Massachusetts Minutemen 7-17-4 (2-12-4) Hockey East 12th
AIC Yellow Jackets 5-22-2 (5-16-2) Atlantic Hockey T-10th
UMass hockey’s best chance to break their current 10 game losing streak will take place tomorrow night as they’ll take the short ride down I-91 to face AIC at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The Yellow Jackets have one of the lowest win totals in all college hockey with five and are currently dead last in the KRACH ratings, even behind first year program Arizona State. UMass’ skill differential should mean they’ll win easily. But the Minutemen lost to this AIC program just two years ago, so obviously they should not overlook their Western Mass neighbors.
On paper this game could be a barn-burner as it boasts the two worst defensive teams in the country. AIC is dead last in goals against with 4.14 while UMass is just in front of them with 4.04. AIC is also last in shots on goal against with 38.1. Sophomore Alex Murray has seen the most action in net for the Jackets. While his 5-16-2 record and 3.57 goals against average aren’t impressive, he does have have a .904 save percentage which seems to indicate his other stats are not entirely his fault.
Offensively the Yellow Jackets are paced by junior Austin Orszulak who has 10 goals and 10 assists on the season and is coming off a two goal game against Niagara. AIC is averaging just over two goals per game. UMass will likely want to stay out of the penalty box as AIC does boast a respectable power play at 15.8%.
UMass has shown in their most recent games against Vermont and Boston University that they’re capable of playing well in stretches. But they really need to start playing full games or they’re going to have a tough time getting that elusive eight win. The third period against UVM and the opening minutes against BU doomed the Minutemen in both games and prevented them from getting a victory no matter how well they played in the other parts of the game.
UMass will have five games left in the regular season, including four league games, after tomorrow’s match against AIC and they desperately need to get on the winning track. This past weekend’s Hockey East results have put UMass two points behind Merrimack and Maine. Since both those teams own tiebreakers on UMass it means the Minutemen will need at least a win and a tie in these final weeks just for a chance to finish out of last pace. That means UMass needs momentum. A win against AIC will at least get UMass off this recent slide and give them something to build off of heading into this weekend’s series with a hot Northeastern team. But a loss will make an already disappointing season worse and will be a further embarrassment for this program.
The big news around the Massachusetts hockey program today was that the Minutemen will be travelling to Belfast, Ireland next Thanksgiving weekend to take part in the 2nd annual Friendship Four tournament. They’ll play Vermont in a game that will count towards the Hockey East stands before taking on either Quinnipiac or St Lawrence. The games take place at SSE Arena, home of the Belfast Giants. The Lowell River Hawks won the inaugural Belpot this past November.
College Hockey News projects the final Hockey East standings using the KRACH rankings (UMass stays in last).