Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hockey begins conference play with a pair of home games this weekend

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts hockey team will be right back to work just three days removed from a hard-fought 3-2 loss to No. 6 Quinnipiac, when welcomes New Hampshire and Boston College in its first two Hockey Association matchups of the season this weekend.

On Friday, UMass (2-2-0) hosts UNH (1-3-0) and will be looking to get back into the win column against a Wildcat team that has gotten off to a slow start this year.

In its first four games, UNH has only recorded one victory, beating Clarkson Oct. 15, but have lost to Bentley, St. Lawrence and Colorado College thus far.

The Minutemen had a solid outing against the Bobcats despite being outshot by a 46-19 margin in the loss. Forward and captain Steven Iacobellis believes the strong play of goaltender Nic Renyard can give UMass a boost heading into these next two games.

“One of the biggest positives was I think Renyard had an unbelievable game,” Iacobellis said. “He was really solid for us back there and he gave us some energy and some life.”

Junior Patrick Lee echoed Iacobellis’ statement about the play of their goalie Tuesday night.

“I think the big positive was definitely how Nic Renyard played,” Lee said. “He got a chance to play and he played really well.”

Led by coach Dick Umile, who is in his 27th season behind the Wildcat bench, UNH enters this game looking for their first win against the Minutemen since the 2014-15 season when they beat UMass 5-2.

Last season, the Minutemen tied the Wildcats in both meetings by scores of 6-6 and 2-2. The first tie was a memorable game for UMass as it scored four-unanswered goals in the third period to earn the tie, erasing a 6-2 deficit heading into the final period.

“They’re a fast team, they’re skilled, kind of similar to us,” Lee said about UNH. “I feel like as long as we work hard and do the details instead of kind of playing a pond hockey game, I think we’ll be fine.”

The Wildcats will be without last season’s top scorer, Andrew Poturalski, who turned pro with the Carolina Hurricanes this past summer, but do return with star players Tyler Kelleher and captain Matias Cleland.

Saturday, the Minutemen will face a new-look Eagles (4-2-1) team as many of their top players from last season departed the program.

Alex Tuch, Ian McCoshen, Steve Santini, Miles Wood, Zach Sanford and stud goalie Thatcher Demko all left for the National Hockey League during the offseason.

“They’ve lost some of their good players so there’s some opportunity there for us to make some noise against them,” Iacobellis said. “I think if we just stick to our game and stick to the systems that we’ve been taught and just bring the energy and do the little things right we should have no problem.”

Back for his 23rd season manning the BC squad, Jerry York has had quite a bit of success against the Minutemen recently, including earning his 1,000 win as a collegiate coach against UMass in an 8-0 blowout last season on Jan. 22. The Eagles beat the Minutemen 7-0 in their only other contest last year.

“I think it’s just like I said, [doing] the little things,” Lee said. “If we’re competing, if we’re winning battles and stuff like that [and] make it a tight game, we’ll see what happens.”

BC’s two losses this season came against Wisconsin and Air Force, however its most recent game resulted in a 2-2 tie with Merrimack. Sophomore Chris Brown leads the Eagles with seven points (3 goals, 4 assists).

UMass’ second line of Dominic Trento, Jonny Lazarus and Lee will be one to watch this weekend as all three are atop the Minutemen’s point totals, having combined for 14 points in their first four games.

“We’re all close friends off the ice and we’re just trying to translate it on the ice,” Lee said. “[I] think we attract each other out there and we just need to use each other, make plays and have fun,” Lee said.

Puck drop for both games at Mullins Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.

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