Weekend Preview



#16 Massachusetts Minutemen 11-7-0, (Hockey East 6-5-0 T-4th)
New Hampshire Wildcats 8-7-4, (Hockey East 8-2-3 1st)

New Hampshire Wildcats Official Site 

These two teams met for a two game series in November and battled hard for a weekend split.  Since that time the two squads have been going in very different directions.  The saturday win at the Mullins Center rejuvenated a struggling UNH team and from that game on they’ve gone 6-1-2.  Meanwhile since UMass took that the overtime win on that Friday they’ve had a record of 4-6-0.  That weekend series was interesting because I thought that UMass actually played a better overall game in the Saturday loss than they did in the come from behind win the night before.  It will be interesting to see how these two teams play tonight. 

The Wildcats are of course led by Bobby Butler, one of Hockey East’s best player who seems to elevate his game even more against the Minutemen.  Butler is fourth in the league in scoring with 13 goals and 12 assists in 19 games.  He also has a +10 rating currently.  Paul Thompson and Peter LeBlanc are the other goal scorers the Minutemen need to worry about.  On the blue line Blake Kessel is one of the top offensive defensemen in the league with 19 points.  While Brian Foster’s numbers don’t immediately impress, most of his struggles have come out of conference.  His overall goals against stands at 3.38 but that improves to 2.77 in conference.  It’s essential for UMass to pressure Foster if they want to win tonight. 

While I believe a lot of the recent struggles are related to the offense, specifically not getting other guys involved as much as they need to be as I wrote earlier this week, the defense will have to come up big tonight too for a win.  UNH has the top offense for league games with 3.69 goals per game.  They are doing this mostly at even strength too as their power play is near the bottom. 



#16 Massachusetts Minutemen 11-7-0, (Hockey East 6-5-0 T-4th)
Northeastern Huskies 8-8-1, (Hockey East 4-7-1 8th)

Northeastern Huskies Official Site 

UMass will make their first trip to the new and improved Matthews Arena tomorrow in a televised game on ESPNU.  Hopefully the Minutemen will give the national TV audience a better show than last week when they got pounded by BU.  Northeastern is still trying to adjust to life after Brad Thiessen but they have had some impressive wins in this rebuilding year, including one over Colorado College and then a defeat of Lowell to win the Dartmouth tournament. 

The Huskies are not getting it done with offense however as the team comes into the weekend with the second worst scoring in Hockey East at just over two goals a game.  They’ve also really struggled on specials teams with both their power play and penalty kill second to last in the league.  Kyle Kraemer and Wade Macleod are their top offensive threats while Alex Tuckerman is having a solid sophomore season.  Freshman Garrett Vermeersch has done well with 12 points on the season.  Northeastern has a pair of goaltenders trying to fill Thiessen’s shoes and so far Chris Rawlings has performed best with a goals against of 2.76 and .917 save percentage in 15 games.  He also has a couple of shutouts to his credit so far. 

This will be the first time the teams have met since last year’s dramatic quarterfinal series.  While many of the players are back the teams have a very different look than they did last Spring.  Following tomorrow’s game UMass will have a tough schedule with 5 games against Lowell, Vermont, and BU, all of whom are higher in the Hockey East standings than the Huskies.  With 10 of the last 16 games on the road UMass will have to take points away from the Mullins and Sunday’s game may be one of the better chances to do so. 


Earlier in the week I wrote how other players must get involved in the offense.  Well that’s going to be tough as Matt Vautour reports Chase Langeraap and Mike Lecomte are out with injuries while David Boehm remains suspended.  Lecomte has a broken foot and is out at least a month if not more. 

Dick Baker of the Republican previews the weekend. 

UNH and Lowell tied last night in Durham. 


Speaking of Lowell, Ice is Life did an interesting analysis on even strength goals for the conference.  Basically, UMass is relying on its power play too much.


Nice to see a Hockey East foe stepping up to help out Peter Trovato’s Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund.