Minnesota Dethrones Massachusetts in OT

Golden Gophers claw back in 3rd period.  Worcester, MA – Late game heroics saved the Minnesota Golden Gophers season and ended the Massachusetts Minutemen’s. After spotting the Minutemen a two-goal lead in the first period, Minnesota tied the game with 6:43 left in regulation on a slapshot from freshman Matthew Knies. Then would knock-off the defending National Champions 4-3 at… Continue reading Minnesota Dethrones Massachusetts in OT

Minutemen Experience Too Much for Huskies

Massachusetts Edges Connecticut in OT, Win 2nd Straight HEA Tourney

Boston, MA – The script has been followed before. A talented new kid on the block, the up-and-coming program, is ready to ascend. They just have to knock out the bigshot, the schoolyard heavy, the team with the hardware and accolades. The Connecticut Huskies, in their eighth season in Hockey East, were experiencing their furthest foray into the HEA playoffs. They won their first postseason game over traditional powerhouse Boston University; then, they knocked off the regular season champs Northeastern in their first trip to TD Garden. In their first-ever Hockey East Finals stood the reigning tourney champion, and defending National Champion, Massachusetts Minutemen.

The script was going according to plan for Mike Cavanaugh and his Huskies. The only problem was Greg Carvel knew the script all too well. In his six years at the Massachusetts helm, Carvel has helped the Minutemen crash the party locally and nationally. Two Frozen Four appearances and three trips to the final four in HEA play. Now it is the Minutemen who have the experience, pedigree, and the target on their backs. 

It’s not championship season in NCAA without some overtime to crown the king, and the Minutemen weren’t ready to give up theirs. At 3:06 of extra time, defenseman Aaron Bohlinger caught a Bobby Trivigno pass at the top of the left circle and fired off a shot that beat Darion Hanson through traffic for the 2-1 victory. Bohlinger added to his legacy with his second goal of the season and kicked off the Minutemen celebration in front of 12,049 raucous fans. 

“I was real concerned, UConn has been playing so well, it just seemed to be, maybe, their time,” said Carvel. “Maybe we had our time. The first period wasn’t great, but the second half of the game I thought we were outstanding. It was kind of like last year against Duluth (NCAA Semifinals), it felt like it was just a matter of time before we going to score to win.”

“I’m so proud of our kids,” continued Carvel. “This was really hard to defend this year. Last year it is three games at the Mullins Center to be champions. This was just a little more exciting this year, but it feels equally awesome.” 

“Obviously it feels great,” said Bohlinger. “But I think just winning, and we did it pretty early (in overtime), which is nice. You don’t have to worry about it anymore, but we knew we had them on their heels. We just did the right things, great pass. Put it on net and good thing happen.”

Massachusetts Minutemen forward Bobby Trivigno’s shot on goal to tie the game at 1-1 against the Connecticut Huskies in the HOckey East Championship Finals on Saturday, March 19, 2022 at TD Garden.

Massachusetts outshot the Huskies 10-3 in the first period, but the Huskies had the better scoring chances and carried the play throughout the first twenty minutes. Huskies center Jachcym Kondelik had a shot shouldered away by Murray early. 

“He’s been phenomenal for us through this whole stretch, through the whole year,” said Bohlinger on Murray’s play. “He’s special, and definitely, defense is our focus, and he makes our lives a lot easier consistently. We’re so grateful, thankful, and lucky to have him.” 

After an Interference call penalty on UConn’s Chase Bradley, the Minutemen had the game’s first power-play. Massachusetts put three shots on goal, but Hanson (31 saves) was solid. 

Murray padded away another Kondelik shot later in the third after the 6′-5″ Czech kept the puck on a two-on-one with Bradley. 

“What a great kid he is. He sat back and let Filip Lindberg carry the mail,” said Carvel when asked what Murray has meant to the Minutemen. “He did it with so much class and he could have made it uncomfortable for me. He didn’t he made it easy for me. Then he won that semifinal game (Duluth in last season’s NCAA semis) in overtime. We decided to go back with Filip and he couldn’t have been more of a gentleman, more class.”

“We had to kind of recruit him to come back for another year and promised him the net,” added coach of Murray’s decision to return for a graduate year. “Boy, he’s had the net except for one game. He’s a competent goalie. Just a high-quality person.”

The Huskies pulled ahead early in the second period on a Vladislav Firstov re-direct past Murray. Connecticut defenseman Carter Berger fired off a shot from the left point that Murray stopped. The rebound flew towards the opposite side of the blue line, where John Spetz snapped it back towards Murray. Firstov stepped in front of Murray to get a stick on the puck and tipped it through Murray’s legs to make it 1-0. Firstov’s 12th of the season was also the third straight UConn game in which Firstov scored the opening goal.

Massachusetts tied it late in the period on a Trivigno breakaway. The Minutemen senior captain received a Colin Felix pass from the UMass zone that sent the 5′-8″ Trivigno in on Hanson for the five-hole shot to tie the game 1-1 at 16:06. Felix intercepted a Huskies pass while defending a UConn three-on-two just over the UMass blue line a connected with Trivigno just over the red line for his 20th goal. 

“I don’t think we were playing bad until that point, but when they scored, it was ‘we gotta go, gotta get something going here,'” said Trivigno of his goal. I kind of got lucky on that goal. I was just waiting for the puck to settle. I literally just shot it on the net, and it went in. In that game, being down by one goal and one shot can go in the net, and it is tied. So that’s just what I did, I put it on the net, and it went in.”

“He’s the most unique kid I’ve ever coached. It’s not even close,” said Carvel of Trivigno, the Hockey East Player of the Year. “He never gets tired, he never has bad attitude, he never gets out willed. Never, never, never. Every single day. He’s the hardest working kid. He has a fire inside him. On match, not even close. Unbelievable.”

“He’s a two time MVP of this tournament. He’s a two time First-Teamer,” continued the coach in his praise. “It’s hard for me to explain. He is the most unique player. He’s a very humble too. You guys watch him and other teams run at him. You ever see him fall down? You got to hit him from behind to knock him down. I have so much respect for this kid. I could go on for a long time, he’s a really special kid.”

Through sixty minutes of action, the Huskies and Minutemen had traded blows only to be tied 1-1. Massachusetts had a few quality looks at the Huskies net, but Hanson gobbled up everything. During a slogging third period, the Minutemen outshot the Huskies 7-2. 

Massachusetts Minutemen defenseman Aaron Bohlinger fires off his game-winning goal in overtime to beat the Connecticut Huskies 2-1 and capture the Hockey East Championship for the second straight year.

In overtime, the stage was set for Bohlinger’s postseason heroics. The 5′-9″ sophomore from Walden, NY., came into the game with two goals in 57 games played for the Minutemen. Last season, his lone goal proved to be the game-winning goal in Massachusetts’s 5-0 win over St. Cloud St. in the NCAA Championship. 

“He told me after the game he ‘only scores in championships,” said Carvel. “He’s got two career goals and they both are game winning goals in the championship game.”

In winning the Hockey East trophy, the Minutemen clinch the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament that begins Thursday in Albany, NY., and Loveland, CO., and continues Friday in Worcester, MA., and Allentown, PA. Massachusetts is the eighth team to go back-to-back in the HEA tourney and the first since UMass-Lowell in 2013 and 2014. 

The Huskies season is over, but it was a successful one nonetheless. The Huskies won 20 games in their Hockey East stint for the first time. They finish in fifth-place after having finished fourth the previous two seasons. 

“I’d like to congratulate Greg and the University of Massachusetts,” said UConn’s Cavanaugh. ” I thought they played a great game tonight and really had us on our heels for a good portion of the game.”

“We fought, we clawed and we hung in there and we gave ourselves a chance to get over time and and win our first title but just wasn’t meant to be tonight,” Cavanaugh added. “So my sincere congratulations to Greg and his staff and their team.”

“I don’t know. I told the team that. I don’t know if experience always matters,” said Cavanaugh of the experience factor. “I was a coach on a team (Assistant at Boston College) in 2011 that had a lot of players with two National Championships and three Hockey East championships and Colorado College came in and beat us in the first round because they played better than we did. I think it was simply that UMass played better than we did. I don’t think it was the experience of it.”

“For the last three years, we finished in the top five in the league. There’s 11 teams in this league,” said Cavanaugh. “In the last few years, we finished fourth. I think that says something on consistency and where the program’s going.”

Massachusetts Minutemen captain Bobby Trivigno celebrates with the Lamoriello Trophy as the Hockey East Championship banner makes it’s way to the rafters of TD Garden on March 19, 2022.

Hockey East Finals Preview

Reading, MA – The stage is set for the Hockey East Finals at TD Garden on Saturday at 7:00 pm. Massachusetts Minutemen’s defending champions will face-off against the Connecticut Huskies in the 37th edition of the conference’s championship. It’s the third time in Massachusetts history and the second straight visit for the Minutemen. The Huskies are making the first trip to the conference finals in school history. 

The Huskies downed Northeastern 4-1 in the early game on the strength of two Chase Bradley assists, and 24 saves by Darion Hanson

Massachusetts bested UMass-Lowell 3-1 in the nightcap on the backs of Matt Murray’s 22 saves and two first-period goals from seniors Garrett Wait and Bobby Trivigno. Wait, a 6′-0″ Edina, Minnesota native, had a goal and an assist in the win.

The Huskies are the new kid on the block, and the Minutemen are the wily veterans. Massachusetts head coach Greg Carvel summed it up perfectly. “They’re (UConn) kind of having a coming-out party this year. Hopefully, we get to put an end to it.”

The two schools split their regular-season series, each winning on the other team’s ice. Massachusetts won 2-1 at the XL Center in Hartford, CT., on February 18, 2022. The Huskies returned the favor 4-2 at the Mullins Center the next night. Wait had two assists in the UMass win. Sophomore Ryan Tverberg had a goal and two assists in the Huskies’ victory. 

Saturday’s championship can be a goaltender battle between two graduate students, each with over 100 career starts, or it can be an offensive shootout as each team has numerous NHL prospects capable of chasing a goalie from the game.

Look for a low-scoring affair as each coach will try to play to their strengths. The two are similar from the net out. Hanson and Murray have comparable stats, and each stands over six feet tall. Hanson is slightly taller, 6′-3″ to Murray’s 6″-1″, and both can steal a win for their squads. 

On defense, the Minutemen have more firepower than UConn. Each prides itself on being disciplined and plays heavy. The Minutemen have two defenders that lead the league in assists, a pair of freshman to boot, Ryan Ufko and Scott Morrow. 24 for Ufko, a Nashville Predators pick, and 20 for Morrow, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect. The duo sets the pace for the Minutemen attack. 

UMass also has Matthew Kessel and Aaron Bohlinger to push the pace of play on the back end. Kessel, a junior, is a St. Louis Blues pick, while Bohlinger, a sophomore, gets better and better as the season progresses. Ty Farmer and Colin Felix pack a punch defensively. Farmer can play the finesse game but has become more of a physical presence over his four years at UMass. Felix, a 6′-1″ senior assistant captain from Ocean City, NJ., is a warrior.

“We have some real gutsy kids,” said Carvel, singling out Felix’s effort to close out the River Hawks. “What he did at the end of the game, he made a huge block, then a huge hit, got a huge cut on his face. He’s playing with a broken finger. You want kids like that.”

“He is just the ultimate warrior for us,” added Carvel of Felix. “He has been for four years. All Colin Felix does is play in championship games. He’s been here four years and he’s played in a number of championship games. He’s a big reason why.”

Saturday will be Felix’s fourth championship game as a student at Massachusetts. Two NCAA championship games and two Hockey East championship games.

“That shift when he made a big block, then took a big hit,” Carvel said. “His face is bleeding, blown up, but he loves it…he’s a unique kid and you needthose kids to win.”

“It’s very important to have the guys put their bodies on the line, especially when they’re not wearing the gear that I do,” Murray said when asked about the Minutemen blocking 21 UML shots. “It shows your character. It shows how determined they are. I have so much respect for all the guys in front of me. They step in front of those kinds of pucks. I wouldn’t be able to have success without those guys.”

Massachusetts celebrates Jerry Harding’s first goal of the season in the Minutemen’s 3-1 win over UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East Semifinal at TD Garden on Friday, March 18, 2022.

The Huskies are more of defense by committee, defense-first at the back. There is only one NHL prospect on the Huskies’ blue line, Carter Berger, a 6′-0″ junior Florida Panthers prospect. Berger was the extra defender for the Huskies against NU on Friday. John Spetz and Harrison Rees facilitate for the Huskies; each has 13 and 10 assists, respectively. Rees, Roman KinalJake Flynn, and Jarrod Gourley bring the physicality for Mike Cavanaugh‘s bunch.

“I think they have been great all year long,” said Cavanaugh of his defensive corps. “We might not have an all league kid back there, but we’ve got seven and together, the way they play together it’s just fun to watch. I just love how consistant they’ve been night in and night for us.”

What the Minutemen have on defense in terms of NHL prospects, the Huskies have on offense. Tverberg, a Toronto Maple Leaf pick, leads UConn with 14-18-32 for a statline. 6′-5″ senior Jachym Kondelik and his 12-21-33 line trail Tverberg. The Czech is a prospect in the Predators organization and causes chaos in front of opposing goalies. Vladislav Firstuv is third on the Huskies in scoring, 11-11-22, and is a Minnesota Wild prospect. 

The undrafted trio of seniors Marc GatcombJonny Evans, and center Carter Turnbull don’t have the pedigree or the numbers, but they set the tone for the Huskies’ attack. Bradley, a Detroit Red Wings pick, and Nick Capone (Tampa Bay Lightning) anchor the Huskies’ fourth line. 

Massachusetts has a timely offense powered by Hockey East Player of the Year Bobby Trivigno. The 5′-8″ senior from Setauket, NY has a knack for scoring big goals. As does linemate Josh Lopina. Lopina, a 6′-2″ center, is an Anaheim Ducks prospect with a 12-15-27 statline. Wait also has the capacity for big goals in big moments. 

The Minutemen get contributions from Cal KiefiukAnthony Del GaizoReed Lebster, and Lucas Mercuri. Del Gaizo, a senior from Basking Ridge, NJ., is another player with a flair for the dramatic. Freshman Ryan Lautenbach has been contributing steadily as the Minutemen season chugs along.

Prediction: The Minutemen weather a Huskies attack but ultimately pull out the win to secure their trip to the NCAA tournament, and keep their name at the bottom of the Hockey East banner at TD Garden while adding to their growing collection at the Mullins Center. 3-2. 

Dop, Eagles Spoil Minutemen Party Plans

Chestnut Hill, MA – The Massachusetts Minutemen only needed to wrangle a single point from the Boston College Eagles on Friday to earn their second Hockey East regular-season title in the last four seasons. Eagles forward Jack McBain and goalie Erik Dop had other plans for the evening. McBain’s third-period goal was the difference maker as Dop turned back 25 of 26 Minutemen volleys to deny… Continue reading Dop, Eagles Spoil Minutemen Party Plans

# 9 Minutemen Pull Out Win vs. # 14 River Hawks

Lowell, MA – The University of Massachusetts Minutemen and University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks have had a string of close games over the last couple of seasons. Sunday afternoon at Tsongas Center Arena was no different. The visiting Minutemen trailed three times before pulling ahead in the final three minutes to move within a point of Hockey East‘s first-place River Hawks. Defenseman Scott Morrow glided through… Continue reading # 9 Minutemen Pull Out Win vs. # 14 River Hawks

Commonwealth Classic On Tap @ Tsongas Center

Lowell, MA – The Commonwealth of Massachusetts University system’s two NCAA Men’s Division I Ice Hockey programs face-off at Tsongas Center Arena in Lowell on Sunday afternoon. A blizzard is burying the state in upwards of two feet of snow. As of writing, the game still has a 1:00 pm puck drop.  The two schools are atop… Continue reading Commonwealth Classic On Tap @ Tsongas Center

Huskies (#12) versus Minutemen (#14) Is Where the Action Will Be This Weekend.

New to PuckingOff is a feature I’ve meant to do but have been too lazy. I’m going to preview what I think is the game or series for each week as the season continues towards its climax in April. Generally, it will be the game of the week in that it is the best game I can make it… Continue reading Huskies (#12) versus Minutemen (#14) Is Where the Action Will Be This Weekend.

Michigan Tops UMass 4-1

Ann Arbor, MI – The defending National Champion University of Massachusetts Minutemen had their first ever experience with the University of Michigan Wolverines and Yost Arena on Saturday. It wasn’t pretty for the Minutemen. Led by two goals from sophomore Brendan Brisson, the Wolverines’ top-line proved too much for the visiting Minutemen. Brisson and his linemates Kent Johnson and Matty Beniers factored into three of the four… Continue reading Michigan Tops UMass 4-1

UMass Slips Merrimack in OT

North Andover, MA – It looked like the third time might be the charm for the Merrimack College Warriors as they carried a 2-1 lead into the third period against the defending National Champion University of Massachusetts Minutemen. The previous two meetings this season were both decided by a goal. The first a 2-1 UMass win at Merrimack came… Continue reading UMass Slips Merrimack in OT

#15 River Hawks Outlast #14 Minutemen in Shoot-Out

Lowell, MA – When the University of Massachusetts sister schools Amherst and Lowell face-off, it’s usually a low-scoring, physical, one-goal differential game. The only difference on Friday night was the two teams combined for eight goals, and it had to be decided by a shoot-out. Carl Berglund‘s goal in the shoot-out was the difference. Matt Crasa had two goals for the River Hawks, while Anthony Del… Continue reading #15 River Hawks Outlast #14 Minutemen in Shoot-Out