Hockey: Mass Attack playing down to opponents

By Melissa Turtinen, Collegian Staff

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There is no such thing as a guaranteed win, even if certain teams are heavily favored to win a match up.

For the Massachusetts hockey team (6-6-1, 4-4-1 Hockey East) being favored to win doesn’t help them out, at all.

Three of the Minutemen’s six losses have come from teams they were expected to beat, the other three came from higher-ranked teams in then-No. 12 Michigan State (Oct. 10), then-No. 4 Boston College (Nov. 21) and then-No. 13 Vermont (Nov. 25).

This Friday the Minutemen have a chance to redeem themselves when they host Connecticut (4-10-0, 3-5-0 Atlantic Hockey) at the Mullins Center at 7 p.m.

“Who are we as a program not to get up for anybody. That’s nonsense, if these guys think they’re something because they beat BC one time or they beat [Boston University] one time that is such a huge mistake,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said after UMass’ loss to St. Lawrence regarding the teams’ current struggle against lesser opponents.

“We talk about that all the time. They’re quote-on-quote Division I hockey players. There are Division I hockey players that become great teams and there are Division I hockey players that become so-so teams. I haven’t seen the great team yet. I’ve seem some great performances, but I haven’t seen the great team yet. I’m dying to see it.”

Since the start of the season, UMass has struggled against opponents that are seen as easy wins, but in Hockey East play the Minutemen learned quickly that is not the case. On Oct. 31 they hosted Providence and sat back and watched the Friars score two quick goals in the first 10 minutes of the game – the Minutemen came back and won 9-4, but the Friars continued to challenge them throughout the game. The Minutemen learned their lesson from the first game of the weekend’s set and beat the Friars the next night, 5-1.

That mentality didn’t carry into the next weekend when UMass traveled to Merrimack and lost, 3-1. Merrimack, a team who tends to sit at the bottom of Hockey East rankings, didn’t let up. The Minutemen didn’t play to their level, that combined with being called for preventable penalties gave them no chance of coming out with a win.

On Nov. 15, UMass-Lowell outplayed the Minutemen for nearly the entire game. Although the River Hawks are a more formidable opponent than Providence and Merrimack, the UMass couldn’t play up to their speed and lost, 2-0. The day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 28) the Minutemen lost, 4-3, to non-conference opponent St. Lawrence (ECAC).

The team deserves a little credit – they have a record of 3-3-1 against ranked opponents and 3-1-1 against opponents ranked in the top-5. Against top teams the Minutemen play their game, control play and if the team is better, they play up to their opponents’ level. The challenge in ranked teams seems to spark UMass’ play, but the Minutemen let their guard down when it comes to less challenging opponents.

This weekend brings another opponent that the Minutemen are expected to beat, but with the way the last two weeks have been going they need to go into the game like they did against then-No. 1 Boston University (Nov. 14, 5-1 win for UMass), not like they are playing non-conference Connecticut.

Melissa Turtinen can be reached at [email protected]