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 finishes weekend sweep of UConn with 3-1 victory

Minutemen jump to fourth place in Hockey East standings
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

The No. 12 Massachusetts hockey team finished off a weekend sweep of UConn on Saturday night at the Mullins Center, taking down the Huskies by a score of 3-1. Michael Hrabal was lockdown in net once again Saturday night, making 36 saves while allowing just one goal past him to cap off a weekend save percentage of .986.

“There are no easy games in our league, and sweeps are really hard to come by,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “Very proud of our team and our effort, just a really solid game again.”

Aydar Suniev scored what stood to be the game-winning goal just over seven minutes into the second period. Suniev caught the Huskies (12-15-2, 7-11-1 Hockey East) off guard as he cycled through the neutral zone and smartly opened himself up when he saw the UConn forward who was covering him go off for a line change. Suniev received a pass from Scott Morrow from the other side of the neutral zone and used a burst of speed to give himself a lane behind a UConn defender who was flat footed.

Now with a shooting lane, Suniev did what he does best: he sniped the puck past Ethan Haider to electrify the chilly UMass (16-7-3, 9-5-2 HEA) crowd.

Although UConn answered back four minutes later when Ryan Tattle scored his fourth of the season for the Huskies, Hrabal was just too dominant to let anything else past him for the rest of the night.

“Our defensive game continues to get tighter and stronger, and a big part of that is Michael Hrabal,” Carvel said. “[Hrabal’s] really starting to look comfortable in the net. When you go to world juniors it takes a lot out of you, and I knew it would take him a little time to catch back up to speed, but it sure looks like [Hrabal’s] getting there.”

Cole O’Hara scored his fourth goal of the year just a few minutes after Tattle made the game 2-1 to expand the UMass lead once again, and the Minutemen didn’t relinquish that edge for the rest of the night.

Although the final score read 3-1, UMass had two goals called back, one in the first period from Jack Musa, and one late in the third from Nick VanTassell.

Cam O’Neill opened the scoring with his third goal of the season on a deflection from a Samuli Niinisaari point shot.

“With the group of forwards we have, its interchangeable, I feel like I can just switch lines up, and you’re going to go out there with two other capable players that can score,” Carvel said. “You saw basically every line tonight in on the action.”

Coming into the weekend, UConn sat one spot ahead of UMass in the HEA standings No. 5 and 6 respectively. With the sweep however, the Minutemen have leapfrogged them and left them five points back. UMass is also now tied with Providence at the No. 4 spot after the Friars split their weekend series with Maine, although UMass has the edge in the standings as it has a game in hand.

UMass will finish their season series with UConn with a record of 2-0-1, but with the Huskies now in their rearview mirror, a much more daunting foe waits in the Minutemen’s future.

UMass will take on No. 1 ranked Boston College in a home and home series next weekend, for what will be its biggest test yet.

“I’m excited because it’s going to force us to be at our absolute best,” Carvel said. “I’ll have a gameplan ready for the players, but I don’t imagine I’m going to have to worry if they’re ready to play those games. We’re here Friday night, should be a very good crowd, but we’ll be tested.”

Puck drop at the Mullins Center is slated for 7 p.m. next Friday night when the Eagles take the ice opposite the Minutemen.

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

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