Minutemen look to make it four in a row against BulldogsAfter enjoying the friendly confines of the Mullins Center in seven of its first nine games, the Massachusetts hockey team will travel to New Haven for a three game stretch beginning with Yale tonight.
The No. 11 Minutemen are coming off their worst weekend of play in which they nearly dropped consecutive games to Hockey East opponent New Hampshire. UMass (7-2-0, 4-2-0 HEA) was able to steal a win from the Wildcats (3-6-2, 3-2-1 HEA) on Friday with a late second goal in the third period to tie the contest before scoring the game-winner in overtime.
On Saturday, the Minutemen struggled in keeping UNH off the board, losing 4-2, despite outshooting the Wildcats, 35-18.
Things won’t get any easier for UMass, as they get the No. 9 Bulldogs away from home tonight.
UMass coach Don Cahoon doesn’t look at this contest as a must-win with a big out-of-conference opponent, but sees it rather as any other game on the schedule.
“The truth of the matter is that every game we play is a big game, whether it is for league implication or national tournament implication, and our own joy of finding a way to win games,” Cahoon said. “There are a lot of other benefits to playing, but there’s no question that the fun’s in the winning.”
Yale (2-1-2, 1-1-2 Eastern College Athletic Conference) has gotten off to a slow start to its season in a relatively few amount of games. The Bulldogs are coming off a three-point conference weekend in which they defeated Cornell, 4-2, and tied Colgate, 3-3, in their first draw of the season.
In its home arena, Yale was 12-5-1 last season and is 1-0-1 so far this year. Though the Minutemen have won both of their road games this season, they have yet to play an opponent as good as the Bulldogs away from home.
In the all-time series between the two teams dating back to 1971, Yale and UMass have split it with three wins each. The Minutemen, however, have come out on top in the last three meetings.
The Bulldogs’ last contest against a team from the Hockey East was the 2009 NCAA East Regional, a game in which they lost to Vermont by a 4-1 score. In its last Hockey East meeting prior to that, Yale lost 2-1 in overtime to Boston University. In fact, the Bulldogs have not had a win over a Hockey East opponent since the 2006 season, when they defeated UNH, 4-3, in overtime.
Yale has played its best hockey late in games this season, holding a 9-2 advantage in the third period. The most important stat tonight though, could be the number of penalties and how the two teams are able to capitalize on them.
Last weekend, UNH did a good job of limiting the penalties, not giving UMass many chances to use its strong power play unit.
Against the Bulldogs, Cahoon wants his team to force the issue and create penalties on the opposition.
“We have to do a better job of pushing the play a little bit to create calling a penalty,” he said. “We have to play a little quicker, make them haul us down speed wise, and get to the front of the net where they end up maybe using their stick.”
UMass is 12-42 on the power-play this season, while Yale has a 76.2 percent success rate on the penalty kill. How well those two units play tonight could determine the outcome between these two highly-ranked teams.
“They’ve got three great center icemen, they score goals and have a good power-play themselves,” Cahoon said. “They play with a lot of confidence and win a large majority of their games at home, so I have a feeling that we have our work cut out for us.”
Jay Asser can be reached at email@example.com.