Minutemen struggling after 3-game losing streak

By Jeffrey R. Larnard

hockAA month and a half ago it was a question of whether the Massachusetts hockey team would have another January collapse.

With strong 5-4 record last month, the questions next year may be about the February collapse.

After consecutive losses over the weekend to Northeastern – a 2-0 loss Friday at the Mullins Center and a 6-3 decision Saturday at Matthews Arena – No. 18 UMass fell in its first three contests of the month, and has lost five of its last six.

In their recent three-game losing streak, the Minutemen (16-13-0, 11-11-0 Hockey East) also fell from a tie in second place with Boston College in the conference to a tie with Boston University for fourth place. The Terriers, however, hold the edge over UMass, taking the season series, 2-1.

For the Huskies (15-12-1, 10-10-1 HEA) the weekend sweep jumped them to a point behind UMass and BU with 21 points.

Northeastern became the most recent team to hit UMass’ goaltender hard as it beat the junior Paul Dainton six times on Saturday night. Dainton, who had 31 saves, has given up 18 goals in his last four games played, three of which he played from start to finish and another of which he played only the first period.

The Huskies Robbie Vrolyk got to Dainton first, a little under six minutes into the game off assists from Drew Daniels and Greg Costa. Michael Marcou would tie the game up at one in the 17th minute of the period, but Northeastern scored four unanswered goals on its way to the 6-3 victory.

Vrolyk scored his second goal of the game and sixth of the season three minutes into the third period, as well as his third on the weekend.

Danny Hobbs cut the Huskies lead to three in the 12th minute of the final period off of James Marcou’s 33rd assists of the season, but a minute later Wade McLeod added Northeastern’s sixth goal of the game, and its third power-play goal. The Huskies finished the night 3-of-9 on the man advantage while the Minutemen would go 0-for-6 on the night and 0-for-9 on the weekend.

Dan Meyers got the start Friday night in net for UMass, allowing just two goals to the Huskies, but an anemic offense by the Minutemen gave the senior little support.

“I told the guys after the game that I wasn’t as disappointed with the effort as I was with the result,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said after Friday’s game. “I thought we made a decent effort in terms of playing hard defensively and competing, we’re just not real sharp offensively.”

Meyers made 16 saves in the game while allowing two goals. The senior was first beat in the first period of Friday’s game by David Strathman on the power play, and again in the third by Vrolyk. Meyers kept the Minutemen in the contest during the second period as he made six of his 18 saves in the period including stopping two one-on-one chances by the Huskies.

“Maybe we played good but we didn’t play good enough. This time of year you need that little extra effort those dirty goals you need to do whatever it takes to find a way to score,” Brett Watson said. “You’re not going to win if you don’t score.”

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at [email protected]