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 falls in double overtime to Denver in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

Minutemen battle closely for 90 minutes
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

SPRINGFIELD – The Massachusetts hockey team suffered a tough 2-1 loss in double overtime to the University of Denver in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. Both teams went back and forth for over 90 minutes of play, but the Pioneers (28-9-3) scored when it mattered most.

Tristan Broz carried the puck behind the net with under eight minutes left in double overtime, performing a give-and-go with Boston Buckberger and skating toward the high slot. The junior forward shot a hard wrist shot across his body back to Michael Hrabal’s glove side, finding the back of the twine and putting an end to the Minutemen’s (20-14-3, 12-10-2 Hockey East) season.

“I feel bad for [the team], I feel like they deserved better tonight,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “They played hard, and I give Denver a lot of credit, they had to fly across the country and basically play a road game … But I was really happy with the way we played, I thought we were going to find a way.”

UMass got on the board in the back half of the second period with Lucas Vanroboys creating a turnover behind the net in the offensive zone. Cam O’Neill found the puck on his stick by the left post throwing a pass out front, looking for someone to finish the job.

Vanroboys put a shot on net that was saved, followed up by Owen Murray who took a chance of his own, before the puck made its way to Liam Gorman. The graduate forward kicked the puck to his stick and buried it into the open net to tie the game at one goal apiece.

Gorman hadn’t scored a goal through his first 27 games in the maroon and white, but finally lit the lamp in the biggest game of his UMass career to this point.

“I’ve been really battling all year, really trying to find one and build momentum,” Gorman said. “I’ve been joking around saying that I’ve been saving it for the playoffs. I’m just thankful to be in the position I was in.”

Both teams battled in this one, tallying the fifth most shots in the regional tournament’s history with 92 combined pucks on net. Each squad’s offense was creating opportunities, with most of them to no avail.

The first overtime period had plenty of action for both sides, with Jack Devine just barely missing an open net on a wraparound for the Pioneers, and UMass having too many close calls to even keep track of.

Denver opened the scoring early in the second period, breaking the 0-0 tie after roughly 25 minutes of play. Buckberger received a pass near the point at the edge of the right face off circle and flicked a wrist shot into the top of the netting to give the Pioneers the lead.

The Minutemen came out of the gate very physical, making sure to punish any Denver players near the puck. As the game went on the team’s presence diminished, but created more scoring chances in the long run.

“We just had to stick to our foundation and our identity,” Ryan Ufko said. “We know that we’re a big, fast team so that physicality part was something that we really preached, and I feel like that really helped us.”

Denver’s forecheck gave the UMass defense problems, creating turnovers that led to opportunities in the offensive zone. Breaking out of the defensive zone and getting the puck going the other way was tough for the Minutemen, with miscommunications creating more pressure on their back half.

The goaltenders for either side played at a high level throughout the contest, with Davis tallying 46 saves and Hrabal with 41 of his own. After surrendering eight goals in his last game against Boston College, he came through in the biggest game of the year.

“He had some ups and downs,” Carvel said about Hrabal’s season. “The BC game being a down. For him to jump back and give us such a backbone tonight, he made some huge saves, he made some big, big saves for us [Thursday].”

This puts an end to the 2023-24 season for UMass, capping off a bounce-back year compared to last, improving its record from 13-17-5 to 20-14-3 and leaving a lasting impact on the NCAA Tournament with the close game against Denver.

“I’m extremely proud of the way we played tonight,” Carvel said. “I know there’s a lot of chatter about whether we deserve to be in the tournament. I didn’t doubt it for a second.”

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

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