After a harsh season-opening schedule saw the Massachusetts hockey team go winless against both Minnesota and Boston University, two of the top 15 teams in the country, the Minutemen welcome an equally struggling Providence team this Friday night for the first home-and-home matchup of the season.
A 4-3 loss to BU last Friday dropped UMass (0-3-1, 0-1-1 Hockey East) into a tie for seventh place in the HEA.
“We’re a team without a win in the league,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “We’d like to get things moved into a positive direction. It would be a big push forward if we can get W’s this weekend.”
Providence (1-4-0, 1-2-0 HEA) comes into Amherst dragging four straight losses with it. However it does boast a conference win, having beaten Northeastern 3-2 in its season opener. Though since then, they have played three out of four teams in the top 10 against Minnesota-Duluth and BU. A loss at UMass-Lowell mixed in there has the Friars aching to get back on the winning track.
“They’re a team that’s struggled over the last couple of years, hasn’t had a lot of success and I think they’re tired of it and really driven to get beyond that and be a better team … I expect they’re going to play real hard,” Cahoon said. “This is going to be a real task for us to be able to play up to the level we’d like to play and end up with the results we want.”
In their four-straight losses, the Friars have allowed a total of 19 goals, an average of almost five goals per game. Cahoon sees an opportunity to continue that trend if UMass executes on special teams, and takes advantage of the struggles Providence is currently having with its special teams.
Sophomore Darren Rowe comes into the game having had his first career two-goal effort on Friday. He leads the team with four goals already this season after not scoring at all last season in 26 games. The Friars may have an equivalent to Rowe on their side, however, in sophomore Tim Schaller, who already has five points in five games this year, compared to five total points all of last year in 33 games.
UMass junior forward Danny Hobbs had a career-high three assists against No. 8 BU, helping set up both Rowe goals as well as Michael Marcou’s late goal to cut the deficit to one.
“[Hobbs] has been a real good leader,” Cahoon said. “He’s really grown and developed and he’s starting to become the player of measure that we thought he’d be when we recruited him. I think he’s right on pace to be a real good scorer and a consistent performer for us.”
Team captain Paul Dainton has been a full participant at practice so far this week as he makes his way back from injury. It is still unclear of whether or not he will be in front of the net come this weekend.
“He’s doing fine,” Cahoon said. “It’s just a question of how comfortable he is and whether the timing is right. You won’t find out until game time.”
Providence leads the all-time series against UMass by a count of 32-21-3. Last season, the Minutemen took two out of three games against the Friars. The two teams played a home-and-home series around this time last year, on Oct. 30 and 31, and took one game each, with both road teams getting the win. UMass won the only other meeting with Providence on Jan. 30, by a score of 4-1.
Pete Vasquez can be reached at [email protected]