Minutemen improving on both ends of the ice
In last year’s home-opener against Boston University, the Massachusetts hockey team drew a home-opening record of 7,021 fans. It ultimately fell to the Terriers, 4-3, marking the first of many one-goal, heartbreaking losses.
The Minutemen hope they can draw a similar, if not larger, crowd for this year’s home-opener against Bentley, which is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center.
Known for its traditional chants and intense atmosphere, the crowd at the Mullins Center is not like any other.
“I got the jitters again,” said senior forward T.J. Syner, who scored a goal in UMass’ 3-3 season-opening tie against Northeastern last week. “It’s kind of sad because you realize you don’t get to [open the season at Mullins again]. But I’m more excited than anything. It’s always good playing in front of the home crowd, especially here.”
Put the puck on net
Throughout his 11-year tenure, UMass coach Don Cahoon has preached about the importance of getting the puck to the net and scoring ugly goals.
When the Minutemen stray from that philosophy, they tend to force the issue and limit their own scoring opportunities.
“Coach was yelling at us a little bit at one point during the game [against Northeastern] when we were trying to make some fancy plays,” Syner said. “We just have to deliver the puck to the net [and] get rebound opportunities. Every goal we score is not going to be a pretty one. So we definitely want to get some shots off the rush and create opportunities whenever we can.”
UMass certainly did that in its first game, outshooting the Huskies, 39-32, in regulation and 5-1 in overtime.
Bentley played Michigan twice to open its season, registering 19 shots and 22 shots, respectively and it lost both games to the Wolverines.
Power play unit returns
Although the power play unit was shoddy last year, converting on 22-of-177 chances (12 percent), Cahoon is excited for this year’s power play, which will feature many of the same players.
With a full year of experience, Cahoon believes that the power play has nowhere to go but up. Against Bentley, the Minutemen went 1-for-6 on power play opportunities, registering nine shots on goal.
The penalty kill was another weak spot for UMass last year, allowing opponents a 23 percent conversion rate. However, the kill looked good against Bentley, killing off two 5-on-3 power plays.
CBS 3 to broadcast game
For the second-straight year, the UMass Sports Network will air live game broadcasts for the UMass football, hockey, basketball, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and softball teams.
Friday’s home opener is scheduled to be broadcasted on Comcast Cable channel 293 and Charter channel 230 in western Mass., in addition to the campus cable channel 79.
The broadcasts will come from the newly-built UMass Athletic Video Department, which will employ upgrades that improved the video and audio qualities of production.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time and energy improving upon the television product we started with last year,” said Josh Maurer, the assistant athletic director for broadcasting in a umassathletics.com interview. “I think fans who watch the games on CBS 3 Now will enjoy the upgrades in production and transmission quality. We’re happy to continue providing this service to UMass fans in the Pioneer Valley.”
Steve Levine can be reached at email@example.com.