So why can’t they play like that every game?? A night after getting their doors blown off by the host Black Bears UMass returned to the form we saw last Friday against #1 Boston University and with a full 60 minute effort, a focus on defense, and solid goaltending were able to gain a 4-1 win. The victory over #11 Maine brings UMass back into a tie with Northeastern for the final playoff spot in Hockey East and currently own the tiebreaker by virtue of their 2-1-0 record against first place Boston College.
Everything that has been missing from recent losses was present for the Minutemen last night. They took an early lead, just 51 seconds in, thanks to Steven Guzzo’s first goal since the tournament in Florida. Mike Pereira continued his hot streak and converted a power play goal, the team’s first against the Black Bears this season, to allow the Minutemen to go up 2-0 in the second. The final goals came in the third to seal the game came from a couple guys who haven’t done much scoring this year. Rocco Carzo, back this weekend after missing five games due to injury, scored halfway through the third and Eric Filiou scored an empty netter from between his own faceoff circles to cement the win.
In between the scoring was some of the best defense this team has played all season. They held the Black Bears to just 22 shots all game and never more than eight in a period. The shots that they were able to generate were turned away by Kevin Boyle who looked very solid again in net after struggling in his last start. Perhaps some of the reason for the strong effort was a completely revamped lineup. Not dressed were regulars like Branden Gracel, Troy Power, Adam Phillips, and Emerson Auvenshine. In their place were Andrew Tegeler, playing just his third game of the season, Eddie Olczyk, playing his first game since before Thanksgiving, Zack LaRue, Darren Rowe, and a returning Colin Shea. Whether it was this new mix of players, the desire to redeem themselves for the awful display of hockey the night before, or the fact that desperation is finally setting in, something worked.
While I’m happy that they won and are back in the playoff hunt, I can’t help but feel utterly frustrated. This team obviously has talent. This team obviously knows how to use that talent to beat any team in the country when they want to. With last night’s win UMass has now beaten the #1 team in the country twice, #4, #11, #13, and #17. So how in the world can the team have a record three games under .500 and are battling just to make the playoffs? I’d love to think this team has turned some kind of corner or learned from their mistakes but the fact is I thought that last week when they beat BU only to look disinterested the next night and lose to Providence. I thought the same thing multiple times on the season. The playoffs, if they make it, will be the only chance for this team to accomplish something. The chance for regular season success is gone. But if they want to do some damage in the playoffs they have to learn to play consistently. That first step did not happen last night. It’ll have to happen this coming weekend when they host New Hampshire.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
There were a number of players who played well last night. Pereira scored his 8th goal in the last six games. Mike Marcou played solid defense and added a couple of assists. But I’m going to give this one to Kevin Boyle. He wasn’t tested a ton with the guys in front of him holding Maine to just 22 shots. But when shots did get through he was in good position and had a solid night, making some great saves when needed. Unless your name is Gabe Winer, winning at Alfond as an opposing goaltender is not easy. Boyle looked at ease in the crease last night.
What a difference a night makes starts the Republican recap.
UMass won with “inspired defense” says the local paper.