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Weekend Preview

Army Black Knights 1-4-0 (1-3-0) T-5th Atlantic Hockey

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Massachusetts Minutemen 0-4-2 (0-2-2) T-7th Hockey East

After four straight conference games where the UMass hockey squad failed to get their first win of the season, the team will take on non-conference foe Army tonight.  The weekend, which also includes an exhibition game against Sweden’s Under-20 team tomorrow, gives the Minutemen a chance to regroup and try to get in the win column without the pressure of league points on the line.

Army just picked up their first win of the season last Saturday when they beat Canisius 2-1.  The Black Knights had dropped their previous four games of the season, including a 5-4 overtime decision to Holy Cross.  Last year Army went 11-18-7 and fell in the first round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs.

Offensively Army doesn’t have one specific player standout, with seven different goalscorers on the season and none of them accumulating more than two.  Their leading point getter is sophomore Andy Starczewski who has a goal and 4 assists on the season.  Cody Omilusik and Mike Hull are a couple other forwards to keep an eye on.  Defenseman Marcel Alvarez will also add to the scoring, he already has a goal on the season so far.  Overall Army has had a very tough time scoring, only putting an average of 1.80 goals on the board so far this season, near the bottom in the NCAA.  Their power play is converting at a rate of just 13% so far.

Defensively it appears sophomore defenseman Cody Ikkala has been pretty good as he’s the only player on the whole team with a positive plus/minus.  The team has done pretty well on the penalty kill, stopping 86% of their opponents chances.  That’s good for 15th in the country.  Look for senior goaltender Jay Clark to be in net as he has played every minute for his team so far.  And he’s done pretty well overall in the time he’s seen, with a 2.97 goals against average and a .911 save percentage, very similar to the numbers he put up last year.

For UMass it has just been a couple mistakes here and there that have kept them from having greater success.  A lot of those miscues have come from the freshmen who have been pressed into service in great numbers early.  It’s tough to say they need to just stop making errors and get on with it as they’re still trying to make the transition to the college game and getting to know their team.  But while the execution will hopefully develop as the season goes along, there are a couple things for the team to work on specifically.  Special teams.  UMass is only killing 72% of their penalties, that puts them at the 5th worst team in all of college hockey.  It’ll be important to stress positioning and especially proper clearing in future games to get out of this PK funk.  The power play has gotten better a little over the past couple weeks, until they went just 1 for 8 last Saturday.  If they can move the puck well enough, something lacking last week with a lot of missed passes, UMass could romp and get their first win of the weekend.  It wouldn’t count for any points and the pairwise will likely not play a role this season, but getting that first W could do wonders for this team’s confidence.

 

Sweden Under-20 National Team

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Massachusetts Minutemen 0-4-2 (0-2-2) T-7th Hockey East

The Swedish Under-20 team continues their tour of the Bay State in a noon Saturday game prior to the UMass football game against Maine.  Thus far Sweden beat Harvard 2-1 and lost to Merrimack 4-1.  The Swedes will be taking on DIII Williams College in Williamstown tonight.  There are five NHL draft picks on their roster; John Klingberg, Oscar Lindberg, Petter Granberg,  Johan Gustafsson, and Sebastian Owuya.  They also have a number of younger players, all considered some of the best hockey representatives in their country.

For UMass the strategy is clear.  Don’t get hurt.  I expect we’ll see Jeff Teglia back in net and a number of other players that have not been playing regularly.

Beer The Triangle
Rumor has it Amherst Brewing Company will have on draft all four the the special beers Sierra Nevada brewed this year to celebrate their 30th anniversary.  They include a stout, a bock, a barleywine, and an ale that is essentially their Bigfoot, Celebration, and Pale Ale mixed together.  I’ve had three of the special brews so far.  All very good and probably even better on draft.

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The Collegian previews the weekend.

Dick Baker previews the Army team and mentions the connection between the Riley family and the Black Knight program.

Coach Cahoon says execution is key in the Gazette preview.  He also says Danny Hobbs is likely back next weekend.

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The New England Hockey Journal discusses Hockey East’s freshmen, including UMass’, in this week’s conference notebook.

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