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Minutemen hoping to defeat Black Bears, stay undefeated

Looking to continue its fast start to begin the season, the Massachusetts hockey team will take on Hockey East rival Maine on Friday night at the Mullins Center.

After defeating Rensselaer and No. 3 Boston University, the Minutemen (2-0-0, 1-0-0 HEA) are currently one of eight teams in the country to start the year unbeaten.

UMass coach Don Cahoon is pleased with the strong start, but knows that the team must stay within itself and take it one game at a time.

“There’s no magic to it. Keep it simple and stay with the task day by day,” he said.
Despite upsetting defending national champion BU, 3-2, last Friday, the Minutemen did not move into the national rankings. Cahoon, however, realizes that rankings are insignificant at the moment and doesn’t want the team to dwell on them.

“It just tells you what possibly people’s perceptions are at this point in time, but they truly don’t matter,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want to be ranked, we want to be playing well enough to be ranked and ranked high.”

Maine will mark the third straight contest for UMass at home. The Minutemen have a home-heavy schedule to begin the season, with seven of their first nine contests taking place at the Mullins Center.

The home ice advantage will be significant against the Black Bears (1-3-0) with the series between the two teams in the last four years hinging on location. Since 2005-06, UMass is 7-0-0 at home against Maine, while the Black Bears are 5-0-1 at Alfond Arena in Orono.

After dropping the first three games of its season, Maine picked up a 5-3 victory in its last meeting with Michigan State. While the Black Bears have had their struggles the past few seasons, Cahoon isn’t taking them lightly and dismissed the notion of this being a trap game.

“They’ve got good goaltending and they have a couple of special players. I don’t think they’re any less or any more of a threat than most of the teams in our league,” he said. “People suggest a letdown but there is no reason to letdown, every team in this league can beat us and it’s a question of us taking care of our own business.”

In the all-time series, Maine leads 39-13-5 over UMass dating back to 1978 when the Black Bears won 13 of the first 14 meetings. The Minutemen though, took two of three games from the Black Bears last season and since 2005-06, the series has been balanced at 7-7-1.

In their final contest last year, UMass won 4-3 after topping Maine in overtime, 4-3, the night before. The Minutemen were up 4-0 heading into the third period, but the lead quickly evaporated when the Black Bears scored three times in the final 20 minutes. Maine outshot UMass, 34-27, including an 18-7 advantage in the final period, and found opportunities with the Minutemen being issued 53 penalty minutes. UMass hung on for the victory, but all three games against the Black Bears were decided by one score.

“Maine presents problems and we’re going to have to be efficient and thorough,” Cahoon said. “It’s not about Maine, it’s not about Merrimack, it’s not about BC, it’s not about BU. It’s about us and what we need to do to succeed.”

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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