UMass hockey closing compressed stretch with strong tests in Providence, UMass Lowell

  • The UMass hockey team is near the end of its stretch of five games in 10 days. The Minutemen host Providence at 7 p.m. Friday before visiting UMass Lowell at 1:05 p.m. Sunday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/27/2022 6:13:54 PM
Modified: 1/27/2022 6:12:37 PM

The most cramped stretch of the UMass hockey schedule wraps this weekend with two more challenging tests.

Amidst a run of five games in 10 days, the No. 9 Minutemen will host No. 17 Providence at 7 p.m. Friday before traveling to Tsongas Arena for the second time this season to face conference-leading UMass Lowell, the No. 14 team in the nation, at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.

UMass (12-7-2, 9-3-2 Hockey East) swept Northeastern last weekend before falling to Boston University on Tuesday. How the Minutemen started each game dictated the outcome.

They jumped out to a 2-0 lead Friday against the Huskies and scored four goals in the first period Saturday at Northeastern. Then the Terriers poured in four goals Tuesday, and UMass couldn’t complete a comeback.

That necessitated more attention on correcting the flaws from the BU game before the Minutemen could pivot to preparing for Providence.

“Pretty black and white stuff,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “So we're just talking about making sure we're ready to play here Friday night.”

The condensed nature of the past week hasn’t worn on the Minutemen’s energy reserves. It might have earlier in the season when UMass had six forwards miss time with injury, but the team is accustomed to playing games on back to back evenings all season.

“We're pretty healthy for the most part, missing one or two guys it seems game to game,” Carvel said. “You know, the back to back to me are demanding. We've got two days in between games. It should be enough for us to recover. The games are spaced enough that I’m not overly concerned as long as we’ve got enough bodies.”

Defenseman Colin Felix should return against the Friars on Friday after missing Tuesday’s game with a stomach bug. It was the first time he’d missed a game in his UMass career, breaking a 123-game streak.

“He had a stomach virus, and I didn’t want to catch it, so I didn’t want to play him in the game,” Carvel jested.

It will take all hands against the Friars (16-9-2) on Friday. Providence is the league’s top-scoring team and second stingiest defensively. The Friars put away 3.41 goals per game, the 13th best mark in the nation.

That’s bolstered by the two top scorers in Hockey East. Brett Berard and Nick Poisson are tied with 28 points each. Poisson’s 21 assists leads the conference and is eighth in the nation. Berard’s 13 goals lead the team.

Providence also only allows 2.04 goals per game, No. 7 in the country and just behind Hockey East-leading UMass Lowell (No. 6 at 1.9). That’s owed in no small part to Friars net minder Jaxson Stauber. The junior allows just 2.018 goals per game, third in Hockey East and 10th nationally. His .927 save percentage also ranks third in the league and No. 11 in the country.

UMass is 2-0 against Providence this season, besting the Friars 1-0 at the Mullins Center on Nov. 5 before taking them down 5-1 in Rhode Island the next night.

“We know each other very well. The two teams play very similar,” Carvel said. “I expect a low scoring game.”

The teams’ last two regular season games at the Mullins Center have featured one total goal. UMass prevailed 5-2 in last year’s Hockey East semifinals

The Minutemen then will close the compressed section Sunday at UMass Lowell. If they beat Providence, that game will be for the top of the league standings regardless of how the River Hawks fare against Northeastern on Friday.

UMass Lowell (13-5-3, 10-4-1 HE) leads the league with 31 points but went 0-for-2 against Merrimack last weekend, allowing the Minutemen to catch up by sweeping the Huskies. 

UMass fell in a shootout the last time the teams met at Tsongas in early December.

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

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