Preceding Friday’s night matchup against Harvard, the Massachusetts hockey team was in the midst of a scoring drought.
Despite skating to a 4-4 draw against the Crimson, the Minutemen’s four-goal performance may be an indicator that their offensive surge has come back alive.
“I thought [our performance] was pretty much a good effort,” said UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon. “I thought we were mentality tough, resilient in how we responded to their goals on a consistent basis.”
Heading into Friday, UMass (4-7-4, 2-6-3 Hockey East) had lost three straight contests by an opponent’s scoring margin of 10-to-3. During the team’s four-game unbeaten streak from Nov. 5 through Nov. 18, the offense racked up 17 goals, including seven netters in the team’s 7-2 victory over Holy Cross on Nov. 11.
The Minutemen’s inability to gain control of the puck in their own zone resulted from a high-turnover rate that left the defense exposed.
“We labored in our own end, didn’t get the puck through the middle of the rink,” said Cahoon. “I thought we began to show [Friday] that we’re coming out of the zone a little cleaner. That’s the whole key for us in getting shots and scoring goals.”
Statistically, the Minutemen rank seventh in the conference in goals per game (3.13), followed by Northeastern and Vermont to round out the bottom. This is an indicator that although it doesn’t score nearly as much against conference foes, it has the talent to put the puck in the net as much as anyone.
“It’s nice to see us scoring goals again,” said sophomore Conor Sheary. “We worked hard down low, getting shots through to the net … getting those dirty goals were huge for us.”
Even the defense has gotten in on the scoring, which will be a big piece to the team moving forward.
“They’ve got offensive skills,” said Cahoon of the defenseman, who have contributed to the offense at times this season. “If they become shutdown defensively, then they’ll start to control games.”
Yale, which comes into town to take on the Minutemen on Wednesday, average 3.27 goals per game with 33.7 shots per contest.
Following a Wednesday matchup against Yale, the squad will take a brief three-week break before returning to action against Cornell and either Clarkson or Maine at the Florida Everglades College Classic in Estero, Fla.
Boyle guards pipes
The goaltending carousel continued for UMass on Friday against Harvard and it looks like it might keep on spinning.
Freshman Kevin Boyle nabbed his seventh start against the Crimson, the most by any of the three contenders as Cahoon continues his search for a full-time starter between the pipes.
Boyle saved 40 shots in net. Despite allowing four goals, the freshman increased his save percentage .888 with his performance.
Boyle made tough saves while getting screened and tracked down pucks in crowded lanes.
“I thought he made some big saves,” said Cahoon. “He gave us a pretty solid effort.”
Scott Cournoyer can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cournoyer.