The Massachusetts hockey team has faced a ruthless schedule this season, particularly throughout the last third of the season. However, only once have the Minutemen run into No. 2 Boston College. That is, until this weekend.
BC comes to Amherst on Friday night as the Minutemen (6-18-5, 5-13-5 Hockey East) play their second home-and-home series in two weekends. The two teams face off the next night in Chestnut Hill.
It’s no stretch to say UMass and BC come into these weekend games feeling differently about their recent runs, despite both teams coming off a loss.
The nation’s top team just a week ago, the Eagles (22-7-1, 16-6-1 HEA), before a 2-1 loss at Northeastern last Saturday, had not lost in eight previous games. In fact, they were 14-1-1 in their previous 16 contests.
Despite the streak, BC is tied for second place in HEA with Merrimack at 33 points apiece.
UMass, on the other hand, has not won a game since Jan. 22, when it handed Vermont a 6-0 loss. Although the Minutemen have reached four overtime games within that span of eight games, they have a 0-6-2 record to show for it.
Consequently, UMass is tied for seventh in the conference with UVM with Providence three points behind.
However, UMass coach Don Cahoon wants his players to focus on the game at hand, something the Minutemen had trouble doing the last time they played the Eagles.
On Feb. 4, UMass faced then-No. 1 BC and was defeated, 5-0. While the score reveals a distinct conclusion, so does the 43-16 shot advantage the Eagles held.
“We were on our heels most of the night,” Cahoon said. “We played a great second period. The first period, we stood around and watched. In the third period, they scored a goal to make it 3-0. That really broke our spirit. You can’t allow that to happen. We’ve got to come out of the gate and not stand around and watch; play like we did in the second period and not allow our spirits to be broken and stay with it.”
While the Mass Attack held BC to 1-for-4 on the power play, they themselves were 0-for-4. Senior captain Paul Dainton had 35 saves in that game.
Still, Cahoon insists that his club has gotten better throughout the elapsed 20-plus days. The results just haven’t been there.
Besides the 11-2 loss at Merrimack on Feb. 5, the Minutemen have played to two ties and a pair of one-goal losses.
While UMass has been challenging its opponents more recently, BC is shaking off a bizarre three-game battle with Northeastern. The Eagles won the first game 7-6 in overtime, tied the next game 7-7 also in overtime and lost 2-1 in the finale. The first two games were the first times BC had allowed more than five goals in a game all season.
“These are young, well-conditioned athletes on both sides of it,” Cahoon said, speaking of both his players and those on BC. “I don’t think anything that happened last week is going to affect them this week.”
The Minutemen hope their history with the Eagles doesn’t influence this weekend’s affair either.
UMass is 10-45-3 all-time against BC. The last time the Minutemen came out victorious was on Nov. 22, 2008, a 4-3 overtime win at the Mullins Center. Their most recent win at Conte Forum came on Nov. 17, 2007.
The Eagles are 7-0-0 in their last seven meetings with the Minutemen.
Pete Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com.