Game Preview ▲ What To Watch For Versus Dalhousie

Normally FTT game previews are an in-depth look at the opponent, their strengths and weaknesses, and what the Massachusetts hockey will need to do to gain a win.  For Saturday’s exhibition game against Dalhousie however I’m much more concerned with the Minutemen.  I don’t really care if they get the win or not, as long as they play well.  So let’s take a brief look at the Dalhousie Tigers, but focus more on a few things UMass fans should keep an eye out for with the Minutemen taking the ice for the first time this season.


UMass Travels To Notre Dame For Hockey East Playoffs; Pöck Named To UMass Hall Of Fame

Notre Dame

12 Massachusetts Minutemen 10-21-2 (5-16-1)


5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 15-16-5 (10-7-5)

The Massachusetts Minutemen could’ve been on a bus to Boston this weekend to take on the Northeastern Huskies but last week’s loss to UConn means they’ll have to fly to the Midwest for their opening playoff series.  UMass will take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the best of three Octofinals in the newly formulated Hockey East playoff system.  Pulling off an upset over the 5th seeded Irish will be a tough task for the Minutemen, who have won consecutive games just once this season.


Minutemen To Close Out Regular Season Against UConn

Massachusetts Minutemen 10-20-2 (5-15-1)  Hockey East 12th


UConn Huskies 9-17-7 (6-11-4)  Hockey East 10th

It’s hard to believe but the end of the regular season is upon us.  The Massachusetts Minutemen will try to close things out on a high note by continuing their better play as of late when they take on UConn in Hartford on Friday night.  UMass must win this game if they have any chance to improve their spot in the final Hockey East standings.  But even a with a win they’ll still need New Hampshire to sweep Merrimack in order to grab the 11th seed in the conference tournament.


UMass Hosts Northeastern And #12 Lowell At Mullins Center This Weekend

Northeastern Huskies 11-11-4 (6-7-2) Hockey East T-7th


Massachusetts Minutemen 8-17-1 (3-12-1) Hockey East 12th

Remember how the Northeastern Huskies started the season 0-8-1?  That was their record in mid-November.  Since then they’ve gone 11-3-3.  The Huskies have only one loss since early December and are 4-0-1 in their last five.  Though they upset #3 Minnesota in late November, the Huskies are coming off probably their biggest win of the season as they knocked off five time defending champion Boston College in the first round of the Beanpot this past Tuesday.


UMass Looks To Upset #2 BU; McCutcheon Leaves UMass For UCSB

Massachusetts Minutemen 8-16-1 (3-11-1)  Hockey East T-11th


#2 Boston University Terriers 15-4-4 (10-2-2)  Hockey East 1st

Almost four months ago Massachusetts and Boston University took to the ice in kind of similar spots.  Both were coming off disappointing seasons with relatively new coaches and featured large freshman classes that would be relied upon to produce early on.  And through two periods the teams looked pretty similar, with BU taking a narrow 2-1 lead into the third period.  But the Terriers exploded for six goals in the final period on the way to an 8-1 win and then the teams went their very separate ways for the next few month.  While the Minutemen were left embarrassed on opening night and would struggle mightily through the entire first half of the season, BU continued their strong play and come into the rematch the second ranked team in the country.


Preview: #14 Merrimack Warriors On-Deck For Minutemen

#14 Merrimack Warriors 13-7-2 (4-5-1) Hockey East 9th


Massachusetts Minutemen 7-16-0 (2-11-0) Hockey East 12th

The Massachusetts Minutemen will look to continue their improved play in a home and home series against the 14th ranked Merrimack Warriors this weekend.  UMass is 3-3-0 in their last six and will look for at least a split against one of the most pleasant surprises in the league this season.  Through out of conference success the Warriors are ranked in the top 15 and are in the hunt for an NCAA bid despite being picked to finish 1oth in the conference.


Preview: UMass Still Searching For 2nd Hockey East Win In Home And Home With UNH

New Hampshire Wildcats 7-11-2 (2-5-1) Hockey East 10th


Massachusetts Minutemen 6-15-0 (1-10-0) Hockey East 12th

Unfortunately for the Massachusetts hockey team they’re having to play the New Hampshire Wildcats at the worst possible time.  From the beginning of the season through early December UNH had just four wins.  It looked like they were going to go into winter break in a dreadful slump, going 0-5-1 from 11/15 through 12/12.  But just before everyone headed home for the Christmas holiday they beat rival Maine 7-4.  Starting with that win they’ve gone 3-1-1 in their last five and have posted impressive wins over #12 Nebraska-Omaha on the road and #14 Providence this past Tuesday.

The Wildcats are a very balanced team.  How balanced?  Well they’re average goals for and average goals against per game are both 2.70.  Their statistical ranking among Hockey East teams is pretty much in the middle of the pack across the board.  They’re ranked 6th offensively and 8th defensively.  Their power play is 6th best in the league while their penalty kill is 5th.  It would seem then that they’d be middle of the pack in terms of standings too, but instead they’re 10th, just three points ahead of the Minutemen (though with three games in hand).  The disconnect between their statistical ranking and place in the standings is because in addition to their two ties they’ve lost 7 games by one goal or one goal plus an empty net goal.  They spent most of the first half of the season being a shift or a bounce away from winning.  But it wasn’t until recently that they were able to get over that hump.

So what happened in that game against Maine before break and ever since?  Well for one, Grayson Downing happened.  The senior forward had four goals in the first 15 games.  He has 8 goals and 11 total points in the last five alone, including the game winners against both Omaha and Providence.  Needless to say he’s is absolutely on fire right now.  Sophomore Tyler Kelleher hasn’t been too bad in that time either.  In the last five games he has 2 goals and 5 assists.  Needless to say UMass will have to be extra careful when those two players are on the ice this weekend.

When Casey DeSmith ran into trouble with the law during the offseason coach Dick Umile turned to freshman Adam Clark to take care of the crease and overall the big netminder has done pretty well on the season.  His 5-11-2 record is more a product of all those one goal losses as statistically his .905 save percentage and 2.68 goals against average aren’t too bad.  It’s unclear if UMass will see him for one, two, or no games this weekend though.  Joining the Wildcats for the second semester was Daniel Tirone and in two games he’s been spectacular, picking up the wins against both the Omaha and Providence.  In those two games he has a .947 save percentage and 1.50 goals against average.  In front of either goaltender UNH has a very solid defenseman in Carolina draft pick junior Brett Pesce.

A few weeks ago consecutive weeks against Maine and UNH looked like a big opportunity for UMass to rack up some wins against the other poor performing teams in Hockey East.  However, this looks like a Wildcat team that is starting to find itself and is probably not going to be the easier competition that the team had hoped for.  Both offensively and defensively UNH is playing very good right now.  UMass on the other hand continues to be inconsistent.  This past weekend against Maine featured some of the best goaltending and defensive play we’ve seen in consecutive games all season.  But their offense sputtered, scoring just three goals in two games against a defensively poor Black Bear team.  Earlier in the season UMass was having no problem scoring, but were giving up 5, 6, 7 goals a game.  They have to bring both parts of the game together.

Down the stretch it’s going to be important for the coaching staff to get the freshmen involved in the scoring again.  In the first part of the season, cumulating with the AIC win, the freshmen were scoring 1.4 goals per game for the Minutemen.  Since that time they’ve only scored 0.5 goals per game.  They’re still generating roughly the same amount of shots in those time periods (10.8 vs 9.5), they’re just not finding the back of the net.

Coach Micheletto has said on the radio show and in postgame interviews that he’s very happy with the progress he’s seen since the team came out of the holiday break.  And they have at times looked a lot better in that period, though they’re still just 2-3-0 in the five games in question.  It’s also important to realize that in that times they’ve played one very good team (Providence), one average team (UConn), and two bad teams (Air Force, Maine).  Coming out flat against Maine on Saturday after the uplifting, come from behind win on Friday was worrisome.  However, if the Minutemen can get two, perhaps three Hockey East points from an improving UNH team then I think fans can buy into the idea that the team is finally starting to show progress versus their first half woes.

Beer The Triangle
Still trying to find that Berkshire Imperial Steel Rail!

Weekend Preview From UMass Athletics.

Weekend Preview From UNH.

The Collegian has their preview for the UNH series.

For a UNH viewpoint, here’s a preview from the Foster’s Daily Democrat.

SBN College Hockey has a great feature on Frank Vatrano, chronicling his journey to finally playing college hockey every night.

Preview: Maine Visits Amherst For Two Non-Conference Matches

Maine Black Bears 6-13-1 (2-6-0) Hockey East 10th


Massachusetts Minutemen 5-14-0 (1-10-0) Hockey East 12th

The Maine Black Bears and Massachusetts Minutemen have already played the games that counted in the Hockey East standings earlier in the year, with the Maine taking all four points.  But Red Gendron and the Black Bears will be coming south to Amherst to take on the Minutemen this weekend in a couple of non-conference affairs at the Mullins Center.  Just because there aren’t any league points at stake, doesn’t make these games meaningless.  Maine will want to continue the momentum they’ve built in winning 3 of their last 4.  The Minutemen meanwhile need to figure out a way to start winning some games, especially at home where they’ve won just once all season.


Preview: UMass Hosts UConn In First League Match of 2015

Connecticut Huskies 4-9-4 (2-4-1) Hockey East 9th


Massachusetts Minutemen 5-13-0 (1-9-0) Hockey East 12th

Massachusetts will face UConn for the first time as a Hockey East foe on Friday night as the Minutemen continue to look for their second league win of the season.  At the beginning of the season this game probably looked like a good chance of a win since the Huskies were not expected to compete in their new league right away.  But that hasn’t been the case.  UConn has had some key wins and ties in the league and find themselves not only ahead of the Minutemen in the standings, but Maine and New Hampshire too.


Preview: UMass Heads North To Face Providence, Air Force In The Catamount Cup

#16 Providence Friars 9-6-1 (6-4-0) Hockey East 4th


Massachusetts Minutemen 4-12-0 (1-9-0) Hockey East 12th

This year’s edition of the Catamount Cup in Burlington will feature three Hockey East teams with host Vermont, Massachusetts, and Providence, as well as Air Force from Atlantic Hockey.  The Minutemen and Friars will kick the tournament off Sunday at 4pm in a non-conference game between the two league foes.  It’ll be UMass’ first shot at the Friars before they meet again in February, that time with Hockey East points on the line.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,986 other followers