UMass hockey outmatched by No. 5 Providence on Senior Night

By Ross Gienieczko

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(Daniel Maldonado/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts hockey team has lined up against some impressive opponents this season.

From Boston College to Boston University and even non-conference matchups against Quinnipiac, the Minutemen (8-21-4, 2-15-4 Hockey East) have lost against some of the best teams in the country in 2015-16. In many of these games, UMass has been blown out.

But blowout losses only reveal so much about a team. It’s the competitive game where checking is tight and the score is close that really gives a window into the makeup of a team.

To that end, Friday night’s 4-1 loss to No. 5 Providence showed just how big the gap really was between the Minutemen and Friars (25-5-4, 15-3-3 HEA).

Providence coach Nate Leaman was happy with the win but upset at some of the mental mistakes his team made in his press conference after the game.

“I thought we were cheating all night,” Leaman said. “We were cheating offensively, and we had a lot of turnovers. I thought we were undisciplined too. We gave up five power plays on the road. That’s not a good recipe for success.”

Meanwhile, UMass played one of its better games of the last two months. It was 3-1 late into the third period, and while the Minutemen never really threatened to take the lead, they hung in with the Friars and for the most part played a competitive game.

“In terms of our effort and sticking to the game plan and taking advantage of what our strengths our, I’d like to have this same performance tomorrow at Schneider and see how the cards fall,” UMass coach John Micheletto said after the game.”

Therein lies the difference between the Minutemen and Providence. The Friars played a sub-par game by their standards and still kept UMass at arm’s length and came away with a three-goal win on the road. The Minutemen turned in a good effort but failed to get within two goals for most of the night.

It starts with the elite talent Providence boasts throughout its roster. Mark Jankowski has developed into one of the better players in Hockey East and wingers like Trevor Mingoia and Brandon Tanev only complement him up front. The Friars defensive corps is experienced and deep, and goaltender Nick Ellis has stepped into former star Jon Gilles’ shoes and performed right up to his lofty standards.

They’re on the opposite end of the college hockey spectrum as UMass, and Friday at Mullins Center, the difference was clearer than ever.

Senior night

Friday also marked what was likely the final home game for a pair of UMass seniors – forward Shane Walsh and defenseman Ben Gallacher.

The duo – along with senior Evan Stack, a former Minuteman whose career was cut short due to injury but remained with the team in other roles – were honored with a pregame ceremony and tribute video that featured photos and videos from their hockey careers after the game.

After the game, Micheletto praised each of the three Minutemen honored.

“(Evan’s) a story that breaks your heart. Hockey comes to an end for everybody at some point, and unfortunately for Evan it came sooner than any of us wanted or expected,” Micheletto said. “The great thing about Evan’s story is it wasn’t the last chapter in the book for him. He really wanted to stay a part of it, and the guys will tell you he’s been a really valuable asset for our team. Not only giving the coaches perspective from his moving in and out among the team, and also the perspective that he gives the players … I’ve really appreciated having him be a part of it.”

Micheletto also praised Walsh for his clutch goal scoring ability and Gallacher for his consistency on the UMass blue line. But he ended his discussion of the trio by talking about the impact they have made on the program off the ice.

“In a three person class, it’s really about the character of the guys and the personality of the guys,” Micheletto said. “As good as they’ve been on the ice, it’s been the enjoyment for me to see them grow as people and what they’ve given to the program.”

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