UMass hockey notebook: “Frustrating” exhibition against Dartmouth reintroduces issues

  • Scott Morrow, shown against AIC last week, scored in the third period for the Minutemen in an exhibition against Dartmouth on Saturday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/23/2021 11:23:41 PM

AMHERST – Two wins against AIC papered over the cracks Minnesota State exposed in the UMass hockey team. An exhibition loss (in regulation that turned into a win through overtime and the shootout) to Dartmouth on Saturday at the Mullins Center showed the Minutemen they still have plenty to fix before Hockey East play begins.

UMass outshot Dartmouth 44-18 but trailed 3-2 after three periods. Both teams agreed to play five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime and have a shootout regardless of the score. The Minutemen put two goals in during overtime and won the shootout 2-1. At one point it was 3-0 Big Green despite UMass’ overwhelming shot advantage.

“Frustrating. Another game where we own possession, shots and chances and we made it close at the end,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I give Dartmouth credit. They showed a lot of character and a lot of will. We showed that we didn’t really want to defend. The goals they scored, we left our goalie pretty much helpless.”

The Big Green put a goal in each period. Nate Morgan and Sean Chisholm each put away his own rebound, while Jeff Losurdo slammed home a backdoor pass that slid in front of the crease. UMass starter Matt Murray played the game’s first 29 minutes, 28 seconds before making way for freshman Luke Pavicich’s first action as a Minuteman. 

Every skater saw action for UMass. The Minutemen played five forward lines and four defensive pairings. They’ve struggled to find consistency and production from their bottom two lines, so Saturday acted as an open audition for playing time.

“I need the older players to be good players. Taylor Makar, (Ryan) Lautenbach and (Lucas) Mercuri, those kids need time. They’re not close. They’re freshmen,” Carvel said. “You want them to be good right away. They have a long ways to go. In the meantime, I need those other guys – guys who played 75, 100 college hockey games –  to act like they played that much hockey.”

One of UMass’ freshman defensemen started the late rally that tightened the game. Scott Morrow, the 51st overall pick in the NHL Draft over the summer, received a pass just inside the blue line and catapulted the puck into the back of the net with 9:50 left to make it a 3-1 game.

“To be honest, I was just thinking about trying to get us to three and tie up the game,” Morrow said. “Obviously it was a pretty cool moment, but at the time I was fired up to try and get our bench some energy and try and get the win.”

The Minutemen pulled Pavicich with a few minutes to go, and Eric Faith cut the deficit to one goal driving straight toward the net with 1:40 left.

“The first two periods were super stale for us,” Faith said. “We tried to come out in the third and do things the right way and start to get momentum in our favor.”

UMass showed a similar level of desperation in the third period opening night against Minnesota State and in stretches against the Yellow Jackets. It hasn’t sustained that kind of effort for a full game.

“We are not as far along as we should be. The game seemed pretty lopsided, yet we’re losing 3-0,” Carvel said. “To me, that’s one team that really has the character and the will and one team that wants it to be easy, and we’re a team right now that wants it to be easy, and we’ve never been like that. It’s very frustrating to me.”

Northing will come easy in Hockey East play, which begins Friday at Merrimack, the first game of a home-and-home with the Warriors. Faith said the team needs to focus on its details and small mistakes. The Minutemen pointed to the same issues after the losses to Minnesota State.

“Until we get on top of those, they’re gonna keep biting us and we’re gonna keep letting in goals. So we’re going to keep working on that,” Faith added. “It’s more in your head being locked in when you get on the ice, knowing where you got to be, knowing who your man is at all times, not coming off checks. That kind of thing. It’s just being mentally engaged all the time.”

Saturday’s “loss” won’t count against UMass in regards to their record. The Minutemen don’t have any mulligans left. They play a Hockey East series each of the next four weekends before a bye.

“We’re not a team that’s ever scored easily, but we’ve been a team that defended well, and I'm not happy with the way that we defend,” Carvel said. “So work in progress. Exhibition game, so we’ll take what we can out of it.”

BONUS HOCKEY – UMass dominated the overtime period much the same way they dominated the game, but the Minutemen put two pucks in the net in five minutes compared to two in all of regulation.

Ryan Sullivan put away a backhander that “tied” the game 3-3, just 2:12 in, then Garrett Wait blasted another shot home to put UMass “ahead” 4-3, even though neither goal ended the overtime period and the game still went to a shootout anyway. 

“Both teams were to get practice at it. It’s hard to practice it in practice, you’re going against yourself,” Carvel said. “I thought that was very helpful. It’s tough to manage the bench in 3 on 3, it’s very hectic.”

UMass also won the shootout 2-1. Pavicich saved five Dartmouth shots. Bobby Trivigno scored the Minutemen's first goal after a series of shifty moves when he slid the puck under Clay Stevenson's pad. Lucas Mercuri slammed home a slapshot to end the game on a positive note for UMass.

“We practice shootout, but you do it live, you figure out which guys have some confidence in doing it,” Carvel said. “Glad we had the chance to do that.”

WHAT SOCIAL DISTANCE? – UMass crammed 23 players onto the bench along with its regular congregation of coaches and staff, which is five more players than in a typical game.

They did not have much room to move around.

“There’s more bodies than normal, but most of the guys were sitting, whoever’s up was standing,” Faith said. “That’s kind of how we managed the space.”

LORD OF THE FACEOFF CIRCLE – Anthony Del Gaizo won seven of the eight faceoffs he took, an 87.5 percent clip. 

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


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