UMasst Be Kidding: Huskies Fall to Minutemen, 4–3

By Michael Vincent Puzzanghera

BOSTON — In a Friday night game of oddities, Northeastern left a chance for a huge win go begging as they gave up two rebound goals in the third period to allow No. 9 UMass to waltz out of Matthews Arena with a 4–3 win.

No. 10 Northeastern (3–2–2) set up for the top-ten tilt against the Minutemen (7–3–1) without freshman forward Steven Agriogianis, who sustained an upper body injury. Agriogianis was one of Northeastern’s best players through the first three weeks of the season, with two goals and three assists to his name. Despite his absence, the Huskies started on the right foot.

It’s a new year, but it’s still the same Jordan Harris. The junior scored his third goal of the season with an excellent shot from the slot. This was the first oddity of the night: a shot from Aidan McDonough left UMass’ Cal Kiefiuk down in a heap in their own zone. The officials let the game continue, though, and Harris took advantage to give the Huskies the lead seven minutes in.

A few minutes later, Zach Solow took a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after shoving and jawing after the whistle, giving the Minutemen a chance to use their elite power-play unit. That unit had converted 12 goals in 46 tries entering Friday’s game, and it didn’t take them long to notch their 13th. The imposing Carson Gicewicz tapped in a loose puck twenty seconds into the power play. It was his seventh goal in the last six games, as the St. Lawrence transfer continued his torrid stretch.

Immediately after the UMass goal, Northeastern took another penalty for a bench minor (served by extra skater Michael Outzen in his first collegiate action). This allowed UMass to continue to build pressure, though nothing came of the power play.

The second period may have been Northeastern’s sloppiest of the season. The power play didn’t string passes together like they did in the first frame and UMass kept Northeastern on the back foot. The Minutemen took advantage, scoring another power-play goal through Garrett Wait. Husky goalie Connor Murphy was caught out of position as Wait strode up from behind the net and ripped his shot to the near post.

“We’ve got to bear down on our power plays and on their power-play goals, we didn’t defend well enough and we can’t go to the box as many times as we did,” Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said.

Plenty of solid play came in the third period, as Ty Jackson scored his team-leading fifth goal of the year by flicking a pass off the back of UMass goalie Matt Murray to tie the game with 13 minutes to play.

Less than three minutes later, Harris once again gave Northeastern the lead, this time with a howitzer from the point. Ty Jackson won the puck along the boards and fed Harris, who struck it well and beat Murray glove side to give Northeastern the 3–2 lead.

But just as soon as they had taken the lead, they lost it. UMass scored two nearly identical goals off rebounds in front of Murphy. First, Josh Lopina locked up the game at three by diving to tap in a loose puck.

And a few minutes later, Oliver Chau did the same minus the dive to give the Minutemen the 4–3 advantage.

Northeastern kept the pressure up until Jayden Struble took a five-minute major for spearing with a minute to play. Northeastern couldn’t get the puck into the UMass zone, and they left the ice with the loss.

“We’re down 4–3 at the end against good teams like that, we’ve got too many penalties, some warranted, some weren’t, Madigan said. “Some good calls, some bad calls. But that’s the game of hockey. You’ve got to work with it, and we didn’t manage it well when we did get poor calls.”

The two teams tangle again tomorrow in Amherst at 6 PM.

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: UMass Amherst Minutemen

Last Season: 21–11–2 (14–8–2, second in Hockey East)

Head Coach: Greg Carvel (fifth season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Second

Departures: F Mitchell Chaffee, F Marco Bozzo, F Niko Hildenbrand, F Jack Suter, D Jake McLaughlin

Additions: F Josh Lopina, F Oliver MacDonald, F Ryan Sullivan, D Alger Linden, D Aaron Bohlinger

By Christian Skroce

Like many teams, UMass Amherst was disappointed by the way last season ended, as it deprived them of the chance to flex their muscles in postseason play. Most would say Cornell or Boston College were most negatively affected by the COVID-19 shutdown, but UMass absolutely belongs in that conversation. The Minutemen had locked up the second seed in the Hockey East playoffs and were set to take on a reeling Northeastern team when the world shut down. Suddenly, UMass saw their opportunity to avenge a semifinals loss a year prior vanish, as did their chance to reach the Frozen Four for a second year in a row. UMass found itself wondering what could have been, and this upcoming season will be their chance to answer that question.

As has been the case over the last two seasons under Greg Carvel, this year’s Minutemen squad is poised not only to contend for a Hockey East Championship, but for a national championship as well. UMass entered the season ranked seventh in the country and was selected to finish second in Hockey East behind Boston College in this year’s preseason poll. The team has experienced a meteoric rise under Carvel, ascending from 5–29–2 during his first year at the helm to 31–10–0 (and the NCAA runner-up) in his third season. Interestingly enough, Carvel owns both the single-season loss and win records for UMass.

Carvel has become known as a master recruiter, crafting two straight top-five classes in his second and third offseasons with the team. Although this year’s incoming freshman class is not as highly touted as Carvel’s previous groups, it will do well to fill key holes left by UMass’s departing players. Most notably, the Minuteman lost captain forwards Mitchell Chafee and Niko Hildenbrand, both of whom are members of the historic class that included current NHL star Cale Makar.

Amherst brings in freshmen forwards Josh Lopina and Oliver MacDonald to help replace its stars. Lopina brings unmatched size and physicality to the forward group, while MacDonald is more of a skillful forward with impressive skating and playmaking ability. Jake Gaudet, Oliver Chau, and Bobby Trivigno will be the important veteran presence for UMass’s forward group. 

While the team may not have any true attacking stars, their impressive forward depth can wreak havoc. Despite not having any-top tier forwards, UMass can employ dangerous third and fourth lines to wear down opponents and allow for multiple scoring opportunities.

The team’s strength will continue to be defense and goaltending, as it has for the last several years under Carvel. The defensive unit is led by captain Marc Del Gaizo, who has logged at least 15 points in both of his seasons with the Minutemen. Joining him on the blue line will be returnees Ty Farmer, Colin Felix, Zac Jones, and Matthew Kessel, all four of whom like to be involved in the offense and set up crippling counterattacks.

The Minutemen also added freshman defensemen Linden Alger and Aaron Bohlinger to round out the unit. Bohlinger will be a name to watch all season long and should be considered a favorite to make the all-freshman team for Hockey East. He is undersized, but provides an excellent spark on offense and offers tremendous upside.

If an impressive group of defensemen wasn’t enough, UMass also boasts one of the best goalie combinations in the country. The team’s starting netminder for most of the season will likely be senior Matt Murray, who has a 42–23–2 record during his three years at UMass. The Minutemen can also call on junior Filip Lindberg, who might be the best backup goalie in the country. In a season as strange as this one, having two capable goalies may prove to be a significant advantage. Both Murray and Lindberg posted goals against averages of less than 1.90 last season and have plenty of experience to lean on.

UMass’s schedule this season certainly favors a late-season run, but the Minutemen have some difficult stretches early in the season. In December, they play New Hampshire and BU back to back, and in January they play BC and Providence back to back. The weekend to watch will be January 15 and 16, when UMass takes on Hockey East favorites Boston College.

Bottom Line: Despite their offseason losses, the Minutemen will once again rank among the nation’s best. They have retooled their lineup and should have one of the best goals against averages in the country by the season’s end. Tack on elite coaching and the absence of Cornell after the Ivy League cancelled its season, and UMass — like BC — has a legitimate shot at a national title.