The Massachusetts hockey team cannot hide from the fact that it is still searching for that coveted first win of the season. The only way to find that win is to put everything in the past and take this upcoming weekend series against New Hampshire as an opportunity to jump-start its still very young season.
“We are at just the very beginning of our Hockey East season,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “It’s been a difficult start for us but we’ve had only four Hockey East games, tied two of them and lost two. [We’ve] played hard in pretty much all four games.”
The Minutemen (0-5-2, 0-2-2 Hockey East) are fresh off a three-goal loss to Army, their worst loss of the season, to a team that had only one win prior to the meeting. The players, however, have stepped up to the competition brought by the best teams in the country. They tied No. 8 Boston University on the road and lost three other games to Minnesota and BU by a total of only four scores.
The effort will be there against their latest top 10 opponent. This weekend’s conference battle with the No. 8-ranked Wildcats is the latest chance for UMass to straighten itself out and begin its ascent in the Hockey East.
“We’ve got 23 regular season games to go,” Cahoon said. “If we can get something done this weekend and take some points out of New Hampshire, that’s going to be a step in the right direction towards realizing some success in the league and putting ourselves in a better position to be able to be part of the playoff system and to hopefully give us some impetus to be able to grow as a team so we’re clearly the team we want to be at the end of the year.”
The Mass Attack is currently tied with Vermont as the cellar dwellers of the 10-team conference. However, gaining two points from its next two games, via one win or two ties, would tie them with sixth-place UMass Lowell at four points. UMass Lowell, after suffering a one-goal lost to UNH last weekend, doesn’t play until Nov. 19th against Merrimack.
In essence, a split in their two-game series could leap the Minutemen back into the middle of the standings. That’s easier said than done, however, especially against a veteran-filled Wildcat team that has not dropped a game since their second game of the season on Oct. 8th. Still, given the grittiness the Minutemen play with, it’s a distinct possibility.
That philosophy of optimism and opportunity is what the players and coaches are surrounding themselves with. What happened already in the season isn’t as important as what happens in the future.
“No one’s going to remember this part of the season if in fact we can be a much more goal-oriented and successful team the second half of the season. So that’s our whole mission,” Cahoon said.
Pete Vasquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.