March 5, 2015

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Penalty kill solid, power play another story

Alex Mojcher/Collegian

Alex Mojcher/Collegian

The Massachusetts hockey team’s weekend series against Northeastern ended in a 2-2 stalemate on Saturday, with the Minutemen special teams playing with varying results.

It would be misleading for UMass, which is 3-3-1 in its last seven games, to lump their power play and penalty kill into the tidy category of special teams. Their efficiency on the power play and penalty kill has been a stark contrast of late.

Entering last weekend’s series against the Huskies,, the Minutemen had given up one power play goal since a debacle at the Mullins Center on Jan. 7 that ended in a 5-3 come-from-behind win for the Huskies. UMass coach Don Cahoon pointed to that game as a marker for his team’s lack of discipline, which resulted in six penalties and a comeback win for Northeastern.

Two of those six penalties came about halfway through the second period, set up a five-on-three, and led to the Huskies etching their names in the UMass record books with the fastest three goals ever given up by the Minutemen against a Division 1 opponent.

UMass took eight penalties at the Mullins Center last Saturday, which didn’t necessarily irk Cahoon.

“Tonight’s penalties were more a part of the fabric of the game,” Cahoon said after the game. “I think penalties went both ways today and both teams went at it.”

Northeastern had five power play opportunities, but UMass’ penalty kill unit staved off every attempt and all nine shots. This was a far cry from three weeks ago, when Northeastern went 3-for-6 on the man advantage.

For the weekend, the Huskies finished 0-10 on the power play, a result indicative of the Minutemen’s shorthanded success of late. In six games prior to this weekend, UMass allowed one goal on 19 chances.

If one considers special teams play to be one category, then Saturday’s game was not a total success. Although the Minutemen played well with a man down, they missed on all seven power play opportunities of its own. For the weekend, UMass finished 0-11 on the man advantage.

 “[Northeastern’s] penalty kill, at the end of the day, they’re probably pretty happy with [how they played],” Cahoon said. “I thought we had some pretty good looks on our power play. I thought we possessed the puck and had some pretty good chances, finishing is another story altogether.”

UMass has scored one power play goal in its last four games (1-23) and is tied for seventh in Hockey East in power play scoring percentage (14 percent).

The Minutemen scored eight power play goals in their first 13 games (12 percent) before a stretch of games between Dec. 30 to Jan. 15 in which they converted on the man advantage in five straight games (7-for-24, 29 percent).

UMass’ last ten games will be against all but one ranked opponent. It is likely that the results of these contests will be decided by the Minutemen’s special teams units.  

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at dgigliot@student.umass.edu.

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