Inconsistencies plague Minutemen on ice

By Melissa Turtinen, Collegian Staff

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Ryan Fung/ Collegian

Inconsistencies plague teams and those inconsistencies are getting the better of the Massachusetts hockey team.

Since the start of the season, UMass has slowly made its way lower and lower in Hockey East standings. After two loses last weekend to No. 12 Boston College (2-0) and UMass-Lowell (2-1), the Minutemen sit in the eighth-place spot (15 points), one point behind seventh-place Maine.

UMass (11-14-3, 6-10-3 Hockey East) has been working to start periods strong and finish them stronger. UMass failed to do so in both games this weekend. On Saturday, UMass-Lowell scored the game-winning goal in the first minute of the third period. Against Boston College, UMass allowed a goal just over a minute into the first period.

‘Lo and behold, we give up a goal in the first minute of a period again which gets back to the first and last minutes of periods ‘- one of our objectives, one of the things you really work on,’ UMass coach Don Cahoon said after Saturday’s game. ‘It’s a real cardinal sin in our sport to give goals up in the beginning and ends of periods, and we give one up in the beginning of the period.’

The Minutemen have been working to play the last two periods as hard as their first. Against UMass-Lowell, Cahoon noted that their first period was strong, but the remaining two fell short of the Minutemen’s capabilities. The same went for the Jan. 30 win against No. 3 Northeastern, when UMass played an impressively in the first period, but steered away from their system of play in the last two.

Staying consistent from game to game will play a critical role in UMass’ progress toward a postseason run. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

Not so powerful

UMass has been inconsistent on the power play for the majority of the season, but the ample opportunities the Minutemen have on the man advantage has not been used to their benefit for quite some time.

On Saturday against UMass-Lowell, the Minutemen went 0-for-5 with five shots on the power play. Friday against Boston College UMass did the same, 0-for-5, with eight shots. UMass is eighth in Hockey East on the power play (18-for-130 this season, 13.8 percent) and have allowed five goals while a man up.

Against UMass-Lowell, the Minutemen failed to set up the power-play unit in their offensive zone. The first power-play unit consisted of James Marcou, Casey Wellman and Chase Langeraap with Justin Braun and Matt Irwin manning the points. The second unit saw Michael Lecomte, T.J. Syner and Cory Quirk with Topher Bevis and Alex Berry on the blue line.

The two units struggled to move the puck around in the offensive zone, which limited the openings between UMass-Lowell’s penalty killers and didn’t allow the Minutemen to get high-quality shots on net.

Defending strong

UMass’ special teams isn’t completely at a loss, as the Minutemen are fourth in Hockey East on the penalty kill (112-for-130 this season, 86.2 percent) and have scored four shorthanded goals, two coming from Braun.

The Minutemen have numerous players capable of playing in the man-down situation. On Saturday, Brett Watson and Scott Crowder played offense while Braun and Bevis were on defense. The other unit saw time from Doug Kublin, John Wessbecker, Quirk and others.

At 16 minutes, 14 seconds into the first period, Will Ortiz and Martin Nolet were called for two separate penalties, putting UMass-Lowell on a 5-on-3 advantage. For one minute Braun, Bevis and Watson played a tight triangle in front of Paul Dainton. They prevented the River Hawks from getting good looks on offense and Dainton made saves on the shots that the River Hawks got past the trio.

Scoring

Losing by one goal has become a theme in UMass’ season. The Minutemen are 3-7 in one-goal games. In many such games, the winning goal was scored in the first or final minute of the game.

Statistically, UMass has a mediocre offense. The Minutemen sit at seventh in scoring in Hockey East with 79 goals scored ‘- an average of 2.82 goals per game.

But, the Minutemen have numerous players that contribute offensively. Marcou and Wellman lead the team in points. Marcou is tied for second in scoring in Hockey East with eight goals and 23 assists (31 points) while averaging 1.11 points per game. Wellman is ranked first in freshman scoring in Hockey East. He has tallied eight goals and 16
assists (24 points). Berry is the leading goal-scorer for the team (10 goals, 13 assists).

UMass will look to stay consistent within its entire game when they have a home-and-home series with Northeastern next weekend. The Minutemen are scheduled to host the Huskies on Friday Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.

Melissa Turtinen can be reached at [email protected]