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Friday Recap

The Massachusetts hockey team went into Durham last night and did something they have not been able to do very often in recent years; get points.  With their playoff lives on the line it was absolutely necessary that they get at least a point out of the game, which they did with the 2-2 tie against New Hampshire.  It certainly would’ve been nice if they could’ve held on to a one goal lead with under a minute left in regulation.  But I think it’s more important to focus on the fact that they were able to get a point from the #5 team in the country on their home ice and as of this morning UMass is still in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot.

This was not a very entertaining game to watch in terms of aesthetics.  Both teams seemed to have major problems moving the puck and establishing good offensive possessions.  It was interesting to watch though as it was two teams battling back and forth in a game that meant a lot to both of them, with the Wildcats fighting for a regular season championship.  UMass struck first in the opening period on a Mike Pereira goal after a Conor Allen shot bounced off the glass and in front of the net where Pereira did the rest.  After being hot for most of February (Pereira was named a runner up for Player of the Month) he cooled off last weekend, registering zero points against Maine.  But the goal last night broke that brief scoreless streak and helped UMass establish themselves in the game.  The Wildcats would answer though with a power play goal half way through the game.

It would remain 1-1 until the end of the game.  Late in the third senior Eddie Olczyk scored his third goal of the season to put UMass ahead with just 65 seconds left.  But that lead wouldn’t hold and with the extra attacker UNH would tie with only 3.7 seconds left.  UMass would have the edge in shot in overtime, 5-4, but the game would end at two goals apiece.

Again, it wasn’t pretty.  It was a little disappointing not to get the win despite the late lead.  But the Minutemen wake up this morning tied in 8th with Maine and holding the tiebreaker in the form of conference wins (eight to Maine’s six).  At this point in the season I don’t think you can ask for more than that.  Their playoff prospects are still tenuous however.  Maine still has a game with Northeastern tonight and while the Black Bears are getting healthier with Joey Diamond and Kyle Beattie back the Huskies are without star Kevin Roy.  It’s probably a good bet that Maine will win or at least tie tonight, which means UMass will have to do their best to get some points tonight as well.  A Minuteman win and a Vermont loss would even vault UMass into 7th place, but at this point 8th and just getting in should be the goal.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steve Mastalerz
Like the overtime win over the Wildcats last November, this game was a goaltender duel.  However while that game featured the skills of Casey DeSmith versus Kevin Boyle, last night had DeSmith facing Steve Mastalerz.  Mastalerz played very well, especially early on when the Wildcats held a sizable advantage in shots.  He made 15 saves in the first period alone.

College Hockey News focuses on the superb play of the goaltenders.

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New Hampshire Preview

Massachusetts Minutemen 11-17-2 (8-14-1) Hockey East 8th

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New Hampshire Wildcats 17-8-5 (12-7-4) Hockey East T-1st

Massachusetts will attempt to stay ahead of Maine for 8th place and the final playoff this weekend.  It won’t be easy.  They’ll be heading to Durham, New Hampshire for two games with the Wildcats who have a lot to play for as well.  The Cats are part of a four way tie for first place in Hockey East with just two weekends to go, not to mention part of the logjam at the top of the standings that has six teams all within two points of each other.

UMass will look to recapture whatever they had going on at the beginning of November when they shocked then undefeated UNH at the Mullins Center.  Kevin Boyle outdueled Wildcat goaltender Casey DeSmith in the thrilling 2-1 overtime win for the Minutemen.  It’ll be harder to duplicate that kind of result this weekend at the Whittemore Center as the Cats are 9-3-1 at home this year.

Defense and DeSmith have been leading UNH to victories this year.  Their 2.30 goals allowed per game is best in Hockey East and a lot of that has to do with DeSmith who has a .925 save percentage this season.  The Cats have the third best penalty kill in the country at 89.9%.  Offensively they’ve relied on the play of forwards Austin Block, Grayson Downing, and Kevin Goumas, all of whom have at least 10 goals this season.

To stay ahead of the Black Bears in the playoff race UMass will have to do something they haven’t done in a very long time.  Win at New Hampshire.  The program hasn’t gained a victory there since the fall of 2006 when Jon Quick was still in net.  But they desperately need at least a split this weekend considering Maine will be hosting a much easier opponent at Alfond with the Northeastern Huskies.  Forget the quarterfinals in a couple weeks.  Playoff hockey starts tonight for the Minutemen.

Beer The Triangle
Since I’m busy this weekend and the games are televised on FCS/WBIN, I’ll be beering it from my couch.  Luckily being the beer snob I am my fridge has a nice selection of Heady Topper, Founders Breakfast Stout, and some Bell’s.  For those heading north though there aren’t many brewpubs better than the Portsmouth Brewery.

Here’s a preview from the Republican, the Daily Collegian, as well as the Concord Monitor.

 

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