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Offense clicking for UMass hockey

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

It’s been a while since the Massachusetts hockey team has clicked this well on offense.

The Minutemen have notched 15 goals over their last three games, improving their scoring offense to an average of 3.8 per game, good for second in the Hockey East.

Sophomore forward Branden Gracel is one of the many UMass sophomores who are finding the back of the net.

“I feel like we’re getting offense from more than just one or two lines,” said Gracel, who has three goals and four assists in 10 games. “We got three lines going right now which is huge for us a team.”

Fellow sophomores Conor Sheary (four goals, nine assists) and Michael Pereira (seven goals, five assists) are enjoying the strong cohesion that has UMass’ scoring offense ahead of HEA powerhouses Boston College and Boston University.

Leading the way for the Minutemen has been senior forward and captain T.J. Syner, whose 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) is second in the nation behind Boston College’s Chris Kreider. Sheary’s 13 points and Pereira’s 12 points have them ranked fifth and seventh, respectively, in the nation.

“I think our offense is definitely an underestimated factor about our team,” said Pereira. “We lost a few key guys but we brought back our strong guys and everyone’s doing their job. Everyone’s doing the little thing which is allowing us to score goals.”

Even the defensemen are getting in on the scoring fun. Conor Allen, a sophomore blueliner, earned HEA Performer of the Week on Monday after scoring a hat trick during UMass’ 7-2 victory over Holy Cross on Friday and then adding an assist during UMass’ 4-2 win over Northeastern on Saturday.

Home sweet home

In five games played at the Mullins Center, the Minutemen have yet to be defeated (4-0-1).

UMass won its home opener on Oct. 14, defeating Bentley, 5-3. Since then, the Minutemen tied BU, 2-2, on Oct. 28 before enjoying a three-game win streak against then-No. 1 BC, Holy Cross and most recently, Northeastern. UMass will hope to extend its winning streak to four games when it hosts Maine this Friday at 7 p.m. for the final game of the four-game homestand.

While winning at home is certainly important, it’s equally important to win on the road, something the Minutemen have yet to do this season as they are 0-4-1 away from the Mullins Center.

Following the matchup against Maine, UMass will take to the road for its next three games, two of which come against conference rivals UMass-Lowell and Vermont.

With a 2-4-2 HEA record, the Minutemen currently sit eighth in the conference. If it can keep last weekend’s momentum up, there’s no reason to think UMass can’t thrive on the road and muster wins against the Riverhawks and the Catamounts, who sit sixth and last in the conference, respectively.

Boyle the go-to guy

Headed into the season, UMass coach Don Cahoon wasn’t sure who would be getting the majority of starts in between the pipes for the Minutemen. After a few good looks, however, it is clear that freshman goaltender Kevin Boyle has readily accepted the No. 1 position on the depth chart.

Boyle has started six of UMass’ 10 games, registering a 3-2-2 record to go along with an .883 save percentage and a 3.20 goals against average.

After getting pulled against New Hampshire on Nov. 4, Boyle has responded nicely by allowing the Eagles and the Huskies just two goals during UMass’ current win streak.

Steve Levine can be reached at slevine@student.umass.edu and followed on Twitter @MDC_Levine.

 

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