In-state family feud

  • UMass Amherst forward Niko Hildenbrand Gaudet (19) moves the puck down the ice during a NCAA hockey game against Vermont, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen) Scott Eisen

  • UMass Amherst defenseman Mario Ferraro (5) moves the puck away from Vermont defenseman Matt O'Donnell (18) during a NCAA hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen) Scott Eisen

For the Recorder
Published: 2/12/2019 6:13:34 PM

Not long ago when “UMass hockey” was typed into a search engine, up popped the UMass-Lowell River Hawks.

The flagship campus in Amherst was snubbed for good reason. In six full seasons under coach Norm Bazin, the River Hawks have won two Hockey East championships, made four NCAA appearances and one trip to the Frozen Four.

This year’s two wins against UMass-Amherst aren’t a fluke. The dignitaries at Saturday night’s Tsongas Center sellout included UMass president Marty Meehan, UMass-Amherst chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and governor Charlie Baker who dropped the ceremonial first puck. “A lot of pomp and circumstances,” said the inimatable Donnie Moorhouse.

The River Hawks used first period goals by fourth-line winger Chris Schutz (his third), and defenseman Anthony Baxter (his second), and 24-year-old netminder Chris Hernberg made 31 saves for Saturday’s 2-0 win. Coupled with their 3-0 shutout against Boston College the previous night, the River Hawks moved past the Eagles into second place and trail the Minutemen by just two points in Hockey East with seven games left until the Hockey East playoffs.

“They’re gonna outwork and beat you by a low score and that’s what they did,” UMass coach Greg Carvel told Moorhouse during the postgame show. “That first goal was a joke, so soft in front of our net.”

Carvel doesn’t make excuses about hitting crossbars the way BU coach Albie O’Connell did after UMass beat the Terriers, 7-5, in Boston. After its second setback in five weeks to UMass-Lowell, Carvel was clearly agitated. “Our guys disrepected the game, disrespected the opponent and weren’t ready to play,” he said. “It’s not good when I feel more comfortable throwing my third and fourth lines over the bench than my first and second lines. Our big-bodied guys were almost non-existent tonight.”

Not that it’s time to hit the panic button, the Minutemen can win on talent and depth. They’ve already scored 102 goals this season compared to two seasons ago when they finished with 84, but it’s going to take some hard work by the boys from Amherst to wrest Commonwealth bragging rights away from a proud River Hawks team.

MINUTEMEN SWEEP BU

UMass played to a sellout crowd at the Mullins Center on Friday and beat Boston University, which has the youngest team in Division 1. It was the first time the Terriers have lost four games in a row since the 2013-14 season.

Just when it looked like 20-year-old Jake Oettinger might go Ken Dryden on UMass, they scored three second-period goals on twine-tweakers by John Leonard and maiden breakers by Jack Suter and Jake McLaughlin.  

Freshman Filip Lindberg gave up a softie in the first period and a late goal to Shane Bowers, who together with UMass defenseman Cale Makar is a Colorado first-round pick. “The last goal by Bowers was an NHL goal,” said Carvel. “Bower’s as good a forward as I’ve seen this year.”

During Friday’s pregame show Carvel told Brock Hines, “Matt cracked the door a little bit, he let in five goals against BU (but) he more than likely will play tomorrow night.”

It was Lindberg’s chance to win the starting job, but despite making 25 saves the early goal was a setback. “I hate how he gave it up. That’s an issue,” said Carvel. Consequently, Murray made the start Saturday and made 25 saves on 27 shots.

SIN BIN ISSUES

UMass players were whistled off nine times for two-minute infractions against Lowell and BU. “We’re taking too many penalties,” said Carvel. “It sucks energy out of the team and messes up the lines on the bench.” … Lookalikes: UMass defenseman Mario Ferraro and former Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.

BC NEXT UP

If it was September, they’d call it a pennant race. The first-place Minutemen play home-and-home games against third-place Boston College this weekend, and second-place UMass-Lowell plays two against fourth-place Providence.  Carvel texted he hoped to have captain Niko Hildenbrand back in the lineup. “Niko plays a heavy and physical style. He’s a compete guy that we miss when he’s out of the lineup. … Big factor on the PK as well.” 

According to the College Hockey News, BC has the second-youngest team in Division I. The Eagles are tied for 51st in goals scored and rank in the bottom half in penalty killing and power play percentage.

UMass is in the top 10 in both aforementioned categories.

The Eagles have won 11 conference titles and five national championships.

HAVING FAITH ON THE FARM: College hockey recruits are like minor league ballplayers, only a few reach the next level. That said, the  Minutemen have the leading scorer in the Central Canada Hockey League. Eric Faith is a 6-foot, 175-pound left wing who at this writing has  23 goals, 38 assists (61 points) and 51 penalty minutes in 49 games for the Brockville Braves. …  An 18-year-old left winger named Alexander DiPaoloa is inking the scoresheet. The 6-1, 185-pound forward has 43 points in 48 games for the Coquitlam Express of the British Columbia Hockey League. … Agawam’s Brian Scoville is crashing off the boards for the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound defenseman has 35 penalty minutes in 45 games. … Also ready to come off the junior assembly line is 20-year-old right-winger Reed Lebster, who has 19 goals and 16 assists in 42 games for Des Moines of the USHL. … Carvel said Jeremy Davidson and Zac Jones, of the USHL’s Fargo Force and Tri-City Storm are earmarked to be on next year’s roster, together with Faith and Lebster. … None of the team’s 20 recruits committed for the next three years is a goaltender, which indicates that Carvel’s staff is confident that Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg are good for the long term. (Sources: College Hockey News and hockeydb.com).

 

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.




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