UMass hockey: Minutemen need to cut down on penalties for weekend series with No. 9 Boston University

UMass head coach Greg Carvel talks with his team in the first period against AIC earlier this season at the Mullins Center in Amherst.

UMass head coach Greg Carvel talks with his team in the first period against AIC earlier this season at the Mullins Center in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By HANNAH BEVIS 

Staff Writer 

Published: 10-26-2023 9:17 PM

Modified: 10-26-2023 9:18 PM


The UMass hockey team opens Hockey East play this year with a bang – the Minutemen will face No. 9 Boston University this weekend, the defending Hockey East champions, in a home and home series.

The Minutemen and Terriers are the last two Hockey East champions. UMass won the title back in 2021-22, the second of back-to-back conference crowns for the Minutemen. 

Last year’s Hockey East season was one that the Minutemen would rather forget – they finished conference play 7-14-3, and were eliminated in the first round of the Hockey East tournament. This weekend series will be a place for UMass to prove themselves against the Terriers. 

In general, discipline and attention to detail were top of mind for UMass head coach Greg Carvel. 

“I want to see more attention to detail in our play without the puck, recognizing when we need to be really urgent to defend,” Carvel said. “I thought we played pretty good defensive hockey last weekend, but Michigan scored seven goals on us recently and BU’s that kind of team. We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box.” 

Penalties are something that have been an unfortunate reality for UMass. The Minutemen spent nearly a third of their second game against Minnesota State killing penalties, something that they can’t have happen again against BU. As much as UMass’ penalty kill has impressed, that unit has been out on the ice entirely too long for Carvel’s liking, though BU’s power play has been lackluster to start the season with an 11.1 percent success rate. 

“No disrespect to Minnesota State, I thought they were really well coached, played a really strong game, but they don’t have any first round draft picks on their team whereas our opponent this week does. Those kids —I know, we’ve had them on our team — it’s harder to stop really high-level talent. We can’t give our opponent five, six, seven power plays or we’re not going to win,” Carvel said. “We killed 19 minutes of penalties in our last game. It’s hard for a team to play well together if only half the guys are playing.” 

The Minutemen are in a good spot going into this weekend after picking up two hard-earned wins on the road against Minnesota State. The victories knocked the Mavericks out of the national polls and put the Minutemen into the USCHO top 20 for the first time this season (No. 19). While for some the rankings might mean validation, the acknowledgment did the opposite for Carvel. 

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“It doesn’t motivate me at all. I don’t like it, I wish we were off it. It’s a distraction to me and the fact that now I gotta answer questions about it, I wish I didn’t,” Carvel said. “I wish we were going into this game without being ranked, because we need desperation, we need to prove a lot of stuff and once we get into the rankings, I don’t want anyone to think that we’ve arrived.” 

BU is going to need desperation this week, too. The Terriers have gotten off to an underwhelming start to the season, going 2-2 and needing overtime to beat Bentley in its first game. They hammered Notre Dame in their last game 8-2, but in general have struggled more than many expected to start.

Macklin Celebrini will be one of the most dangerous players for the Terriers, and the Minutemen will need to keep a close eye on the first line center. Luke Tuch, Aiden Celebrini and Jeremy Wilmer have also been generating offense for the Terriers. 

The home and home series will have a lot of eyes on it, but for the Minutemen, it’s just another day at the rink. 

“Our goal is to be in the NCAA tournament, so playing Minnesota State is just as important as playing BU,” Carvel said. “Every game is important, every game is a grind to win.” 

UMass will travel to Boston University on Friday for a 7 p.m. puck drop before returning home for a Saturday game at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center. Both games will be streamed on ESPN-Plus. 

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.