The collective groan from Massachusetts hockey fans across the Commonwealth was nearly audible when Catamount Colin Markinson put home a Henry Dill rebound just 47 seconds into tonight’s game. At the time it seemed more like UVM had just gone up 15 to 1 coming out of some never ending intermission from last Saturday instead of having taken a quick lead in the annual Thanksgiving Tuesday game between these two traditional foes. Surely, most thought, that immediate goal would lead to an avalanche of others and the Minutemen would be embarrassed like they were on Saturday, but this time in front of an international TV audience.
But, a funny thing happened to that expected narrative. It didn’t happen. UMass would end up putting in a pretty solid first period in the final 19 minutes and at the end of 1 the score was still 1-0 and the Minutemen were still in it. For the majority of the frame in fact they were the better team. The Catamounts would gain the better team title in the second and extend their lead to 3-0 by the end of two. But UMass hung in there, played fairly well in the third, got a token goal in the final seconds of the game, and left Gutterson with a 3-1 loss over the #13 team in the country. Is that good? Is it bad? I think we can agree it was eons better than Saturday. Should we have expected them to win? Doubtful. Should we be happy? I don’t think so. But, we didn’t see a repeat of the lack of effort and pride that punctuated Saturday, so I guess we can call it progress.
In terms of the positives to take away from tonight it’s probably more just in terms of the effort. There were times where the team looked a little disinterested, but for the most time their focus stayed on the game and they did their best to stay in it. They didn’t let the game get out of hand. It was good to see Dennis Kravchenko get the late, though meaningless, goal after being held without a shot on goal last weekend. He played much better and got some praise from Tom Caron and Billy Jaffe during the broadcast.
There were more negatives on the night, as you’d expect during a loss. While the team matched Vermont’s shot total with 28, they really needed to get more creative and challenging if they were going to win this game. The Vermont defense and Brody Hoffman are just too good to take lazy shots from the top of the slot or the point. UMass desperately needed to recapture some of that creative passing that made the NCAA highlights against Michigan State, getting the goaltender moving side to side across his crease. That didn’t happen too much tonight. The power play was pretty disappointing, going 0 for 4. The team is 1 for 13 on the power play in the last three games. The real killer on the power play was at the end of the second and beginning of the third when they had a two man advantage which would have instantly put them back in the game. But they failed to score during that key opportunity. Their penalty kill is struggling in the last three games as well, giving up six power play goals in 12 opportunities. The defense has to improve. There are still too many turnovers occurring in the defensive or neutral zone. In fact Vermont’s first goal came directly off a missed clear by Patrick Lee. Vermont’s second goal was due to the defensemen pinching too far in and Dill not being able to stop the quasi-breakaway.
UMass has another quick turnaround to deal with coming up. After bussing home tonight they’ll enjoy a Thanksgiving in Amherst before playing a home and home with #14 Quinnipiac, starting in Connecticut on Friday. UMass desperately needs some momentum from these games going into their two game series at home with Notre Dame. The games against the Irish will represent the last chance to gain some much needed conference points before the end of the calendar year. They didn’t get any points tonight, but at least the team tried to show that they were not going to repeat what transpired Saturday. Tonight wasn’t that satisfying, but maybe the world isn’t ending either. They got beat by a much better team.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Dennis Kravchenko
Kravchenko’s lack of offensive presence was sorely missed on Friday and Saturday so it was good to see him get back in the groove tonight, even if his goal didn’t come until the game had already been decided. UMass is going to need consistent output from him if they want to reverse their fortunes going forward.
UMass is at the bottom of the SBN College Hockey Hockey East Power Rankings.
Mike McMahon has updated his Hockey East Stat Pack (which got a shout out during tonight’s broadcast). Not necessarily for the faint of heart.