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Spring Sports Special Issue 2017 -

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The Hart of the Lineup -

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Second periods doom Minutemen in weekend losses

hockBLOWELL, Mass. — The Massachusetts hockey team played well in the first period of this weekend’s games, but the second period was not the same story.

In Friday’s, 3-1, loss to Boston College in Amherst, the No. 9 Minutemen were outshot 16-6 and then outshot 18-6 against its sister school UMass Lowell in a 5-3 loss the following night. The large difference in shots turned into goals as the Minutemen were outscored 4-1 in the two games.

Three of the four second period goals came in Saturday’s loss, as the No. 8 River Hawks scored three unanswered goals in the period to overcome a 2-0 Minutemen lead.

“This weekend, the second period really broke our back. Broke our back Friday night against BC and broke our back tonight,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said after Saturday’s loss to UML. “We can’t have these lapses as we are of late, it changes the psyche and changes the confidence level for sure.”

Overall, Cahoon doesn’t feel that the second period has been a major concern for the Minutemen and that over the entire season, the first period has been more of an issue for his team.

“I think we’ve had more problems over the course of the season in the first period and the second period was a little bit of a pick up,” Cahoon said. “The last couple of nights the second period has been real bad. Last week against Quinnipiac we had a big second period to get ourselves back into it.”

Stopping the bleeding

The Minutemen have now lost three games in a row, the longest losing streak of the season, with the two losses this weekend and last weekend’s loss to Quinnipiac.

After the loss to the Bobcats, Cahoon talked about how it was important for the game to not be the start of a slide, but it has turned into one.

“There aren’t too many teams that don’t go through this, and I’m not making excuses by any means, but it is hard to stop the bleeding some times,” Cahoon said.

The losses, however, have not been anything to be ashamed of. The first loss came at then-No. 9 Quinnipiac – now ranked No. 4 – and saw UMass overcome a 3-0 deficit, before falling 5-4 in overtime. In the loss to No. 15 BC, the Minutemen were never out of the game, trailing by one until the final minute of the game when the Eagles scored their third goal. And the most recent loss came at a tough UML team that has been ranked as high as No. 3 this season.

“I think I could fill in these games with a couple of other opponents if I had that choice and I could stop the bleeding in a hurry but we play a No. 4, a No. 15 – who could be No. 4 – and No. 8, so you got to be through you can’t be sloppy,” Cahoon said of the recent losses. “It is not the mentality in the locker room, we just have to sure up those weaknesses if we are going to beat those types of teams.”

Sinking losses

Entering the weekend, the Minutemen and the Eagles were tied for second place in the Hockey East standings with 10 points, trailing only New Hampshire who had 12. But with this weekend’s losses and two wins a piece from UNH, BC and Maine, UMass has sunk to a tie for fifth place with Vermont.

The Wildcats now have a six-point lead over the Minutemen with 16 points, and the Eagles currently hold second place with 14 points. Maine and UML jumped UMass with the Black Bears sitting in third place with 13 points and the River Hawks holding fourth place with 11 points.

UMass does not have much cushion above the teams below them, with the Hockey East being as strong as it is, holding just a one-point lead over Northeastern and a two-point lad over Merrimack. But UMass, as well as Merrimack have played two fewer games (9) than most teams in the conference (11) – UML has only played in 10 games, and Providence, who sits in last place with five points, has only played in eight.

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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