UConn ice hockey sticks it to UMass, 8-2

  • The UMass hockey team and coach Greg Carvel lost 8-2 at UConn Tuesday. It was the first of seven straight road game for the Minutemen. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. — It was a good night for nostalgic Hartford Whaler fans. Fans of competitive hockey, not so much.

UConn, playing in the Whalers’ old building and under the Whalers’ old banners, has adopted the Whalers’ beloved old goal anthem, “Brass Bonanza.” The 2,723 fans in the XL Center heard eight renditions of it Tuesday as the Huskies pounded UMass, 8-2.

“It was a strange game. 8-2 is an embarrassing score, but I wasn’t really embarrassed for our team. I thought we tried, but every time they shot the puck it was going in,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I’m glad we have another game before the semester ends, I wouldn’t want to end the semester on that game.”

The Minutemen (8-7-0, 3-4-0 Hockey East) are at Union, Sunday at 5 p.m. before the 24-day holiday break.

UMass actually came out strong, dictating the play and pushing the action in the first 10 minutes. With Mario Ferraro in the box for charging, a deflected shot sprung Cale Makar on a short-handed breakaway, but Huskies goalie Adam Huska (26 saves) stoned him.

“I’d love to see how it would have turned out if we scored that goal,” Carvel said. “It might have been a lot different. I liked our start. I thought we were really good for the first 10 minutes.”

UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh agreed.

“It was a huge save. That’s Makar coming down,” Cavanaugh said. “That was a huge save without a doubt.”

Moments later UConn took a 1-0 lead. The power play had just ended, but the Minutemen were still scrambling. Goalie Ryan Wischow stopped Miles Gendron’s initial shot, but Jeff Wight grabbed the rebound on the right-wing post. He looked almost like a bubble-hockey player spinning around to chip the puck into the top-right corner.

Alexanader Payusov made it 2-0 with 7:35 left in the first and the notes from “Brass Bonanza” still lingered in the old barn when Wight struck up the band again making it 3-0, 39 seconds later.

Carvel opted to lift Wischow (four saves) between the first two periods, hoping to spark his team. The Minutemen scored three times in a minute in Friday’s win over the Huskies at the Mullins Center, so the game didn’t seem out of reach at that point. But Matt Murray (seven saves) barely had a chance to sweat before it was 4-0, 47 seconds into the middle frame.

“We were down 3-0. I really thought if we get the next goal we’re in good shape,” Carvel said. “I liked our first period. I’ve never been down 3-0 and been rather happy about the period. I thought it was a good challenge for the team to see if they could dig really deep. But when that fourth goal went in, it’s tough to overcome that.”

Murray gave up three in the second and Carvel turned to freshman walk-on Brad Arvantis, who gave up two in the third.

“Tonight we just didn’t get any saves,” Carvel said. “UConn was very opportunistic with their scoring.”

Carvel was concerned about Murray’s confidence. After a strong start to the year, the freshman struggled before getting lifted against UNH on Nov. 4 and gave up seven goals against Providence on Nov. 9.

“It was an opportunity to get him back. He hadn’t played in a couple weeks. That’s a tough situation. Then the first shot goes in. I’m a little concerned,” Carvel said. “It’s too bad.”

Brett Boeing scored 6:21 into the third period to make it 6-1, but Spencer Naas answered 33 seconds later to make it 7-1. Austin Plevy jammed home his first goal of the season with 40 seconds left to close the scoring.

NOTES — Makar and Ferraro will find out Wednesday whether they’ve been chosen for Team Canada for the World Junior Championships in Buffalo later this month. Both freshman defensemen are considered likely additions.

If they make the team and depending how far Canada advances, they’d miss at the most two UMass games — Jan. 5 at Yale and Jan. 6 at UMass-Lowell.

They could see Huska there. He’s expected to be the No. 1 goalie for Slovakia’s team.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage