Let’s face it, when it comes to Maine there are really only two players you have to worry about this season; Martin Ouellette and Joey Diamond. So when news came out just before the game that Diamond did not make the trip from Orono due to a back injury, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that UMass would pick up the win last night. After all, Diamond had accounted for over 1/5th of all goals for Maine this season and is really their only threat on offense. Also missing would be his agitating style of play, allowing the Minutemen to remain focused on the task at hand and keep their heads. Well Ouellette and the Minutemen’s own subpar play negated Diamond’s absence and the Black Bears were the victors by the score of 2-0. The loss knocks the Minutemen into 9th place in Hockey East. If the league playoffs started today UMass would not be participating in it for the first time since 2002.
Ouellette deserves all the accolades from last night’s win. Not only did he pick up the win but he made some spectacular plays while doing so. Coming halfway across the net in the second period to rob K.J. Tiefenwerth with his glove may be the best save I’ve seen all year. His play does not excuse the Minutemen for last night’s loss however. There was a glaring lack of energy and a lack of focus on the team’s part. Aspects of the game that were huge strengths just a month ago are now obvious deficiencies, such as faceoffs and the penalty kill. The power play last night was abysmal, generating just four shots in three full opportunities.
Has the team packed it in for the season? It sure as hell looks like it. A loss tonight would sink the Minutemen to three points behind Maine and out of the playoffs while also giving the Black Bears the tie breaker. Right now it seems extremely unlikely that UMass would gain much in terms of points in the following two weekends against New Hampshire and Merrimack, the leagues two hottest teams. Maine on the other hand has an easier schedule with two games left against last place Northeastern. That pretty much adds up to the prospect of playoffs for the Minutemen coming down to the 60 minutes on the ice tonight. Let’s see if the team can play like the season is on the line. Because it is.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steve Mastalerz
It’s never easy to be cold on the bench and have to come into the game midway through a period. But that’s what Mastalerz was called to do last night when Coach Micheletto, looking to send a message to the team, pulled Kevin Boyle in the second. Mastalerz was up to the task and turned away all eight shots faced.
Mick will continue to press buttons to try to get the team back winning again per the Republican game story.
The Collegian points out that just three weeks ago UMass was looking to move into 5th place in the standings.
Michael King has the game story for College Hockey News.
Here’s how things looked for the Bangor Daily News.