Hockey: Strong play from fourth line guides UMass past Terriers

By Ryan Fleming, Collegian Staff

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Usually, no matter what the sport is, you would like to have your best against your opponent’s best. So, when UMass hockey coach Don Cahoon shockingly started his fourth line against Boston University’s offensively-potent first line, in the Minutemen’s 5-1 victory Friday over the Terriers, you immediately started to wonder how this peculiar tactic would fair for the Minutemen.

But Cahoon, like any good coach, had a method to his decision.

From the opening faceoff, which was won by UMass’ Brett Watson, the fourth line made the game very difficult and frustrating for BU’s top line.

The line of Marc Concannon, Watson and Scott Crowder got in the way of the Terrier top line of Chris Higgins, Colin Wilson and Jason Lawrence all game long.

“UMass’ fourth line looked like a terrific line tonight,” Boston University coach Jack Parker said after Friday’s game. “They played great defense and they got at least one goal.

“But that line really played hard and against [BU’s Colin] Wilson’s line they really played hard,” Parker continued. “During the course of 60 minutes that line was out against Wilson’s line an awful lot and I thought they played extremely well, so you have to give them credit.”

The trio cut off their passing lanes, forced turnovers with their physical play and held the top Terrier line to eight shots, all stopped by UMass net minder Paul Dainton. BU’s top line finished with a combined plus-minus rating of minus-9.

In 60 minutes of hockey, the UMass fourth line was paired up with the Terrier top line for at least 75 percent of the action. Watson, an outstanding defensive forward, played on UMass’ top penalty killing unit as well.

Not only did Concannon, Watson and Crowder play just like Cahoon wanted them to defensively, they also provided a bonus spark when the line, in a total collective effort, scored UMass’ fourth goal.

The Minutemen gained the offense zone with the puck being carried in by Watson. Watson slid the pass to Concannon who skated toward Terrier net minder Grant Rollheiser’s right. Concannon looked up and noticed Scott Crowder stationed on Rollheiser’s immediate left. Concannon slid the pass to Crowder, who one-timed it past the Terrier goaltender.

“One of the most important and crucial aspects of tonight’s win was the play of Brett Watson’s line matching up with Colin Wilson’s line,” Cahoon said. “I thought Crowder, Concannon and Watson were absolutely fabulous all night long.”

Cahoon stressed the value of Watson offsetting Wilson all game long and the level of difficulty Concannon and Crowder added to the playmaking ability of Higgins and Lawrence.

Due to the trio’s success, the Minutemen matched their top line and second line with the Terriers’ second and third lines, respectively. Those matchups caused mismatches that UMass took full advantage of.

The fourth line was paired up with the UMass first defensive pairing of Justin Braun and Martin Nolet. On the night, the five registered 11 shots on net.

“There’s this thing called effort and I have a bunch of kids that give me that effort,” Cahoon said.

Ryan Fleming can be reached at [email protected]