During the opening game of the Ledyard Classic UMass did not look good defensively. Their play was not catastrophic, they just looked a step behind, a second late in their reactions. Luckily they woke up in the second period, outplayed Bemidji State in the balance of that game, and went on to win the tournament. Last night that sluggishness on defense was back. Unfortunately this time they could not shake off the rust and they ended up dropping a key game at home to Providence by the score of 5-4.
It’s too bad that the team did not get the job done defensively, but they made some great plays offensively and it’s frustrating to get the loss when the team scores four goals. In terms offense I thought UMass played very well. Patrick Kiley opened up the scoring for the Minutemen by attacking the net and getting one past John Gilles. Having Conor Sheary on the point on the power play continues to pay off as he put home a wrister to tie things up in the second. Darren Rowe had the highlight of th enight for UMass when he used his stickhandling skills to skate in and around the Providence defense to put an easy backhander past a beaten Gilles. The last goal was by Conor Allen who had the wherewithal to skate into the slot with the puck behind the next and was rewarded when Branden Gracel made a nifty center pass right onto his stick.
But defensively, UMass just never looked solid. Providence too often was able to freely skate right in on Kevin Boyle. Rebounds were not swept away and Friar skaters were allowed to plant themselves in front of the crease to put them in the net. Amazingly the team had just five blocked shots last night. Providence was by far the faster and more energetic skating team during the game. The killer defensively for UMass was the fact that it was a shorthanded goal that ended up being the game winner for Providence. Darren Rowe tried to repeat his highlight goal from earlier, skated deep into the zone on the power play, only have it knocked away. Unfortunately, with Rowe already in as far as the faceoff circles, no teammates took his spot on the blueline and Providence was able to generate an odd man rush while being a skater down. Game over.
The loss means a number of things for the Minutemen. They remain in 7th place, where they’re now tied with Lowell who has a game in hand on them. Northeastern is in 9th place just one point back. The team is now five points behind the Friars and home ice. A win last night would’ve give them the season series and the all important tie breaker over the Friars. What hurts is that UMass now embarks on a four game road trip and they missed out on a chance to kick off the second half of the conference schedule with a win in their only home game during the month of January. Instead, if the Minutemen want to put themselves back into the fight for home ice they’ll have to do so on the road. Starting tonight.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Darren Rowe
As mentioned Rowe had a highlight goal (see below) last night and also assisted on both the Kiley and Sheary goals. After going 10 games without a point Rowe now has four points in his last three games.
In the Collegian game story, Coach Micheletto says there were enough fingerprints on the opposing goals that he won’t single out anyone. I agree, team loss.