Heading into a matchup with Boston College today, the Massachusetts hockey team will attempt to claim a victory that would move them into the second slot in the Hockey East standings.
The Minutemen (16-10-0, 11-8-0 HEA) and the Eagles (14-8-2, 10-6-2 HEA) are tied with 22 total points behind conference leader New Hampshire, despite UMass having one more win than BC.
Since losing 4-3 in overtime to the Minutemen on Nov. 13, the Wildcats (13-8-4, 12-3-3 HEA) have dropped only one conference matchup in their last 13 Hockey East games. With 27 total points, UNH would have to collapse down the stretch for UMass or BC to overtake it.
In the U.S. College Hockey Online Division I Men’s Poll, the Wildcats, the Eagles and the Minutemen are ranked No. 13, 14 and 15, respectively, and are in good position to represent the Hockey East with three teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Following the Eagles, the Minutemen will play four consecutive Hockey East games with two home-and-home series against Northeastern and Merrimack. The implications of the games will be critical to determining home ice for the upcoming Hockey East Tournament, which begins on March 12.
“When the season’s so short right now, every game is huge,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said before Wednesday’s practice. “I try not to get into over-selling the game, but more about ‘Hey, this is the next kick in the can, we better make it a good one.’”
Though the Minutemen have had more success this year than past seasons, they’ve been unable to get a substantial hot streak going. The longest winning streak enjoyed by UMass has been four games on two different occasions this season.
Cahoon, however, realizes the difficulty in getting hot when facing tough opponents nearly every game out.
“You look at the league, and New Hampshire’s been the one exception to this where they ran off a whole series of games and that’s why they’re five points ahead, but everybody else has been like that,” Cahoon said. “BC has had a good run but they’ve lost a few games here and there. We’ve had a couple of good runs but lost a few games. It’s the nature of the competition more than anything else.”
Eagles pelting Dainton
Whenever goaltender Paul Dainton plays in net against BC, he can expect a good amount of pucks to head his way.
In five career starts and seven games played against the Eagles, the junior is 2-3-1 with a 2.12 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.
In four games against BC, Dainton has recorded 30 or more saves, including a career-high 39 which he set on Nov. 22 in a 4-3 overtime win in 2008.
If UMass expects to continue its success this season, Cahoon knows it will be up to the play in-between the pipes.
“I think the team will go as far as goaltending will take you. There are other aspects of the game that are critical, but none more than goaltending,” Cahoon said. “We need our goaltending to be real solid and I think it’s in pretty good shape right now, so that’s a good thing for us.”
Jay Asser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.