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Weekend Preview

#13 Boston University Terriers 2-2-0 (1-1-0) Hockey East T-5th

vs

Massachusetts Minutemen 1-2-1 (0-2-1) Hockey East 7th

This is, quite frankly, a pivotal weekend for UMass hockey.  The Minutemen have a chance to make a statement against a ranked Boston University team that, while talented, has not played consistently well on the young season.  In addition to playing a BU team with some weaknesses, the team will play tomorrow in front of what will likely be one of the better and louder crowds of the season, as Halloween has resulted in the student section at capacity in the past.  UMass absolutely has to find a way to channel the energy and enthusiasm the crowd contributes and at least come away with a split this weekend.

The Terriers have gotten off to a very inconsistent start to the season.  After giving up six goals in an exhibition loss they came out on opening night and shutout UNH 5-0.  That score seemed pretty impressive until those results became the norm for the Wildcats in the first few weeks of the season.  The next week BU dropped a game to Providence 5-3, a similar result to what UMass fans saw against the Friars the very next night.  The Terriers appeared to get back on track the next night when they beat Denver at home, preventing the Pioneers from ascending to the top of the college hockey polls.  But last week saw them get upset by Holy Cross, the first win for the Cruasders against a ranked team since they took out Minnesota in the 2006 NCAA tournament.

There are a number of areas where Jack Parker would probably like to see improvement from his team.  One is penalties.  The folks working the penalty box doors this weekend should get overtime pay as the home and home features the two most penalized teams in the league.  UMass is averaging 21 penalty minutes while the Terriers come in at 18.  Helping mitigate harm from taking all those penalties is the fact that BU’s kill has been good enough at 83.3%.  The other area where BU seems vulnerable is goaltending.  Kieran Millan has not looked good.  After gaining the shutout over UNH in the opener he’s allowed five goals in two of the last three games.  Add in another five in BU’s exhibition game and Millan is going to have to improve his game quickly if the Terriers want to accomplish anything this season.

One thing BU has had no problem with this season is scoring goals.  BU has scored an even four goals a game on the season, good for second in the league.  Half of those goals have come from Matt Nieto and Alex Chiasson who each have four apiece.  I consider Chiasson perhaps the most exciting player to watch in Hockey East, combining great scoring skill with difference making size.  Corey Trivino and Wade Megan have each contributed as well with multiple goals on the season.  A little surprising is that super soph Charlie Coyle has yet to get on the scoreboard, but that’s not to say he hasn’t done anything as he’s leading the team in assists.

It’ll fall on the UMass defensemen and goaltenders to do their job and keep the game close against such a potent offense.  I’m assuming/hoping Jeff Teglia will see at least one of the games this weekend as he had a strong game against BC and deserves to try to build off it.   Teglia has also played well against BU previously, going 0-1-1 against them last year with a GAA under 3.00.  I don’t think he’ll see the ice both games though, so look for Kevin Boyle to take one of the starts or I’m hearing it’s a possibility Steve Mastalerz is back in playing shape after recovering from an injury.  Whoever is in net, the defense in front of them has to get better.  Overall I thought the defense played well in the first two games, with Colin Shea standing out the most.  But in the last two it’s been tough to say anyone on the blueline has played that well.  That has to change quickly.  With the goaltending still working itself out a reliable defense would be a huge plus right now.

Offensively the guys need to bounce back from a disappointing game last week where the only goals were scored by a freshman making his debut and a defenseman late in the game.  I know there has been a lot of talk about lines and linemates during the week, from myself included, but that can’t be an excuse.  UMass has two lines worth of players, no matter how they’re mixed and matched, that can score goals in this league.  UMass still comes into this game with the 4th best offense in Hockey East at 3.50 goals a game.  The power play did fall quite a bit after going 0 for 7 and needs to get back on track.

In addition to finding their offense again, UMass needs to maintain discipline.  All the penalties taken thus far in the season hurts the team in a couple ways.  First, it puts a lot of pressure on the goaltenders and defensemen who are already vulnerable.  Second, it’s taking the best players off the ice.  The team needs guys like T.J. Syner, Adam Phillips, and Conor Allen taking their shifts, not in the box.

What may determine whether the Minutemen win or lose however, especially tomorrow, could be how well they tap into the intangibles.  This game will be televised live on NESN.  There’s a very good chance the crowd will be 7000+.  And expect the students to be wild and hopefully engaged.  If the team can harness the electricity in the air early and convert a couple scoring chances it could be all the momentum they need to pick up their first league win.  And even a split against a ranked Terrier team would be an enjoyable Halloween treat.

Beer The Triangle
It’s very unlikely I’ll be available for a trip to Commonwealth Ave and the nearby Mini-Sunset on Saturday, so my pregaming will be limited to the Hangar tomorrow afternoon.  Luckily I’ve taken the day off work so my quality time with Stoney’s offerings won’t be limited due to bad traffic like last time.  If UMass does pull off the sweep and you’re looking for a place to celebrate near Agganis, I recommend the Lower Depths in Kenmore Square.  An interesting sounding beer they’ve had on the last couple days is Geary’s 25th Anniversary Hudson Red.

The Collegian previews this weekend’s games.  They also mention, like I did above, that penalties have played a big role in UMass’ defeats.

Dick Baker has an interesting profile of Conor Allen.

An astute reader pointed out that Paul Dainton was sent down to Chicago of the ECHL.

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  October 28, 2011

    anyone have a link to pereira article?

    Like

  1. Hockey East Weekend Preview: 10/28 | Husky Hockey
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