March 3, 2015

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Minutemen hope to stop freefall, take on Eagles

It’s hard to ignore the past, when the past you’re facing is a five-game losing streak and a free fall in the conference standings.

But for the Massachusetts hockey team, looking forward is all it is trying to do, as they travel to Boston College Friday night in hopes of staying in the top eight of the Hockey East Standings.

“The mentality is more that we just have to look ahead, we’re trying to forget what has happened,” Marc Concannon said. “We can’t change the past. We’re just trying to stay positive and take care of what we can take care of right now.”

What has happened has been more than just a five-game skid. The Minutemen – who fell out of the national rankings for the first time since the fourth week of the season – have lost seven of their last eight games, with their only win coming at Providence, who sits at the bottom of the Hockey East standings.

During the eight-game stretch, UMass’ (16-15-0, 11-13-0 HEA) has seen one of the best offenses in the conference go to one of the worst, as it averaged 1.38 goals per game during the stretch and was shutout three times. In the Minutemen’s previous 23 games, it had not been shutout and averaged 3.3 goals per game.

“I think we just haven’t been doing the little things – screening, putting the pucks on pads and just working hard,” Concannon said. “A lucky one would definitely help, I think once we start scoring, we’ll start scoring in bunches.”

For the No. 7 Eagles, their offense is a different story, as they have gone 7-2 in their previous nine games, scoring 4.5 goals per game during the stretch and 5.43 goals per game in the seven wins.

“We got James Marcou, Casey Wellman and Will Ortiz, they are a little cold right now, but as soon as they get going, everybody is going to follow them and if we score one, we’ll score five or six,” Concannon said.

One of the seven wins came in Amherst back on Feb. 5, as BC (19-10-2, 14-8-2 HEA) hammered UMass in a 7-1 victory. At that time, the two were both tied for second place in the conference, but now sit far apart. The Eagles still remain in second place, while UMass has dropped to a tie for sixth place with UMass Lowell.

The win was the second for BC this season in Amherst, as it took an earlier meeting, 3-1 on Dec. 4, giving it the season series.

Seeing the Eagles twice so far has familiarized the Minutemen with how they play, as well as showed them what they can do better.

“[The games showed us] that they are a terrific team, and we’ll have to play really well to beat them,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said.

“I’d say we just need to tighten our defense up a little bit. The last game they beat us up pretty good, but it’s a different game, it’s nothing-nothing,” Concannon said. “We just have to start scoring, we haven’t been scoring as of late, so we’re still just trying to find ourselves a little bit and hopefully, it comes together on Friday night.”

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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