UMass Hockey Notebook: Minutemen look to correct mistakes

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 01-13-2023 8:19 PM

AMHERST – A mirror holds most of the UMass hockey team’s problems of late.

The Minutemen are just 2-4-2 in their last eight games and haven’t won a Hockey East game since beating UMass Lowell in Northern Ireland on Nov. 25. They’re allowing 2.75 goals per game in that stretch, but Commonwealth Avenue rivals Boston College and Boston University lit UMass up over the past two games since returning to league play. The Eagles put away four at Fenway Park last weekend, while the Terriers poured in six at Agganis Arena on Wednesday.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the issues we’re facing are 100 percent correctable. I mean, 90 percent of our wounds are self inflicted, and we just need the group to buy in more and do the things that our coaching staff is preaching us and that we need from each other,” UMass defenseman Scott Morrow said. “Not take penalties after the whistle, not run around in our own end, not letting guys get behind us. They’re pretty simple things that, to be fair, we should have had corrected a long time ago, but the growth we’re showing is positive.”

Some of those issues can be attributed to the rash of injuries UMass suffered along its blue line. The Minutemen have been without Linden Algier for more than a month with a broken leg and have dealt with shorter absences from Aaron Bohlinger and Noah Ellis. At times it’s required dressing three freshmen defensemen with stalwarts Morrow and world juniors bronze medalist Ryan Ufko.

“To play three freshmen D, that’s hard,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “We have to have two freshmen together. They got to sink or swim together. Right now, I’m confident that if we can get these young freshmen defenseman playing better defensively that we’re going to be a much better team because I see a lot of our breakdowns happen with our young defense.”

The Minutemen (9-9-3, 3-7-1 Hockey East) are hitting the stretch to prove they’re a better team. They have 13 games left, all in conference, beginning with New Hampshire at 3 p.m. Sunday (NESN). UMass sits eighth in the conference standings. Ten of their 11 Hockey East games thus far have come against teams above them in the standings.

“I don’t look at the standings because it makes me cry. So I don’t look at them. We just got to play it play good hockey, and the standings will take care of itself,” Carvel said. “Luckily, we’re in a league where everybody makes the playoffs. You’ve got to work towards playing your best hockey at the end of the year.”

UNH (6-16-1, 1-11-1) has won its last two games against Sacred Heart and No. 11 Providence after losing 14 of the previous 15 contests. Wildcats goalie David Fessenden has the fourth-most saves in the league (419) and is 11th in save percentage (.911).

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The Wildcats have tied for the second fewest goals in the league (46) while allowing the most (73). They do own the league’s second-best penalty kill (80.1 percent) and fourth-most effective power play (19.2 percent).

“We can’t take anything for granted,” UMass captain Eric Faith said. “The most important thing for us is just falling back to what’s made us successful. That comes with playing hard and playing the right way. We’re doing a lot of stuff right now that’s hurting us and resulting in goals for the other team. If we clean that up, then we should put ourselves in a better position.”

MATINEE – The 3 p.m. start against UNH is UMass’ earliest puck drop of the season (the Belfast games started earlier in the Eastern time zone but were in the evening in Northern Ireland). The Minutemen will also play at UConn on Jan. 21 with a 4:30 p.m. start, both of which alter the standard, 7 p.m. routine.

“You want to start in the afternoon. You don’t want it to be Sunday night. Your body’s just naturally going to shut down mode on Sunday evenings. It’ll be fine. We’re in a stretch now here where we’re playing basically every third or fourth day, so we’re out of the routine,” Carvel said. “It’s just the next game. I think it’d be fun to play an afternoon game and have dinner with my family. So I’m excited.”

EXTRA HELP – The NCAA Division I council voted earlier this week to allow one addition full-time paid assistant coach next season, and the volunteer assistant designation will be eliminated. UMass currently has two full-time assistants: Tom Upton and Nolan Gluchowski, while Jacob Pritchard is the volunteer assistant.

“Every rule they make the rich get richer. The programs that have more resources are going to have more advantages. The more coaches you can have, obviously the better, but not everybody is going to be able to afford to pay four coaches,” Carvel said. “It’s a discussion I’ll have to have with my AD, but budgets are tight everywhere. think it’s good. I think it’s great. Three coaches is tough to do all the coaching and recruiting and administrative work. It’s great to have another staff member, and I think that the schools with the most resources are going to take the biggest advantage of.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>