Minutemen look to rebound after tough loss Sunday
An 8-2 letdown is not always easy for a team to simply forget about.
However, the Massachusetts hockey team has no choice but to put its blowout loss to UMass Lowell Sunday behind and shift its focus to Tuesday night when UMass (3-5-1, 2-5-1 Hockey East Association) hosts Vermont at 7 p.m.
The quick turnaround coming off a grind-it-out, 2-2 tie with Maine on Friday proved detrimental to the Minutemen as they appeared to be a step behind the River Hawks the entire night. UMass coach John Micheletto is hopeful that having a shot at redemption two nights later will be beneficial for his team.
“I really hope so,” he said. “Obviously playing (Sunday) after playing Maine on Friday didn’t wind up working out so well for us, so I hope the lesson is learned and the quick turnaround will be a good thing.
“We talk about having a short memory, win or lose we’ve got to tee it up the very next day and look forward.”
Micheletto also said that the team first had to address what went wrong in Sunday’s game before moving on to preparing for the Catamounts at practice on Monday.
“I don’t think we’ve completely severed ourselves from (Sunday), there are things we’ll have to summarize and put aside and then go on to the preparation,” he said. “There’s kind of a process in place that inevitably you have, and you gotta talk about it and decompress a little bit and learn.”
Bouncing back from arguably their worst performance of the young season won’t be an easy task for the Minutemen against an upstart Vermont (2-4-2, 2-4-2 HEA) team that already has six points in Hockey East play through eight games after collecting seven total points last season.
Micheletto, however, is not surprised by the Catamounts improved play because he was involved with recruiting most of the players on their roster after spending the last nine seasons as an assistant at Vermont along with first-year UMass assistant Joey Gasparini.
While the Catamounts are expected to present a unique challenge to the Minutemen, the familiarity with the program and the players could potentially play in UMass’ favor come game time.
“It’s interesting because I think I’ll know the personnel a little bit better than other teams we play against, but they’re doing different things than we did when Joey and I were there now,” Micheletto said. “They’ve got a new staff and invariably there’s gonna be a difference in the way that they play, whether it’s huge systems or just little things within those systems, so, the evaluation that we’re getting from the pre-scout video, it’s the same as anybody else.
“We try to break that video down and try to break down tendencies as you can and use them to our advantage. I don’t think that we’ll have any advantage over them because I used to work there.”
What is sure to play to UMass’ advantage is that the Catamounts will be without the services of junior forward Conor Brickley, who is out indefinitely with a right forearm injury.
Vermont, which is current holds the sixth spot in the conference, has had a critical boost from its freshman goaltender Brody Hoffman, who has emerged as the full-time starter for the Catamounts. Hoffman has a 2.78 goals against average and a .910 save percentage through his first eight games.
“We’re approaching the game being appropriately respectful for the skill that they have and the success that they had without over-respecting them or anybody else in this league,” Micheletto said. “We’ll have to make sure that we’re ready for the pressure that they’re gonna have on the forecheck. “They do a nice job of blocking shots – always have, always will – under (Vermont coach) Kevin (Sneddon), so we need to stretch them out in the offensive zone and make sure that we’re creating attack lanes and shooting lanes.”
While the strategic elements of the game are certainly on the mind of Micheletto, he is also concerned with the way his team responds after such a poor outing and hopes to get a better glimpse of the character of his bunch.
“I think we’ll reveal a lot about our guys,” he said. “So I’m confident that resilience we’ve shown at other times this year will shine through again (Tuesday).”
With that in mind, Micheletto is also aware that his team is in the midst of a learning process and these lapses are to be expected. However, he’s hoping his players continue to move towards getting better as a team when they take the ice Tuesday.
“It’s part of that process that we’re gonna have to go from where we’ve been to where we want to be,” he said. “We want it to happen overnight but sometimes it’s not going to be that magical, so we’re mindful that it’s part of the process.
“Again, not happy about what happened (Sunday), but excited for the opportunity to strap it on (Tuesday).”
Nick Canelas can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.