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 men’s club hockey drops weekend doubleheader against Rensselaer and Liberty

Minutemen fight hard but lose final two games of the regular season
Devin Lippman
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts men’s club hockey team dropped both games in a weekend doubleheader against the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Liberty University. The Minutemen (15-12-1) played the Engineers (16-5-1) close in a 3-2 loss on Friday night. The Flames (18-9-1) got the best of UMass in a high-scoring affair during Saturday’s senior night.

The pair of games featured two highly ranked opponents, giving the Minutemen valuable experience ahead of the regional playoffs in late February. Head coach Mike DeFazio remains optimistic ahead of the upcoming regional tournament in New Hampshire, regardless of the rough conclusion to the regular season.

“I think it’s a good tune up because we’re going to have to win two games in a row in two days of regionals,” DeFazio said. “We’re going to see probably a two seed and a three seed, which is exactly what we had this weekend.”

The regional playoffs are uncharted territory for the Minutemen after not appearing in regionals for five years.

“We’ve had an auto bid, so this is new for us. But I’m sure our guys will be up for the test and want to defend the title,” DeFazio said.

UMass struggled in the early portions of periods over the course of the doubleheader. The Minutemen were outscored 5-1 and outshot 22-15 in the opening five minutes of periods across the two-game stretch. The quick goals early in the game proved detrimental for UMass, as it failed to recover during the weekend.

“We have two weeks now until the playoffs for regionals, we’re really [going to] have to sit down and figure out what the game plan needs to be moving forward and try to clean that up,” DeFazio said. “It’s honestly inexcusable and it’s killing us.”

UMass couldn’t score the equalizing goal against Rensselaer, despite attempting 25 shots in the third period. Forward Elias Holunga scored one of the goals. Holunga’s goal gave the Minutemen life with over half the game still to play. He charged straight through RPI’s defense with close control, before backhanding his shot past the goaltender.

“[We need to] put our shots in better spots on the goalie,” Holunga said. “He played pretty well. I’d say we had some quality chances, they just weren’t going our way [Friday].”

UMass effectively transitioned its defense to attack in the final frame, but the tying goal never arrived.

The UMass seniors were celebrated prior to Saturday night’s matchup with Liberty. Seven players were recognized: Trey Peterson, Peirce Kenney, Chris Roy, Will Trischitta, JD Anderson, Jacob Marini and Mitchell Rickert.

The senior night festivities attracted a lively crowd as the bleachers were filled to the brim with families and friends.

A thrilling three-minute span in the second period ended with four pucks hitting the back of the net, three of which belonged to the Flames. The battle remained a tight affair heading into the third period, with the score knotted at four.

The first seven minutes of the third period were a stalemate, but the Flames’ offense started blazing as the clock rolled on. Liberty’s passes began connecting and its skating display outclassed its opponents. One goal turned into another as Liberty potted four unanswered tallies to snatch an 8-4 lead.

Forward Tommy Hayes then added a consolation goal, his second goal of the night. The pair marked the first two goals of his UMass career. His late one-timer brought some energy back into the arena, though Liberty slammed the door shut emphatically with a ninth goal.

UMass turns its attention to the regional tournament, starting Feb. 23-25. A successful showing there would propel the Minutemen to the 2024 ACHA National Championships in mid-March.

Cameron Pellegrino can be reached at [email protected].

Myles Donato can be reached at [email protected].

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