The big question going into last night was how the Massachusetts hockey team would respond against the visiting Notre Dame Irish coming off another third period collapse on Friday. The hope was that the team would be fired up, looking for redemption for another blown lead and playing with desperation to gain a second league win in their last Hockey East before winter break. Instead the 2,469 fans in attendance were treated to another series of defensive meltdowns (this time coming in the second period) and one of the most ineffective offensive outputs I’ve seen in quite a long time.
1 and 2. The first number is the total amount of shots on goal the Minutemen had in the first period. The second number is the amount of shots they had exactly halfway through the game. That’s it. Two shots was all the team could muster through 30 minutes as they finished with 14 shots total on the game. I’ll give credit to the Notre Dame defense and Irish goaltender Cal Petersen, who picked up his second shutout of the season. However the Irish defense is not one of the best we’ve seen this season and should not be capable of holding UMass to so few shots. Coming into the weekend the Domers were 45th in the country in shots allowed per game. A lot of the offensive futility for the home team last night was self inflicted. Some of it came from what looked like a lack of effort and execution. Some of it came from the fact that UMass was killing the 16 penalties they took last night. Yes, the team had more penalties than shots in last night’s game. Most of those penalties came from frustration and lazy stick calls. I’m the first to complain about unbalance officiating, especially when you see a power play disparity of 9 to 3 in favor of UMass’ opponent, but the Minutemen deserved most of the calls. Things didn’t go their way, they got mad, and instead of taking their frustration out on the back of the Irish net, they got chippy.
For the second time in three games UMass was held to under 20 shots. The 14 was the lowest since they only generated 10 against Quinnipiac last season. That is really concerning considering this team is supposed to be aggressive and up tempo. It is also worrisome to look at the box score and see no shots registered for key offensive contributors Dennis Kravchenko and Steven Iacobellis. Kravchenko has been especially cold as of late, going without a shot in three games since the team played AIC, totally just 7 shots on goal in those seven games.
Defensively the team started out pretty good, surrendering just 8 shots on net in a first period that did not see any scoring. But in the second they had another one of their stretches where defensive breakdowns led to a flurry of opponent goals. In this case it was three Irish goals in 6 minutes and 20 seconds early in the middle period, including a couple goals just seconds apart, that effectively took the Minutemen out of the game. Immediately after is when UMass let their tempers get the best of them and took a rash of penalties and seemed more interested in fighting the Irish from that point on than trying to beat them on the scoreboard.
This team is in a lot of trouble. They are regressing as the season is going along, not improving. Notre Dame came into the Mullins this weekend in a tailspin and yet walk out after dominating the Minutemen on their home ice for two nights, outscoring UMass 11-5, and grabbing all four of the oh so important Hockey East points. The Minutemen are 4-11-0 overall, just 1-9-0 in Hockey East, and in dead last place. The team is doing very little right in any aspect of their game currently and the few fans that are still coming to the games are being treated to a mix of what looks like disinterest and confusion by their team on the ice. Has Micheletto lost his team? I’m not sure. But the fact that that is even a valid question right now is scary. This was supposed to be the season where UMass began to turn around the program and instead it has sunk to lows it hasn’t seen since it was in DI infancy in the mid-90s. UMass is off until 12/16 when they’ll host the Northeastern Huskies for a non-conference mid-week affair. Brandon Montour, the jewel of this year’s recruiting class, is expected to make his UMass debut after sitting out the first semester due to clearinghouse issues. It’s unlikely that the 2nd round Ducks draft pick will solve all of the team’s problems by himself, but maybe just his addition on the ice and in the locker room gives the team a spark and allow them to regain focus and not have this season go down as a complete disaster.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steve Mastalerz
Mastalerz made his first start in five games and looked solid overall. He didn’t have a chance on most (or maybe all) of the goals as they were more a result of defensive breakdowns in front of him. The game could’ve been a lot uglier without his play and he was a big reason why the Irish were only 1 for 9 on the power play.
Fear The Triangle Moron of the Weekend
Good to see Masslive’s Dan Malone covering the team again. Too bad he didn’t have a better game to write about. Here’s his short recap and notes from last night.
McGaucheon Watch is in full effect after it was reported AD John McCutcheon is pursuing the AD job for the USCB Gauchos. Matt Vautour has his story in the Gazette while Malone has a followup piece to his first story on Masslive. McCutcheon says his primary focus is on UMass, which seems a little weird since he admits it was him that initiated contact with UCSB.
This weekend was pretty depressing for UMass fans. So here’s a video of a giant teddy bear eventually being tossed on the Lynah ice to cheer you up.