its net was a theme all night for the UMass penalty kill.

“You could tell [UNH was] having a hard time getting in and had to start dumping pucks, so it’s a good sign,” Carvel said. “For the most part, we did a good job getting pucks down the ice.”

Goaltender Michael Hrabal’s strong night in between the pipes for the Minutemen also played a huge role in the penalty kill success. Although only facing five shots on the five man-advantages, the freshman goaltender kept his team in the game, playing his angles and not allowing anything past him.

“UNH, their powerplay was kind of unique,” Niinisaari said. “They really knew how to work our penalty kill, but the guys did a really good job. [Hrabal] was really strong and really good in net so that always helps. He was our best penalty killer today.”

Although it’s not something you hope to have to lean on, the UMass penalty kill proved it can keep the team in a game if need be. The Minutemen’s unit will have another game just 24 hours later, with the Wildcats hosting on Saturday, Feb. 24 at Whittemore Center Arena at 7 p.m.

“The penalty kill was huge [Friday],” Carvel said. “Five in a row, that should have a really big effect on a game if a team gets five power plays in a row, and we didn’t allow it to.”

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