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 heads back to TD Garden after 3-1 win against Providence

The Minutemen advance to the Hockey East Semifinals
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

PROVIDENCE, R.I — After a season away from TD Garden, the Massachusetts hockey team is headed back to the home of the Bruins after beating the Providence Friars, 3-1. The win keeps both the Minutemen’s (20-12-3, 13-10-2 HEA) Hockey East playoff run and their hopes of making it to the NCAA tournament alive.

In the third period, Providence (18-13-4, 11-10-4 HEA) left the puck in front of its net, leaving Kenny Connors with an opportunity. Connors, all alone with the puck, tapped it in, bringing UMass up 3-0 in the third period.

While the Friars scored a late goal from Hudson Malinoski, it was too little too late. Providence pulled its goaltender but could not find opportunities in front of the net.

In the first period, UMass got out to an early start that proved beneficial. Just over a minute into the period, Taylor Makar passed to Lucas Mercuri. Mercuri from the boards passed to Ryan Lautenbach, who positioned the puck on his stick before sending it past Friars goaltender Philip Svedeback.

Lautenbach’s early goal gave the Minutemen needed momentum over the Friars.

“We wanted to come out ready to go, play fast,” Lautenbach said. “Playoff game, we knew we couldn’t sit back, we had to come out ready.”

Three minutes after Lautenbach’s goal, captain defenseman Ryan Ufko got on the board. Connors won a faceoff and off the draw kicked the puck to Ufko. The junior skated to the puck from the point and shot a wrist shot through traffic, bringing UMass up 2-0.

“We went over the faceoff play during the week,” Ufko said. “That’s the way they went and I made the shot. It wasn’t the exact play but I saw a lane and just shot it and it went in.”

The two goals looked to rattle the Friars as they shuffled to keep up with the Minutemen. As the period went along, though, Providence found its footing. The Friars were challenging goaltender Michael Hrabal and the defense. Hrabal made 27 saves through 60 minutes of play.

“I liked that we gave him a two-goal lead and then he didn’t have to take a lot of shots early in the game,” Carvel said.

Hrabal was especially on his game in the second period. The Friars were hurting the Minutemen on the backcheck and forecheck, using a physical style of play to get to the goaltender. The physical play hurt graduate student Christian Sanda late in the second period. Sanda was hit in front of the UMass bench and had to be helped off the ice. Sanda later came back on the bench and played consistent shifts in the third period.

The junior line of Makar, Lautenbach and Mercuri had been separated at the beginning of the season after playing their sophomore seasons together. On Saturday night, the juniors looked like they had never stopped playing on the same line. The physical style of play from the three was prevalent for all three periods.

“Felt good to be back with them,” Lautenbach said. “Last year we talked about this, coming back here and getting the opportunity to play at the Garden so it felt good to be back with them.”

Lautenbach especially thrived back with the group, as along with his goal, the junior had multiple offensive chances. Lautenbach had four shots throughout the night that were a challenge for Svedeback. Lautenbach ended his night with almost having an empty netter that would’ve put UMass up 4-1, but it hit both posts before coming out.

The graduate student line with Liam Gorman, Lucas Vanroboys and Sanda also had a solid night on Saturday. They brought experience and a physical side to the game.

“The [graduate] students played well last weekend,” Carvel said. “Those kids play with a lot of heart, that was what you saw [Saturday].”

UMass will take on Boston University or Boston College on Friday, March 22 at TD Garden for the HEA Semifinals. Puck drop is set for 4:00 p.m./7:30 p.m.

“I’m really happy for this group of kids, they deserve it,” Carvel said. “I think it’s a huge boost for this group, they’ve been really good all year. They are great kids, they play hard, I think they’ve deserved more than what they’ve got.”

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

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