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UMass hockey can’t heed coach John Micheletto’s warning in 6-3 loss against BU

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

In the week leading up to the Massachusetts hockey team’s 6-3 loss against No. 9 Boston University, John Micheletto mentioned several things the Minutemen needed to do to avoid another crushing loss against BU.

UMass needed to improve on defense. The Minutemen needed work on the penalty kill. Most of all, they needed to avoid losing focus and giving the Terriers control of the game for minutes at a time.

“We can’t give them a five-minute span to run free,” Micheletto said Monday at practice. “Hopefully, we can put together 60 minutes of forcing them to play a 200-foot game.”

His words were ominously prophetic, as UMass (7-17-4, 2-12-4 Hockey East) gave the Terriers almost exactly five minutes to “run free” at the beginning of the first period. BU freshman Jordan Greenway opened the scoring just 57 seconds into the period and Chase Phelps scored again under two minutes later. At four minutes, 49 seconds into the first, BU (16-7-4, 9-4-3 HEA) added another goal off the stick of Mike Moran and led 3-0.

It was exactly the kind of lapse that Micheletto warned against, and the game was never in question after the opening five minutes. UMass’ Ray Pigozzi cut the deficit to 3-1 on a power play goal later in the first, and at one point the Minutemen made it a 5-3 game in the third period. But the Terriers built enough of a lead to keep them out of any real danger for the rest of the game.

“I love the way we started.  Obviously, we came out with a lot of energy,” BU coach Dave Quinn said after the game. “I liked our focus. I thought we were ready from the drop of the puck.”

UMass failed to match the Terriers’ early intensity, but it got things together and made it a competitive game later on. Dominic Trento scored a power play goal early in the third period and Joseph Widmar jammed home the first goal of his career just 54 seconds later to make it 5-3.

But the slow start cast a shadow over the remainder of the game, and the Minutemen were fighting a near-impossible uphill battle for the final 55 minutes. BU was held to two goals over the final two periods, but it held on thanks to the three-goal lead UMass spotted them in the first five minutes.

“We tailed off a little bit as the game went on and lost a little focus, but attribute some of that to the way UMass played,” Quinn said. “They never quit. (But) it’s tough when you’re down 3-0 and then 4-1 after one.”

“We did better things in the latter half of the first, certainly in the second,” Micheletto said. “But that’s an uphill battle. We need a save and we need a better effort to not let it get to be 3-0 4:49 in.”

The game continued a trend of poor performances from the Minutemen against the Terriers in their last four meetings. In those matchups, BU has outscored UMass 30-12 en route to four dominant victories.

To senior defenseman Ben Gallacher, the devil has been in the details for the Minutemen against the Terriers.

“It’s really small stuff that makes a huge difference in games,” Gallacher said. “It gets us hemmed in our zone, and we can do a lot better job with that going forward.

Quinn didn’t have a specific answer for how his team has been able to average 7.5 goals per game against the Minutemen in the four-game win streak, but he wasn’t complaining.

“I wish I had an answer for it, because if I did we’d do it to everybody… it’s just something that’s been happening,” Quinn said. “I hope it continues.”

Lagesson, Fryer return to blue line

After Callum Fryer missed last weekend’s action against Maine with a suspected head injury and William Lagesson was out for a longer period of time with an undisclosed ailment, both freshmen defensemen returned to the lineup for UMass Friday night.

Fryer finished the game with a blocked shot and -3 plus/minus rating, while Lagesson finished with two blocks and a -1.

“It’s nice to be back at full strength. It obviously did not have as big of an impact on the outcome of the game as I would’ve liked,” Micheletto said. “But moving forward, they’re certainly key pieces to the puzzle, and I think it will have significance down the stretch.”

In the long run, the health of the two 6-foot-3 defensemen is more important than a single game. To that end, Micheletto thought both players looked healthy in their return to game action.

“I’m sure their legs and lungs aren’t where they want them to be, but otherwise they looked fine,” Micheletto said.

Lagesson also picked up a minor penalty for a scrum with Terriers forward Danny O’Regan early in the second period. The Minutemen missed Lagesson in all aspects of the game during his absence over the past few weeks, but his physicality was certainly a feature UMass struggled to make up for.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at rgieniec@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @RossGien.

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