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Nathalie Sczublewski/Daily Collegian

While this weekend will provide the usual nerves and excitement that accompany the season opener, it will also have an added element for Michael Pereira and the seniors for the Massachusetts hockey team.

“Nerves, excitement, bittersweet,” Pereira said. “It’s your last opening weekend.”

And this is an important weekend right out of the box for the Minutemen, because rather than ease into Hockey East action with a slew of non-conference games against unranked opponents, they are opening at No. 19 Boston University on Friday before traveling to No. 1 UMass Lowell on Saturday for what will be a non-conference game against a conference opponent.

This weekend will also be a barometer for UMass coach John Micheletto on how far his team has come during the offseason. And he says there is still plenty of teaching left to do.

“In preseason while you’re doing two hours a week, it’s more about establishing a tempo, having your guys be refreshed as to how hard we practice and what pace we play and it’s also indoctrinating the new guys into that style, into that mindset, so there’s less teaching and more setting that tempo,” he said. “Now we’re getting into special teams and face-offs and some of the more strategic things, a little more X’s and O’s and it slows down the pace of practice just a little bit. So there’s a progression that we have, we’ll stick to the plan that we set out and I think we’re in a good spot right now.”

Up to this point, the focus has been mostly directed toward the teaching aspect instead of on who the Minutemen’s opponents are this weekend.

“Just mostly just focusing on ourselves and getting ourselves ready to play at the highest level we can,” Pereira said. “We feel as if we’re playing at the highest level we can, I think we can disrupt a lot of teams and win a lot of hockey games. So we’re basically just taking care of ourselves here.

“I’m sure later on in the week we’ll take a look at the teams we’re playing this weekend, BU and Lowell. But for right now it’s just taking care of us and what we need to do to get ready for this weekend.”

The first team that UMass will have to prepare for is an unpredictable Terriers team. BU is coming off of a trip to the Hockey East Tournament finals where they lost to the River Hawks. That game proved to be the final game for longtime coach Jack Parker, paving the way for David Quinn to take over the program.

Micheletto is no stranger to the position that Quinn is in, having taken over as coach of the Minutemen just last season. Despite the learning curve that can come with a new head coach, Micheletto is expecting the Terries to be ready come Friday night.

“I’m sure David Quinn’s gonna have his guys ready to go,” he said. “It’s a home opener for them and Agganis is gonna be a difficult place to play. I don’t think it makes any difference. I know we were as anxious to win last year as we are this year and hopefully we’re able to get our first one under our belt.”

UMass enjoyed limited success against BU last year, winning in a blowout, 5-1, in the two team’s final meeting despite a 1-2 record against the Terriers overall.

The same, however, cannot be said for its recent history against UMass Lowell. The Minutemen dropped all three contests against the River Hawks last year, who were on their way to a memorable Frozen Four run.

Friday night’s game at BU is scheduled to begin a 7:30 p.m., and Saturday’s road contest against UMass Lowell is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Cameron McDonough can be reached at cameronm@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.

 

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