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 on the road to Maine, 2-1

Special teams struggle in the loss
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

ORONO, Maine —The Massachusetts hockey team came into a big series against the Maine Black Bears, falling 2-1 late in the third period.

Aydar Suniev was whistled for a tripping penalty after falling and tripping a Maine (21-10-2, 13-9-1 Hockey East) player as he fell in the third. 30 seconds into the penalty kill, the Black Bears’ Scott Harrison passed to Sully Scholle. Scholle stickhandled through the middle of the ice before attempting a shot on Minutemen (19-11-3, 12-9-2 HEA) goaltender Michael Hrabal. Thomas Freel had a strong screen on Hrabal and deflected the shot in to put Maine up 2-1, a lead UMass couldn’t come back from.

“We had a lot of guys not close to their normal compete level,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Maine, Maine played a really good game, outcompeted us, played faster, played harder.”

In the first period, Ryan Ufko passed to Lucas Vanroboys who sent a pass near Michael Cameron. The sophomore chased after the puck, gaining control with a Black Bear defender on him. Cameron slipped the puck past goaltender Albin Boija in between his legs. The goal put UMass up a goal just three minutes in and gave the Minutemen well-needed energy.

“We wanted to use our speed up the ice and that’s about the only time in the game we really did,” Carvel said.

Cameron had not scored since Dec. 30 against Clarkson, having a quiet offensive few months after. With the goal, he flashed the offense he showed at the beginning of the season.

15 minutes into the period, Maine found energy and was playing a hard shift against UMass. A Black Bear hit the post that they thought was a goal but was saved off. From that play, Ufko was put on a breakaway, but Boija blocked the puck away.

After the Ufko breakaway, Bradly Nadeau and Josh Nadeau skated down the ice on a 2-on-1 with Samulli Niinisaari. As they passed back and forth, Bradly got the puck off his stick fast enough for goaltender Michael Hrabal to miss the save and tie the game.

Josh was a tough opponent for the Minutemen, recording five shots on Hrabal. He had the assist on the first goal and was skating around UMass’ defense at times. Suniev led the offense for UMass contributing 10 shots with seven on net.

The Black Bears’ penalty kill was what hurt the Minutemen the most. Despite going on three power plays, UMass could not find the back of the net while up a player. The power play struggled to pressure Maine’s defense as the Black Bears easily cleared the puck in the two minutes.

“A lot of pressure,” Carvel said about Maine’s penalty kill. “Pressure does really well, we didn’t handle it well. Special teams was the biggest difference tonight.”

The first period was the Minutemen’s best period but after they started the second period on the penalty kill on a Jack Musa penalty, they looked flat. The Black Bears had nine shots that were either blocked by defenders or Hrabal for almost five minutes before the Minutemen added a shot on net.

There were large shakeups to the lineup after Carvel separated Lucas Mercuri and Ryan Lautenbach on the top line. Lautenbach stayed in his spot with the top line but Kenny Connors slotted in as the center. Mercuri was reunited with Taylor Makar on the second line alongside Nick VanTassell.

“We haven’t scored a lot of goals so we’re trying to find combinations,” Carvel said. “We had a few chances tonight but not a ton. We’re trying to find combinations, not sure what to make of it.”

UMass will look for a bounce-back win in its final regular season game on Saturday, March 9 at 7:00 p.m. The Minutemen currently are tied at No. 14 in Pairwise with Omaha, making Saturday a must-win for their NCAA tournament hopes.

Kayla Gregoire can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kaygregoire.

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