When the Massachusetts hockey team traveled to Agganis Arena at the beginning of the month to face the defending national champions, it would be fair to say things did not go according to plan.
After the Minutemen (15-9-0, 10-7-0 Hockey East) upset the then-No. 2 Terriers, 3-2, back on Oct. 16, it was BU (8-11-3, 6-9-2 HEA) who got the best of UMass in a 7-3 victory in Game 2 of the season series.
Now with the series tied up at one apiece and the final game coming this Friday in Boston at 7 p.m., the No. 15 Minutemen have something to prove to themselves against the Terriers after they handed UMass one of its worst losses of the season.
“I wouldn’t say [there is a sense of] revenge, but I think we have to prove to ourselves that we can get up,” Justin Braun said before Tuesday’s practice.
“They weren’t having such a good go at the start of the year, so maybe we looked past them a little bit, but this time we have to have the focus and the right mentality to go in there and come out with a win.”
Focus has been a point of emphasis for UMass coach Don Cahoon over the past couple of weeks, and it is something the Minutemen have really honed in on in their last couple of games. After the loss to the Terriers, UMass suffered another big loss to UNH and then went on to win four in a row before falling to Vermont in the second game of last weekend’s series.
The Minutemen are set to play at Providence – another against whom the season series is tied– on Saturday night following the matchup with the Terriers, but UMass’ attention is turned primarily to Friday’s game.
Despite BU’s lackluster season compared to their expectations entering the year, the Minutemen know they have to pay full attention to Friday’s game if they want to take the season series.
“They are a very skilled team, they have a lot of talent on that team and we can’t look past Boston University,” Will Ortiz said. “Right now, they are not having their best season as they should or as they expect, but we all know that they are a great team and Coach [Jack] Parker has done a great job with them.”
Braun and Ortiz both credit BU for playing well in the 7-3 victory earlier this month, but also say that UMass did their part to contribute to the loss.
“They played their game, worked hard and took advantage of their opportunities, we just weren’t prepared and we didn’t make very many clean plays. We were just sloppy all around, if we just clean that up we’ll be alright,” Braun said.
“I don’t think we were ready to play, I think we were flat footed and they were just ready to play,” Ortiz said of the previous meeting. “They got up for the game, we had a bulls eye on our backs because we took it to them in the first meeting earlier this season and now it is a 1-1 series and whoever is going to perform and put the best 60 minutes together is going to come out with the win on Friday.”
The Minutemen also have a greater sense of confidence this time around against BU, as they have won four of their last five compared to losing four of their previous six prior to the last time the two schools met.
“Confidence is a big thing, but I think right now we have the mentality knowing that we can do this and bearing down and sticking to the detail that we need to do and executing our game plan,” Ortiz said.
Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.