Providence Recap

I have to admit, they fooled me.  Despite this team’s trend to play up or down to the level of their opponent and their ability to drop the must-win games while pulling off miraculous upsets against the nation’s best teams, I was fooled.  After Friday’s game against #1 BU where they beat the top ranked team for the second time this season and picked up their first road win thanks to a complete 60 minute effort from the entire squad, I thought this team had finally figured shaken off whatever has plagued them through this disappointing season.  Nope.  In a continuation of what we’ve seen not just this year but in other recent years, after being giant killers the night before UMass dropped a game they needed to win against an opponent they should’ve competed better against.  As a result you have a Minuteman squad that has beaten the #1 team in the country twice, has a .500 record in the 11 games they’ve played against ranked teams, yet if the playoffs started today they would not be participating (as Northeastern wins the tiebreaker with more conference wins)

Despite the lip service about the team moving on from the BU win immediately after to make sure they were ready to take care of business at home against Providence, they weren’t.  The Friars scored on their first shot of the game, just three minutes into the contest.  A minute and a half later and Providence was up 2-0.  That was it right there.  Game over.  UMass did a lot later in the game, came back to cut the lead to one, looked dominant at times, had an amazing performance by Mike Pereira.  But the fact of the matter is the outcome was decided when UMass came out flat to start the game and handed the Friars a two goal lead.  Sure, the team would turn it on at times, playing good hockey for five to ten minutes and scoring a couple goals or pressuring the Friars.  But then they’d lapse again and miss opportunities or allow Providence to build upon their lead.  After playing a full 60 minutes the night before UMass probably put in about 25 or 30 last night, broken up into about five minute intervals.

I think everyone not named Mike Pereira can look in the mirror this morning and say they could’ve and should’ve played better last night.  After having perhaps his biggest win of his career the night before Kevin Boyle struggled mightily, still unable to shake the inconsistent performance issues that have followed him from juniors.  The defense in front of him didn’t do him many favors.  Whereas on Friday they were successful in limiting BU’s attack on Boyle and quickly swept away any loose rebounds, last night the Friars had free reign in the slot and behind the net without consequences.  Amazingly UMass, a team that averages 6 or 7 penalties a night, only had two total last night.  Even more amazingly, they allowed the Friars to score on both resulting power plays.

Coach Toot Cahoon opened his postgame press conference by asking those in attendance that if we can understand (how) this team (works/thinks) to tell him.  Disbelief and puzzled is how he described his own thoughts when seeing how unprepared the team looked in the first.  On one hand I feel for him because it’s very rare that he doesn’t talk about the steps he takes to try to make sure the team is mentally prepared for the challenge of each and every game.  He doesn’t blow off the subject, I honestly believe he’s trying to address this issue which has absolutely plagued this program in the last five years.  On the other hand, it’s apparent that his approaches are not working.  I’m beginning to think it has less to do with what he and the other coaches say or do in practice or before games and that it has more to do with the character of the players he recruits.  It’s great to get the players who skate the fastest, have great size, or a quick glove to come and play for UMass. But if as a group they lack the ability to focus on the challenge at hand or are not mentally tough to play highly competitive college hockey, what good is all that skill?  The coaching can take some of the blame for not bringing in the right mix of players and their inability to motivate them when they get here.  But at the same time these players aren’t kids.  Most are 20 or older.  They shouldn’t need someone to tell them that Saturday was a must win.  They’re old enough and smart enough to know themselves.  Or at least one would’ve thought so.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
It hasn’t been the easiest sophomore season for Mike Pereira.  He has struggled at times and was even benched for neglecting his defensive duties on the ice.  But, he has fought through it and played some great hockey as of late.  Last night he absolutely did his best to put the team on his shoulders and carry them to a win.  All three goals on the way to his hat trick were great individual efforts.  In addition he did a good job defensively and on the forecheck, which led to goal number two.  Last night’s hat trick gives him six goals in the last four games.

Here’s the recap from the Republican.