Mass Attack suffers January slip, drops several Hockey East games

By Ryan Fleming, Collegian Staff

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P.J. Stanley/Collegian

It’s developing into an intersession trend. The annual winter break never ceases to bring snow, the too short/too long period away from school and the ever certain bump in the road for the Massachusetts hockey team.

Last season the Minutemen (10-11-2, 5-7-2 Hockey East) won their first two winter break contests but then dropped five in a row, managing a lone tie to make their January record a disappointing 2-5-1.

This season UMass has once again posted a 2-5-1 record while going 0-2-1 at the Mullins Center. The Minutemen are still desperately searching for any kind of consistency as every game becomes more important.

But it isn’t all bad news for the Minutemen. UMass coach Don Cahoon has found another line capable of taking over a game and still has two goaltenders that can go any night.

Second line

In the Dartmouth Ledyard National Bank Classic’s consolation game against Army, Cahoon -‘- in perhaps an attempt to spark his team offensively ‘- put T.J. Syner, Casey Wellman and Will Ortiz on UMass’ second line. The patchwork line was responsible for three of UMass’ four goals in its 4-1 win.

Since then the trio has five goals and 10 assists in its last five games providing the Minutemen with an extra offensive burst.

The line’s center, Wellman, is second on the team in points (21) and assists (16).

Winger Ortiz has five points in his last five games and is the workhorse of the line; Syner has four points (2 goals, 2 assists).

Most of all, the line shows tremendous speed, which is evident when the trio enters the offensive zone and cycles the puck along the boards and behind the net.

Home problems

The Minutemen are 0-2-1 at home in January, getting outscored 12-8 in the three games. Playing at home these last few weeks surely hasn’t been the same.

With a great majority of the student body away on winter break, the Mullins Center hasn’t exactly been as exciting over the last few weeks as it had been these last four months.

On the season the Minutemen are 5-5-1 at home.

Not the issue

In UMass’ 2-1 loss to No. 7 Vermont on Jan. 23, Minuteman net minder Paul Dainton stopped 17 shots, posting a solid outing but still getting the loss due to the lack of offensive production.

That has been the story this winter for most of UMass’ losses. Dainton and Dan Meyers have created a solid goaltending tandem that keeps the Minutemen in every game.

The UMass goaltenders have posted save percentages of .913 and .919, respectively. The defense in front of the net minders is struggling despite the play of the first defensive pairing Justin Braun and Martin Nolet. Meyers saved a career-high 41 shots in UMass’ 3-2 overtime loss to New Hampshire and started three straight games from Jan. 9-16.

Mixing it up

At the start of the season the Minutemen boasted one of the most dangerous and offensively potent first lines in the nation. James Marcou, Cory Quirk and Alex Berry were mostly responsible for UMass’ fast start, power-play success and high-scoring offense.

Lately though, that hasn’t been the story. Cahoon has jumbled up the lines in hopes to spark the offense that once gifted his first line. Lately right winger Chris Davis has seen playing time on UMass’ first line especially early on this winter when Berry was disqualified for hitting from behind against Bemidji State in Dartmouth, N.H.

Since then Da
‘ name has reached the box score often but the chemistry of the first line still isn’t there. Cahoon again mixed the lines against UMass-Lowell on Jan. 17. Marcou was put on UMass’ first line with Michael Lecomte and Chase Langeraap. The first line tallied one goal and two assists while the ever-improving second line was responsible for the game-winner.

Ryan Fleming can be reached at [email protected]