UM to face national champs
In only its second game of the season, the Massachusetts hockey team will get a crack at the defending national champion and No. 2 ranked Boston University this Friday at the Mullins Center.
After a 5-2 win over Rensselaer last Thursday, UMass is searching for a 2-0-0 start and a second straight season with a victory against a defending national champion. Last season, the Minutemen defeated Boston College, 4-3 in overtime after dropping a 2-0 loss to the Eagles the previous night.
UMass coach Don Cahoon realizes this game is considered significant, but is treating it as if the Minutemen are playing any other opponent.
“Regardless of what this game means, the two points count, and count as much as any other two points, so for that reason alone, it’s an important game,” he said. “If you look at our schedule, there’re just a lot of big games. Sure, the fact that they won the national championship last year heightens everybody’s awareness of what this game’s all about, but there are a number of good teams on our schedule, and we’re going to play them multiple times.”
Cahoon’s players, however, realize what this game means, and are excited for the chance to play an opponent as high a caliber as the Eagles.
“When you get an opportunity to play the defending national champions in your own building, it’s definitely something everyone looks forward [to],” UMass’ leading scorer, Matt Irwin said. “It’s an opportunity to hopefully knock them down one game, and get off to a good start in the first two games of the season.”
BU meanwhile will open up regular season play after two exhibition games, in which the Terriers tied 2-2 and won 3-2 against St. Francis Xavier and the U.S. Under-18 Team, respectively.
In the all-time series, BU has dominated UMass with a 45-8-3 record dating back to 1919-20, when the Minutemen overpowered the Terries for a 10-2 victory in their first ever meeting.
The last three seasons have been much more evenly matched, with BU holding a slight edge of 4-3-2 over that span. UMass took the season series two years ago with two wins in three games, while the Terries reversed the series last season with two wins of their own.
In their first game in 2008-09, the Minutemen were able to defeat then No. 1 ranked BU, 5-1, for the Minutemen’s first win over a No. 1 team since bringing down Maine, 4-2 in 1995.
However, following the first matchup, the next two meetings were a different story. The Terriers controlled UMass, and decisively won on back-to-back days, 6-3 and 7-2.
“We played an excellent game the first game, and I don’t know if they took us lightly, but we knew what they were capable of doing,” Irwin said. “The following games, we got off to good starts, but with a team like that, you can’t let off.”
Cahoon has history with Terriers, having served as an assistant coach under BU coach Jack Parker in three different stints during 1974-79, 1987-88, and 1990-91. In his time as a player, Cahoon helped the Terriers win two national titles, though as a coach against BU, he hasn’t had much success, holding a 9-24-3 record against BU.
Nonetheless, Cahoon won’t be feeling many emotions when the Minutemen take on his alma mater.
“I’ve [played the Terriers] so many times. Maybe the first time at Princeton and the first time at UMass were unique experiences,” he said. “I’d like to play them for a Hockey East championship someday, or play them for a national championship someday, that would be a dream come true. Then, I might have some feelings.”
Jay Asser can be reached at email@example.com.