UMass hockey rolling with the punches; Providence up next

  • Bobby Trivigno and the UMass hockey team gets back to work after a week off when the Minutemen travel to play at Providence on Wednesday at 5 p.m. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/12/2021 6:22:56 PM
Modified: 1/12/2021 6:56:45 PM

UMass hockey coach Greg Carvel understands the upside and downside to having a week off.

The Minutemen, which last took to the ice against New Hampshire a full week ago, have played 13 games this year — more than any other team in Hockey East — and with three more games on the schedule over the next four days, extra rest is always a positive this time of year.

The downside can mean losing your edge. UMass has won its last seven games, and with a road trip to No. 16 Providence on tap Wednesday (5 p.m.) before a home-and-home with perennial power Boston University on Friday and Saturday, it hopes that momentum can still be carried over despite the long layoff.

“We’ve had this experience many times where the team is playing well, you have a week between games so human nature is to take the foot off the gas,” Carvel said. “That was evident in practice (Monday). The energy was great but the focus and execution wasn’t. We addressed that and hopefully we’re refocused for a tough game against Providence.”

The Minutemen were originally scheduled to take on Boston College in a home-and-home this weekend, but Hockey East announced a schedule change on Tuesday, swapping out BC and adding the Terriers to the schedule instead. The Eagles will now play Northeastern.

The week off also provides more time for coaches to prepare for upcoming opponents, but when the schedule changes as often as it has, UMass has been adjusting on the fly. Instead of overloading players with information about the other team, Carvel has instead focused his team on playing the way they want to play, keeping things simple in terms of opposition scouting.

“We’re just narrowing down what we share with the players, three or four main points about the opposing team,” Carvel said. “It’s been the right thing to do. It comes down to competing, executing and checking well. We’ve been playing well defensively, special teams have been really strong. As far as pre-scouting goes, narrowing it down to a few points. I have to imagine the players enjoy that; I’ve been working way too hard these last couple years. It’s one positive of the pandemic.”

Having more game experience may pay dividends for the Minutemen this week. Carvel feels his team may be better prepared to handle a three-game-in-four-day slate compared to others as his team has already done so this season. That knowledge is helpful in preparing for a large number of games in a short period of time.

Boston University, for instance, just played its first games of the season this past weekend against the Friars, splitting the series.

Providence returned two key players to its lineup this weekend, as forwards Brett Berard and Patrick Moynihan rejoined the team after winning a gold medal with the USA Junior National Team earlier this month.

Still, UMass understands hockey games are decided by more than one player. Carvel doesn’t think his team should change its approach.

“Hockey is very much a 20-man game,” Carvel said. “Maybe [BC goalie] Spencer Knight makes a big difference if he’s not there, [BC forward] Alex Newhook, but there aren’t many guys who make or break teams. Very rarely do we go into a game saying we need to worry about this player. I don’t think that will be the case this week.”

Del Gaizo key piece for UMass

Matthew Kessel and Zac Jones are the lone defensemen to score goals for the Minutemen this season, but that doesn’t mean other guys aren’t responsible for the team’s success this season.

Marc Del Gaizo may not have found the back of the net yet, but Carvel said he understands just how impactful he’s been to the team this year.

“I think he’s maybe our most important player,” Carvel said. “I think that was evident against Boston College; I really wish we would have had him against Boston College. He’s as important as anybody. If you take any other one player out of our lineup, I don’t know if it has as much effect as taking Marc out. I think Marc’s been outstanding, highly competitive.”

The junior has eight assists and is a team-best plus-12 on the ice, making an impact on every facet of the game.

“He makes a lot of plays, he hasn’t scored any goals but I haven’t even noticed it,” Carvel said. “I’m not worried about it. If a kid is playing well enough, the goals will come and I think he’s playing superbly.”

Murray stays in goal

Despite Filip Lindberg’s return from injury, don’t expect any change in net for the Minutemen.

Matt Murray has been excellent for UMass this season, allowing 18 goals in 11 starts this season while posting a .928 save percentage along the way.

Against UNH last Wednesday, Murray picked up his 50th win in goal to break the school record. He’ll have the chance to add to that record moving forward.

“Matt will keep playing until we think his game is falling off or he’s tired,” Carvel said. “It’s Matt’s net right now. We’ll decide game-to-game and make changes if we decide to do so but right now I don’t see a reason to do so.”


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