UMass hockey falls to No. 13 UConn in ‘building block’ overtime game


Staff Writer

Published: 01-21-2023 12:14 AM

AMHERST –  Everything but the final scoreboard indicates the UMass hockey team is on the right path. The Minutemen out shot UConn comfortably and scored more goals than they had in weeks. Their offensive pressure was consistent and bench lively.

But the No. 13 Huskies beat them 4-3 in overtime Friday at the Mullins Center to send them to their third straight loss. UMass hasn’t won a league game since late November.

“That’s the best I’ve felt all year behind the bench. They were talking. They were playing hard. They were executing the game plan really well, which a lot of nights has not been the case,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “We needed a couple more bounces. Even though it’s a loss, I look at it as a step forward.”

UMass went to overtime for the seventh time this season and dropped to 1-3 in the extra frame (three shootouts).

UConn’s Chase Bradley pounced on a turnover in the neutral zone then flung the puck into the back of the net with 13 seconds left. It completed a comeback after UMass finally clawed itself into the lead.

“I hope that builds confidence. They played well enough ton win,” Carvel said. “I’m proud of the team. They played hard. The puck just didn’t bounce our way.”

Scott Morrow ripped UMass’ go-ahead goal into the back of the net 10 minutes, 4 seconds into the third period. The Minutemen were on the first power play of the game. They cycled the puck around comfortably. Kenny Connors broke a stick with a slap shot then drilled the puck back into the same defender’s chest. He eventually worked the puck around to Ryan Ufko, who found Morrow on the left dot for his second tally of the game and a 3-2 lead.The power play game UMass (9-11-3, 3-9-1 Hockey East) its lead and took it away. The Minutemen gained another man advantage after a Jake Percival elbow with 5:54 left, but Lucas Mercuri’s high stick returned the sides to even numbers 53 seconds later.

“We have a really competitive group. We don’t have any quitters in our locker room,” Morrow said. “In these big time games, we want to prove we’re no pushover.”

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The Huskies (14-7-3, 9-6-2) tied the game 3-3 once they went on the power play, as Hudson Schandor ripped in his second of the game with 3:09 left.

UMass forward Lucas Mercuri knotted the game at 2-2 with 14:26 left after tapping home a rebound. He hadn’t scored since Oct. 22 against Union, and it was just his second of the season.

“It feels good to contribute offensively,” Mercuri said. “I like to play at the net and play big.”

No. 13 UConn took a 2-1 lead with 6:31 left in the second period on a pseudo power play. UMass freshman Cole O’Hara limped off the ice after a hard hit favoring his right leg. The Huskies pounced in the confusion. Jake Percival tapped the puck into a crease in the net from his line mates Ty Almonte and Samu Salminen.

The Minutmen locked possession into UConn’s zone for the final few minutes of the period but couldn’t put a puck past Huskies goalie Arseni Sergeev (34 saves).

“We stayed positionally pretty sound and were able to box out in front and not let them have any second and third opportunities,” UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “It was a lot of possession, but we did a pretty good job protecting the house.”

Schandor put away UConn’s second shot of the game 16 minutes in. Justin Perason spun to the doorstep and passed him the puck back across the crease. Schandor flipped it above Henry Graham for a 1-0 lead.

The Minutemen held a 9-1 shot advantage before that one found the net.

UMass didn’t trail long. Jerry Harding obtained control of the puck down below the goal line and fed it to Scott Morrow near the blue line. The sophomore unleashed a slap shot that skipped along the ice through Sergeev’s legs around a screen with 1:51 to go. It was his first goal since and empty netter Jan. 3 against Brown and first one that beat a goalie since Oct. 22 against Union. Matt Koopman also earned an assist on the play.

“That was a great response. They’re coming out ready to play, playing hard and doing a lot of good stuff,” Carvel said.

The Minutemen and Huskies will do it against at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in UConn’s newly-christened Toscano Family Ice Forum in Storrs. Conn.

“It’s a building block game for our team. We’ve been struggling a bit here,” Morrow said. “If we play that way (Saturday), we’ll be a team nobody wants to see in the Hockey East playoffs here in a couple.”