UMass hockey continues tough schedule against New Hampshire, BC

By Cameron McDonough

Maria Uminski/Collegian

This weekend, the Massachusetts hockey team’s challenging early-season schedule continues with matchups against two teams ranked within the top nine in the country.

The Minutemen kick off their stretch on Friday night with a home game against No. 9 New Hampshire (4-0-1, 2-0-1 Hockey East Association) and will finish it off Sunday afternoon at No. 1 Boston College (4-1-0, 4-1-0 HEA).
This weekend’s games will end a five-game stretch against teams ranked within the top 13 in the country for UMass.

The Minutemen (1-3-0, 0-3-0 HEA) are coming off a disappointing weekend sweep against then-No. 13 Boston University, losing, 5-2, on Friday at Agganis Arena and losing, 3-2, at the Mullins Center on Saturday night. The previous weekend, the Minutemen lost to the Eagles, 5-4, at home.

UMass coach John Micheletto said there is no time to dwell on previous losses.

“Our guys are pretty resilient and obviously didn’t like the result from the weekend, but they know good things are in our future,” Micheletto said.

The Minutemen will look for those good things to start coming on Friday against the Wildcats.

UNH enters the game riding the momentum of its five-game undefeated stretch to open the season.

“UNH has been hot,” Micheletto said. “They obviously feel like they have something to prove because they’ve not typically been a great team getting out of the gate. So they’ve really focused on their early season this year and it’s proving to pay dividends. So they’re playing with a lot of confidence and our job is to obviously make the ice as small as possible when they got the puck on their stick and run them out of options.”

So far, the Wildcats have had many options, producing the top scoring offense in the Hockey East with 17 goals and a 3.40 goals per game average.

In contrast, UMass has the sixth best scoring offense in the conference and is averaging 3.00 goals per game, having scored 12 goals in total.

UNH also has the top-scoring defense in the Hockey East. So far, the Wildcats have only allowed nine goals and its opponents are averaging 1.80 goals per game. The Minutemen find themselves at the bottom of this list with the worst scoring defense in the conference. The Minutemen have allowed 14 goals and their opponents are averaging 3.50 goals per game.

Individually, the Wildcats have three players who are tied for the team lead in goals with three: Austin Block, John Henrion and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Connor Hardowa leads the team in points (six), all coming on assists.

Casey DeSmith stands between the pipes for UNH,  averaging 1.77 goals per game this season along with a save percentage of .931. He has started every game for the Wildcats so far.

It is still up in the air as to who will play in net for UMass as two different goalies could play this weekend. Last weekend, Steve Mastalerz played in Friday’s loss while Kevin Boyle started in Saturday’s.

Boyle has the better numbers of the two so far this season with a 2.02 goals against average and a save percentage of .933, which are fifth and third best in the Hockey East, respectively. Meanwhile, Mastalerz has a 4.40 goals against average and save percentage of .862. Both players have started two games this season, with Boyle earning the Minutemen’s lone win of the season so far in the season opener against Connecticut.

Jeff Teglia has yet to play for the Minutemen.

BC bound

Sunday’s date with defending national champion Boston College will also be a tough test for UMass.

The Eagles have won three straight games since its 5-4 comeback win against the Minutemen two weekends ago.

Parker Milner leads the way in net for BC with a goals against average of 1.98 and a save percentage of .931.

The Eagles also have multiple weapons on offense, including Pat Mullane, who leads the team in assists (5) and points (8). Mullane is also tied for the team lead in goals with three, along with Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes and Steven Whitney.

Boyle says the major thing that he took away from UMass’ early season loss to BC is the need to play a complete game.

“We just definitely have to play a full 60 minutes,” Boyle said. “We can’t play 40 and then know that we have a big lead and just let mental lapses get to us.”

The loss proved to Micheletto and his team that they can play even with one of the best teams in the nation. .

“We’re a good team no matter who we play,” Micheletto said. “We can play with anyone.”

Cameron McDonough can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_McDonough.