Shots, rebounds important for Mass Attack’s scoring ability

By Steve Levine

While the Massachusetts men’s hockey team is still searching for its identity, the Minutemen understand what they need to do to be successful – take a lot of shots and score ugly goals.

The Minutemen did both over the weekend when they lost, 4-3, in overtime to No. 14 Boston University on Friday before taking a 3-3 draw with Providence on Saturday.

The Minutemen played a strong, energetic game against BU, keeping pace with the Terriers’ potent offense with 26 shots on goal. BU finished with 28 shots on goal, the last of which ended UMass’ hopes of achieving an upset at the Mullins Center. Still, the Minutemen were proud of their effort and they carried the momentum into Saturday’s game against the Friars.

UMass jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Providence before allowing three unanswered goals in the second period. The Minutemen took a 30-19 shot advantage into the third period and continued to pepper Providence goaltender Alex Beaudry in the final stanza but could not find the equalizer. UMass finally broke through with 38 seconds left in regulation, when senior Chase Langeraap scored a rebound goal in front of the net to force overtime.

Prior to the goal, UMass coach Don Cahoon drew up a play that would get the puck to the net as quickly as possible. When that failed, the Minutemen improvised by dumping the puck into the offensive zone and crashing the net, hoping for an ugly goal.

“Our goals haven’t been pretty,” said Langeraap. “We have a lot of goal-scorers but not a lot of finesse players. Our goal is to get many shots on net and as many second shots off [the initial shots]. That was the goal tonight as with every other night was to throw [the puck] on net.”

The Minutemen did just that, finishing with a 45-22 shot advantage over their conference rivals. The high shot total is something Cahoon loves to see on the stat sheet as he continues to stress the importance of putting pucks on net and scoring ugly goals.

“I thought Beaudry saw most of the [pucks] thrown at him,” said Cahoon. “A couple [shots] I thought might’ve slipped by in overtime coming off angles and three- quarter knuckleballs that were floating in there. We had some traffic in front that could’ve distracted him [in overtime].”

UMass finished with a 2-0 shot advantage in overtime, ultimately feeling okay with the draw.

“We felt a bit of urgency the past couple weeks,” said Langeraap. “To get a point was very important to us and we worked hard in that third to ensure that we got at least a point and keep them behind us [in the standings].”

The Minutemen now stand alone in seventh place in Hockey East, with the top eight teams making the playoffs. Vermont, currently in eighth, is one point behind UMass. The Minutemen have a very difficult schedule to close out the season, and Cahoon will be enforcing the same approach his team has taken all season: shots, shots and more shots. Although it seems primitive, there’s more to it than meets the eye.

“If you’re going to be throwing pucks at the net, then it’s no good if you’re on the periphery and you don’t have someone parked [in front] or [setting] a moving screen or some type of activity in front of the net,” said Langeraap.

UMass still has another game against BU, two games against No. 11 Merrimack and two games against No. 1 Boston College. The Minutemen’s fire-at-will approach will have to be enough in order to find points in those games.

“Once we throw it on net and the [other team] turns around, it’s hard for them to [recover] and a lot of goalies kick it right out,” Langeraap said.

Testing the goaltenders will be important in the home stretch, as BU, Merrimack and BC all boast elite goalies. Still, the Minutemen will stick to their game plan and hope more ugly goals can be found in the future.

Steve Levine can be reached at [email protected]