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September 22, 2016

Harvard and Providence travel to Amherst to face UMass

While the best offense can be a good defense, a team could also outscore its opponents by nearly 17 goals.

Going into this week’s games against No. 13 Harvard (2-1) and Providence (0-2), the No. 19-ranked Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team holds a 58-41 scoring advantage over opponents.

The Minutemen are 5-2 in the series against Harvard dating back to 2003. During that span, neither team has won at home.

In the last meeting, UMass won 7-3, but UMass coach Greg Canella doesn’t foresee an easy victory against the Crimson this time.

“Harvard’s excellent, they have athletes everywhere,” Canella said. “[Harvard head coach and assistant coach] John Tillman and Kevin Warne have done a great job recruiting there. They’re young in a lot of positions but they’re very good defensively.”

In its first three games, Harvard forced 18 total turnovers and allowed 8.68 goals per game.

A big part of UMass’ offensive output (11 goals) comes from midfielder Bobby Hayes. Hayes started the season with four goals against Sacred Heart en route to scoring multiple goals in all four games this season.

Hayes’ production puts him on pace for a career season, as he is one goal away from matching last season’s career-high 12 goals in 15 games for the Minutemen (3-1).

Hayes leads a potent UMass offensive threat that ranks second in the nation in scoring offense (15.67 gpg) and points per game (25) in all of Division I.

Another aspect of what makes the midfielders so dangerous for the Minutemen is the emergence of junior Ryan Hantverk who also added four scores against the Pioneers (1-3), as well as two assists.

Hantverk and Hayes have six combined turnovers this season on a UMass team that ranks fifth in the nation in turnovers per game with 13.33.

The solid ball control for the Minutemen bodes well for redshirt sophomore Tim McCormack. Four games into his first full season starting in goal, McCormack ranks second in the Colonial Athletic Association with a .479 save percentage, averaging 8.75 saves per game.

While the Minutemen have a conference-low 3.25 penalty minutes per game this season, UMass’ .312 penalty-kill percentage is the worst in the CAA.

Attacks Dean Gibbons (10 goals), Jeff Cohen (eight goals) and Kevin Vaughan (five goals) lead a Crimson offense that should make for a high-scoring game when matched up against the Minutemen.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Canella said. “They’ve probably had this [game] circled since we beat them at their place last season, so it should be a good game.”

The Friars have 10 total goals to their credit in two games this season, five less than the Minutemen scored in their season opener alone.

Amherst is the last stop on a season-long four-game road trip for Providence, a team that hasn’t had a winning record in the past five seasons despite making it to the NCAA tournament in 2006. Three players have a share of the team-lead in goals scored with two apiece.  Frank Cicero and Tim Finnegan have each started in goal for Providence this season.

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at mgillmei@student.umass.edu.

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