The Massachusetts hockey team is flying high after its most recent victory over No. 1 Boston College on Saturday at the Mullins Center.
The Minutemen skated to a 4-2 victory over the Eagles, marking the first time UMass beat a No. 1 ranked team since Nov. 14, 2008 when it defeated Boston University, 5-1, at the Mullins Center.
The win was particularly big for the Minutemen as they avenged last year’s failures against the Eagles, who won all three regular season matchups before knocking UMass out of the Hockey East playoffs with two straight wins.
With their first conference victory out of the way, the Minutemen (2-4-2 overall, 1-4-2 HEA) can shift their attention to this weekend, when they host Holy Cross (3-3) on Friday and conference rival Northeastern (1-5-2 overall, 1-5-2 HEA) on Saturday.
UMass has averaged 3.4 goals-per-game behind four players who are averaging at least one point-per-game. Leading the way is senior captain T.J. Syner, who has a team-high 11 points (four goals, seven assists) and 27 shots in eight games. Behind Syner are sophomore forwards Conor Sheary (four goals, five assists) and leading goal-scorer Michael Pereira (five goals, three assists). Senior co-captain Danny Hobbs rounds out the four with seven points in as many games (three goals, four assists)
It remains to be seen who UMass coach Don Cahoon will start in goal for the weekend games, but for now it appears that freshman Kevin Boyle has the starting job. Boyle has started five of the Minutemen’s eight games, registering a 2-2-2 record to go along with an .866 save percentage and a 3.44 goals-against-average. Boyle was solid in net against BC, allowing two goals on 24 shots.
UMass must be disciplined against Holy Cross as the Crusaders power play has accounted for nine of their 18 goals this season and has converted at a 32 percent clip. By comparison, the Minutemen’s penalty kill ranks second-to-last in the conference with a 73.7 percent success rate. The key will be to stay out of the box, something UMass has gotten better with as the season has progressed.
In goal for the Crusaders will likely be Matt Ginn, who has an .887 save percentage and a 3.22 goals-against-average in five starts.
On Saturday, Northeastern will come into the Mullins Center looking to add to last year’s success against the Minutemen when the Huskies won the season series, 2-0-1.
The contest has the potential to be very low scoring, as the Huskies average just 2.4 goals-per-game. Their lack of scoring is made up for by their goaltender, junior Chris Rawlings.
Rawlings, a 6-foot-5 native of British Columbia, ranks third in the conference with a .918 save percentage. Rawlings is picking up right where he left off last season, when he started 35 games recording a .920 save percentage and five shutouts, good for fourth in the nation.
While no Northeastern player averages a point-per-game, it does have five players with at least five points. The biggest threat to score is junior forward Justin Daniels, who has a team-leading five goals.
Cahoon understands that this weekend is a glowing opportunity for the Minutemen to improve their record and take advantage of skating on home ice, as they are currently undefeated at the Mullins Center with a 2-0-1 record.
“Preparation is everything and then the commitment to the follow through” said Cahoon following UMass’ win against Boston College. “We’ll get back to work on Monday morning and hopefully work towards [being] prepared and [being] ready to follow through with [the details].”
Steve Levine can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Levine.