The last time the Massachusetts hockey team hosted UMass Lowell, it wasn’t pretty.
The Minutemen found themselves down 6-0 in the second period before they scored their first goal of the game en route to an 8-2 loss back on Nov. 18, 2012.
Despite the River Hawks’ dominant performance on the scoreboard, the overwhelming belief for UMass before practice on Wednesday was that loss was defined more by what it failed to do rather than what UMass Lowell did.
“I don’t even think it’s about what they did, it’s about what we didn’t do and that we’re gonna have to do this upcoming weekend if we’re gonna make a chance of sweeping them,” junior forward Branden Gracel said.
Minuteman coach John Micheletto added that his team’s energy level was not where it needed to be from the outset and that ended up being an issue as well.
Jeff Teglia got his first and only start this season in net during the loss. He let up three goals in 16 minutes, 26 seconds before being replaced by Steve Mastalerz, who didn’t fare much better, allowing five goals the rest of the way.
But now UMass has a chance to put that loss behind it when it plays a home-and-home series with the No. 14 River Hawks this weekend, starting with a game at the Mullins Center this Friday night at 7 p.m. followed by a 7 p.m. game at the Tsongas Center on Saturday.
The Minutemen will be competing against a much-improved UMass Lowell team this time around, however.
The last time the two teams played, they both had identical overall records of 3-5-1, but now the River Hawks (14-9-2, 8-8-2 Hockey East Association) are nationally ranked with a much-improved record .
UMass (10-13-2, 7-10-1 HEA) on the other hand has continued to struggle to find consistency, which Darren Rowe pointed out was a factor the last time the two teams met.
“I just think the biggest thing with that game and just the whole season has been just stringing games together, just our consistency,” Rowe said. “So I think the biggest thing is the whole year we’ve been talking about our consistency with each game.”
UMass Lowell heads into Friday’s game on a two-game losing streak following an 11-game unbeaten streak. Its last game was a 4-3 overtime loss at Maine on Feb. 3. The Minutemen are coming off a 4-2 loss at Merrimack last Sunday.
The River Hawks are led by a balanced scoring attack with only one player, Riley Wetmore, in double-digits for goals scored.. UMass Lowell’s other top scorers are Joseph Pendenza (nine goals, 22 points) and Scott Wilson (seven goals, 21 points).
Defensively, the River Hawks have allowed 62 goals this season, second least in the conference, and have the fourth-best scoring defense (2.48 goals per game).
One of the leaders of their defense is junior goalie Doug Carr. His numbers this season aren’t as good as his breakthrough 2011-2012 campaign, but he still has a respectable .897 save percentage and a 2.79 goals-against-average. Last year he had a .928 save percentage and a 2.13 goals-against-average.
Although this UMass Lowell team is certainly better than the one that came to the Mullins Center in November, UMass still expects to come away with points this weekend.
“I think the bigger thing is to win Friday and then refocus and do it again on Saturday so that we win the season series,” Micheletto said. “They’re another team that we’re gonna be very close to in the standings and we want to make sure that if push came to shove and we needed a tiebreaker that we would get it.
“So that’s our biggest focus, two points first and foremost and then trying to take the season series.”
Cameron McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.