Athol Daily News – UMass hockey: No. 11 Minutemen look to stay hot with Friday road trip to Harvard
UMass hockey head coach Greg Carvel has often talked about how this year’s team feels special so far this season. Last weekend’s series wasn’t the first time they showed it, but it was an exclamation point of a series sweep that showed the rest of the college hockey world that the Minutemen are for real.
The Minutemen swept No. 5 Providence in a home and home, no easy task, pulling off a comeback 3-2 win on Thursday and eking out a 2-1 overtime win on Saturday courtesy of Ryan Ufko’s game-winner. The pair of wins improved their record to 8-3-1 overall.
“You go into the games knowing you’ve got a tough competitor and you find ways to win and then afterwards you go, ‘Oh, geez, we got five out of six points. That’s a big weekend.’ I don’t think Providence had lost a (Hockey East) league game yet so it helps us in the standings, but that’s the bonus to playing with confidence, finding ways to win in the third periods,” Carvel said Tuesday. “That weekend was about team more than points and standings. Again, the points and the standings is just a bonus.”
The win put UMass on a lot of radars, catapulting it up four spots in the USCHO and USA Today polls to the No. 11 national ranking (it also dropped Providence from fifth to the No. 9 spot).
“I think you see an individual step up but it’s usually the byproduct of a team effort. Ufko’s effort was solo, but I think there’s just a synchronicity or common belief that teams have when they know they’re doing things in the right way,” Carvel said. “When you do have that confidence, I think pucks tend to bounce your way more than they don’t.”
They’ll try to keep moving up the rankings this Friday on the road against Harvard (4:30 p.m.). On paper, Harvard isn’t as highly-touted as Providence — the Crimson are ranked 20th in the USA Today Poll and are unranked in USCHO’s poll (though they did receive votes last week) and have struggled to find game-winning goals with a 1-1-3 record. The ties are better than losses, but the Crimson haven’t been able to find the go-ahead goal as often as they’d like. Four players are currently tied for the team lead in scoring – Joe Miller (3G, 1A), Ben MacDonald (1G, 3A), Ryan Healey (0G, 4A) and Philip Tresca (0G, 4A) all have four points.
That said, underestimating the Crimson is the last thing the Minutemen want to do, especially after dispatching a team like Providence twice last week. Harvard’s played a pair of top 10 teams, and hasn’t had as much game time as most other teams, only playing five games to the Minutemen’s 12. Tripping on their own feet this Black Friday would crush any momentum UMass had just picked up. Carvel knows better than anyone not to underestimate their upcoming opponent.
“Harvard is always a talented team. I think they’ve got a vast number of NHL draft picks on their roster like we do. Looking at their schedule, they’ve had a tough schedule – I know they’ve played Cornell and Quinnipiac and I think some other good teams. So I’m not going anything off their record,” Carvel said. “They’re consistently one of the most talented teams in the country. So we’ll go into this game knowing that we need to defend well.”
One thing the Minutemen do need to clean up this week is their special teams, mainly their power play. UMass had to kill off four penalties on Saturday’s game and couldn’t convert on either of those two PP opportunities. The team spent some time during Monday’s skate working on special teams.
It’s also possible the Minutemen might be without a couple of their top players against Harvard. Defender Owen Murray and forward Michael Cameron were both injured during last weekend’s series and Carvel didn’t have any specific updates except to say that they were day to day; it’s not clear whether they’ll suit up against Harvard on Friday. Murray took an awkward hit in Thursday’s game and didn’t return while Cameron left Saturday’s game against Providence in the first period after taking a knock from a Friars player.
Puck drop is 4:30 p.m. Friday at The Bright-Landry Hockey Center in Boston. UMass will then have a full week off before traveling to play at Vermont on Dec. 1.
Hannah Bevis can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.