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UMass hockey battles finals, Colgate this week

The Massachusetts hockey team had little time to relish in its victory over Notre Dame on Saturday – its first win in over a month – because its next big test was only a couple days away.

Final exam week.

Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian

It’s a particularly stressful time for students. Late nights studying and 10-page papers lead to little sleep over the course of the week, and the only thing keeping them sane is the five-week break that follows.

Student-athletes are no exception, and it has made for a particularly big challenge for UMass coach John Micheletto as his team tries to prepare for its weekend series at Colgate.

The Minutemen held all optional practices this week, and as of Wednesday had yet to have full participation on the ice. But through years as a coach and as an educator, Micheletto knew he had to plan ahead.

“I guess we’re just trying to deal with it head on,” he said. “My experience over the years is it’s gonna be different so you better embrace it and talk about it and understand what the difficulties and obstacles are gonna be. That’s how we’ve dealt with it and are gonna continue to deal with it.”

While the Minutemen’s main focus has been on academics this week, Micheletto also stressed the importance of players keeping their bodies healthy throughout the week because there are still games to be played on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

“We need to do the best we can to mind on our nutrition, which is really really important this week, even if your sleep isn’t that good or your schedule is different,” Micheletto said. “You’re staying up later than normal studying for exams so you gotta make sure that your nutrition is solid and you’re keeping hydrated throughout the course of the week. Hopefully we keep our legs going throughout the course of the week and try not to overstress the mind with hockey stuff.”

UMass isn’t the only team that has gone through this type of struggle. Teams across the nation, including Colgate, are going through the same obstacles as their respective opponents as the fall semester comes to a close.

Given the mental struggle that both teams have endured this week, one may think that both sides are in for a pair of sloppy contests this weekend. But Micheletto said he’s also seen it as a release for the players, leading to some exciting hockey.

However, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility for an ugly game when the puck drops at 4 p.m. Saturday in Hamilton, N.Y.

“I think there’s always that potential, yeah,” Micheletto said. “I’ve seen it both ways. I’ve seen it be unbelievable games because guys are just letting it go at that point and it’s sort of the last kick at the can for guys before the break. There’s been other times when teams haven’t been able to get their legs or their minds aren’t very sharp.”

With three non-conference games in four days coming up before the 10-day winter break, UMass is hoping for some positive momentum to close out the unofficial halfway point of the season. But it’s not essential. Last season UMass lost its last three games before the winter break, including two at home against Colgate, but came out of the two-week layoff with a pair of wins at Dartmouth in the Ledyard National Bank Classic.

“I think it’s always better (to end on a positive note),” Micheletto said. “But regardless of the way it turns out anything is possible moving forward. It’s all part of the mental approach.”

Nick Canelas can be reached at ncanelas@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.

 

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