UMass hockey strives to keep winning ways going at home on Tuesday

Yale the final foe of the semester

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Will Katcher/Collegian

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

Home ice has been kind to the Massachusetts hockey team this season.

No. 2 UMass (13-2-0, 7-0-0 Hockey East Association) has accumulated seven wins in all seven games played at the Mullins Center this season, outscoring opponents 31-13 in those games.

Three of the wins came against ranked clubs (Providence, Princeton, Quinnipiac), three more were Hockey East wins (Merrimack, New Hampshire, UConn) and the other was an opening-night cakewalk versus Rensselaer.

With No. 18 Yale serving as the final visitor of the semester, coming to Amherst on Tuesday, the Minutemen hope to keep up the home cooking for one final contest.

“So far, so good here at home and we want to end it on a good note,” John Leonard said. “I think anytime you play at home you like it a lot better, obviously. You like the atmosphere, you’re used to the rink, you know the bounces, things like that just the little things that happen in your own rink.”

“I think everybody is just better at home,” coach Greg Carvel added. “You know the surroundings, you have your routine, you know the rink, you have the fans’ support. The variables are much more in your control and there’s familiarity and there’s a comfortability that breeds confidence.”

A year ago, UMass posted a 11-8-0 record at home that included the three playoff games against Vermont.

The ice sheet at Mullins is abnormal. Dimensions are Olympic size (200 by 100 feet) as opposed to NHL size (200 by 85) that most other programs abide by. New Hampshire is the only other Hockey East school with the wider ice and the Minutemen admit to using the extra space to their benefit.

“The [bigger] ice is a factor,” Carvel said. “We know how to play well on our ice. Some teams come in here and aren’t used to it, so we have to use that to our advantage.”

Gap control, breakouts, neutral zone play and even conditioning are impacted when the ice is wider and teams not familiar with the open ice need a period or two to grasp their surroundings. Because of this, the Minutemen hope to pounce on their opponent early in the outing.

“I think we’re just coming out strong to start,” Leonard said. “I think that’s a big focus for us. We’re always trying to get that first goal. It’s something we try to focus on so we’re just trying to do the little things right and right now it’s leading to a lot of success.”

UMass has scored 23 first period goals, 13 of them stemming from familiar territory.

The Bulldogs (7-2-2, 6-2-1 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference) have been tough to beat on the road, posting a 4-1-0 record away from Ingalls Rink. But with a quick turnaround after a pair of games over the weekend, the Minutemen are much happier to be home for their last matchup of the first half of the season.

“I’m glad this game is at home. I wouldn’t want to travel today and play this team on the road,” Carvel said. “I’m glad this gives us an extra day to give us our energy back.”

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