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Recap ▲ Maine Sweeps UMass Into The Hockey East Basement

Even when the Massachusetts season started its downward turn and more recently when the team dropped games to Boston University and Boston College by the scores of 7-2 and 8-0, I still felt confident that the team would at least be able to get one conference win when Maine visited this weekend.  After all, Maine is one of the worst teams in the country.  In addition having one of the most ineffective offenses in college hockey this Black bear team had won exactly zero games away from Alfond Arena.  So it seemed logical that at worst UMass would manage a split.  But for the second night in a row Maine dominated in terms of possession and grabbed the narrow 5-4 win.  The sweep at the hands of the Black Bears means the Minutemen are now in sole possession of last place in Hockey East.

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Recap ▲ UMass Falls 5-2, Hands Maine Their First Road Win Of Season

This weekend’s series against last place Maine appeared to be an ideal opportunity for the Minutemen to gain valuable Hockey East points, grab their first Hockey East win since early November, and create some momentum heading into the final stretch of the season.  They may still achieve some of those goals with a win tonight.  But UMass kicked off the weekend with an incredibly disappointing 5-2 loss to the Black Bears that made official the fact that the season has become nothing short of a train-wreck.

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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.

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Preview ▲ UMass Hits The Road To Take On UNH, #13 Merrimack

New Hampshire Wildcats 3-4-2 (1-0-2) Hockey East 8th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 6-3-2 (2-2-2) Hockey East T-5th

The Massachusetts hockey team will hit the road this weekend to face a couple Hockey East foes they’ve already seen once this weekend.  On Friday the Minutemen head to Durham to take on the team that was part of their most memorable game this season.  On 10/23 the New Hampshire Wildcats visited the Mullins and were up 6-1 with a little more than a period left before UMass roared back to secure maybe the best tie in the history of the program.  On Saturday the Minutemen will take on Merrimack, who they just faced and lost 4-2 to last weekend, at Lawler Rink in North Andover.

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Weekend Wrap-Around ▲ Plevy Named Hockey East Rookie Of The Week

For the second time this season Minuteman freshman Austin Plevy was named Hockey East Rookie of the Week.  Plevy had four points this past weekend, including a one goal, two assist effort on Saturday.  Plevy is tied with UConn’s Alex Letunov for Hockey East freshman goal scoring with 6 apiece.

graphic by Hockey East

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Recap ▲ Minutemen Down Maine In Overtime, Will Face #13 Yale In Capital City Championship

Another dramatic performance for the Massachusetts hockey team in last night’s 5-4 overtime win over Maine in the opener of the Capital City Classic puts the Minutemen in a historic position.  With their 4-0-1 record to start the season it’s the first time in the program’s history that the team has been unbeaten through its first five games.  To extend that streak to six games the Minutemen will have to overcome its toughest test yet when they face the #13 Yale Bulldogs in the tournament championship game tonight.

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Preview ▲ Unbeaten Minutemen Travel To Capital City Classic

The Massachusetts Minutemen hope to continue their strong start to the season as they head south to Trenton, New Jersey where they’ll spend Halloween weekend participating in the Capital City Classic.  UMass will take on the Maine Black Bears in a non-conference matchup on Friday evening before facing either #13 Yale or Princeton on Saturday.  This weekend’s action will represent the beginning of the regular season for the two Ivy League participants.

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Recruit Update: Leonard Named To Herald’s Dream Team

It’s been a little while so time to see how the recruits who are still playing are doing.  It’s very likely that we’ll see a few more recruits join this list in the coming months.  The team is losing 5 forwards, 3 defensemen and a goalie to graduation or early departure but only have 3 forwards, 2 or 3 defensemen (depending on when McCarthy arrives), and a goaltender line up for next fall currently.  So very likely that we could see a couple more forwards and maybe a defenseman added to next year’s incoming class.

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Saturday Recap

With their backs against the wall and missing the playoffs a distinct possibility, the Massachusetts hockey team came together and put in a very solid game on the way to a 5-2 win over Maine.  It was an interesting game as the teams sort of traded periods.  Luckily for the Minutemen they owned the first and third and got the much needed win.

UMass came out skating hard and taking the puck immediately to Martin Ouellette who had completely stymied them the night before.  They were rewarded for their efforts with a 2-0 lead just eight minutes into the game on goals by Adam Phillips and Branden Gracel.  Gracel’s goal was particular exciting as he let go a perfectly placed slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle to find the back of the net.  Gracel returned to form in the faceoff circle last night as well, winning 14 of the 16 opportunities he had.

The Black Bears would make the most of the opportunities in the second however scoring a couple goals under two minutes apart early on in the period, one coming on the power play.  But UMass would own the third.  Zack LaRue scored a huge goal early on in the period to break the tie.  Conor Sheary would go far side on a sliding Ouellette to make it 4-2, setup by a nice cross-ice pass from Joel Hanley who had three assists last night.  Finally captain Kevin Czepiel would seal the game with an empty net goal late.

The team played well.  It wasn’t quite as easy as the final score might suggest.  Maine continued to play them tough, taking advantage of the extra man opportunities they got for the second straight night.  But what was the difference for UMass was a consistent effort all night long.  They played with energy and determination all game.  They did the little things like crashing the net which is how Phillips and LaRue got their goals.  They’ll need to keep that kind of effort and attitude over the course of the next two weeks.  Although they moved back into the 8th place spot with the win, Maine is still just one point behind and has an easier schedule with two home games against last place Northeastern left.  UMass on the other hand will have to find away to claw some points away from New Hampshire and Merrimack to make sure their season extends beyond March 9th.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Zack LaRue
LaRue hasn’t scored a lot of goals in his UMass career.  In fact last night’s was only his second.  But it was a big one in that it broke the tie, but also that it set the tone for the third period that UMass dominated.

Here’s the Republican game story.

College Hockey News has their takeaways.

Ouellette tells the Bangor Daily News that the whistle should’ve blown before LaRue’s gamewinner.

Friday Recap

Let’s face it, when it comes to Maine there are really only two players you have to worry about this season; Martin Ouellette and Joey Diamond.  So when news came out just before the game that Diamond did not make the trip from Orono due to a back injury, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that UMass would pick up the win last night.  After all, Diamond had accounted for over 1/5th of all goals for Maine this season and is really their only threat on offense.  Also missing would be his agitating style of play, allowing the Minutemen to remain focused on the task at hand and keep their heads.  Well Ouellette and the Minutemen’s own subpar play negated Diamond’s absence and the Black Bears were the victors by the score of 2-0.  The loss knocks the Minutemen into 9th place in Hockey East.  If the league playoffs started today UMass would not be participating in it for the first time since 2002.

Ouellette deserves all the accolades from last night’s win.  Not only did he pick up the win but he made some spectacular plays while doing so.  Coming halfway across the net in the second period to rob K.J. Tiefenwerth with his glove may be the best save I’ve seen all year.  His play does not excuse the Minutemen for last night’s loss however.  There was a glaring lack of energy and a lack of focus on the team’s part.  Aspects of the game that were huge strengths just a month ago are now obvious deficiencies, such as faceoffs and the penalty kill.  The power play last night was abysmal, generating just four shots in three full opportunities.

Has the team packed it in for the season?  It sure as hell looks like it.  A loss tonight would sink the Minutemen to three points behind Maine and out of the playoffs while also giving the Black Bears the tie breaker.  Right now it seems extremely unlikely that UMass would gain much in terms of points in the following two weekends against New Hampshire and Merrimack, the leagues two hottest teams.  Maine on the other hand has an easier schedule with two games left against last place Northeastern.  That pretty much adds up to the prospect of playoffs for the Minutemen coming down to the 60 minutes on the ice tonight.  Let’s see if the team can play like the season is on the line.  Because it is.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steve Mastalerz
It’s never easy to be cold on the bench and have to come into the game midway through a period.  But that’s what Mastalerz was called to do last night when Coach Micheletto, looking to send a message to the team, pulled Kevin Boyle in the second.  Mastalerz was up to the task and turned away all eight shots faced.

Mick will continue to press buttons to try to get the team back winning again per the Republican game story.

The Collegian points out that just three weeks ago UMass was looking to move into 5th place in the standings.

Michael King has the game story for College Hockey News.

Here’s how things looked for the Bangor Daily News.

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