Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Lost weekend leaves more questions than answers for UMass hockey

By Ross Gienieczko

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Massachusetts hockey captain Steven Iacoebllis perfectly described UMass’ season following its 5-4 loss against Maine Saturday night at Mullins Center.

“We had a lot of belief tonight, but we just didn’t end up with the result we wanted,” Iacobellis said.

The Minutemen (7-16-4, 2-11-4 Hockey East) have now lost their eighth straight game, with their last win coming Jan. 2 and last Hockey East win coming back on Nov. 7. With New Hampshire’s stunning 3-1 upset over No. 4 Providence Saturday night, UMass is now in sole possession of last place in the conference.

That title was previously held by the Black Bears (7-15-6, 4-8-2 HEA), who were winless on the road before coming to Amherst this weekend and sweeping the Minutemen in convincing fashion in a two-game series at Mullins.

Saturday night’s 5-4 loss was more competitive than the 5-2 defeat UMass suffered on Friday night, but throughout the weekend there was no doubt to who the better team was. Led by forward Blaine Byron (two goals, three assists in the series), Maine dominated Friday night, staying in control the whole game. Saturday, there was belief as Iacobellis said, but no result. At this point in the season – and against this opponent, the previously last place Black Bears – nothing but a win was going to be good enough.

“Every game is just as important as the next,” Iacobellis. “It’s unfortunate we dropped both without getting anything this weekend, but we’re looking forwards to next weekend and every opponent is a big opponent.”

It’s the right thing to say, and the right attitude for a captain to have. Even if nobody would admit it, the Minutemen were counting on this weekend to get things back on track. But they couldn’t, and they won’t play another team as far down in the standings as Maine for the rest of the season.

The Minutemen are going to have to come to grips with their position in the standings. After a season that started with promise after starting the season with a 6-2-1 record UMass is now in a freefall, and the scary news is there might not be an end in sight.

Next up is a home game against the Terriers, who are a national powerhouse that has given the Minutemen fits over the past few seasons.

After that is a non-conference matchup in Springfield against American International. In theory, it’s a game UMass should win – but so were the two against last-place Maine at home.

The trip to Spingfield will be nothing compared to the gauntlet the Minutemen will face to end the season. They’ll play a home-and-home series against red-hot Northeastern (8-1-2 in its last 11 games) before traveling to No. 9 UMass Lowell for a non-conference game.

Oh, and UMass will end the season with a home-and-home against No. 4 Providence, the defending national champions.

It’s been a tough second half of the season for the Minutemen, and there’s still potential for it to get even worse. If UMass can’t take any points against a team like Maine, how can they expect to be competitive against BU or Providence?

The answer to that question probably isn’t pretty. And the lost weekend against the Black Bears did nothing to help answer it.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RossGien.

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