Massachusetts hockey coach Don Cahoon called a timeout with eight minutes, 53 seconds left in the second period after his team gave up its second two-goal lead in the game against Northeastern.
His message to his team, down 4-3 after surrendering three goals scored in less than two minutes, was that the game would be won or lost in the remaining 28-plus minutes.
The game was played on Jan. 7 at the Mullins Center and it ended with a 5-3 Minutemen loss.
Following the game, Cahoon was upset that his team did not play with a sense of urgency. He was incensed by his team’s lack of toughness, calling his players undisciplined and criticized them for their lack of physical play.
UMass (6-12-3, 5-7-3 Hockey East) has a chance to overtake the Huskies (7-10-5, 6-7-4 HE) for seventh place in the conference standings with a home-and-home series this weekend.
Cahoon believes that the toughness that the Minutemen lacked three weeks ago will go a long way in determining whether or not they can win this weekend.
“Two factors are going to play into this weekend: If we are disciplined enough to play as hard and physical as we need to play to succeed against Northeastern, yet without taking penalties and putting ourselves at a real disadvantage,” Cahoon said during the Hockey Radio Show on Tuesday.
Northeastern scored three goals in a span of 38 seconds the last time the two teams met. It was the quickest three goals that the Minutemen have allowed in school history. Two of those goals came on a power play, including a five-on-three.
UMass took six penalties for 12 minutes in that game, allowing the Huskies to convert on 3-of-6 power play opportunities.
The types of penalties the Minutemen took, according to Cahoon, were untimely and extremely unsettling. Northeastern ranks second in Hockey East in penalty minutes (16.1 per game) and UMass can expect the Huskies to test its physicality.
“The discipline piece is really critical, but we need to be ready to play a real intense, physical game or it won’t be a good evening for us,” Cahoon said.
“Northeastern is going to try to take it to us on a physicality basis. That is clear the way they played the game [on Jan. 7].”
Since its struggles against Northeastern, the Minutemen have allowed one power play goal in the five games since, going 21-of-22 on the penalty kill.
UMass has won three of its last four games, back-to-back wins over last-place UMass-Lowell and a 6-0 victory against ninth-place Vermont in their last outing.
Senior Paul Dainton made 26 saves in his second career shutout on Saturday, earning Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week honors. Assistant captains T.J. Syner (two goals, one assist) and Danny Hobbs (two assists), led the Catamount rout offensively. Hobbs has now scored 15 points in his last 11 games (six goals, nine assists).
Wade MacLeod tallied two points (one goal, one assist) on Jan. 7 and is Northeastern’s leading scorer with 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) and tied for 10th in conference scoring.
Cahoon sees improvement in his team since the comeback loss to the Huskies, yet he remains concerned with his team’s discipline and sense of urgency, two things that can’t be taught by the 11th-year coach.
“The discipline piece continues to concern us, specifically with penalties,” Cahoon said.
“That sense of urgency comes from a great will. You have to have the courage to compete,” Cahoon continued. “The will to compete is usually behind the impetus to having that sense of urgency.”
Dan Gigliotti can be reached at email@example.com.