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Preview ▲ Minutemen Close Out Regular Season With Series Versus #5 Providence

Providence Friars 23-5-4 (14-3-3) Hockey East 2nd

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Massachusetts Minutemen 8-20-4 (2-14-4) Hockey East 12th

The Minutemen hockey team did not enjoy the luck of the draw when it came to their opponent for the final weekend of the regular season.  Not only do they have to face defending national champion #5 Providence, but the Friars are playing some of their best hockey recently.  They’ve won their last six games straight and still have their eyes on winning the Hockey East regular season title.  UMass on the other hand does not have the same motivation coming into the weekend.  They do have a very outside chance to finish 11th in the league and stay out of the cellar, but to do so they’d need to win both games against the Friars and have New Hampshire sweep UConn.  The Minutemen will at least look to repeat last year when they upset the then #12 Friars on senior night when Frank Vatrano scored in overtime.  It was the last regular season win over a ranked team for UMass.

With star goaltender Jon Gillies leaving early for the pros it was thought that the Friars would struggle to repeat their success of last year.  But they quickly dispelled any thought of that by starting the season 12-0-3.  They’ve lost just five times since then with three of the losses coming to other teams ranked in the USCHO top ten.  They’ll be looking to grab all four points on the line this weekend since they’re currently two points behind league leaders Boston College with the Eagles holding the tiebreaker.

Playing the Friars this weekend will mean that UMass will have played four of the current top six defensive teams in the country, the others being Yale, Lowell, BC, and Quinnipiac.  The Friars have given up the 6th fewest goals on the season with 2.03 per game.  Junior goaltender Nick Ellis had only played in 12 games before this season but his play this season has made the Friars’ transition from the Gillies era in net much smoother than expected.  Ellis has the 4th most wins in the country and is 12th in save percentage with .930.  One break in UMass’ favor is that Providence will be without star defenseman Jake Walman who is out until the playoffs.  The sophomore has 13 goals and 15 assists on the season.  Providence has also had to make due without junior blueliner Anthony Florentino in recent weeks as he has been hurt as well.  From what I can tell his status this weekend is unknown.

The defenseman Walman is tied for the team lead in goals with senior center Mark Jankowski and senior wing Brandon Tanev.  The Friars have another player with double digits in goals in senior Trevor Mingoia.  Providence is known as a tough defensive team, but don’t sleep on their goalscoring.  Their 3.34 goals per game is the 10th most in the country.  They have the 12th most shots on goal per game with 32.9.  UMass has struggled against teams with the top possession stats this year and Providence boasts the 9th best even strength Corsi.  The Minutemen will need to get in the passing lanes and disrupt Providence’s game flow while doing their best to maintain possession and most importantly hit outlet passes this weekend.

As mentioned, UMass doesn’t have much to play for when it comes to the standings.  Even if they were to get all the breaks to go their way and they finish 11th it won’t mean much from an opponent standpoint.  The Minutemen can come out strong and do their best to send off seniors Shane Walsh and Ben Gallacher with a win on Friday however.  That seemed to be part of the motivation that led to their upset of the Friars for last year’s senior night.  It remains to be seen what role, if any, the fact that Friday’s game could be the last for coach John Micheletto at the Mullins Center will play in terms of the team’s play.

The Minutemen have played some good periods here and there in recent weeks but have rarely strung two strong periods together, much less execute over a full 60 minutes.  They’ll have to figure out a way to do so this weekend if they want to gain a win over this Providence team, even if the Friars are shorthanded on the blueline.  In addition to sending the seniors off for a win, it’d be nice to see the loyal fans who are still attending games see a victory as well.  The last win at the Mullins was November 7th over UConn, also the last Hockey East win for the team.  Tomorrow is Fan Appreciation night.  Forget the T-shirts and the other gimmicks.  I’m sure those remaining souls in the stands would settle for once last victory before this disappointing season comes to an end.

Weekend Preview from UMass Athletics.

The Collegian had features for each of the seniors who will play tomorrow night.  Ross Gienieczko has this piece on Shane Walsh while Jason Kates as a write-up on Ben Gallacher.

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5 Comments

  1. RDW

     /  February 27, 2016

    #NOTALLRIGHT

    Like

  2. Anonymous

     /  February 27, 2016

    we must lead the league in allowing short handed goals

    Like

  3. Anonymous

     /  February 27, 2016

    Disagree with your Tweet. Going to BU. You wait 🙂

    Like

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