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BU/Providence Preview

#14 Boston University Terriers 13-8-7 (10-5-5) Hockey East T-3rd

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Massachusetts Minutemen 6-15-4 (5-10-4) Hockey East 7th

UMass faced both of this weekend’s opponents, BU and Providence, last fall and did pretty well against both even though the record against both was 0-2-2. Both the losses were by a single goal and the tie with the Terriers actually came in Boston. But circumstances are very different now. Those games were in October when UMass was just trying to figure out who they were. Now it’s February and the pressure is building and every point is critical. It will be very interesting to see how UMass fares against these two opponents they haven’t seen in months in two very key games.

First up will be Boston University in a game which will be televised nationally on CBS College Sports. The Terriers are coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to rival Boston College in the Beanpot. When UMass faced BU last fall they looked like they were in for a great year. In fact they started out unbeaten in their first 10 games. But they’ve cooled a bit since then and while they’re still one of the top teams in Hockey East they appear to be one notch below BC, UNH, and perhaps even Merrimack.

UMass stayed close with BU last fall by playing tough defense and getting some bigtime goaltending….from Jeff Teglia. Yes, if you remember back to then Paul Dainton was hurt and Teglia gave us all a little taste of what the future in net colooks like. Teglia faced a total of 72 shots over those two games and got high marks from those involved. Of course it’s unlikely Teglia will face the Terriers again, but the precedent is there that solid goaltending could keep UMass in the game against these Terriers.

BU is a middle of the pack in Hockey East in both offense and defense and believe it or not UMass actually has a slight edge when it comes to the power play. The Terriers are led offensively by sophomore sensation Alex Chiasson, who has the most points on the team, and surprisingly Joe Pereira. Mike’s older brother has turned from more of a grinder to a scorer with 12 goals so far this season after never scoring more than 5 in his previous years. Defensively the Terriers are led by David Warsofsky, one of the better two way defensemen in all of college hockey. In net will likely be Kieran Millan who is middle of the pack among Hockey East goaltenders.

For UMass to succeed tomorrow night they’ll have to find the tough defensive play that they had shown in the last month but suddenly went missing in the third period of last weekend’s BC game and was a memory when they played Merrimack the next night. Offensively it should be noted that four of the five goals UMass scored against BU last fall were put home by defensemen. This could be a strategy UMass tries to replicate this weekend with BU’s defense good enough not to let them get in close to the net but Millan not being a good enough goaltender to pick up the puck from far out. What I most want to see is the team play with emotion. They are coming an embarrassing loss. There should be a sizable crowd given the different promotions, opponent, and TV. And it’s getting to the point where UMass can’t waste opportunities to get points, especially at home. All three of these things should add up to a determined effort by the Minutemen. Let’s see if that’s what happens.

Providence College Friars 7-13-6 (3-11-5) Hockey East 9th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 6-15-4 (5-10-4) Hockey East 7th

While all the hoopla surrounds Friday night’s tilt against BU, it’s really the game against Providence that is the more important game of the weekend for reasons I laid out yesterday. And if there is anytime to face these Friars, it’s now. They’ve gone 1-8-3 in their last dozen games and it’s unlikely they’ll pick up a win Friday night at Boston College. They haven’t scored more than 1 goal in their last three games and are coming off a shellacking of their own with a 7-1 loss at the hands of Vermont.

UMass put up some good offensive numbers when they played Providence last October, peppering Alex Beaudry with 34 shots in each game. It didn’t hurt that the Friars gave UMass 11 power play opportunities over the two nights, something that they’ll have to figure out a way to capitalize upon if it happens on Saturday. Again, goaltending will have to have a solid game as Dainton let a couple softies in that tie at home that would’ve otherwise been a win. I wouldn’t rule out Teglia playing in this game to get him some more playing time and rest up Dainton for the tough stretch run.

UMass will do well to minimize the damage done by Kyle MacKinnon who has nearly twice as many goals as anyone else for the Friars with 13. One player that UMass no longer has to worry about is the talented defenseman Alex Velischeck who left the team mid-season and now finds himself playing out in the USHL. Just another one of the many players who have gone AWOL on Tim Army. Goaltender Alex Beaudry’s numbers are down significantly from last year but that could be more about the team in front of him than his play. It’ll still take a serious effort from UMass to get the puck past him.

If UMass wants to make the playoffs, they have to win this game. They do that and they can play the remaining three weekends with at least the knowledge that they’re likely going into the playoffs and can try to pick off some ranked teams without the pressure of elimination. Saturday should be approached as a play-in game.

Beer The Triangle
The boys from Fight Mass and I will be conducting a Beer Summit following tomorrow’s game to discuss topics like imperial stouts, triangle history, and the evolution of their mancrush on Doug Kublin. Unfortunately I’m unable to plan which beers to partake in during this blog diplomacy since the Moan and Dove hasn’t updated their beer list picture in a while. Oh well, it’ll be a nice surprise.

Sources indicate that recruit Joseph Manno will likely be taking his official visit to UMass tomorrow and will be attending the game against BU.

The Collegian previews the weekend.

Mark Dennehy mastered his mentor last weekend according to Andrew Merritt of the NEHJ.

Dick Baker had an interesting profile on Marc Concannon.

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