Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Penalties could bring trouble to UMass

By Ryan Fleming, Collegian Staff

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Ryan Fung, Collegian

A big reason for the No. 20 Massachusetts hockey team’s loss last weekend to Merrimack was their inability to stay out of the penalty box.

The Minutemen (4-2-1, 2-1-1 Hockey East) were guilty of seven penalties; three in the first period and three in the second. While spending so much time in the penalty box, UMass was forced to play on the defensive for a chunk of those two periods, wearing themselves out by the time the third period came around – already down by a goal.

The Minutemen were also handed a 5-on-3 advantage when Merrimack’s Brandon Sadlowski and Karl Stollery were called for penalties with 2 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the game. It was another opportunity the Minutemen failed to cash in on, due to playing strenuously for the past two periods.

UMass can’t afford to spend much time in the penalty box when it comes to playing No. 1 Boston University (6-1-0, 3-1-0 Hockey East) and UMass Lowell (3-4-0, 1-2-0 Hockey East) this Friday and Saturday night, respectively.

Despite spending too much time on the penalty kill, UMass Coach Don Cahoon continues to praise the efforts of his special teams.

“I think we have some compliments in both areas with veterans on both sides who have a wealth of experience,” Cahoon said. “On the man-down, the speed and experience is a big part, with the addition of willingness to block shots.”

Fortunately for the Minutemen, they have an excellent penalty-killing unit. UMass has killed 25 penalties in a row dating back to when the Minutemen played Rensselaer on Oct. 21.

Brett Watson, Martin Nolet and UMass goalkeepers Paul Dainton and Dan Meyers are huge reasons for the unit’s success.

“The final part of it has been good goaltending. Dainton was hurt earlier in the year, but Meyers came back and had some great outings,” Cahoon said. “The goaltending has been the biggest part of the penalty kill so far.”

The Minutemen have held opponents to a .061 power play success rate. The unit is also ranked sixth in the nation.

The Terriers boast one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. BU has scored over five goals in their last three games, and has only allowed eight in those games. If UMass wants a chance to beat the No. 1 team in the country, then they have to keep out of the penalty box.

With Massachusetts on the penalty kill so often, Cory Quirk, Brett Watson and other players that are on the two penalty kill units get tired very quickly.

When Quirk and his other two linemates James Marcou and Chris Davis aren’t on the ice with a man down, they’re causing havoc for opposing defenses. The trio has accumulated 28 points this season, making opposing defenses almost invincible.

The three were especially successful two weeks ago when they played a home-and-home series with Providence College.

Beside BU, the Minutemen can’t afford to take penalties against any team in the Hockey East.

The Hockey East is one of the strongest divisions in college hockey, and will make any opponent pay for their mistakes.

Watson and Nolet provide the Minutemen special teams with aggressiveness the team needs to succeed with a man down. Watson plays close to the blueline, forcing opposing attackers into less-than-desirable situations and possibly turning over the puck.

Nolet does much of the same, but has more of a physical presence. Nolet uses his body to create turnovers and to give Minutemen defenders a chance to come to his aid, killing time.

Faceoffs, fortunately for the Minutemen, prove to be a strength. UMass has won 53 percent of their faceoffs, which is essential when a faceoff comes in the Minutemen zone after a penalty.

Ryan Fleming can be reached at [email protected]

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