Minutemen honor senior class
Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Merrimack extended the Massachusetts hockey team’s losing streak to a season-long five games, and may have put the Minutemen in jeopardy of missing the Hockey East Tournament.
Prior to the loss, however, No. 18 UMass (16-15-0, 11-13-0 Hockey East) stepped aside from its recent struggles to honor five seniors who were about to play in their final regular season game at the Mullins Center.
A leader of UMass’ defense, Braun played a pivotal role in his senior year, notching three goals and 19 assists as part of the first line of the defense. Braun, who was drafted by Pittsburgh during his freshman year and later traded to San Jose, contributed since his career started at UMass, notching at least 14 points each season.
Following up a four-goal and 10-assist campaign in his freshman year – earning him a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team – Braun scored four goals again in his sophomore year with 16 assists and seven goals in his junior year.
Beside Braun on the first defensive line was another NHL draftee in Nolet. Selected by Los Angeles with the 144th pick in 2006, Nolet became the second Minuteman to be drafted by the Kings (Jon Quick).
Nolet was not as offensive minded as Braun, but still gave the Minutemen a consistent number of points, year in and year out. With three games remaining this season, Nolet already has seven points off a career-high four goals and three assists. In 2008-09, Nolet posted a career-high nine points on two goals and seven assists.
After a strong freshman campaign in which he scored 21 points on seven goals and 14 assists, Ortiz had a drop off in his assists total the following two years, before posting career highs in goals, assists and points in his senior year.
A skilled forward who has great puck-handling skills, Ortiz broke out this season with 13 goals and 13 assists so far.
Ortiz also had a knack for clutch goals, notching eight game-winning goals in his career, almost a quarter of his 33 career goals. The forward has two game-winning goals so far this season, one shy of the three he posted his junior season.
Known more as a defensive forward, Watson has not been a point scorer for the Minutemen, but has still been a leader on and off the ice.
A captain for UMass the past two seasons, Watson has led the Minutemen through his work ethic and effort, something often highly praised by UMass coach Don Cahoon.
After notching a single goal in both his freshman and sophomore years, Watson has yet to score a goal since, but has been there with assists, notching five his junior season and four so far in his senior season.
Watson was named to the Hockey East All-Academic team in his first three seasons at UMass, and will likely earn the honor for the fourth time this season.
Despite never seeing time as a full-time starter – backing up the likes of John Quick and Paul Dainton – for UMass, Meyers has played a pivotal role in his four years with the Minutemen.
In his junior year, Meyers saw his most time, playing in 14 games with a 2.65 goals against average while posting a 4-6-2 record. In his senior season, Meyers has seen more time down the stretch, performing well and keeping the Minutemen in games.
Since giving up seven goals to New Hampshire at the beginning of November, Meyers has given up nine goals in four games, lowering his goals against average from 4.42 to 3.41.
Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at email@example.com.