‘We’re going to turn them around’: UMass hockey aiming to stop 6-game skid at Providence

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 02-02-2023 4:17 PM

AMHERST –  The UMass hockey program’s panic meter hasn’t budged a inch.

Despite losing six games in a row, their longest skid since late January and early February of 2018, the Minutemen believe they can turn around the season over the last month.

“The biggest thing is having each other. This program’s extremely lucky. Everyone who’s a part of it will tell you the same thing. We’re all very close. We have a lot of people to lean on,” junior defenseman Aaron Bohlinger said. “It’s having a belief that things are going to turn around, we’re going to turn them around, not wait for it to come to us but do what we can to take it. Never having that quit. No one’s ringing the bell, keep going, keep learning from our experiences.”

The next exam is 7 p.m. Friday at Providence (NESN-Plus). The Friars (12-9-6, 7-5-5 Hockey East) are in similar straights. They’ve lost their last four and have dropped to sixth in the Hockey East standings with 26 points.

“I think it will be a war. Two pretty urgent teams. They're well-coached,” Providence coach Nate Leaman said. “When you watch their game film, it's very similar to us – they're not scoring. But the structure, the work ethic, the battle level, it's all there for UMass.”

UMass (9-13-3, 2-11-1) lost the teams’ first two meetings in early November: a track meet at Providence and an overtime collapse at home.

“It’s so long ago I don’t take a lot out of it other than the memory that we weren’t very good defensively down there and we gave away a game here. That was a frustrating night. We needed a victory,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I’m not putting a lot of stock into that weekend going into this game.”

The Minutemen are still piecing together their lineup after a rash of injuries. Senior forward Reed Lebster should return Friday, but captain Eric Faith won’t. UMass will also have to wait for defenseman Linden Algier, who has been cleared for activities but needs to ramp back into game shape.

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UMass has struggled to find the right players to fill those gaps.

“We’re just trying to find the guys that want to play UMass hockey. If you look at the game sheet, you can see we’re moving our freshmen and sophomores to the top of the line chart,” Carvel said. “I don’t have a lot of options. I’ve got to play the guys that want to make a difference. I’m just trying to find guys that score goals.That’s our problem, we’ve got to to dig deeper than we are right now.”

The Minutemen have kept even keeled with how tight their recent games have been. Five of the six losses were by two goals or fewer. UMass has also only put away more than two goals once in the past six games.

“Just believe and have the will. We have the skill as a team. We know what we’ve got to do if we play our system,” UMass forward Taylor Makar said. “It’s just that extra push that everyone needs to put in a little more to get those goals and make those plays.”

The Minutemen have tumbled to 10th in the 11-team conference standings. Every game they have left is against a team ranked above them.

“We just have to change a couple things and get it turned around here. It’s getting late, but I feel like our group has it in us to make a little push here,” Makar said.

UMass has embraced the challenge.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that every day I hear so much noise, laughter, energy coming out of the locker room. The last two days we’ve had hard practices,” Carvel said. “I feel like the harder we push them, the more fun they’re having.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>