With last weekend’s sweep by Northeastern, the Massachusetts hockey team tied its longest losing streak of the season and have continually answered questions as to what is going wrong.
After looking over tapes, UMass coach Don Cahoon found one major aspect leading to the team’s recent three-game losing streak was its physicality.
“Physicality is one piece of it,” he said. “We can’t go from being a team that finishes checks and skates and creates opportunities to a team that does a bunch of fly-bys and not finishing checks, and therefore we play like a summer hockey league game,” Cahoon said before Tuesday’s practice.
With Friday’s contest to be played at Merrimack’s (11-15-1, 8-11-1 Hockey East) Lawler arena, the No. 18 Minutemen (16-13-0, 11-11-0 HEA) may be forced to play more physically. Compared to the Mullins Center (200 feet x 95 feet) the Warriors rink is significantly smaller (200×85), lending itself to more physical play.
However, Cahoon isn’t relying on the size of the rink to get his team to play more physically, but instead on trying to change the team’s thinking.
“It’s a mindset,” Cahoon said. “I can let you handle the puck and move the puck without putting a hand on you, or I can decide to make it every time you touch the puck you’re going to get bumped.”
Not only will playing more physically give the Warriors issues, it will also give UMass help in being more aggressive on offense. In the Minutemen’s last six games – where they lost five of six – they managed to score 10 goals, with six coming in the five losses.
Much of the lack of offense was due to a lack of aggressiveness around the net, where the Minutemen were not crashing the net trying to put in loose pucks off rebounds.
Dainton gets nod
Goaltender Paul Dainton has been the go-to-guy for the Minutemen in net for most of the season, but with some recent struggles – 16 goals allowed in his last three games played – coupled with strong play from senior Dan Meyers, questions have come up prior to each game as to who will get the start.
Meyers was the starter in UMass’ last victory, allowing one goal in a 4-1 win at Providence, and allowing two goals in his start last Friday to the Huskies, getting no offense in the 2-0 loss. Both Dainton and Meyers struggled two weeks ago against Boston College, as they allowed four and three goals respectively, splitting time in net.
Despite Dainton’s recent struggles, the junior will get the start Friday at Merrimack according to Cahoon. After last Friday’s loss to Northeastern, Cahoon said he figured Dainton would get the start this Friday and give Meyers the start on Saturday, as it is UMass’ final regular season home game and senior night. But, with every game meaning more with the HEA standing so close, things seemed a bit more up in the air before Tuesday’s practice.
“[Dainton] is playing on Friday night and we’ll go from there,” Cahoon said.
Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at email@example.com.