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 hockey falls 4-3 to Maine in final regular season battle

Loss sends the Minutemen on the road for playoffs
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

ORONO, Maine — The Massachusetts hockey team played its final 2023-24 regular season matchup on Saturday night and fell to the University of Maine late in the third period, 4-3.

A late turnover from Scott Morrow in the third period handed the Maine (22-10-2, 14-9-1 Hockey East) seniors their Senior Night flowers.

After battling against goaltender Albin Boija, the Minutemen (19-12-3, 12-10-2 HEA) were sent back into the neutral zone to recollect themselves. But Morrow’s turnover gave Maine’s Lynden Breen the puck. Breen quickly went unassisted against goaltender Michael Hrabal and his shot sent the puck flying past Hrabal’s left shoulder and behind in the net.

This left the Minutemen fighting up until the final buzzer, pulling Hrabal to get an extra body in the offensive zone. After countless efforts of trying to stick the puck behind Boija, Breen’s goal remained to be the final score of the night.

“The kids played really hard,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “[An] unfortunate turnover late in the game… I feel bad for the kids, it’s a tough turnover [with about] a minute to go.”

Lucas Mercuri opened scoring for the Minutemen after the Black Bears scored their second goal of the night in the first period.

Mercuri stood in front of Boija, waiting patiently for linemates Christian Sanda and Taylor Makar to win the puck off the boards. As soon as the junior forward found the puck on his stick, he cut Maine’s lead in half. Falling backwards as the puck slid past Boija, Mercuri immediately rolled over on the ice to ensure the puck swung around in the back of the net.

“Good work by my linemates just finding me in the slot to make a play,” Mercuri said. “[I was] just lucky to find the back of the net.”

Seconds before, the Black Bears hauled in the momentum and continued their success on the power play. Their first two goals of the night came with the man advantage.

On the second goal, Michael Cameron struggled to find an opportunity to skate off the ice and grab a replacement stick. With his stick snapped in half on the ice, he was stuck in the far corner as Maine meticulously curated a play from Brandon Holt and Donavan Villeneuve-Houle where Sully Scholle slapped the puck in right past Cameron. Despite the sophomore’s attempt to kneel down and stick his skate out to potentially block or derail the shot, the puck wrapped around Hrabal and sent Alfond Arena to its feet.

Maine’s first goal happened on UMass’ first penalty of the night as Cole O’Hara was sent to the box for roughing.

Harrison Scott stood on the back edge of the right circle where Villeneuve-Houle and Holt found the junior forward. After Hrabal was challenged with a diving save, putting him on his side, Maine quickly connected for Scott to fire off a shot. The slapshot sent the puck flying around Hrabal to open scoring for the night.

O’Hara redeemed himself early in the second period, scoring a power play goal of his own to tie the game. He capitalized on a rebound from Owen Murray’s shot and found the back of the net on Boija’s right.

“Just putting pucks on net,” Mercuri said was an emphasis on Saturday. “Generating more offense on the power play… Obviously we scored a couple more goals tonight.”

The sophomore took advantage of this momentum, grabbing the puck on the face-off on the other side of the sheet. He sprinted all the way down the ice and took a strong shot at Boija. The puck bounced off Boija’s pads perfectly into the stick of Jack Musa. In similar fashion to O’Hara’s goal, Musa smacked the puck into the wide opening on Boija’s right.

Generating more offense and compete was the message heading into Saturday’s battle after UMass’ weak Friday night performance.

“They adjusted tonight, played the way I’m used to them playing,” Carvel said. “Good things happen when you play hard.”

The amped up determination and excitement of goal scoring, though, got ahead of the Minutemen. The night was riddled with turnovers up until the final Maine goal, costing them crucial time in the offensive zone.

With UMass’ loss, the Minutemen will head to Providence College on Saturday, March 16 for the Hockey East Quarterfinals. Puck drop against the Friars is to be determined.

“Play like we did tonight, the level we need to play at,” Carvel said about heading into playoffs. “I like our chances if we play like we did tonight.”

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

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