UMass hockey notebook: Bye week provided a ‘reset’ for Minutemen

  • The UMass hockey team makes their way onto the ice for the season opener against Minnesota State on Saturday night at the Mullins Center in Amherst. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/12/2021 8:37:52 PM

AMHERST — The UMass hockey team has had a week and a half to digest Minnesota State sweeping it to open the 2021-22 season. The 10th-ranked Minutemen didn’t play last weekend but had ample time to break down their mistakes and areas to improve or emphasize.

“The best thing about losing those two games is now we have the players’ attention,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “They seem much more focused, deliberate in practice and intensity. A lot of good stuff coming out of it.”

UMass (0-2) didn’t generate much offense in its opening-night 2-0 loss, then appeared to find some answers, taking a 3-0 lead Sunday. The Mavericks scored six unanswered goals, five in the third period, to send the Minutemen to another loss.

“That second game, even though we were ahead 3-0 it wasn’t a 3-0 game. We were fortunate to be ahead. I’m glad we didn’t win that game,” Carvel said. “In retrospect, I’m glad we played a really good team to start the season. It reset us pretty quickly. I like the progress in the last week.”

Carvel noted more intensity from his leadership group, increased competitiveness from the newcomers and more coherent coverage in the defensive zone.

“It’s just us against ourselves. We need to do it against a good team,” Carvel said. 

UMass’ captains and other senior leaders have taken responsibility to educate some of the younger players on what it takes to play at this level, and at the standard the Minutemen have established.

“The whole focus has been to give more. If you’re giving 100, give 110,” UMass graduate student goalie Matt Murray said. “At this level of hockey, if it’s anything but your best, it has to be your best hockey at practice, in the gym and especially in game time.”

MATT MURRAY, HOW’RE YOU NOW? – Murray started his 86th and 87th games in net for the Minutemen to open the season. His 52 wins already top the UMass record books, and he’s tied with former platoon mate Filip Lindberg with 11 shutouts to lead all Minutemen. Murray has the second-lowest goals against average in program history (2.2 per game) and the third-best save percentage (.916).

The St. Albert, Alberta, native entered the transfer portal after last year’s national championship season due to the playing time uncertainty with Lindberg just being a junior and the option of a one-time free transfer. Then Lindberg signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins in late July, opening up an avenue for Murray to return for a fifth season with a COVID-19 waiver.

“It was definitely a big step to figure out what was going to happen this year. The whole thing with Filip getting the opportunity to sign kind of made it a no-brainer,” Murray said. “My biggest thing for the fifth year was playing time. That's obviously something that you have to earn every day, but I felt like I had to good opportunity here and then being so comfortable here at school on this team and knowing your culture, it is no-brainer.”

Academically, that means he’s pursuing a master’s in business analytics, which he never imagined stepping on campus half a decade ago.

“The school side is actually been great so far,” Murray said. “It’s some things going into college that I never thought I’d be into. I started over the summer, and it’s been a great experience. I’m learning a lot of things I never thought that I’d be enjoying, but it’s been a great ride so far.”

I KNOW THAT GUY – The 2021-22 NHL season began Tuesday night, and there are 10 former Minutemen on rosters (Justin Braun, Philadelphia; Mario Ferraro, San Jose; Joel Hanley, Dallas; Matt Irwin, Nashville; William Lagesson, Edmonton; Cale Makar, Colorado; Brandon Montour, Florida; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles; Conor Sheary, Washington; Frank Vatrano, Florida).

Several of them played with UMass’ current veterans, and even more in the AHL and other professional leagues as products of Carvel’s tenure.

“Anyone who's been on my team is a friend for life, for sure, so you know I keep in touch with Cale, Mario, just staying in touch with those guys... I mean it's really exciting for them and, and for me to just watch them on TV and kind of cheer them on,” UMass captain Bobby Trivigno said. “It's been cool to see players from this program who worked their tails off to get what they deserve at the next level.”

POWER OUTAGE – The Minutemen went 0-for-10 on the power play against the Mavericks and only had four shots, all in Game 2. It’s a far cry from last year’s special teams, which ranked 10th in the country converting 23.4 percent of man up opportunities.

“I don’t think we had many chances on the power play,” Trivigno said. “This week in practice we’ve been getting a lot of pucks in the net, a lot of puck battles that we’re winning in practice that we didn’t win last week. We’re looking good going into the weekend, but it’s just keeping it simple, getting pucks in net, getting rebounds. It doesn’t need to be pretty.”

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


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