For the Massachusetts hockey team, Oct. 27, 2012, followed a script it was all too familiar with. The Minutemen got out to an early 2-0 lead against Boston University that night, but watched its advantage fade away as the Terriers were the ones who came away with a 3-2 win at the Mullins Center.
This Friday, UMass (9-12-2, 6-9-1 Hockey East Association) will try to prevent that script from repeating itself as it welcomes No. 11 BU (13-9-1, 10-6-1 HEA) back to Amherst for a 7 p.m. puck drop.
The Oct. 27 loss was the back end of a home-and-home series with BU. The Minutemen also came up short, 5-2, the night before.
UMass coach John Micheletto was especially pleased with the way his team competed against the Terriers at the Mullins Center despite the loss and said that his team learned a valuable lesson from that game.
“Particularly here at the Mullins Center, I thought it was a really good learning lesson for our guys in the early going about how you want to play no matter what the score is,” Micheletto said. “We got a little bit, when the game got tight, we fell back into some older, more passive mentality and that wound up hurting us.”
This time around, the Minutemen defense will be facing an especially tough task, as it will be in charge of neutralizing the third-best scoring offense in Hockey East. In 23 games this season, BU has averaged 3.09 goals per game, which ties them for third overall in the conference with UMass Lowell.
The Terriers’ offensive skills are something that UMass senior co-captain Kevin Czepiel is well aware of. Although he is a forward, he said that stopping the BU offense will need to be an all-around team effort with the offense pitching in at times.
“It’s gonna make us more aware that we have to come back and help our defensemen and maybe the forwards have to get back a little quicker, because they are a fast team,” Czepiel said. “So I think it’s just locking into our game plan and executing it.”
The Terriers, according to Micheletto, will be without the services of one of their top offensive players in Evan Rodriguez, who injured his hand during a 3-2 win against Providence last Friday night. During that game, Rodriguez had scored a pair of goals before he left. Rodriguez did not play in that Saturday’s 3-3 tie between the two teams.
Even in Rodriguez’s absence, BU still has a number of offensive weapons to turn to, including Cason Hohmann, Danny O’Regan and Wade Megan. Hohmann leads the team with 23 points and O’Regan is right behind him with 22. Megan ranks third in points with 19 and leads the Terriers in goals with 12.
“They’ve got a good blend of size and skill and that’s always kind of been a hallmark for them,” Micheletto said. “They are down one of their better players or hotter players in Rodriguez, but they’re a team that’s pretty even in terms of their success on the rush as well as off the cycle and offensive situations.”
Micheletto added that the Minutemen have allowed the least amount of shots in Hockey East this year and that the Terriers have struggled in this category. BU’s opponents have outshot them this year by 31 shots, while UMass has outshot its opponents by 154.
Also of note Friday night will be who will start in goal for each team. The Terriers showcase a pair of freshman goalies in Matt O’Connor and Sean Maguire. O’Connor has played in six more games than his counterpart, but both have put forth winning records in net.
Similarly, the Minutemen have a pair of goalies they can turn to in Steve Mastalerz and Kevin Boyle, both sophomores. While Mastalerz has started the past four games, Micheletto said that how both players perform in practice will be the deciding factor in who starts on Friday.
Friday’s game will be UMass’ first game back at the Mullins Center since it lost 5-4 to PC on Jan. 11.
“It’s gonna be exciting, especially having the students back,” Czepiel said. “We’re all aware of that, so it’s fun to get back here and be at home.”
Cameron McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.