Observations about 2019-20 UMass hockey schedule

  • UMass hockey team rushes to their freshman goaltender, Fille Lindberg, foreground right, after shutting out UNH, March 16, 2019. UMass shuts out UNH in the Hockey East quarterfinals and clinches a position at the TD Garden for semi-finals.

Staff Writer
Published: 6/21/2019 2:29:32 PM
Modified: 6/21/2019 2:29:15 PM

The jigsaw puzzle that is putting together a college hockey schedule is finally completed for UMass.

The first 34 games on the Minutemen’s path back to the national championship game have been laid out, and no one is going to be underestimating UMass anymore. Whether purposeful or not, coach Greg Carvel has given his team more of a challenge in the non-conference schedule this year and the Hockey East slog is never going to be a cakewalk either.

Games against Denver and Quinnipiac highlight the non-conference portion of the slate while UMass battles both Boston College and Northeastern three times in conference play. There is no room for anyone to call last season a fluke if the Minutemen can find success against this year’s set of games.

Here are five things that stand out about this year’s schedule:

ALL OF THE HUSKIES – The strangest quirk about this year’s schedule is that UMass will play Northeastern three times before it faces any other Hockey East foe. Three of the Minutemen’s first seven games this season come against the Huskies – two in Boston and one in Amherst – and the season series between the schools end on Nov. 2.

Due to the nature of the Hockey East schedule, it makes sense that UMass will be done with a few of their season series by Thanksgiving, but having the first three conference games against the same opponent feels wrong. What particularly stands out is the Oct. 15 road game that will be UMass’ second game of the season. Why that couldn’t be a standalone game either at the end of the season or Feb. 14-15 is beyond me, but it’s the hand UMass has been dealt.

BU DONE EARLY – Staying on the topic of Hockey East quirks, UMass and Boston University will meet for a home-and-home on Nov. 15 and 16, the earliest the two have faced off in five years. In recent years, the games between these two teams have always coincided with the Beanpot, but that is not the case this year. It is the only the fourth time since UMass joined Hockey East in 1994 that the Minutemen and Terriers won’t play a February game.

GO WEST, UMASS – It was announced in February that UMass was going to Denver this season, but those games took on a whole new meaning on April 11. The rematch of this year’s national semifinals should be entertaining and a happy coincidence given when these games were scheduled.

These series are the type of games that become even more imperative for UMass to win given the objective nature of the tournament selection process. They are games that will help the Minutemen in the Pairwise Ratings and I applaud Carvel for scheduling these series for his team. UMass is at a point now where it expects to maintain a certain level of success and these games help the program do that.

The next step would be for Hockey East and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to schedule an annual challenge – similar to the recently-announced Atlantic 10-Mountain West partnership in basketball – to match up the two premier hockey conferences in the country. The eight Hockey East quarterfinalists from the previous year play the eight NCHC teams in a weekend series with each conference hosting four series. It would be a great event for college hockey fans to see these two mammoths of the sport collide.

BYE WEEK – UMass has a bye week this season in mid-February with no games scheduled between a Feb. 8 contest at Providence and a Feb. 21 game at UMass-Lowell. It is an odd time for the Minutemen to have a gap in the schedule and it might end up being the most challenging week of the year for the team. How Carvel and his staff handles that layoff will be critical in what should be another late-season push for seeding in the Hockey East playoffs.

NO CHANGE YET – Based on the fact UMass’ final Hockey East game is on March 5 against Vermont, it seems unlikely the conference will move away from its eight-team playoff format this season. The coaches almost unanimously voted to request all 11 teams be included again for the upcoming season, but that seems almost impossible now barring any scheduling changes.

The NCAA will announce the bracket for the tournament on March 22 and the regionals will start on the 27th. That leaves just two weeks for Hockey East to play three rounds, something that is blatantly unfair if the conference were to use the format it had two years ago. If the league returned to that playoff format, which had a best-of-three first round series before the best-of-three quarterfinals series, it would require a team to potentially play eight games in 13 days to win the title. 


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