UMass hockey prepares for nationally ranked Hockey East foes BC, Vermont

By Anthony Chiusano

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(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Coming off of a one-week layoff, the Massachusetts hockey team enters this weekend with a chance to build a winning streak and move up from its three-way tie for last place in the Hockey East standings.

In order to do so, however, the Minutemen (3-5, 1-4 Hockey East) must face two nationally ranked conference opponents in No. 12 Boston College and No. 11 Vermont.

Losers of its last three conference matchups, senior captain Troy Power said the weekend set presents a key opportunity for UMass.

“Any time that there’s Hockey East points on the line, it’s crucial that we find a way to get points,” Power said. “Bottom line is we know where we are in the standings and we think that we’re a better team than what our record reflects. The only way to do something about that is to get some wins, so that’s what we’re looking to do.”

The Minutemen welcome the Eagles to the Mullins Center Friday night for the teams’ final head-to-head matchup of the regular season. In the first encounter, UMass traveled to Chestnut Hill on Oct. 25 and lost 4-1.

According to redshirt sophomore Frank Vatrano, penalties played a major part in killing the Minutemen’s chances of coming back in the early-season matchup. UMass spent 31 total minutes in the penalty box and allowed two 5-on-3 scores.

“Obviously we didn’t win that game, but I think we did a lot of good things,” Vatrano said. “Unfortunately penalties got to us, but looking at our 5-on-5 play, I thought we skated right with them.”

Power, who committed a five-minute major penalty on Oct. 25, said that regulating the amount of transgressions Friday will be crucial in limiting the effect of Boston College’s fourth ranked scoring offense in the conference.

The forward added that despite having to be conscious of penalties, the Minutemen must continue to be aggressive and use their speed to get past the Eagles’ backline.

“We just have to be tenacious on pucks,” Power said. “We don’t want to give them a lot of time back there, especially on the forecheck. If we can get that going and use our low play that we’ve been working on this week, we can hopefully exploit their defensemen and find ways to find pucks in net.”

Boston College (5-5, 1-3 Hockey East) heads into Friday’s matchup hot off of a win against Michigan State last Friday that snapped a four-game losing streak. Despite the Eagles’ struggles this month, head coach John Micheletto said that the Eagles are always a dangerous team.

“I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to play anybody, especially Boston College,” Micheletto said. “But we had a pretty competitive game with them down there and probably let our emotions get the best of us and took some penalties that were uncharacteristic for us. So we’d like a shot for redemption on Friday.”

UMass will then host the Catamounts Saturday night as the first part of a two-game set, with the second matchup being played Tuesday in Burlington, Vermont.

Vermont (7-2-1, 5-2-1) enters the weekend with the second fewest goals given up and the top scoring defensive unit in the Hockey East.

According to Micheletto, careful decisions on offense and limiting turnovers will be important in attacking the Catamounts’ formidable backline.

“A good defensive team usually means they are generating their offense off of their defense and I think that’s been a successful thing for Vermont this year – to play in transition,” Micheletto said. “Puck possession and puck decisions are going to be real important for us.”

Minutemen add second recruit

UMass announced its second signee for next year’s team Monday, in British Columbia native Austin Plevy.

Plevy joins Kurt Keats as the second member of the upcoming class of 2019. Both additions are forwards who pose speed and are aggressive close to the net, according to Micheletto.

A member of the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits, Plevy currently leads the league with 37 points in 23 games played. Meanwhile, playing for the Powell River of the BCHL, Keats has amassed 31 points in 22 games, good for fifth in the league.

“They’re really competitive kids,” Micheletto said. “They’re both guys that are going to come in and hopefully be productive like a good number of our freshmen this year.”

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