UMass Comes Out Firing; Minnesota Sweeps Penn State
CHN Staff Report
Michigan’s highly-touted freshman class includes one player, Brendan Brisson, who was a first-round NHL Draft already this year; and three others — Matty Beniers, Owen Power and Kent Johnson — who will be sure-fire high-end picks next year.
And oh, then there’s Thomas Bordeleau. Another product of the U.S. National Program, he was born in the U.S., the son of former NHL’er Patrick Bordeleau, and has dual U.S./Canada citizenship. He was a mere second-round pick. But all he’s done is show tremendous flashes so far.
The evidence of that was on display Friday, when he dipsy-doodled around the Wisconsin zone and scored the 3-on-3 overtime game winner.
“I just tried to read the goalie. I just reacted,” Bordeleau said. “Of course I’ve tried it before in practice, but I didn’t plan it ahead.”
Said Michigan coach Mel Pearson, “He’s really skilled. You can tell he’s spent a lot of time at the rink developing his game, a lot of hours maybe when others are not. You saw a little bit of everything on that goal — strength, ability, speed. I enjoyed watching that. I had the best seat in the house. I just wish we had fans to see this team.”
In this case, those fans would’ve been rooting for the Badgers, but still. Wisconsin, which swept a series at Notre Dame last weekend, came home and lost both to Michigan. The Wolverines, which swept Arizona State last weekend, are 4-0.
“You go on the road, you play a … strong, more experienced team, you find a way to scratch out a couple victories,” Pearson said. “We’re ready to take those training wheels off. I don’t know if we’re ready for the best bike yet, but we’re ready for the next grade.
“We have enough guys who can make plays in critical times. I thought we played better as the game went on. The travel, the four games in seven days, I thought we had resilience. … When you have so many freshmen they don’t know any other way, they think this is the norm. We’ve got all the ingredients, we just have to continue to put it together.”
In a 1-1 game, Michigan did have to deal with killing off two penalties late in the third, thanks to mistakes by those freshmen, Bordeleau and Johnson in this case. They killed them off despite missing one of their top penalty killers Friday, junior Garrett Van Wyhe, who is banged up.
After Wisconsin star Cole Caufield put up six shots Thursday, he had just three on Friday, and didn’t score in either game, though he had two assists.
“We didn’t really key on him, but he’s so shifty, Pearson said. “He can drop a shoulder fake and step around you. We just contained him better. He still gets his shots, but I thought we did a nice job on him, better than we did last night.”
Massachusetts 5, Connecticut 1
In the only game of the night not involving a Big Ten team, UMass handed it to UConn in Amherst, outshooting the Huskies 46-22.
Both teams were originally scheduled to play different opponents — such is the crazy world of 2020-21 college hockey. UConn was scheduled to play Vermont, but the Catamounts recently put winter sports activities on a one-month hold. UMass thought as recently as Wednesday that it was headed to Maine for two games, but the Black Bears had to postpone due to its COVID-19 protocols not being fully in place yet.
So, this matchup was hastily arranged, though conveniently available. It marked the first Hockey East game of the season, on a long road to get there.
“Really never felt like the momentum was shifted against us,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I think we’re fortunate that we made it through this entire fall without any (pandemic-related) shutdowns, which allowed us to really continue pushing our players. We looked like we were game-shape ready, which we were hoping was going to be an advantage for us, especially early on, and I thought it was tonight. Just really good effort up and down the lineup.”
The Minutemen got goals from Cal Kiefiuk and Garrett Wait to take a 2-1 lead after two periods. Freshman Oliver MacDonald scored the first of his career in the third period to extend the lead to 3-1, and UMass added a couple late goals.
“We did not take care of the puck in the neutral zone, and it really came back to haunt us,” UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “UMass put a lot of pressure on us and forced us to make ill-advised plays. I’d have to give the credit to them. I don’t think we were very good. I do think we are a better team than what we showed tonight, no question about it, but it’s going to be a quick turnaround. We’re going to have to find a way to be much better tomorrow if we want to win a hockey game.”
The teams will play again Saturday in Storrs, Conn.
Matt Murray got the start in net and made 21 saves for UMass.
“It’s been really enjoyable watching Matt [Murray] mature as a goalie,” Carvel said. “It’s his fourth year now, he’s very professional, he’s very methodical, and he looks very calm in the net. As a coach, I always like goaltenders that are either calm or really confident, and Matt falls into the ‘very calm’. I watched the game come to him, I thought he looked really under control. He made some really big saves when we needed him to, and the one goal that was scored on him, you can’t blame him at all.”
Like just about everywhere else, no fans were allowed in the building to watch the game, which is going to make for some strange atmospheres everywhere. But so far, whoever you talk to, they say they’re doing pretty well at not letting it affect play.
“To be honest, it wasn’t too different from my first year coaching here, so we had that to fall back on,” Carvel said, referring to the light crowds at Mullins Center when he first arrived. The crowds there have been big and loud, however, in recent years as UMass built a Frozen Four-caliber team. “Tonight there may have been more cardboard cutouts than there were at a couple of our games our first year. Wasn’t too much of a transition for me.”
Carvel had an ex-player to turn to for some advice — 2019 Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar, who was the NHL’s Rookie of the Year last season.
“I talked to Cale Makar this summer and said ‘What’s it like playing without any fans?’ and he said the first game, they didn’t have any fan noise and then they got used to it, just because it became the norm,” Carvel said. “Tonight felt like the norm, whether there’s anybody in the stands or not. Whether there’s 10 or 10,000, you play hard, the competitive juices are flowing. The fans are great, we miss them tremendously, but I didn’t really think that it affected our play at all.”
Minnesota 3, Penn State 2
When last season abruptly ended, Penn State was on the verge of another NCAA Tournament appearance, while Minnesota was trying to overcome an up-and-down season by making a run in the Big Ten tournament. The teams were about to meet in Happy Valley in the Big Ten semifinals, when it all ended.
Eight months later, the teams finally got to renew acquaintances, though under very different circumstances, and with very different teams. Penn State lost a lot of quality players from its roster last year, and though it still has plenty left, it may take time to fully recover. Minnesota, meanwhile, is headed into its third season under Bob Motzko, and is finally pulling things together.
That all looked evident this weekend, as Minnesota swept Penn State at Mariucci Arena, including Friday’s 3-2 win.
Sammy Walker scored with one second left on the first-period clock to give the Gophers the 2-1 lead it would never relinquish. Brannon McManus scored a power-play goal in the second period, and Jack Lafontaine made 34 saves in net.
“We got two timely power-play goals tonight that got us the lead, and we were about to hold on. It was a dog fight,” Motzko said. “I thought the game had ebbs and flows. I thought, first seven or eight minutes of the second period, they were kind of taking it to us, and the last seven or eight minutes of the second period, we took it to them.”
One of those departures for Penn State was stalwart goaltender Peyton Jones. As a result, Oskar Autio, who appeared in just five games last season, and freshman Liam Souliere split the weekend in net.
Minnesota’s defense was able to help out Lafontaine, using three sophomores, two freshmen and just one junior.
“They’re thoroughbreds — you let ’em run,” Motzko said of his young defense corps, which includes three players drafted in the first two rounds. “Sometimes you have to keep them in the right lane and push them in another lane, but they were so good in so many moments of the weekend, and you just can see how much better they’re going to get. When you start your first college game, you think of (Brock) Faber and (Mike) Koster, you’re awful nervous. They didn’t show a lot of it. It’s just a fun group that we’re really going to look forward to watching that D-corps grow.”
The condensed schedule has Minnesota right back at it against Ohio State this Monday and Tuesday. The Buckeyes haven’t played any games yet.
Michigan State 2, Arizona State 0
It’s been a struggle so far for Arizona State, especially playing this weekend without top scorer Johnny Walker.
The Sun Devils are already facing the challenge of having all 28 games on the road, but they’re also doing it in a transition year.
So far, it has showed, with just two goals to show for itself in four games. Thursday, ASU managed a tie with Michigan State; Friday, the Spartans held ASU off the scoresheet and won 2-0. Drew DeRidder, who played just four games last year but is now the No. 1, made 30 saves.
“He was outstanding. He gave up one goal all weekend, and that should be enough,” MSU coach Danton Cole said. “Real happy for him. He’s a battler, and tonight I think he was ticked off about giving one up late last night, and he was pretty determined not to do that tonight.”
Fourth-liner Mitchell Mattson got the Spartans’ scoring started, and led the team with five shots on goal.
“It’s good for them, and that gives them more ice time, but it also allows us to preferably keep your top minute guys up front under 20 minutes,” Cole said about the fourth line which also included Adam Goodsir and Kyle Haskins. “If they can extend and give us a good 12, 13 minutes like that, then it really, really helps.
“I think all three of those guys stepped it up and that was important for us. Huge goal.”
DeRidder had to be on his toes early, with a couple good chances. And then especially in the third period, where he made 16 saves to seal his first career shutout.
“Today was a great game all around. A couple goals there that were big,” DeRidder said. “To get that second one kind of put us all at ease, but the first shoutout – it’s great. The way we just all came together, and everyone chipped in. It’s not just me. Got a little scary there at the end, but we held on.”
It’s strange year, being in late November and everyone just getting their feet under them. But it’s the cards that have been dealt to everyone, and who can adapt the best, will have the most success. Those perspectives were not lost on the coaches, nor the players.
“It’s been months upon months of not knowing quite what’s going to happen, and it might be a little hard to train for that,” DeRidder said. “It’s a little hard to go to the rink everyday and give it your all, just not knowing when you’re going to play. But it’s good to get two games under your belt. It’s kind of unfortunate, usually we get to play our green-white game and the Canadian college team, then we have the out-of-conference schedule and that kind of gets you warmed up for the Big Ten season. I guess these are two out-of-conference games here with ASU and that kind of helps. But the biggest thing is getting a couple games under our belt, have the freshmen get acclimated, have everyone get acclimated, and playing hockey again.”