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May 6, 2017

Offense stutters in loss to Providence

The No. 17 Massachusetts hockey team put up five goals against Providence on Friday night in a 5-3 win. But on Saturday, there was little offense to be found as the Minutemen fell in a frustrating 2-1 loss.

UMass outshot the Friars 48-28 in the second game of the home-and-home series but lacked prime-scoring opportunities. Though the shot differential looked good for the Minutemen on paper, most bids were easy game for Friars goalkeeper Alex Beaudry.

“[Beaudry] made some good saves, particularly in the third period. I thought for the first two period, the saves he made were fairly easy. I don’t think we made it difficult … I think for the first two periods is was an easy game for him and in the third period he made big saves when he was called upon to make them.”

Even with the one-goal effort, the Minutemen (4-1-0, 3-1-0 Hockey East) have the top-scoring offense in the conference, averaging 3.8 goals per game, compared to the Friars’ 3.0 goals per game. UMass is particularly successful in the power play, converting 30.6 percent of the time when they have the man advantage, also tops in the conference.

Such success was not lost on Friars coach Tim Army heading into the game as it played a key factor in the difference between the Minutemen attack Friday and Saturday.

“If you look at it [Friday] night, take the empty net goal, it’s a 4-3 game. They score three power-play goals, we score two. So it’s 1-1 even strength. So we took seven penalties [Friday] night, they took four. That was the difference,” Army said. “They’re one of the top teams in the country on the power play.”

UMass had five chances on the power play on Saturday, but failed to create much offense when the teams were even. The lone goal the Minutemen scored on the night occurred when Mark Fayne of the Friars broke his stick on the ice and received a two-minute minor for illegal equipment early in the third period. The ensuing penalty led to Matt Irwin’s team leading fifth goal of the season.

The rest of the offense, though, failed to produce much as poor ice conditions and over-complexity of the UMass offense led to visible frustration that was exacerbated by the lead Providence held for most of the game.

According to UMass coach Don Cahoon, the lack of production in the face of a physical Friars defense was a product of his players trying to do too much, something he tried to convey after two periods of scoreless play.

“At the end of the second period, I said ‘less is more, [get] a little bit grittier, let’s just make simple plays, advance the puck, get it to the net, crash, take the goalie’s eyes away, screen, win races to loose pucks, extend the play that way. But, as a group, we weren’t willing to do that.”

Friars defense rock solid

While the UMass offense struggled on Saturday night, it was more of the same for a Providence squad that has been shutting down opponents all season.

The Friars lead the league in scoring defense, allowing just 2.0 goals per game. Beaudry has been a key factor in the team’s success. The sophomore has allowed just 12 goals in over 358 minutes in net while boasting a conference-high .939 save percentage.

Undefeated no more

Saturday’s loss ended the longest undefeated streak to start the season for the Minutemen since 2003.

Coincidentally, that team’s streak was also ended at 4-0 as well by Providence on Halloween. The score was 6-2 Friars, but the similarities are eerie nonetheless.

Nick O’Malley can be reached at nomalley@student.umass.edu.

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