Personally I thought the effort was there for the Massachusetts Minutemen in their game against Merrimack yesterday. But the execution was, frankly, very poor and as a result UMass lost 4-2. The loss is their 7th straight at Lawler Arena. The team didn’t look good offensively, generating a season low 18 shots on the night, or defensively as a number of key mistakes led to easy Warrior goals. The only aspects of the game that UMass excelled in were goaltending and the penalty kill.
The most glaring issue yesterday was the lack of offense. UMass managed just three shots on net in the first period. Some of that was due to the fact that they were on the penalty kill for over seven minutes, no thanks to a terrible major and game misconduct called on Conor Allen. But in the second when UMass had three power plays to Merrimack’s one they still only accumulated five shots, just one in six minutes of having the extra man. Desperation in the third forced them to be more aggressive and put 10 shots on net, but goaltender Sam Marotta would save them all. In the end only Branden Gracel (4), Kevin Czepiel (3), and Steven Guzzo (2) had more than one shot on net.
Defensively, a number of key mistakes did in UMass on the night. Losing Allen to a bad contact to the head call in the first period did not help. That left just five defenseman for the team for much of the game, one of which being Peter DeAngelo who was playing just his second game on the blueline. DeAngelo made some mistakes, but luckily they did not lead to any goals. However, you have to wonder if Mike Busillo should’ve been out there and dressed. Busillo has a team leading +7 rating currently and the team’s record is 9-6-1 when he plays and 1-7-1 when he doesn’t. Perhaps coach Micheletto is unaware of those stats, which would be disappointing. Or perhaps he doesn’t care and will fill out his lineup as he sees fit. If that’s the case, I don’t think he’s putting the players on the ice who give the team the best chance to win. And the stats support that.
Busillo likely would’ve been a defensive upgrade from DeAngelo, who has not played terrible at the position but is still noticeably learning how to play the new role, or Darren Rowe, who had a game he’d like to forget. Rowe was on the ice for all four of Merrimack’s goals, three of which came directly as a result of his being out of position or a misplay of his. It’s known that Rowe is not the strongest defenseman on the squad, but when he’s contributing offensively and playing adequate defense he’s able to negate that potential defensive liability. Yesterday was one of the games when that wasn’t the case.
There were only a few positives yesterday. Kevin Boyle was certainly one of them, making a season-high 37 saves on the night and keeping the game close throughout. Branden Gracel got the ultimate revenge on referees Kevin Shea and Chris Federico for the piss-poor misconduct call on Allen by scoring probably the prettiest goal of the season. I won’t try to describe it, just check out the highlights (and lowlights) at the bottom of the post. Eddie Olczyk scored his second goal of the season, a nice wrister thanks to a great feed from Zack LaRue.
Not getting any points this past weekend hurts because UMass now has Maine and Vermont breathing down their neck. In 8th place, Vermont is just one point behind and Maine is two points back. The Minutemen do have a game in hand on those two, but the prospect of missing the Hockey East playoffs is still very possible with just four weekends of hockey left.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Kevin Boyle
Gracel had the play of the game but Boyle was the only reason UMass even had a chance to win this game.
Here’s the game story from the Eagle-Tribune.
Boyle’s 37 saves were unfortunately not enough to get him recognized as a Top Performer by Hockey East.
Lowell, this weekend’s opponent, is ranked 14th in this week’s polls.