New Hampshire Wildcats 1-2-0 (0-0-0) T-1st Hockey East
Massachusetts Minutemen 3-0-0 (0-0-0) T-1st Hockey East
The Massachusetts hockey team has found early success in their non-conference schedule, starting out the year 3-0-0. They’ll look to carry over that early momentum as they kick off their Hockey East schedule at home against the New Hampshire Wildcats. After starting their season against a rebuilding Colorado College program and Atlantic Hockey’s Sacred Heart, UNH, a team picked to finish 6th in the league, should prove to a step up in terms of competition for the Minutemen.
UNH is hoping to rebound from a disappointing weekend at home where they dropped a couple one goal games to the North Country teams of Clarkson and St Lawrence. The trip to the Mullins Center on Friday will be the first game away from Durham for UNH after they opened the season with a dominant home win against AIC by the score of 7-3.
UNH’s problem so far seems to be goaltending. Danny Tirone joined the Wildcats in mid-season last year and ended up being one of the prominent storylines for the team. He went 9-4-0 in the second half of last season with a .924 save percentage. Through three games this season though he’s made 78 saves on 88 shots on net, just a .886 save percentage. Even in the AIC game he allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for a sub-.900 save percentage. If Tirone is unable to get the job done in net for the ‘Cats, they’ll have to turn to freshman Adam Clark who had a .894 save percentage in 21 games last season.
Though the AIC game skews their statistics somewhat, UNH has been getting the job done offensively, averaging 4 goals per game so far. They have matched their opponents in terms of shots on goal per game with 29.3, right around the national average. It’s no surprise that Tyler Kelleher is among the top scorers so far for the Wildcats as he’s one of the best forwards in the league. Kelleher led his team in points last year with 42 in 39 games and so far has 2 goals and 2 assists in their four games. It is a little strange though to see senior Maxim Gaudreault as the top goal-scorer for UNH as the 3 goals already scored so far this season matches the amount he scored in 30 games last season.
There has been a lot of talk about the quality of UMass’ 3-0-0 start this week. Some people have pointed to their easy schedule. Others have said that their high shooting percentage (16.9%) or shots attempted differential (-67) shows that they’ve been “lucky” and that once they play tougher opponents their fortunes will turn. It’s true that their shooting percentage will come down and they need to do a better job of possessing the puck, but I would argue there are other reasons why they’re winning.
They’ve gotten some solid individual efforts from the likes of Dennis Kravchenko, Austin Plevy, and Shane Walsh. Those three have accounted for 11 of UMass’ 26 goals so far. The team has also done a great job at converting their power play opportunities. Their 33% power play conversion is tied for 5th best in the country so far. Lastly, while UMass has allowed opponents to attempt a good number of shots, they’ve gotten very solid goaltending on the other end of those shots. Nic Renyard and Henry Dill have an identical .938 save percentage so far this season, which is good for 17th best in the country.
UMass will probably have to do a better job in terms of possessing the puck against a talented, yet struggling UNH team this weekend. But aside from that, I’m not sure I’d do too much differently if I were Coach Micheletto. The team is playing extremely well right now and their success so far should allow them to play confidently in their league opener. With the game at home a 4-0-0 start is within their grasp. But in the long run starting off Hockey East with a 1-0-0 record may be more important.
Beer The Triangle
The merger of the Hangar and Amherst Brewing Company has not only made it a little easier to find a table and enjoy some wings pre or post-game, but it has helped relaunch ABC brewing. After kicking off the new era with a very good IPA, Jess, the most recent addition to the ABC lineup is an aromatic wet hop brew, Chelsea. Definitely worth a try.
For a UNH viewpoint, here’s the preview from the Foster’s Daily Democrat.
To get you psyched up for Friday’s matchup, here’s the UMass hockey intro video: