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UNH Preview

New Hampshire Wildcats 2-5-2, (Hockey East 2-1-1 T-3rd)
vs
Massachusetts Minutemen 6-1-0, (Hockey East 3-1-0 2nd)

New Hampshire Wildcats Official Site

UMass is handed a gold opportunity this weekend.  Usually a two game series against the New Hampshire entails a trip north to the hostile, expansive environment of Lake Whitt.  But  the scheduling Gods have blessed the Minutemen with two games in two nights against the struggling Wildcats at home in the Mullins Center.  There is no doubt that UMass has had a favorable schedule thus far.  Even the victory over defending champ BU seems diminished at this point given their five losses early on.  But if UMass wants to show that they’re a legitimate squad capable of sustaining this early success I think this weekend against UNH will be key.

While the season has gone well so far for the Minutemen, they have no gone as well for UNH.  They opened the season with a loss to RPI the night after the Engineers lost in the Mullins and have only picked up two wins in the time since.  Granted, their schedule has not been the easiest as they had to play a two game series with top ranked Miami where they managed a tie and then got pummelled out in Madison against Wisconsin, a tough place for anyone to play.  They certainly did not look good this past Sunday when they took on Lowell, losing 6-3 with one of their goals scored by Lowell’s Ryan Blair on his own net.  To say that goaltender Brian Foster has been struggling is an understatement.  He gave up at least two bad goals against Lowell and currently has a GAA of 4.19 and save percentage of .871.  It seems inconceivable that he’d start both games this weekend but who knows if Dick Umile will end up with giving sophomore Matt Girolamo a shot in net or not.

While UNH might be hurting on defense and in net they still are quite capable on offense, though perhaps not quite as deep as in previous years.  Bobby Butler has put together a nice start to his senior year with 6 goals in 9 games while Mike Silso continues to be one of the most hardworking forwards in the conference.  Sophomore defenseman Blake Kessel has had to take a bigger role on offense and currently leads UNH with 7 assists to go with 3 goals.

For UMass to be successful I say shoot early and shoot often.  Foster is struggling and Girolamo is inexperienced.  Add in the fact that UNH has the worst goals against in the league at 4.22 and this seems like a team that can be defeated by getting an early lead and trying to build upon it.  Certainly the UMass power play which has been stellar so far could be key as UNH is only killing penalties at a rate of 72%.  I think if the first line clicks, whether it be with a healthy Syner or a fill-in Hobbs on the wing, UMass can do some damage this weekend.

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A couple of things to know about the games this weekend.  First is that the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and the Graduate History are sponsoring a food drive for both games.  So don’t forget your cans, boxes, and other prepared foods.  Second, the ticket office is doing a ticket promotion where if you bring you stub from Friday’s game you can get a ticket for Saturday for only $5.  Hopefully the Mullins will be a good place to dry off after the monsoon rolls through the football game that afternoon.

The Republican has a nice feature on Mike Marcou.  I, for one, have been pleasantly surprised by the younger Marcou’s play this year.  Going into the year it was clear that one or two of the defensemen would have to step up and give quality minutes this year and he’s certainly done so.  He’s certainly not physically imposing or overly athletic but his strengths are playing smart and especially getting in a good position and he’s been able to leverage those skills and provide some very solid play for a sophomore..

Here’s the preview from the Collegian where it’s revealed that the two game home series was negotiated between the head coaches.  The Collegian also reports that Langeraap could be back this weekend in their notes section.

Here’s a preview from the Hampshire Gazette.

Foster’s Daily Democrat is the second NH paper to say the Wildcats’ woes result from taking penalties.

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INCH’s Jeff Howe has a good story about a better bond the team is finding which each other this year.

James Marcou stays at #2 in this week’s Hobey Watch from Inside Hockey.

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3 Comments

  1. justin

     /  November 13, 2009

    Nice job summing it up. Big weekend, I’m excited. And out of town 😦

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  2. This series is huge for both teams. It’s odd to dub any series in November “huge,” but UMass needs it to keep its momentum moving forward. Also, this is as beatable as UNH will be at any point this season. UNH needs this weekend to piece itself back together. This is probably the only Hockey East opponent that doesn’t suffer a disadvantage at The Bill because their rink is even bigger. Hard to call it at this point, UMass needs three points at least, though. It’ll be tough, but they can do it.

    Dainon’s play will be crucial, and Watson’s line needs to keep Butler in check, assuming Toot matches them. He loves scoring big goals against UMass. I sat in the same seats I was in when he scored on Quickie in the 07 Hockey East semis at a Bruins game the other day, and the memories were quite painful. I saw Colin Wilson score his first NHL goal that night, too, so it was a annoying night altogether until the B’s got the winner.

    Also, you’re exactly right in pointing out how important special teams will be. If UMass can get an early power play or two, it could alter the entire weekend. Remember when UNH came to Amherst in January of 07, and beat UMass in OT? There was a 5-on-3 early in that game after good-ol’ Patty Dineen made it 1-0. UNH killed it off, and UMass’ power play was just bad for the rest of the year. So that hypothetical early power play could affect both teams mindset all weekend.

    I’ll be at Northeastern tonight, but my successors at The Collegian will keep me updated throughout. I think the Mass Attack can win the league this year, and winning games like this will put them in great position – standings-wise and emotionally – for the entire season.

    BTW, I love this blog. Keep up the good work,

    Joe Meloni

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    • Thanks for the insight and compliment Joe. I appreciate it coming from a journalist. It is odd to call an early series as key but I think this weekend will show a lot about if the team’s success has been mostly a product of the schedule or if they’re really this good.

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