UMass Notebook: Minutemen hockey gearing for home stretch

For the Recorder
Published: 1/14/2020 8:32:40 PM
Modified: 1/14/2020 8:31:51 PM

The UMass hockey team’s holiday space capsule emerged scorched but intact after playing the toughest part of the schedule — four games in nine days against two top-five opponents. After losing back-to-back games at No. 5 Denver, the Minutemen returned home and split a home-and-home series against No. 4 Boston College.

Keeping it close against the Pioneers didn’t matter to coach Greg Carvel. “We knew it was going to be a challenge and we didn’t rise up to it. It’s that simple,” he wrote in his newsletter. “Both teams had something to prove and I wanted to do it on their ice. But we didn’t.”

Undaunted by the double whammy on the other side of the divide, the Minutemen played BC on Friday in front of 6,705 fans at the Conte Forum and stole a 3-1 win thanks to sophomore netminder Filip Lindberg’s 41 saves. The good vibes ended on Saturday when three BC goals in an eight-minute span resulted in a 6-3 rout at the Mullins Center.

The 60-degree weather helped lure 5,153 fans into the Mullins Center, a remarkable turnout considering the students are still on break. Last year during intersession, UMass drew crowds of 3,303 and 2,532 for games against UMass-Lowell and UVM, respectively.

It’s become a Carvel trademark to pull the goalie when things go bad early, and Lindberg got yanked midway through the second period after his third goal on 10 shots. Enter Matt Murray, who allowed three goals on a dozen shots, and fans looked to see if Alex Camarre would make his debut, but the 5-foot-8 freshman from Buffalo remained on the bench for the last two minutes.

Afterward, Carvel acknowledged that BC might’ve swept both games if not for Lindberg’s acrobatics. “He was pulling out shots that should’ve gone in, and tonight they did go in,” he told WHMP’s Donnie Moorhouse. “We’ll get there,” he added. “We’ll be all right.”

The Minutemen host BC again on Jan. 31 in the rubber game which will almost surely be sold out.

NOTES: The 10th-ranked Minutemen (14-7-1, 7-4-1 Hockey East) play two games at last place UVM this weekend. The fifth-ranked Eagles visit UMass-Lowell on Friday and host struggling BU on Saturday. … The Minutemen have converted one goal in their last 19 power play chances and are ranked 50th of 60 teams in power play percentage. … Special teams has stopped just seven of the last 12 penalty kills and are ranked 20th. … John Leonard scored three times in two games against BC, including Friday’s go-ahead tally on a breakaway. “When he smells blood in the water, you can’t catch him,” Carvel said on WHMP’s postgame show. … Eleven different Eagles hit the score sheet last weekend, including three assists by senior Julius Matilla, who’s closing in on 100 career points. … Filip Lindberg checks in with a .924 save percentage (23 goals on 278 shots); Matt Murray is a tepid .911 (21 on 246). Carvel’s over/under is .920. … Mitchell Chaffee’s goal and assist on Saturday upped his career scoring total to 92 points in 100 games. His 26 points leads runner-up John Leonard by six. … Oliver Chau’s physical and on-ice woes continue. Chau was reportedly hurt against Denver and didn’t play against BC. He has four goals, only two in 10 games against Hockey East foes. … Defenseman Ivan Chukarov was the toast of Amherst when his goal helped beat Quinnipiac a year ago. He left in midseason last year to play for the Worcester Railers of the ECHL. At this writing he has one goal and four assists in 19 games this season. … The Eagles are constantly stocked with draft picks including a dozen this year, but haven’t made the NCAA tourney since 2016-17. “Historically BC’s been able to assimilate blue chip talent into the roster and win with the high-end guys,” the College Hockey News’ Adam Wodon told Bernie Corbett of Hockey on Campus. “Their demise has been greatly exaggerated.” … BU also has a dozen picks on the roster, but the Terriers are struggling. Four days after beating Brown in overtime they coughed up a three-goal lead and lost to Dartmouth, 5-4. … The Minutemen are long-range marksmen. According WHMP’s Brock Hines, as of Friday they led the nation with nine empty net goals.

WOMEN’S HOOPS ON A TEAR: Kudos to the UMass women’s basketball team for its record-setting 10 game win streak. Despite their 12-3 record, reader John Zewski points out they’re ranked 137th of 351 teams in the RPI (the NCAA’s ratings for strength of schedule).

The Minutewomen host last place La Salle on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and have a 5 p.m. tip-off on Jan. 22 against VCU. At this writing the Minutewomen were in a three-way tie for first place in the A-10 with Dayton, Davidson and VCU.

Ticket prices for all women’s games start at $8.

Former UMass hoopster Jonathan Laurent is averaging three points and 10 minutes a game at Oklahoma State (9-6), and Luwanne Pipkins is averaging 10.6 points and 26 minutes a game at Providence (10-7).

FOOTBALL: UMass football fans were rocked by news that defensive coordinator Aazaar Abdul-Rahim (aka AAR) left Amherst to be the secondary coach for new BC coach Jeff Hafley at Boston College.

Abdul-Rahim was hired for his recruiting skills. At UMass, he pulled in several three-star recruits, and prior to that he helped the Maryland Terps attract a top-30 recruiting class (according to a BC football blog).

BC will rely on Abdul-Rahim to use his Maryland-DC-Virginia connections to fill the void created by the loss of New Jersey’s fertile recruiting grounds. Those players are expected to go to Rutgers after the Scarlet Knights signed Greg Schiano to an eight-year coaching deal worth a reported $32 million.

The UMass coaching vacancy that was created by AAR’s departure has yet to be filled.

Hafley’s staff includes defensive coordinator Tem Lukabu and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, previously of the Bengals and Packers respectively. His biggest get was Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec, 6-foot-4, four-star quarterback from Pennsylvania who was recruited by Clemson, Ohio State, and Alabama among others. reports Jurkovec’s girlfriend is on the BU field hockey team.

Meanwhile, former BC quarterback Anthony Brown saw the chalk on the hash marks and entered the NCAA transfer portal, 

According to the portal posted on, former UMass running back Kevin Brown will play at URI next season, wideout Jessie Britt is bound for Duquesne, defensive lineman Dennis Osagiede will play for Stephen F. Austin and defensive back Joseph Norwood will play for JMU. The Dukes lost to No. Dakota State, 28-20, in Saturday’s FCS championship game.

The diminutive Britt will forever be remembered for riling up UMass teammate Ray Thomas-Ishman during the Tennessee game two years ago. Whatever Britt said or did, the 6-5, 325-pound lineman chased him around the gridiron like a bull chasing a matador around the ring.

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