Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass set for season finale in Connecticut

By Jason Kates

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(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

With the Hockey East tournament set to begin next week, the Massachusetts hockey team will head to Hartford, Connecticut Friday night for the final game of the regular season against Connecticut.

Coming off a dramatic overtime win against No. 12 Providence last Saturday, the Minutemen (10-20-2, 5-15-1 HEA) will look to split the season series against the Huskies, who have won just one of their last six contests.

Last time these two teams were pitted against each other, UConn scored two goals in the opening period, putting UMass in an early hole.

Senior captain Troy Power knows that can’t happen again.

“It’s huge,” Power said regarding the importance of not falling behind. “We definitely want to score the first goal of the game. We talk about trying to get to three as fast as possible and if we do that, we have a decent chance of winning.

“We definitely want to get off to a good start. Any time you’re on the road the first 5-10 minutes of the game is a big part, and we just want to be ready to go.”

In the midst of a four-game losing streak, the Huskies have given up an average of 6.25 goals per game, including a 9-0 loss to Northeastern.

UMass coach John Micheletto addressed the significance of playing with a lead, and the struggles that come when trying to come back.

“You invest a lot of energy if you’re playing from behind, so it’s no different this weekend than any other,” he said. “One of our goals is always to score first, and we’ll keep that in mind for Friday night.”

Besides getting an early jump on the opposition, Micheletto knows there are several areas his team will need to control in order to get the win.

“We need to play on the inside. We know that they can pack it in around (Rob) Nichols and have done a nice job of him being a really, really good first-save goaltender and then clearing out the rebound opportunities,” Micheletto said.

“We’ve got to drive the net and get pucks and bodies going to the net to make sure we get those second and third shot opportunities,” he added. “We need to manage the puck, as with anybody. You don’t want to feed their transition game and want to make them earn any offense they’re able to get.”

Knowing the Hockey East tournament is rapidly approaching, Power understands getting a victory and heading into the postseason with momentum is huge.

“Pretty much ever since break we’ve talked about just building off every game and I thought we had a very good weekend last weekend,” he said before practice Wednesday. “Obviously it would’ve been nice to get that one on Friday night but I thought we regrouped, got a big win on Saturday, and we’re looking to carry that through this week of practice and onto Friday and once the tournament starts.”

Micheletto also said getting two wins in a row heading into the conference tournament would be nice, and from a confidence standpoint, it’s important for the team to play their game regardless of what the scoreboard reads.

Although the Minutemen have one game this weekend, the rest of the conference has two. With teams still fighting for positions in the standings, Micheletto said there will be scoreboard watching to see who UMass will take on in the opening round of the conference tournament.

“Especially with the night off on Saturday, there will be a lot of interest from our standpoint,” he said. “With so many teams in the mix, it’s so hard to even know what the possibilities are other than at this point, it looks like it will be one of five teams.

“You have five teams fighting for third and four and fifth place, so we’ll be watching as much as we can and then getting our game plan ready for where we will be traveling to.”

Jason Kates can be reached at [email protected] and followed @Jason_Kates.

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