UMass hockey sees familiar face for the first time this season in UConn

  • UMass freshman forward Oliver MacDonald backs into a Vermont defenseman, Saturday at the Mullins Center. UMass hosts UConn on Wednesday, CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass sophomore defenseman Matthew Kessel (4) looks to block a Vermont shot, as sophomore defenseman Zac Jones (24) and goalie Matt Murray watch the play develop, Saturday at the Mullins Center. UMass hosts UConn on Wednesday, CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/22/2020 6:54:23 PM
Modified: 12/22/2020 6:54:21 PM

The UMass hockey team is facing an opponent not playing its first game for the first time this season.

And it’s a familiar face.

The Minutemen are hosting UConn at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Mullins Center. They split two games in late November, both squads’ first times out.

Since then, No. 10 UMass (4-3-1) has played more games than anyone else in Hockey East. Boston College has played six, while UConn and Providence have seen the ice five times each.

“Even though we had months and months of practice, it took games to try to find the right spots for people,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said.

Against Vermont last weekend, Garret Wait was elevated to the second line with Bobby Trivigno and Josh Lopina. Oliver MacDonald dropped to the third. Carson Gicewicz was used as a winger rather than a center.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re getting consistent lines. I feel like our top nine forwards have settled themselves,” Carvel said. “It’s good when kids make things tough for us by pushing from the bottom.”

The Minutemen have taken longer to find themselves as a team. They haven’t been able to spend time together off the ice the same way and cultivate the closeness they typically strive for.

“Everything about the pandemic has been about distancing, separation. Our culture is based on the opposite: it’s based on connection and relationships,” Carvel said. “Our staff has struggled with the fact that we can’t be around these kids outside the rink. This group has struggled to find its identity. I felt like this past weekend we finally started to realize what type of team we are and need to be.”

UMass swept Vermont over the weekend at the Mullins Center. It was the first time the Minutemen won both games of a series this year. Carvel has moved away from his normally thorough scouting routine and focused on UMass and what its doing since the schedule and who it is playing could shift at any moment. He didn’t review any film from UConn other than when the Huskies played at the Mullins Center.

“We used to be very specific about our opponent,” he said. “(Vermont) was a new coach, they hadn’t played a game. There was nothing for me to lean on. We went into the weekend more concerned about our own play. That’s the way it is now.”

UConn (1-3-1) lost a tight game at home against UMass Lowell, 2-1, on Monday. The previous weekend, when UMass was off, the Huskies went 1-1 against No. 2 Boston College, besting the Eagles in Storrs, Connecticut, and falling in overtime in Boston.

None of the Huskies have scored more than two goals, but Jonny Evans has proved a capable distributor with four assists. Netminder Tomas Vomacka has stopped 91.9 percent of the shots he’s faced and is allowing 2.74 goals per game.

LOWELL SERIES A NO GO — UMass’ busy holiday week got lighter. The Minutemen’s weekend series against UMass Lowell was postponed Tuesday.

They were scheduled to play the River Hawks in a home-and-home Saturday and Sunday.

TILLING THE FIELDS — Ty Farmer returned to the lineup against Vermont after missing four games with an injury. The junior didn’t tally a point against the Catamounts, but stabilized UMass’ back end, which has fluctuated this season. It was a bounce back in more ways than one.

Carvel didn’t play Farmer in the season opener because he wasn’t happy with his decision-making as a veteran. Then he had to sit out and recover.

“It gave him what he needed because I think he’s now in a much better place,” Carvel said. “He just has to make wise puck decisions and defend wisely, he’s experienced and got a good skill set.”

Farmer played in the third pairing with Aaron Bohlinger, a freshman still finding his footing.

“We need Ty to mentor him. Ty was mentored by Mario Ferraro and Jake McLaughlin. It’s his turn to be the big boy. He has to be the responsible one,” Carvel said. “Ty makes us one of the better back ends in college hockey.”

PLAYER OF THE WEEK — Trivigno became the second Minutemen to earn the Hockey East Player of the Week award. The junior forward had four points against Vermont.

It’s the first time received the honor in his career. Trivigno had a goal and three assists against the Catamounts in the series. The goal came Saturday, while he dished all three assists Sunday.

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