We knew coming into this weekend that this Massachusetts hockey team has had a tough time getting on the scoreboard against the elite defensive teams in the country. They lost 6-1 in the Capital City Classic against Yale and earlier this month dropped a 7-0 decision to Boston College. They did not fare much better against the #3 Quinnipiac Bobcats who came into this home-and-home series allowing the 4th fewest goals and shots on net per game. The Bobcats’ defense lived up to their dominant expectations and allowed just a single goal against UMass, winning the games 4-1 and 1-0.
If not for some decent goaltending by Nic Renyard early, Friday’s match in Amherst could’ve been very ugly. Quinnipiac had a 2-0 advantage before the Minutemen were even able to register a shot on net. The Bobcats would notch their first goal 6:58 into the opening period with a wrister from the top of the circle. Just 24 seconds (but a goal review that lasted seemingly forever) later they added their second goal after Bobcat star Sam Anas tapped in a rebound. By that point Renyard had already seen 10 shots while Bobcat goaltender Michael Garteig was still waiting for his first. Quinnipiac would make it 3-0 with 2:42 left in the first.
Quinnipiac’s defense just dominated, especially in the first two periods, completely minimizing UMass’ ability to get the puck on Garteig. The Minutemen would manage just 8 shots through the 2nd period, 4 in each frame. The Bobcats meanwhile managed 24 shots on net in that time. But, Renyard and the defense improved their play in the middle frame after allowing 3 in the first and were able to keep Quinnipiac off the board. UMass was able to generate more offense in the final period, totaling 10 shots in the 3rd with 5 of those coming on three power play opportunities. Marc Hetnik would score the lone UMass goal of the weekend 5 minutes into the 3rd on a nice shot from above the circle. But Quinnipiac would add another goal halfway in the 3rd, catching UMass during a line change, and cruised to a 4-1 victory. In the end the Bobcats would hold the advantage on shots attempted 62-35, including more than doubling up the Minutemen 51-25 at even strength shots attempted.
UMass did a much better job offensively at the start of Saturday’s game in Hamden. The Minutemen would match the 4 shots on goal they tallied in the entire 1st period the night before in just the first 4 minutes of the game. In fact, UMass would hold the Bobcats to just four total shots in the opening period, but unfortunately one of those shots got past Minuteman goaltender Henry Dill for the lone goal of the game. Dill got a rare start after struggling so far this season and performed very well. But he was unable to stop Scott Davidson from tipping in a nice feed that came from the corner behind the goal line.
The opening frame was the best for the Minutemen in terms of offense, outshooting Quinnipiac 15-4 in the period. But the Bobcats still held the 1-0 lead going into the second. The home team would begin to wrestle puck possession back in their favor as the game continued after the first period, holding UMass to just 8 shots in the 2nd and then just 5 shots in the final period. When they were able to get pressure on net, Garteig was there to turn the puck away. In the end he picked up his 4th shutout of the season.
UMass probably deserved a better fate than a loss for their effort on Saturday, especially considering how well they played on defense. The 23 shots allowed was the fewest in their 15 games this season and just the 3rd time they allowed less than 30. Their inability to find the back of the net also meant that Dill’s strong performance in an unexpected start went for naught.
While the defense seems to be improving as the season goes along and is definitely better than last year, there are now some concerns about the UMass offense which is quickly cooling after their hot start. The Minutemen have now scored just 9 goals in their last 6 games and have only scored 3 goals once in that time (the 3-3 tie against Merrimack). The forwards have to get back on track and generating shots. If you look at those 6 games 3 out of the top 5 players with the most shots on net during that time are defensemen. Shane Walsh is at the top with 20, but behind him is Callum Fryer with 15 and William Lagesson with 14. You have to go down to 7th to find Dennis Kravchenko with 10 and keep scrolling to 10th for Austin Plevy’s 7 shots on goal. With the exception of Walsh, opposing teams have been very effective at shutting down the Minutemen’s top scorers. Hopefully this is something the team can solve for as they hit the road for a tough league trip at Notre Dame.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game (Friday) – Marc Hetnik
Hetnik’s play has noticeably improved as the season has gone along and Friday was one of his best games of late. Not only did he get the lone UMass goal of the night, but he ended up leading the team in shots on net.
photo by Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game (Saturday) – Henry Dill
Dill only allowed a single goal in his return to the crease on Saturday. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to keep him from picking up the loss, through no fault of his own. It was good to see Dill make the most of his start after getting pulled in his previous two starts and his performance will likely lead to him getting another chance in net in the future.
USCHO has a recap of Saturday’s action.
Minnesota has some annoying comments regarding the Big Ten age limit proposal in this Q & A with College Hockey News, pretty much admitting this is just a unilateral move by the conference to gain an advantage over the rest of the programs. Sounds like someone hasn’t gotten over being upset by Holy Cross and Union in the NCAA tournament.