Scrolling Headlines:

Hot outside shooting leads UMass over Georgia -

December 16, 2017

Minutemen knock off Georgia for big statement win -

December 16, 2017

Cale Makar selected to play for Team Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championships -

December 15, 2017

UMass men’s basketball looks to remain undefeated at home when Georgia comes to town -

December 15, 2017

Editorial: Our shift to a primarily digital world -

December 13, 2017

Makar, Ferraro off to Ontario to compete for Team Canada’s World Junior hockey team -

December 12, 2017

Lecture attempts to answer whether treatment of depression has resulted in over-prescription of SSRIs -

December 12, 2017

Palestinian students on campus react to President Trump’s recent declaration -

December 12, 2017

Smith College hosts social media panel addressing impact of social media on government policies -

December 12, 2017

GOP Tax Plan will trouble working grad students -

December 12, 2017

Mario Ferraro making his mark with UMass -

December 12, 2017

Minutewomen look to keep momentum going against UMass Lowell -

December 12, 2017

Ames: UMass hockey’s turnaround is real, and it’s happening now -

December 12, 2017

When your favorite comedian is accused of sexual assault -

December 12, 2017

A snapshot of my college experience -

December 12, 2017

Homelessness is an issue that’s close to home -

December 12, 2017

Allowing oil drilling in Alaska sets a dangerous precedent -

December 12, 2017

‘She’s Gotta Have It’ is a television triumph -

December 12, 2017

Some of my favorite everyday brands -

December 12, 2017

Berkeley professor researches high-poverty high school -

December 11, 2017

UMass hockey prepares for critical home-and-home with Northeastern

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

Two points. That’s all that separates a playoff team from a team on the outside looking in.

The Massachusetts hockey team finds itself in that precarious position heading into this weekend, as it sits in a tie for fifth place in the Hockey East Association standings, only two points clear of Northeastern, who is currently in a tie for eighth, but out of the playoff picture due to a tiebreaker.

The standings could look completely different after this weekend, when the Minutemen (4-5-2, 3-5-1 HEA) and Huskies (4-7-1, 2-6-1 HEA) square off in a crucial home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday night.

With only five points separating the third place team from the ninth place team, UMass can either continue its ascent up the crowded standings, or find itself in a spot that has become all too familiar to this team in years past, in the bottom portion of the conference.

“I think every time we step out there, no matter who it is and where they are, we got to take points,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “So I don’t think that’s ever lost on our guys.”

After dropping their first three conference games, the Minutemen have turned things around, winning three of their last six games in conference play and accumulating points in four of them.

Much of the team’s late success can be attributed to the team’s strong special teams play. UMass boasts a 21.4 percent power play, good for second in the conference, and ranks fourth in penalty kill, with an 86 percent conversion rate.

“Coach Micheletto puts the right guys out there,” junior defenseman Joel Hanley said. “We’re taking it upon ourselves to move the puck quicker and get to pucks quicker.  Special teams is huge in this league, so for us to be good on the power play is huge for us.”

While special teams are a key part in the success of a team, so is even strength hockey, something that the Minutemen have struggled at. UMass has only scored 15 even strength goals this season, which is near the bottom in both the conference and nationally.

“We’ve talked about generating more 5-on-5 goals,” Micheletto said. “You’re constantly trying to focus on and address things that might be a weakness for you, or something that you need to put a little more focus on.”

And even though the season is still young, UMass has faced a grueling opening schedule, with nine of its 11 games played against teams within the conference. Such a strong schedule can take its toll on a team, but the players are using it as a building tool and remain optimistic that it will help them in the long run.

“It gets us in the right mindset,” junior forward Conor Sheary said. “Out of conference is good to get exposure, but in conference is what counts for us and to get to the top of the standings. We need those points and to jump right into it is huge for us.”

The Minutemen cannot overlook the struggling Huskies though. While Northeastern sits at the bottom of the conference, it possesses a lot of strengths, many of which have faded significantly since getting off to a fast start.

The Huskies opened up conference play this year with two wins in their opening week, but have faltered recently, only accumulating one point in conference play since. They have managed to find the win column twice, but both were out of conference.

But the Minutemen are taking the same approach they have all season, stressing the importance of gaining points and not taking the opponent lightly.

“We understand that Northeastern is a dangerous team because they’re maybe not playing the way they did coming out of the gate,” Micheletto said. “You know that what’s possible and what they’ve proven in some other games in the past has not really been what’s going on in the recent history. The two points are always important, but we’re always stressing the process.”

That process is taking every game one at a time rather than looking forward to a two-game weekend and four very important potential points. UMass is preparing for Friday night’s game at home and not looking past a formidable opponent.

The first game of the two-game weekend series takes place Friday night at the Mullins Center. The puck will drop at 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on CBS3 Springfield Now.  The two teams will face off Saturday in Boston at Matthews Arena.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at pstrohec@student.umass.edu and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.

Leave A Comment