UMass hockey “fired up” for Providence series

  • The UMass men’s hockey team will face Providence in a two-game set this weekend. UMass hosts the Friars at 3 p.m. Friday then visit Schneider Arena at 7 p.m Saturday on NESN-Plus. MATT WOOLVERTON / BU ATHLETICS

  • UMass sophomore defenseman Zac Jones said the Minutemen are “fired up” to face Providence in a two-game set this weekend. UMass hosts the Friars at 3 p.m. Friday then visit Schneider Arena at 7 p.m Saturday on NESN-Plus. MATT WOOLVERTON / BU ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2021 2:29:09 PM

UMass sophomore defenseman Zac Jones won’t sugar coat the Minutemen’s two losses to Boston University last weekend.

“We’re pretty pissed off. I’m not gonna lie, we should have won both those games, we thought, and we shot ourselves in the foot,” he said.

No. 8 UMass put 33 more shots on goal than the Terriers across two games. The Minutemen (9-5-1) led 2-1 after the first period Sunday and 3-1 after the second period Monday, but 21 minutes and 14 seconds of power play time for BU and costly turnovers evaporated both leads.

“The mental mistakes we made at BU killed us,” Jones said. “When you give a team like BU chances like that they’re going to put it in the net. We’ve got to limit our chances going forward and we should be better.”

The Minutemen will face Providence in a home-and-home set this weekend. The Friars visit the Mullins Center at 3 p.m. Friday, then UMass will make the trip to Providence for a 7 p.m face off Saturday at Schneider Arena.

UMass will be without senior captain Jake Gaudet for the first leg, as he’s serving a one-game suspension after hitting BU’s Logan Cockerill  in the head early in the third period Monday. The contact drew a five-minute major penalty that allowed the Terriers to erase their two-goal deficit and ultimately win in overtime.

Senior Philip Lagunov will move into Gaudet’s first-line center spot after taking over in the third period Monday. He’s been in and out of UMass’ lineup either as an extra forward or on the fourth line this season. Lagunov scored in two of his first three games this season after not playing in the opener. He’s only registered one point since the beginning of December.

“He’s a natural center. He’s kind of been the odd man out,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I’m excited for Phil. He’s been a warrior for four years, played through injuries. He’s not having the senior year either of us would have hoped for. I hope I’ve got another guy who’s going to make it hard to make decisions because too many guys are doing a good job.”

The Minutemen won’t name a new captain for just the one game, but it does leave a leadership void that alternate captains Bobby Trivigno and Marc Del Gaizo will have to fill.

“Missing (Gaudet), it’s tough but, for me and MDG just being vocal, even more vocal than what we are to fill that void would be really good,” Trivigno said.

No. 18 Providence (5-5-2) has split every series its played, save for a season-opening drubbing from now-No. 1 Boston College. Tyce Thompson, a New Jersey Devils draft pick, has been the Friars’ offensive engine with five goals and six assists. Greg Printz and Parker Ford have nine points each.

“They check well, they transition to offense very well. They have a good power play. All those things have been consistent since I came into the league,” Carvel said. “It’s a nice combination of skill and grit, compete and size. I know their record’s not indicative of how good their team is. You gotta buckle up your chin strap when you play Providence. ​​​​​”

POWER PLAY SECRET SAUCE – UMass boasts the ninth-best power play unit in the country, converting 25.4 percent of its man-up opportunities. The Minutemen have scored 18 power play goals, second in the nation behind Quinnipiac’s 19. Sophomore defenseman Matt Kessel leads the way with five, and senior forward Carson Gicewicz has four.

“I think our power play is more confident this year. When guys get the puck everyone wants to put the puck in the net on that power play,” Jones said. “Last year we didn’t have that, we had guys that didn’t want to move the puck that much, that wanted to do it themselves. We’re more of a five-man unit this year, and that’s helping us big time.”

They already have more power play goals than last season (16), which lasted until mid-March. UMass only converted 12.3 percent of the time. John Leonard scored five times with a man advantage.

TROUBLE IN THE CIRCLE? – The Minutemen only won  71-of-134 face offs against BU, 52.9 percent of the draws. That’s five points below their season average of 57 percent.

“I don’t think we did well on face-offs against BU,” Carvel said. It was a little striking because we had been strong.”

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

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