UMass hockey not overlooking Maine ahead of Hockey East Tournament

  • Carson Gicewicz and the UMass hockey team will host Maine in the regular season finale Friday. At stake: potentially the Hockey East Tournament’s No. 2 seed an another postseason home game at the Mullins Center. JOHN QUACKENBOS/BC ATHLETICS

  • The UMass hockey program is coming off an overtime win at then- No. 1 Boston College. The Minutemen will close the regular season Friday against Maine. JOHN QUACKENBOS/BC ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/4/2021 2:20:46 PM

The combination of knocking off then-No. 1 Boston College in overtime last week, mixed with the upcoming Hockey East tournament won’t pull the UMass hockey team’s focus from Maine.

The Black Bears are the only team in the conference the Minutemen haven’t faced yet, and they’ll visit the Mullins Center at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

“We’re not even looking at their record. They’re a good team,” UMass sophomore defenseman Zac Jones said. “We’re going to prepare for them like we did for BC, like any other game we have this season. We’re not going to take them lightly at all.”

The teams were supposed to open the season Nov. 20, but Maine (3-10-1) paused its winter athletic programs shortly after. Since, they’ve experienced vastly different seasons.

No. 6 UMass is ranked third in the Hockey East Power Index and is in line for a bye to the conference tournament quarterfinals. The Minutemen (13-5-3) only trail second-seeded Boston University by .02 percentage points in the proprietary formula which factors in games played, wins and losses in regulation, overtime and shootouts and the game’s location. The Terriers, ranked 10th nationally, will play one game at UMass Lowell on Saturday.

“It’s in the back of my head. The difference between finishing second and third is important in terms of who would host a semifinal game if everything broke down as it should,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “We just have to take care of our business and let that play out.”

Maine enters Friday’s game seeded ninth in Hockey East. The Black Bears have lost five of their past six games but played UConn, BC and BU in their past three series. They have statistically the worst defense in the conference (4.14 goals per game) and lead the league in penalty minutes per game (15.5).

The Black Bears will bring Hockey East’s third-leading power play (23.3 percent) to Amherst along with a physical brand of hockey.

“They’re a big, heavy team. It’s under appreciated how much skill they have,” Carvel said. “They have one of the better power plays. They can score.”

UMass has won its past four games, all against ranked teams. The Minutemen haven’t lost since Jan. 18, factoring in a two-week pause due to elevated COVID-19 cases on campus.

“We’ve kind of been thinking of every game since the new year as a playoff game. We’re kind of treating them all the same,” UMass senior Carson Gicewicz said. “There’s a lot on the line every game. We take home ice very seriously. We want to have home ice as much as we can come the playoffs.”

AWARDS – Goalie Filip Lindberg claimed his second consecutive Hockey East Goaltender of the Month award Tuesday. The junior went 209 with a .952 save percentage and allowed 1.44 goals against per game. He tallied 59 saves in two games, winning against Providence and Boston College on the road. Since returning from injury, Lindberg is 4-0-2.

Garrett Wait earned his first Hockey East Player of the Week honor on Monday. He tallied five points and two goals against the Friars and Eagles. It’s his first career weekly award and the eighth won by a Minuteman this season.

Bobby Trivigno, Jones and Matt Kessel were named semifinalist for the 69th Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England, on Tuesday. Trivigno is tied for the Hockey East scoring lead. Kessel leads the nation in goals by defensemen and has 17 points. Jones is second in the conference in defenseman scoring at 0.81 points per game.

SENIOR NIGHT – UMass will host its traditional senior night festivities after the game without fans in attendance. The plan is to keep the game’s live stream – available to those living outside New England, the game is being broadcast on NESN – up after the final horn so the six seniors families can see them honored.

NO REGULAR SEASON CHAMPION –  Hockey East won’t crown a regular season champion this season. The league initially announced that the highest ranked team in the HEPI would be declared the regular season champion and be awarded the trophy, but it changed course in recent weeks.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. I didn’t have a real strong opinion,” Carvel said. “From the lack of parity and number of games played and opponents played, you give that regular season award when it’s the same number of opponents and a level playing field. That was the consensus among the coaches.”

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


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