The Massachusetts hockey team is still holding out hope for Steve Mastalerz.
UMass coach John Micheletto said before practice on Monday that the junior goaltender is “day-to-day” and hasn’t been ruled out for Thursday’s contest against Boston College at Mullins Center.
“We just kind of got to wait and once he feels better it’s a matter of the doctors saying, ‘What day is that and how close to gameday is that?’” he said.
“To give you a percentage would be difficult right now.”
Mastalerz was scratched from the lineup for the first time this season on Saturday with an undisclosed injury, and his absence was certainly felt as the Minutemen were blown out by New Hampshire 9-0.
Freshman Alex Wakaluk started for UMass and struggled greatly, allowing five goals on 10 shots before being pulled in favor of fellow freshman Mac Haight two minutes, 26 seconds into the second period.
Haight didn’t fare much better. He allowed four goals on 23 shots in his collegiate debut against a Wildcats team that was playing as if the game was already won.
Micheletto put the bulk of the blame on his defense for allowing multiple 2-on-1 and “Grade-A” opportunities, which forced a pair of inexperienced goaltenders to try to make more difficult saves than Micheletto is expecting of them.
“It’d be nice if we didn’t give up the kind of opportunities that forced them to make an unbelievable save after standing around for five minutes,” Micheletto said. “Asking any goaltender, especially either Mac or Alex in their first goes of the season and to see those types of opportunities barreling down on them is pretty unfortunate and unfair.
“From their standpoint I’d just like them to make the saves that they have to make. They can control rebounds and put them in a safe area. But two 2-on-1’s where it pushes anybody to push from board to far post and expect them to have any sort of success, that situation is asking more than I’d like from anybody.”
If Mastalerz can’t go on Thursday that will likely put Wakaluk in line to make his third start of the season as he has spent the year as the No. 2 between the pipes. It will make an already tough task in two games against the Eagles even more daunting for the Minutemen. BC has the country’s best offense through nine games this season, averaging five goals per game after an 11-0 win over Army on Sunday, and arguably the best player in Hockey East in Johnny Gaudreau.
Gaudreau is coming off a sophomore year in which he scored 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) en route to Hockey East Player of the Year honors. He appears to be picking up where he left off too as he leads the Eagles in points so far this season with 18.
Gaudreau’s presence alone will make life difficult on a struggling defense, let alone a young goaltender still trying to adjust to playing Division I college hockey.
“Your guys are certainly gonna be aware of him when he’s on the ice,” Micheletto said. “You’re gonna know where he is when he has the puck on his stick, it’s when he doesn’t that you gotta make sure you’re checking him and having guys have eyes on him because he’s obviously very elusive and very dangerous.”
Nick Canelas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.