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Minutemen play home-and-home with Hockey East Friars

After getting off to its best league start since 1995-96, the Massachusetts hockey team will look to continue its success when it takes on Hockey East foe Providence in a home-and-home series this weekend.

The No. 17 Minutemen (3-0-0, 2-0-0 HEA) began the season defeating Boston University and Maine in their first two conference matchups and now remain the only team in the Hockey East with an undefeated-league record.

Though the strong start and national ranking is a good beginning for UMass, junior goalkeeper Paul Dainton knows that it’s too early in the season to be talking about accomplishments.

“Getting off to a good start is huge, and it’s going to help us build momentum,” he said. “Then again, you don’t win any trophies at the start of the year. We just have to not so much focus on what we’ve done, but where we’re going.”

For the first time this season, UMass will go on the road Friday for an away game after playing the first three games at the Mullins Center.

“First road trip is going to be fun,” Dainton said. “I know a lot of the guys are excited to get out there and prove that we can do the same thing on the road that we’ve done at home.”

“It’s a new test for us – a test that we haven’t submitted ourselves to,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “It will be a whole new mindset, a whole new set of challenges and a whole new preparation for us.”

The first road game will also be a test for the freshmen players on the Minutemen squad. Younger players, such as Rocco Carzo, who have contributed this season, will get their first taste of an away-collegiate crowd.

“I think they’ll be fine by just seeing how they’ve been at home and how they’ve gelled with the team,” Dainton said. “You wouldn’t be able to tell they were underclassmen. They play well above their level, and they’ve adapted very well.”

On the flip side, Providence will be playing only its second home game this season after going on the road for four-straight games following its season opening win in its home rink against Holy Cross.

In their four away contests, the Friars split a series with Notre slots online spielen Dame and swept Bowling Green in back-to-back games by a combined total score of 11-3.

The last matchup with the Falcons (0-4-0, 0-0-0 Central Collegiate Hockey Association) ended, 3-1, in favor of Providence, but the score was misleading regarding how closely contested the game really was.

The two teams were deadlocked in a 1-1 tie through most of the game, with Bowling Green leading for only one minute, eight seconds in the first period. Late in the third period though, the Friars broke through and scored two goals in the last four minutes of the contest to take the victory.

In the all-time series with Providence, the Minutemen trail 19-31-3 since 1931 when the two teams first met. Providence won 12 of the first 13 matchups, but since 2006-07, UMass has gone 4-3-2.

Last year, UMass took the season series, winning two of three games. The first two contests were won decisively by the Minutemen, who had a combined total score of 14-5.

In the last game, the play was closer as the two teams were knotted at four until the last minute of regulation. Though UMass outshot the Friars 46-31 and didn’t allow any power plays, it was Providence who came out on top.

With 53 seconds remaining in the game, the Friars’ Matt Taormina sent a shot from the blue line which beat UMass’ goalkeeper Dan Meyers for the game-winner.

Despite the struggles Providence faced last season, it has the feeling of a different team this year, something that’s not lost on Cahoon.

“They’re playing with a renewed confidence and a renewed sprit, if you will, from previous years,” Cahoon said. “They’re going to be dangerous and particularly hard in their building.”

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

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