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Minutemen ready to end break with Military Appreciation Night

The Massachusetts club hockey team is in the midst of its two week break. This Friday, the break will end with Military Appreciation Night at the Mullins Center.

“[Military Appreciation Night] serves a couple of functions,” UMass coach Robert Talloni said. “One is to honor the military and the personnel in the military. We have usually a fantastic turnout. We hit all the bases in the area.”

The Minutemen (13-3-0) will take on Coast Guard Academy in a Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association matchup to show appreciation for those who serve in the armed forces.

“We have a ceremonial puck-drop, lots of pictures are taken, and [it is] a great fundraiser for the team,” Talloni said. “It’s really a well received event for the team. It’s just a great thank you to the people are in our services.”

The Bears are fourth in the NECHA Colonial South division, behind Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Rhode Island College and Tufts. Coast Guard is on a five-game losing streak with its last win coming in a 3-2 rout over the division leading Jumbos (5-5-0) on Oct. 26.

“They always seem to give us a good battle,” Talloni said. “We look again for another great turnout and a very competitive game, and we always have to play to our best players.”

Military Appreciation Night does not always mean that UMass will take on the Bears. Three years ago, Coast Guard was unable to make the event.

“They couldn’t make the game. Their schedule was booked for that particular game, but we look to book a military school for appreciation night,” Talloni said. “[The game against Coast Guard] will be very tough. They’re getting better and better.”

One night after the game against the Bears, UMass will head south to face rival Connecticut. The Huskies (7-7-2) will be fresh off thrilling, one-goal victories against both Western Connecticut State and Central Connecticut State.

“It’s always a battle,” Talloni said. “They beat us twice last year, and we always gave them a battle. We’re out to do our best this year. [UConn is] always ranked very high and always at the top of the NECHA. So we’re out to do our best this year.”

After the upcoming road game, UMass will have five consecutive home games stretching from Dec. 11 until Jan. 30, 2010. The first of this skid will be a rematch against UConn, this time on the Minutemen’s home ice at the Mullins Center.                   

“We set the schedule up just for that,” Talloni said. “We wanted to play them away at their rink, and then play them on our home rink. I personally set that up so we can have an advantage.

“UConn won the NECHA last year, so in order for us to win it, we need to get through UConn,” Talloni said.

UMass will take on opponents that it has already faced this season, including Sacred Heart, New York, Bryant and the Blue Devils (8-7-0). The Minutemen have defeated each of them this season.

The last two games of the season are against Westfield and Keene.

“The season will come down to those final two games,” Talloni said.

“Our season in the NECHA won’t be decided until the last game of the season,” Talloni added, “We need to put some wins together and do our best against the team in our league.”

It was reported a few weeks ago that there was a situation against Western Connecticut that required UMass club hockey to meet with the head of the Referees Associations.

“We had a great meeting,” Talloni said. “He looked at my concern, and was very nice and polite. We agreed to move on. We’re going to see Western later on down the road. Basically, we left it. We’re just going to move on.”

Herb Scribner can be reached at hscribne@student.umass.edu.

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