Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hockey hopes first win will propel them past Hockey East rivals

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(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

After a two-game series in East Lansing, Michigan against Michigan State last weekend, the Massachusetts hockey team returns to the Bay State this Friday and Saturday to battle in-state rivals Northeastern and No. 6 Boston College.

UMass (1-2, 0-1 Hockey East) is coming off its first win of the season on Saturday against the Spartans after freshman Patrick Lee clinched a 4-3 victory with a tiebreaking goal with 9.9 seconds remaining in regulation.

“It serves as good motivation and confidence now going into this coming weekend,” forward Steven Iacobellis said of the win. “In the first game, we didn’t do as much as we could, but it was nice to see us bounce back in the second game.”

According to head coach John Micheletto, the most important takeaway from the weekend was the noticeable improvement between each game from the Minutemen’s season-opening 8-1 loss to Boston University on Oct. 10.

While Micheletto said that the team played well against for two periods against the Terriers before conceding six goals in the final 20 minutes. he said UMass responded much better and “battled to the end” in Friday’s 5-3 loss to the Spartans. Micheletto continued, saying that Saturday’s win signified further improvement in playing a consistent 60 minutes.

“Saturday night, I thought the brand of hockey we played was as complete as we’ve had all year and we were rewarded with the win,” Micheletto said.

Looking forward to this weekend’s matchups, Micheletto hopes to see similar offensive success from the Minutemen’s second line of Lee, Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi. The trio combined for three goals and 10 points in Saturday’s win.

“They utilized their speed first and foremost. They took pucks away on the forecheck and really created a lot of energy for our team,” Micheletto said. “That’s how they are going to be successful. By taking away time and space, taking pucks away and allowing their speed to continue on the offense.”

In addition, Micheletto said he expects to see increased point production from UMass’ top line of Troy Power, Dennis Kravchenko and Frank Vatrano, who have combined for one point this season: a Kravchenko assist.

“The number of grade-A scoring opportunities that they created over the weekend was as good as any,” Micheletto said. “It’s just not gone in for them yet, but I’m sure when the first one goes in they’ll then come in bunches. They’re going to continue to be valuable pieces of the puzzle.”

The Huskies head into Friday’s game 0-3 for the season, having been shut out on consecutive nights by Colgate last weekend. However, Power said that the Minutemen must be prepared for a similar performance that they boasted on Saturday against Michigan State.

“I know how they feel being 0-3 and hungry to get their first win,” Power said. “They’re going to have that desperation that we had on Saturday night and it’s something that we have to get ready for.”

Micheletto added that Northeastern’s numbers are deceiving and that its offense is bound to have a breakout performance soon.

“They’re not scoring a lot of goals right now but I also know that they have a lot of talented kids and that they were a potent offense last year,” Micheletto said. “But I’d be very happy just to let the sleeping giant lie at this point.”

According to Power, the Eagles (1-1) present a different challenge in preparation due to their depth and versatility.

“They’re a pretty complete team that always has some offensive firepower and a defensive corps that is always stellar,” Power said.

Micheletto said that while defense will play an important role in attempting to hold Boston College’s offense at bay, he said that UMass’ offense must do its part in limiting turnovers and optimizing its time of possession.

“If we possess the puck a lot, that’s certainly going to limit their offensive opportunities,” Micheletto said. “Against really talented teams, great defense is going to break down over time if you continue to give them chances.”

Faceoff for both road games is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“It’s a bit of a grind on you but it’s an exciting time to try to be the villains heading into other home arenas,” Power said. “We’re looking to be road warriors this weekend.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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