UMass clobbers Brown to finish first half strong

  • Oliver Chau, of UMass, shown against Northeastern on Nov. 1, scored two goals as the Minutemen beat Brown, 4-0, on Tuesday. AP

Staff Writer
Published: 12/10/2019 10:04:06 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Perhaps no one wanted the first half of the UMass hockey season to end less than Oliver Chau.

The junior forward had a resurgence in the Minutemen’s two-game sweep this past weekend, and it continued into Tuesday’s game at Brown. Chau scored twice on odd-man rushes in the second period to push No. 9 UMass to a 4-0 win over the Bears in its final game for almost three weeks.

Chau had three goals and two assists in the Minutemen’s last three games to extend his point streak to four straight heading into the break.

“Definitely not disappointed to go home and see my family, but it feels good to get it going,” Chau said. “As a team, we’re playing a lot more unified and better and playing our brand of hockey. We want to attack and make people defend us, and we’re doing a good job at that.”

Chau’s form, though, matched that of his teammates, who put together three straight complete performances to finish the semester on a winning streak. It was a showcase of the consistency coach Greg Carvel had been asking for through the first two months of the season, and came when the Minutemen (12-4-1) were at their healthiest.

That experienced depth was on display again at Meehan Auditorium as UMass rolled four lines of pressure at the struggling Bears. The Minutemen played much of the first 15 minutes of the game inside the offensive zone, but couldn’t convert that dominance of the puck into goals.

Brown (3-10-0) actually outshot UMass 10-9 in the opening 20 minutes as the Bears made sure to throw every puck they could at Filip Lindberg when they did possess the puck on that end of the rink.

“As a goalie, you’ve got to be focused on the next puck every time,” Lindberg said. “It doesn’t matter if you face a lot of shots or not, you’ve just got to focus on the next puck because that’s all that matters.”

Lindberg finished with 27 stops for his record-tying sixth career shutout, joining teammate Matt Murray in the program record book atop that category. Most of his saves were critical ones, too, that required more effort than the saves Gavin Nieto made at the other end for Brown. Lindberg fought through traffic a lot to make some of his early saves, but he had to bail out the Minutemen for several sloppy turnovers in the defensive zone with point-blank saves for many of his later stops.

“He made bigger saves than their goalie did,” Carvel said. “Fille made big, big saves when we needed him to. I didn’t think we gave up a ton, but when we did give up something it seemed to be a Grade A scoring chance.”

Chau finally broke the dam for UMass, converting a perfect pass from Philip Lagunov on a two-on-one break midway through the second. He then doubled the lead with a silky backhand on a rush that began with Lindberg making a sliding save off a faceoff.

His resurgence along with the improvements from Lagunov have made UMass a more complete team in the last week. Carvel said it has only helped the Minutemen become more consistent to have two of its more important players answer the call from the coaching staff as the roster has gotten healthier.

“We challenged a bunch of guys that weren’t performing at the beginning of the year,” Carvel said. “The other guy has really stepped forward is Phil Lagunov. Those two guys have been top-six forwards for us since they were freshmen, and at the beginning of the year, they weren’t performing, and that’s why I think we got off to an uneven start. Those two guys have been outstanding (recently).”

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