Two games against New Hampshire are surely an unwelcome sight for the Massachusetts men’s hockey team, as it searches for its first win of the season.
The No. 8-ranked Wildcats (4-1-2, 2-0-1 Hockey East) will be a challenge for the Minutemen, who are coming off a 5-1 exhibition win against the Swedish National Under-20 Team last Saturday. Though the win didn’t count towards UMass’ record, it was comforting for the Minutemen, who lost 5-2 to Army the night before.
“We rebounded nicely from [the Army game] as well as we could in the exhibition on Saturday,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “Hopefully we can carry [that] into good practices which will lead to better performances.”
A sound performance is just what UMass needs against a national powerhouse like New Hampshire.
“Looking at their roster, they’re as mature a team as there is in our league,” Cahoon said. “They’ve got a recruiting balance in place that’s allowed them to graduate key players and watch other key players assume their roles. There are very few freshmen who are expected to contribute in major ways.”
The leading scorers for the Minutemen, on the other hand, include sophomore defenseman Darren Rowe (five goals, one assist) and freshman Michael Pereira (four goals, two assists).
Both UMass and UNH have played seven games thus far, with the Wildcats featuring nine players with at least five points. The Wildcats are lead by sophomore forwards Dalton Speelman and John Henrion, who each have four goals and three assists. UMass has four players with five points.
“This year, [UNH] is one of the most balanced teams in college hockey,” Cahoon said. “They have veterans coming back in every position except their goaltender [Matt DiGirolamo].”
DiGirolamo’s patience the previous two years has paid off, as watching and learning from his predecessors has prepared him well for the starting role. In seven games, DiGirolamo has a .921 save percentage and 2.66 goals against average.
Cahoon is not sure whether to start rookie goaltender Jeff Teglia or senior captain Paul Dainton in goal for the weekend slate. Dainton has not been his normal self up to this point, allowing nearly four goals per game to go along with an .881 save percentage in five starts (0-3-1). Teglia has been a pleasant surprise, but has not played much better than Dainton with an .890 save percentage (0-2-1).
After their disappointing loss to Army, Cahoon said he might begin taking a different approach when it comes to addressing his players’ mistakes and unacceptable performances.
“I might begin telling succinctly to the [player] who’s making mistakes out there,” Cahoon said. “I’ve been reluctant to do that with this age group; [I want to] keep it to general terms of mistakes [and things like that].”
It’s not surprising that UMass has struggled to open the season. With a young roster and the departures of key veterans, the Minutemen certainly need some time to mesh. A weekend away at New Hampshire would be the perfect time to get a Hockey East win.
“We’ve got the whole season in front of us,” 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 part of the playoff system.”
Steve Levine can be reached at email@example.com.