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Minutewomen look to extend four-game winning streak

The Massachusetts women’s club hockey team looks to continue its four-game winning streak, as they face Rhode Island this weekend. UMass will travel to Brad Boss Arena in Kingston, R.I., to face URI on its home ice.

The Minutewomen (4-2) are coming off a road sweep of Vermont, where they defeated the Catamounts 5-1 Friday and 3-2 Saturday. Generating offense was something UMass struggled with during its first two games of the season, when it only scored two goals. However, the offensive attack is something UMass coach Chris Cobb has been working on in practice, and the results are proof. The Minutewomen outshot UVM 56-37, along with increasing its number of goals scored to 22 in four consecutive wins.

Impressive goaltending was also mentioned by Cobb as a strength on defense. UMass has allowed 11 total goals this season, which is second best in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

Cobb feels prepared to play against the Rams, whom have been a long time rival of the Minutewomen in the ACHC.

“This is a veteran team that has a lot of seniors,” Cobb said. “We know them well and they know us well.”

URI’s experienced team, consisting of four seniors and six juniors, is ranked No. 5 in the ACHA this season with a 5-3 record. The Rams got off to a shaky start, beginning its season off with three losses to Robert Morris College and Sacred Heart. However, URI appears to have gained momentum with five victories in a row against Colorado State, Buffalo and Ohio State. The Rams are also undefeated at home, something the Minutewomen will work hard to change.

URI is also currently ranked No. 1 in the Eastern Collegiate Hockey League with 12 points, possibly due to a dominating 57 goals for. This is more than double the 22 goals UMass has generated. Penn State is ranked second, followed by the Minutewomen, who have eight points.

“They have an aggressive offense and strong forecheck” Cobb said of URI’s offense.

Rhode Island also boasts three strong offensive threats – Johanna Leskinen, Meghan Birnie and Kayla Robidoux. The players are ranked in the top 10 players of the ACHA with a combined 27 goals.

The Minutewomen do have the advantage on defense with just three goals allowed while playing on the road, something Cobb counts on to counter a strong URI offense. The Minutewomen offense has also performed better while on the road, scoring 14 of its 22 goals while visiting opponents.

UMass finished second in the ECWHL last year, nine points behind the Rams. The two rivals met five times in the 2008-2009 season, where Rhode Island held a 2-1-2 advantage. This was an improvement for the Minutewomen, who lost three games and tied one during the 2007-2008 season.

Cobb looks to the two offensive stars of the season to help out on offense, captain Hayley Kuhn and Angela Rufo. Both players are tied for first place with five points each, and have caught the attention of Cobb with impressive hockey play each week. Kuhn had a pair of goals against the Catamounts and Rufo scored the winning goal during Saturday’s game. Cobb feels opportunities, such as power plays, need to be capitalized on in order to defeat the Rams.

“URI is a very, very good team” Cobb said. “We need to continue generating offense and keep up our strong goaltending.”

Geena Lombardi can be reached at glombard@student.umass.edu.

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