As the end of November approaches and the temperature falls through the floor, the Massachusetts hockey team has shown no signs of cooling off.
UMass (4-4-2, 2-4-2, Hockey East) currently rides a three-game winning streak after defeating Holy Cross and conference rivals Boston College and Northeastern. The streak marks the longest for the program since the 2009-10 campaign, when the team strung together four wins in a row from Jan. 10 to Jan. 23.
The victories over BC and the Huskies also mark the first back-to-back wins for the Minutemen over Hockey East opponents since defeating UMass Lowell on back-to-back nights last January.
The team will look to push its streak to four on Friday when it hosts Maine at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center. UMass will have a quick turnaround, heading back on the road for the first time in three weeks to take on UMass Lowell Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Minutemen’s streak of three games is in part due to the offensive attack that’s come alive. UMass has scored 15 goals over the last three contests, the most in a span of three games since 2008 when the Minutemen matched that total.
“[The leadership on our team] has taken on a different role than it has in the past, which has helped us a lot,” said defenseman Conor Allen, who recorded a hat trick and an assist in the Minutemen’s 7-2 victory over the Crusaders last Friday. Allen’s three-goal performance marks only the third time in the program’s history that a defenseman has recorded a hat trick.
“I think preparation has been the key to [our success] … it’s been about the intangible things, the mental preparation,” added Allen on the team’s newfound approach.
Despite not playing to its best potential over the weekend, UMass has found the ability to put the puck in the net early and sustain a lead late in games – a problem the team has had in the past. However, the Minutemen’s recent play suggests they could have turned a corner.
“We didn’t play our best, but we were able to come away with a win,” said forward T.J. Syner regarding last weekend’s overall team performance. “There’s some nights that you’re not going to play perfect … you’ve got to play through it, and yeah, I think it’s definitely a step forward for us [to not play at our best and still win].”
The ability to jump out to an early lead can dictate the flow of the rest of the game. During the streak, UMass has managed to net five of its 15 goals in the opening period; the Minutemen have found that ability to not only score early in contests, but to also manage the pace of the game throughout.
“Saturday’s performance was cause-and-effect for us,” said UMass coach Don Cahoon of his team’s execution regarding the game against Northeastern. “We did a few things well, and the effect was that we found a way to win … we’re still trying to put it all together.”
The Minutemen have had good success against Maine in recent years, going 3-2-1 over the Black Bears the last two seasons. The series has produced a scoring frenzy with 42 goals over the last six contests (seven goals per game). The Minutemen hold the goal-advantage at 23-19.
UMass has even better results against sister-rival UMass Lowell. The Minutemen enter Saturday with five straight wins against the River Hawks, outscoring them 14-7 last year in three games and 22-15 over the last six meetings.
Scott Cournoyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MDC_Cournoyer.