We Won, You Won, We Should Have Won: UMass vs. UConn
Video Courtesy of NESN
Three Stars of the Game (Nov. 20):
- #20 Oliver Chau – Senior
- #31 Matt Murray – Senior
- #7 Cal Kiefiuk – Sophomore
Three Stars of the Game (Nov. 21):
- #4 Matthew Kessel – Sophomore
- #17 Philip Lagunov – Senior
- #20 Oliver Chau – Senior
Friday November 20 and Saturday November 21 featured exciting matchups between the UConn Huskies and your Massachusetts Minutemen. UMass had an excellent performance on Friday night, obliterating the Huskies with a 5-1 win. Saturday, on the other hand, was an unfortunate turn of events as they fell in a shootout. One interesting thing to note here is that the game is officially recorded as a tie, at least temporarily, and we won’t know if this changes for roughly a month.
Friday’s game was a struggle for most fans due to the fact that finding the game wasn’t as easy as it should have been. After what seemed to be an hour, I managed to access the game at 11 minutes into the second period when UMass held a 2-1 lead. Thankfully, I was able to rewatch it and see Cal Kiefiuk’s quick wrist shot to the left of UConn goalie Tomas Vomacka from a feed by freshman Josh Lopina. Speaking of Kiefiuk, the sophomore played an aggressive game, as he hammered the UConn goalie throughout the second and third with shot after shot. This is what makes UMass special compared to other teams: The Minutemen have this drive to them that keeps them going strong, period after period.
UMass outshot UConn 41 to 21 with UMass goalie Matt Murray seeming like a wall in front of the net. During a 5 on 3 penalty kill, he had a tremendous glove save on a shot to the top corner. Then midway through the second period, he robbed UConn of a five-hole goal and secured UMass’s 2-1 lead. He definitely lives up to the title of best goalie in Hockey East with a career 91.9 save percentage and a 1.88 GAA.
Both Murray and Kiefiuk are known to be solid UMass players, but I would like to shed light on some of our newer Minutemen who really stepped up in their first games in the maroon and white sweater. Garrett Wait is a name to get familiar with, as the University of Minnesota transfer came through with a goal early in the second period. Wait threw the puck through the slot, breaking the 1-1 tie. He continued his strong play through the rest of the game, and like I said before, expect him to gain some traction this season. I predict he will be one of our top forwards and you’ll see a lot more shots from number 12 in the back of the net.
Another newcomer to get a goal in his Hockey East debut was Oliver MacDonald. He saw some good scoring chances in the beginning of the second, and luckily for us, he kept shooting and managed to connect later into the third. MacDonald received the pass from alternate captain Bobby Trivingo and got a quick shot over Vomacka’s shoulder.
Once the third goal was scored, it was as if a domino effect occurred, as we then saw two more big goals from defenseman Zac Jones and forward Oliver Chau. Jones is another key player for UMass, as he plays well on both ends of the ice, distributing the puck in the offensive zone and shutting down opportunities from opposing forwards. Early in the first, he caught a UConn forward off guard by spinning instead of passing the puck, managing to keep the puck in the zone and get a shot on net. Later in the period, Jones performed a well-executed sliding poke check on a huge UConn scoring chance. He saw some good scoring chances in the beginning of the second, and luckily for us, he kept shooting and managed to connect later into the third. Although we got some big performances in the 5-1 blowout, the next game was a bit of a different story.
Both UMass goals were scored in the first period, the first of which was by sophomore Matthew Kessel and assisted by Chau and Trivingo. I mentioned last year just how underappreciated Chau is. In Friday’s game, he put up the game-winning goal and an assist on the goal scored by Wait. He came onto the ice with a strong presence and did a really good job of making plays and creating quality scoring chances in front of the net.
Kessel’s goal was again scored to the right of UConn goalie Vomacka during a power play. Trivingo also needs to be recognized for his two assists on Friday and another on Saturday, totaling three points in the series. In both games, Trivingo saw huge scoring chances with a breakaway in each game’s third period. Despite neither chance resulting in a goal, I feel like he’ll start to capitalize on these chances later in the season.
The game, however, continued and unfortunately UConn scored twice in the third with goals by Turnbull and Rigoli. As the game began to wind down, we soon saw ourselves in OT playing 3 on 3. With 1:19 left, Collin Felix scored an absolute beauty of a goal right over Vomacka on a rebound in front of the net. The benches emptied, we celebrated, and then the refs decided to pull a fast one on us and quickly took back our goal due to an offsides they missed heading into the offensive zone. The players then headed back to their benches and OT concluded, pushing the game into a shootout.
Personally, I love shootouts. I think they’re a great addition to the game – just not to my anxiety. After many attempts from both sides, Kale Howarth scored the game-winner for UConn. Like mentioned before, the only bright side to this is that the game goes into the books as a tie, and as of right now, was not counted by Hockey East. Therefore, we can technically be considered “undefeated” after two games.
Offensively, there were missed chances that will be improved upon throughout the season. Defensively, Felix, Jones, Marc Del Gaizo, and Kessel really stood out with solid play. Filip Lindberg was in net on Saturday and made some great saves in the first that kept UMass’ two-goal lead, facing two big shots back-to-back that he blocked and covered. He then again faced two shots early in the second right in front of goal that he managed to keep out.
Last but not least, honorable mention to the UConn broadcasting, as now I have their husky logo memorized in detail due to the fact that I saw more of it than the actual game. Also, they didn’t provide the penalty minutes on the screen, so you just had to hope the camera panned over to the scoreboard every once in a while so you could figure out how much longer the power plays were. In all fairness though, this is probably the first they have experienced anything like this due to COVID circumstances, so future games may not be so bad. I guess we will find out January 9 when we face the Huskies again in Storrs, CT.
The next two games were set to be against Vermont on this Friday and Saturday, but those were replaced with two matchups against Boston College instead. Keep a look out for updates from our Twitter and Instagram pages, which are linked below. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the intro to the 2020-2021 UMass Hockey season. There is more to come, so sit back, jump, and yell at the TV as another great season is underway! GO UMASS!