James Marcou, Casey Wellman dominance key to UMass’s success
With James Marcou, the nation’s leader in points and assists and Casey Wellman, the nation’s second leading goal scorer, it is an uncommon thing to see the Massachusetts hockey team go a game without one of the two scoring a point.
Saturday night saw the two combine to score five points on two goals by Wellman and a goal and an assist by Marcou as the No. 15 Minutemen came away with a 3-1 victory over No. 17 Vermont.
When Marcou (eight goals, 31 assists) and Wellman (19 goals, 13 assists) each score in a game and combine for five or more points in a contest, the Minutemen (15-9-0, 10-7-0 Hockey East) have gone 4-0 this season.
But on Sunday afternoon, the Catamounts (12-8-2, 6-7-2 HEA) shut down UMass’ biggest scoring threats in their 3-0 victory. Surprisingly, the loss was the first of the season by the Minutemen when neither Marcou nor Wellman notch a goal. Prior to the loss UMass was 2-0 when neither scored a point.
So far this season, when the two both score at least one point for the Minutemen in a game, it has brought results as UMass has gone 11-5 in those games.
But when the two have combined for four points UMass has played just above .500 at 4-3 and 3-2 when the two combine for fewer than four points. On the other hand, when only one of UMass’ leading point scorers notches a point, the team has managed a 3-4 record.
Not quite an advantage
Despite a combined 22 penalties over the weekend between UMass and Maine, neither team seemed to find much of an advantage while on the man advantage.
Saturday night both teams committed two penalties, but neither squad was able to take advantage of the ensuing power-play chances. Sunday afternoon saw more penalties – 11 by the Catamounts and seven by the Minutemen resulting in five and nine power-play opportunities for each team, respectively – but just one power-play goal.
With seven minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the second period of yesterday’s 3-0 Vermont win, the Catamounts’s Drew MacKenzie took advantage after UMass’ Rocco Carzo was called for boarding. Besides that lone power-play goal allowed by the Minutemen, UMass’ penalty kill held Vermont scoreless on its other seven power-play opportunities on the weekend.
Vermont, who came into the weekend killing the last 40-of-42 power-play chances of its opponents, continued its dominance, as it was a perfect 13-for-13 on the penalty kill this weekend against the Minutemen.
Just can’t sweep it
With its 3-1 win over No. 17 Vermont on Saturday, the Minutemen hoped to become the first team in the Hockey East to have two series sweeps on their resume.
But completing a series sweep has been a rare occurrence this season in the conference. Besides UMass’ home-and-home sweep of UMass Lowell last weekend, the feat has only been accomplished one other time this season; back on Dec. 4 and 5 when Maine swept Providence with two 3-1 victories in Orono, Maine.
With Vermont grabbing a 3-0 win on Sunday, the first time the Minutemen have been shutout all season, it kept that total at two.
The fact that completing a series sweep is so difficult shows the toughness in the conference this season. Just a total of eight points separates the top five teams in the conference, with first-place New Hampshire leading the way with 25 points and fifth-place Maine not far behind with 17 points.
Boston College and UMass are currently tied for second place with 20 points, just two points ahead of UMass Lowell (18 points).
The top five may end up even closer with Maine only playing 15 games and UMass Lowell and New Hampshire playing 16 games compared to BC and UMass’ 17 games.
Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at email@example.com.