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

Freshmen stand out in UMass weekend sweep over UConn

Four goals and Hrabal’s Friday night shutout showcase freshmen talent
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

The No. 12 Massachusetts hockey team’s freshmen solidified a 3-1 win on Saturday over the University of Connecticut to come out victorious with a weekend sweep.

Freshmen forwards Dans Locmelis, Jack Musa, Cam O’Neill and Aydar Suniev sank in four Minuteman (16-7-3, 9-5-2 Hockey East) goals over the course of the series.

O’Neill opened Saturday’s scoring in the first period. This was the third goal of his collegiate career with his first coming out of the Schneider Arena in Providence and his second from the 11-goal victory over Alaska.

“The confidence just builds every single week,” O’Neill said. “Just being in the lineup and playing every night, you kind of build [that]. Seeing some of the freshmen score in every game, you want to do the same.”

His goal started from Samuli Niinisaari and Scott Morrow. After corralling the puck in from Morrow, O’Neill saw Niinisaari begin to release the puck from his stick. With the Huskies’ (12-15-2, 7-11-1 HEA) goaltender Ethan Haider leaning closer on his right side, the freshman hopped on the opportunity to tip the puck into the net’s wide-open left side.

The weekend was kicked off with a Dans Locmelis Friday night goal in the third period.

Morrow wrapped around the right edge of the rink and found Locmelis waiting in front of the net just before circling around goaltender Arsenii Sergeev. As soon as the puck touched Locmelis’ stick, the freshman forward slid down on his knee to get the goal-scoring angle.

The freshmen Minutemen’s power did not stop on offense.

True freshman goaltender Michael Hrabal completed his first shutout of the season on Friday night. Though allowing one goal on Saturday with nearly eight minutes left in the second period, his composure did not falter.

“Our defensive game continues to get tighter and stronger, a big part of that is [Hrabal],” head coach Greg Carvel said. “[He’s] really starting to look comfortable in the net… Our goaltender is playing exceptional hockey.”

From full body and diving saves to quick grabs close to the chest, Hrabal ended the weekend series with 36 saves on Friday to set his career high and followed that with another 36-save Saturday night performance.

Jack Musa and Aydar Suniev doubled UMass’ lead on Friday and Saturday night respectively.

Despite having a Saturday attempt at the UConn net being called back after a successful UConn coach’s challenge, Musa’s weekend was not dulled.

After Ryan Ufko’s pass caused chaos behind the Huskies’ net, Musa stood waiting for his teammates to break the puck away to give him a scoring chance. As the puck pulled out from the mass, the freshman met it halfway and slipped the puck behind Sergeev. This was the second and final goal of Friday’s contest.

Doubling the Saturday night lead was Suniev who put a powerful puck behind Haider. After taking in Morrow’s pass, Suniev picked the puck up quickly with his stick from the left dot and released it into the back of the net.

While Saturday’s contest ended with a three-goal Minuteman performance, both Musa and Nick VanTassell successfully put pucks behind Haider before being called back for goaltender interference and offsides respectively.

“We’ve got a lot of guys capable of scoring, and that’s comforting to me,” Carvel said.

The freshmen and the rest of the Minutemen return to the Mullins Center on Friday, Feb. 16 for a 7 p.m. puck drop against the No. 1 Boston College Eagles. The matchup will be streamed on ESPN+.

“We worked on scoring this week [in practice] because we got shutout in here last weekend,” Carvel said. “O’Neill, Suniev, Locmelis and Musa last night. They score because they’re good players.”

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

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