In what’s becoming a trend the UMass hockey team had a critical game to play in Orono last night and came out of the gate completely flat. The unfortunate part is it wasn’t just the first ten minutes or first period where the team looked unprepared and overwhelmed but the entire first 40 minutes. UMass was scrambling for that entire time and very rarely were able to control play except in very brief bursts. As a result at the end of the second period UMass was down 6-0, were being outshot 20-10, and were already on their second goaltender of the night. The Black Bears would go on to roll to a 7-3 win and in all honesty, it wasn’t even that close.
In my preview for the weekend I noted that in the prior two games between these teams UMass had spotted Maine an early 2-0 lead and had yet to score a power play goal. Sure enough Maine took a 1-0 lead four and a half minutes in without UMass even registering a shot to that point. Maine would take their accustomed 2-0 lead around the 15 minute mark and then would push it to 3-0 in the waning seconds of the first. Still, to start the second UMass had a chance to try to claw back into the game as, thanks to the antics of Joey Diamond, the Minutemen would start the period on the power play. But, there was only one shot registered during that power play time. And it was by Maine. In the end that second period may be the worst period of play we’ve seen from this team all season. They had three different power play opportunities, including 1:20 of five on three. In all that extra man time they mustered just one shot. For the game UMass had four power play opportunities for 6:37 minutes, including that five on three, and had just one shot total. Maine would take advantage of UMass’ ineffectiveness and would score three more goals in the second and the rout was on. Despite the multiple power plays and the desperate need to get back into the game, UMass had four shots on goal in that second period.
The Minutemen did score three goals in the third to Maine’s one, but the damage was already done. Honestly, I thought UMass’ improved showing in the final period was more a product of Maine, thankfully, taking the foot off the gas pedal than the Minutemen somehow solving the Black Bears defense or goaltender Dan Sullivan. There’s no patting themselves on the back saying they made it a game at the end because they didn’t. It was over long before then. The only positive from their late performance is if they can somehow carry over that momentum to the opening minutes tonight. We’ll see if that happens.
In complete honesty, no one played well last night. There were a couple bright spots. Kevin Czepiel scored his first goal of the season. Kevin Boyle, who will likely play tonight, made some very good saves in relief of starter Steven Mastalerz. Mastalerz did not play horribly, you cannot pin this loss on him. There were no soft goals, the guys in front of him just allowed Maine too many good looks. Given how things broke in UMass’ favor around the rest of Hockey East this loss looks like a huge lost opportunity. Providence was able to hold Northeastern to a tie at Matthews Arena while Vermont stunned UNH in overtime at Durham. If UMass had found a way to win last night they would’ve leapfrogged Northeastern into 8th place and pulled even in the second tiebreaker with the Huskies, conference wins. The WIldcats and 7th place would’ve been just two points ahead with the two teams facing off for two at the Mullins Center next weekend and UMass still with a game in hand. Instead UMass wakes up this morning in 9th, one point out of the playoffs, and with the number of games left dwindling down. Heading back down I-95 without any points on the weekend absolutely cannot happen for this team. Not with showdowns with UNH and Merrimack looming. But with the last two games against Maine resulting in dominant wins by the Black Bears, it’s tough to see any other outcome at this point. One things’s for sure, the first five minutes of tonight’s game will likely tell us the ultimate outcome.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
It’s tough to pick any player from last night’s debacle. However I’ll go with Mike Pereira who scored a goal and was not on the ice for Maine’s
Coach Cahoon says the team was “outclassed” in the Republican recap.
Black Bear coach Tim Whitehead credits his team being ready from the start in the local recap.
Here’s how it looked for the Maine student paper.