Hockey: Minutemen display power

By Melissa Turtinen, Collegian Staff

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Ryan Fung / Collegian

After sweeping Providence last weekend the Massachusetts hockey team earned its first national ranking of the season in the USCHO.com/CBS College Sports Poll.

The No. 19 Minutemen (5-1-1, 2-0-1 Hockey East) hold the nation’s fourth longest unbeaten streak at 4-0-1 since their second game of the season, when they defeated then-No. 5 North Dakota at the Ice Breaker Invitational in Boston on Oct. 11.

Most recently, the Minutemen showed their offensive strength defeating the Friars 9-4 in their home-opener on Oct. 31 and 5-1 on Nov. 1 at Providence.

Fire power

UMass is ranked fourth nationally in offensive production due to the depth of its forwards. The Minutemen average 4.17 goals and 31.8 shots per game, with the majority of points – 43 percent – coming from linemates senior center Cory Quirk, senior left wing Alex Berry and sophomore right wing James Marcou. Together, the line has totaled 28 of the team’s 65 points, earning 19 points during last weekend’s sweep of Providence.

The Minutemen used tips, deflections, slap shots, cycling and quick passes to score their goals this weekend. The ability to score goals in a variety of ways will continue to benefit the Minutemen throughout the season, not allowing opponents to anticipate UMass in its offensive zone.

This season the Minutemen have scored 25 goals, which is the most UMass has scored in its first six games since the 2003-04 season when the Minutemen scored 22 goals.

Masterful Marcou

Marcou is known for his playmaking abilities. He plays a key role in the first power-play unit as well as left wing on UMass’ top scoring line.

Marcou was the team’s leading scorer last year and looks to continue at the same pace this season with his 11 points – on five goals and six assists – in the seven games UMass has played this season. He currently leads the Minutemen in goals and points. He leads the Hockey East in points and is ranked 12th nationally. He ranks second in goals and fifth in assists, power play points and power play goals in Hockey East.

With his high point-earning weekend against Providence – tallying three goals and five assists for eight points – he was named CCM/RBK Player of the Week on Nov. 3. He was also the InsideCollegeHockey.com National Player of the Week Runner-Up.

Both specialties

UMass has taken advantage of its special teams opportunities. On average the Minutemen – one of the least penalized teams in the nation – are called for 5.2 penalties per game, 12.2 minutes, and have spent 73 minutes in the box so far this season.

Typically playing on UMass’ penalty kill are Quirk and Berry or junior captain Brett Watson and senior Chris Davis at forward. The defenders rotate through but junior Justin Braun, junior Martin Nolet, senior John Wessbecker and senior Topher Bevis tend to see the most ice time during the kill.

The Minutemen’s penalty kill is second in Hockey East play. They have not let in a goal during their opponents last 18 power play chances during the last four games. They have allowed two goals all season while playing a man down. Overall, UMass is 92.3 percent while the other team has the advantage, which is good for 10th in the nation.

UMass’ power play is also one of the best in the country, ranked eighth overall and the third best in the Hockey East. This season, the Minutemen have scored eight power-play goals, three coming from sophomore center Michael Lecomte and two from Marcou. Lecomte scored two power-play goals last weekend.

Playing in the first power-play unit is typically Davis, Quirk and Marcou at forward with Braun and Berry at defense. The second unit sees a variety of players, with Bevis and Nolet running the points and Lecomte, freshman Casey Wellman, sophomore Chase Langeraap, freshman Danny Hobbs and junior Will Ortiz all seeing ice time during the man advantage.

Dainton in the crease

Sophomore Paul Dainton played in his first two games of the season over the weekend after recovering from an injury. Dainton took over for junior Dan Meyers during the second period after Providence scored its fourth goal on Friday in UMass’ 9-4 win. Dainton wasn’t awarded a shutout, although he didn’t let in a goal. He made 17 shots in his sophomore debut for the Minutemen.

Dainton came in cold on Friday and impressed UMass coach Don Cahoon enough to start him in net on Saturday at Providence. Dainton let in one goal in UMass’ 5-1 win. Dainton made 24 saves, including eight saves while the Minutemen were a man down. Dainton gave up few rebounds and his overall performance in net contributed to the success of UMass’ penalty kill throughout the weekend.

Melissa Turtinen can be reached at [email protected]