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Irwin scoring, Marcou honored

The power play unit of the Massachusetts hockey team dominated in the win over Rensselaer last Thursday, scoring four of its five goals on the man advantage.

Both of defenseman Matt Irwin’s goals came on power plays in the third period, as the Minutemen defeated the Engineers, 5-2 in its first game of the 2009 season. The high-intensity game saw 24 penalties issued between both teams, 14 by RPI, as officials issued four penalties for hitting after the whistle and two for roughing.

Last season, UMass (1-0) scored roughly 25 percent (31) of its goals on the man advantage, and had a .170 conversion percentage.

Irwin believes that the Minutemen won’t see games with as many penalties as they saw against the Engineers as the season goes on, but that doesn’t mean that UMass can take early-season games lightly.

“We started off slow in the first period, 0-for-4 [in power play opportunities] but in the second and third periods we picked it up. When you get a chance like that, especially in five-on-three’s and four on three’s, you have to make something happen, and fortunately we did that,” Irwin said.

In terms of UMass’ upcoming game against No. 2 Boston University on Friday, Irwin knows that the Terriers return younger members of the front-line unit that led the conference in scoring last season, and pose a threat offensively in 2009.

He knows the caliber team that UMass faces, and judges goals on effectiveness, not style points.

“They don’t have to be pretty, they all count,” Irwin said. “We have to put shots to the net, and hopefully get a rebound and get an ugly goal.”

Marcou recognized

Junior James Marcou earned Hockey East Performer of the Week honors for his career-high-tying four assists against RPI Thursday, as the All-American winger helped on four of the five goals scored by the Minutemen on the night. At least for one night, Marcou helped Irwin become the then-leading scorer (two goals) in the nation, and also aided freshman Rocco Carzo in attaining his first goal of his collegiate career.

This is not the first time Marcou has earned the Hockey East Conference distinction. Last season, he received the award during the week of Nov. 3 and Feb. 23. During those weeks, Marcou tallied three goals, five assists and one goal, four assists, respectively. Marcou facilitated Chase Langeraap’s game-tying goal to send a game against Maine into overtime, where Brian Keane would score the winning goal for the Minutemen, 11 seconds into sudden death.

Marcou is a player who makes his teammates better while sharpening his own skills as well.

“I don’t think James tailors his game around any other player,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “I think he just has a [skill set] in himself, and it’s just an incredible amount of hockey sense and savvy. He makes other people better by getting people pucks at opportune times on a regular basis.”

Marcou had seven multi-assist games last season, and compiled five multi-game assist streaks, including a six-game span between Jan. 10-Jan. 30, when he tallied 10 assists.

Hockey East Play Begins

Unlike many collegiate sports, hockey injects conference play almost immediately into team schedules.

The Minutemen face the first of three October Hockey East opponents Friday in the Terriers. The game serves as the defending national champion Terriers’ season opener, as UMass eagerly anticipates the matchup. The Minutemen defeated 2007 national champion and Hockey East foe Boston College in their first meeting last season, and look to deny any momentum of yet another defending champion.

“Regardless of what this game means,” said Cahoon, “the two points count.”         

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at mgillmei@student.umass.edu.

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