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Preview ▲ Four Hockey East Points On The Line As Maine Visits UMass

Maine Black Bears 5-15-6 (2-8-2) Hockey East 12th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 7-14-4 (2-9-4) Hockey East T-10th

The Massachusetts hockey team last gained a league point on 11/21 with a tie against Merrimack.  They have lost their last seven Hockey East games since and have been unable to make any headway in the conference standings.  The last place Maine Black Bears coming to the Mullins Center for two games represents UMass’ best chance to get a win since facing Army to begin the calendar year.  There are a lot of factors that favor the Minutemen in this matchup, but Maine should not be overlooked.  We’ve learned the hard way in recent years that nothing should be taken for granted with this UMass team.

Perhaps the biggest reason why UMass has a good chance of having success against Maine this weekend is that they’ve already beaten the Black Bears once this season.  The opening game of the Capital City Classic in October was a back and forth affair that saw Maine tie the game with two 3rd period goals to send it to overtime.  Ray Pigozzi won it with a game winning goal 2:14 into the extra frame to give UMass the 5-4 decision.  Dennis Kravchenko had two goals against Black Bear goaltender Rob McGovern.

That game was one of the rare high scoring games for Maine on the season.  They’ve averaged just 1.77 goals per game this year.  That is the 2nd fewest in college hockey with only first year program Arizona State scoring less often.  Maine also has the third worst power play in the country, converting on just 10.7% of their chances.  Maine is led offensively by seniors Will Merchant (8 goals) and Steven Swavely (7 goals).

While Maine’s goals against per game of 3.15 is better than UMass’ Hockey East worst of 3.88, it’s still not that great.  There’s a good chance UMass will see both McGovern in net for Maine as well as junior Matt Morris, as the duo have been rotating starts in goal recently.  They both have an identical .908 save percentages, but Morris has four of the team’s five wins.

This is frankly the worst Maine team in memory.  They find themselves in the league basement, two points behind the Minutemen, because the simply cannot score goals.  They come into the weekend on a six game winless streak.  But, so does UMass.  In fact the Minutemen have lost six straight and there are still reasons why they should be wary of this Black Bear team.

While Maine was swept easily by Boston University last weekend, in the previous Tuesday they managed to tie top ranked Quinnipiac 3-3.  That’s something UMass was unable to do in two games against the Bobcats.  They also took UMass to the brink earlier in the season when UMass was playing much better hockey than they are currently.  Again, Maine has won five times since these teams met last while UMass has only won three game in that span.

There are a couple statistics that should be a major concern for UMass this weekend.  While Maine has struggled to get the puck in the back of the net, that doesn’t mean they don’t generate a lot of shots.  Maine is 16th in the country in terms of shots on goal with 32.6.  UMass is 0-10-1 in games against teams in the top 20 in shots on goals, being outscored 53-18 in those games.  Nearly a 3 to 1 margin.  The Black Bears are a much better possession team than UMass with a Corsi of 50 compared to the Minutemen’s 42.9, 4th worst in the country.  Maine may not have many finishers on their team, but they control the puck quite well and that could be a significant problem for a UMass team that is averaging just 20.5 shots on goal in their last 6 games.

The good news is UMass had a bit of an offensive revival in last Saturday’s game against Vermont.  The four goals was the most for the team since November 7th against UConn.  And those goals came from Kravchenko, Austin Plevy, and Patrick Lee, all players who will need to step it up so UMass can become more than a one line threat.

With a successful weekend UMass can put some distance between them and last place in Hockey East.  With a bad weekend and UMass could find themselves in the Hockey East basement.  Maine is a beatable team, especially considering that UMass will be playing at home rather than having to bus up to Orono.  These are the most winnable games left on the schedule besides a non-conference mid-week affair with AIC.  Maine hasn’t won a single game on the road this season.  Even a split really isn’t enough at this point in time for UMass.  As bad as things are for the program right now the Minutemen can’t settle for three points this weekend.  Anything less will be a disappointment.

Series preview from UMass Athletics.

Opportunity knocks this weekend, says the Collegian preview.

Here’s a Maine point-of-view from the Bangor Daily News.

Masslive has an interesting article on how the struggles of the UMass sports teams, including hockey, affects local businesses, specifically the Hangar.  At the same time, I don’t want to think of how much money I’ve spent there since the beginning of the season.

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3 Comments

  1. umassattack

     /  January 28, 2016

    This is with out a doubt….. the Minutemen’s make or break week-end!

    Like

  2. umassattack

     /  January 30, 2016

    Another no intensity game played tonight by our Minutemen.

    Like

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