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Providence Friars 1-4-0 (1-2-0) T-3rd

vs

Massachusetts Minutemen 0-3-1 (0-1-1) T-7th

It’s the end of October which means it must be time to play two against Providence.  I don’t think many people can be surprised to find this young UMass team 0-3-1 at this point in time given who and where they’ve had to play.  I’m sure it has raised a few eyebrows that UMass has been in every game and, if not for a mistake here and there, could have their record flipped right now.  That said, I think the time for pats on the back for effort and close losses are over.  This team has four games under their belt.  They’ve travelled cross country with each other.  Hell, they’ve even had to deal with some injury related adversity already.  The feeling out, getting to know you period is over.  As the expression goes, it’s time to make hay while the sun shines.  UMass needs to take as many points as possible this weekend.  Hockey East points are going to be hard to come by in the fall semester and this weekend presents one of only two chances to get multiple points (the other being against UNH).

Standing in the way of that is Providence.  I’m sure many people are not surprised to see the Friars at 1-4-0 overall.  But a closer look at how they’ve gotten to that result shows that this team won’t necessarily be a pushover.  In Hockey East the Friars have already beaten Northeastern, lost to Lowell in overtime, and last weekend lost to BU 2-1 while doubling up the Terriers in shots 40-20.  Take out a trip west to Duluth where they got slapped around 12-4 in a Bulldog sweep and the Friars are probably feeling pretty good about themselves all things considered.

Offensively they’ve been led by senior Kyle MacKinnon who has 3 goals on the season and sophomore Tim Schaller who has accounted for 5 points.  They’ve also gotten some good contribution from freshman Derek Army, yes, coach Tim Army’s son.  Sophomore Alex Velischeck, who impressed when I saw them last year, seems to have gotten off to a good start on defense.  Providence has done most of their damage at even strength as their power play is one of the worst in the country, converting at just 8%.  In their three Hockey East games they’ve scored just once on the advantage in 15 chances. 

Of course when most people think of Providence they think of goaltender Alex Beaudry, who at times has appeared to be one of the better goaltenders in the league.  His performance so far this year has been shaky at best, especially if you look at those games out in Duluth where he gave up four goals both nights, one of which he got the gate after just 25 minutes of play.  In conference he has played better, giving up 3 goals a game and a save percentage of .895.  It’s tough to know exactly which Beaudry UMass will see this weekend, but they’ll likely see him both games as backup Justin Gates has only seen mop up duty so far.

Considering that coming into the season most pundits cited the large amount of scoring they’d have to replace as a reason why UMass would struggle, so far that hasn’t been the case.  UMass is scoring 3 goals a game, more than their average overall all of last season.  I think that scoring will continue, especially as the younger players get more comfortable and the team in general is able to anticipate each other’s actions better.  Whether he’s on offense, defense, or wherever hopefully Darren Rowe continues to do what he’s doing.  I don’t think anything dramatic has changed for him from last year, as he showed the same vision and offensive mind that he is currently.  I think the big difference is just opportunity, which he’s made the most of so far.  Look for guys like Mike Pereira, Conor Sheary, and Branden Gracel to start to get on the scoreboard more as they’ve all played very well and have been buzzing all around the net, just missing on their chances.  They need to carry over that active play to  the power play though where they’ve been going long stretches on the advantage without even a shot.  I’m not sure if this is a scheme problem or they’re just gripping the stick too tight as soon as those two minutes go up on the board, but it would be nice to see them get this on track this weekend.  Especially tonight when they have the big ice to work with and to move the puck around more freely.

What has been the problem for UMass has been their defense, which isn’t exactly a shock given they’ve only returned two defenseman who saw minutes in key situations last year.  It’s really going to have to be a team effort for UMass on the defensive end with the forwards making sure to get back and get active in their zone.  This is especially the case on the penalty kill where they’re only preventing 72% of the opponents’ chances.  My gut tells me we’ll see both goaltenders this weekend.  Maybe Jeff Teglia tonight and Paul Dainton tomorrow where he’s already used to the smaller ice.

For UMass they have to score early and score often.  Thus far in the season they’ve been outscored 6-1 and outshot by a margin of 20 in the 1st period.  If they can play the first and second like they’ve been playing the third periods recently they should be all set.  UMass really has been just a few, but significant, miscues away from success in each game.  Obviously concentrating on execution and being where they should be on the ice off the puck is likely the key to the game.  Hopefully the early season butterflies are gone.  The time for this team to introduce themselves to each other is over.  The time to get better together has begun.

Beer The Triangle
Pregame at the Hangar was pretty good last week as they have two very good stouts on tap currently in the form of North Coast’s Old Rasputin and Founders’ Breakfast Stout.  The Rasputin is one of the better russian imperial stouts I’ve had.  It’s hearty but unlike a lot of russian imperials I’ve had lately it doesn’t have an overwhelming alcohol taste.  Founders’ Breakfast is called such because it’s one of the better coffee flavored stouts out there.  On Saturday I plan on hitting the Abbey, just down the street from the Coffin.  It doesn’t have the most spectacular draft list, but there’s a lot on bottles, especially belgians, plus some excellent burgers.

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Here are the game notes from the UMass side as well as the Providence point of view.

Here’s a preview from the Gazette pretty much confirming that Dainton will see some time this weekend.

These teams find themselves at the bottom of the Boston Hockey Blog’s power rankings this week.

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Casey Wellman finds himself back with the Wild and played in last night’s game.  He has a couple goals in 6 AHL games.

Coach Cahoon is quoted in this story about Mike Gilligan’s entry to the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame.  Mike is the brother of former UMass assistant coach Bill Gilligan.

Still a little ways off but the Swedish Under 18 team will be playing Williams College the night before they come to the Mullins Center.  Here’s a good preview of the Swedes.

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3 Comments

  1. Bullmoose

     /  October 29, 2010

    Of course you mean Sweden U-20, not U-18. 🙂

    Like

  1. Let’s do the time warp again… « Fight Mass – an unapologetically biased UMass hockey (and other sports, we guess) blog
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