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May 4, 2017

UNH’s Bobby Butler continues success against UMass

New Hampshire’s Bobby Butler once again victimized the Massachusetts hockey team as the Wildcats split a relatively penalty-free weekend of play with the Minutemen.

Butler came into the weekend as a notorious UMass-killer for his career. In the final tilt of a home-and-home series last season, he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to lift then-No. 13 UNH over the Minutemen. Back in 2007, Butler poured in a goal in double overtime in the first semifinal game of the Hockey East Tournament to eliminate UMass.

“Great players like that, especially in this league, you just have to slow them down,” UMass’ Will Ortiz said of Butler after Saturday’s game.

The No. 14 Minutemen (8-2-0, 3-2-0 Hockey East), however, were not able to contain Butler over the weekend as he continued to add to his impressive resumè against UMass.

In a heartbreaking 4-3 loss in overtime for UNH on Friday, the senior scored his seventh goal of the season on a loose puck to give the Wildcats (3-6-2, 3-2-1 HEA) their first lead of the game.

On Saturday, Butler had another strong showing as he led UNH to a 4-2 victory, getting rid of the bad taste left by the previous game. He netted two goals in the contest and kicked off the scoring 16 minutes, 29 seconds into the game.

The three goals over the weekend for Butler marked the sixth, seventh and eighth scores of his career against UMass.

“He’s playing very well for us right now,” UNH coach Dick Umile said of Butler. “He’s one of our captains and he’s leading by example. He’s a goal scorer, we knew that coming in and he’s got stronger and learned how to play at the defensive end.”

Ortiz leading offense

For the Minutemen, Ortiz himself played well over the weekend as he scored his third goal of the season in Saturday’s loss while chipping in an assist on Friday. The senior has seven assists and three multi-point games this year, making him one of the offensive leaders of a high-powered attack.

UMass coach Don Cahoon feels like the dynamic winger has really come into his own this season.

“I think he’s playing with a renewed energy,” Cahoon said of Ortiz. “He brings an enthusiasm, an energy, and now that he’s shooting the puck so well it gives us an added offensive dimension.”

Second-period woes

Despite the success the Minutemen have had this season, their one Achilles’ Heel might be the second period.

Against Hockey East opponents, UMass has given up eight goals in the second frame while only scoring four, its only negative scoring output of any period.

It was no different over the weekend as the Minutemen were outscored 4-2 in the second period despite outshooting the Wildcats, 32-22.

“We worked our butt off and had nothing but a tie for the period to show for it,” Cahoon said after Saturday’s loss. “I think there was a real sense of urgency and the guys did a good job of changing the momentum of the game. With all that taking place, it still ended up an even period because we gave up two goals.”

Clean skating

The weekend also featured some relatively penalty-free hockey with only a minimal amount of penalties whistled.

Though UMass averages five penalties per game and forces opponents into seven penalties, the penalty box remained vacant for the most part against UNH.

“Well because we’ve gotten off to such a good start on the power play, teams have gone out of their way to stay out of the penalty kill with us,” Cahoon said.

The two teams combined for a total of seven penalties over the weekend and could not capitalize on the limited power-play opportunities.

“I haven’t been in a series in 15 years where there’s only been seven penalties called,” Cahoon said. “That’s not a knock on the referees, that’s just the way the games were played.”

Moving forward, lack of penalties won’t help the Minutemen as they boast one of the top power-play units in the Hockey East.

UMass will look to get back on track with a win when it heads on a three-game road trip beginning Thursday against Yale.

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

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