Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Opportunity knocks for UMass hockey with weekend series against Maine

By Jason Kates

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Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian

(Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian)

After a weekend that resulted in two different types of losses for the Massachusetts hockey team, the Minutemen will be presented with an opportunity to move up in the Hockey East standings this weekend when they host Maine in a pair of games at Mullins Center.

UMass (7-14-4, 2-9-4 HEA) suffered an 8-0 setback to No. 3 Boston College last Friday followed by a 6-4 defeat to Vermont in which the Minutemen couldn’t hold a 4-2 advantage heading into the final period.

But for freshman Austin Plevy and the rest of UMass, the past is already in the rearview mirror.

“Friday night was one we tried to forget about, as soon as we left the rink it was gone,” Plevy said before Monday’s practice. “Saturday we had a really good start, it’s unfortunate we couldn’t hang on to the lead, but they say you just have to move on.”

Two wins this weekend would be more than optimal for UMass, considering how tight the conference standings are. The Minutemen currently sit in 10th place and hold a two-point advantage over the Black Bears (5-15-6, 2-8-2 HEA), while sitting just four points back of the Catamounts for sixth place.

One positive note heading into the crucial two games is the fact that UMass already beat Maine this year in a 5-4 overtime thriller in the Capital City Classic on Oct. 30 in which Ray Pigozzi scored the game winner.

Minutemen coach John Micheletto acknowledged the Black Bears’ stress on firing pucks on goal from all over the ice and the need to limit their second chance opportunities.

“If you look at their box scores, it’s clearly a point of emphasis for them to get shots going to the net from anywhere,” Micheletto said. “I think the thought being obviously them getting to the inside and trying to get second and third shots off of that initial one, so we’ll have to defend at the point of attack.”

Micheletto added: “We’ll also have to make sure our goalie is leaving the puck in a good spot and then our players down low are going to be the first to touch and then get us going in the other direction, rather than letting them get any sort of momentum of three or four shot flurries.”

Despite last Saturday’s defeat, the Minutemen saw some familiar faces return to the scoreboard. Both Dennis Kravchenko and Plevy found the back of the net, with Kravchenko coincidentally scoring his first two goals since the last meeting against Maine.

Plevy, who hadn’t scored in over two months, said it was good to see UMass record four goals for the first time since UMass’ 5-3 victory over Connecticut Nov 7.

“Personally it’s always great to score, I know I was on a bit of a cold streak so that one felt especially good,” Plevy said. “With Dennis (Kravchenko) back in the lineup, to see him get a couple goals was great.”

The freshman also acknowledged the Minutemen’s improvement as a whole and as a potential springboard offensively for the future.

“I think the whole team has been cold, so to pop in more than one or two was great and hopefully we can keep that going,” Plevy said. “We know we can do it, we’ve proved to ourselves before that we’re capable of scoring five, six a night so we just have make sure we keep getting pucks to the night and they’re going to keep going in.”

Micheletto echoed these thoughts.

“Like I say, confidence is an important part of the game. You get into a stretch where you’re not scoring as much as you were previously, you start wondering why, you start trying to be too fine with the plays that you’re making,” he said. “Having guys get back on the scoreboard and feel a little offensive swagger is very important for us.”

Having gone through a five-game stretch against tough conference foes like the Eagles, Boston University and UMass Lowell, it is easy to think the Minutemen should be well prepared against a struggling team like Maine.

But for Micheletto, there are no easy games, especially in Hockey East.

“I think our league is so tough top to bottom, it doesn’t matter where you are at the schedule,” Micheletto said. “Every game reveals something different to you and how you apply those lessons moving forward and continue to be battle tested while keeping your confidence is really an important thing.

“I know that our guys are eager to get back out there and strap it up. I thought we had a good effort on Saturday without the reward, and hopefully we can marry those two things up this Friday,” he added.

Puck drop on both nights is set for 7 p.m.

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

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