Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ames: UMass hockey reclaimed its mojo ahead of critical four-game stretch

Win at Boston University showed the Minutemen’s heart

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Ames: UMass hockey reclaimed its mojo ahead of critical four-game stretch

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts hockey team showed a lot of heart in its 7-5 win over Boston University on Friday night.

No. 2 UMass (20-5-0, 12-3-0 Hockey East Association) never trailed, but the Terriers tied the game three separate times. In each instance, though, the Minutemen retook the lead before BU could ever really feed off of its strike. The longest stretch of time between a Terrier game-tying goal and a UMass go-ahead goal was 5:16 in the third period.

The Minutemen shrugged off each and every BU equalizer and proceeded to down the Terriers at Agganis for the first time since 2012.

This was the type of win UMass needed, not only to cleanse itself from a less-than-stellar series at Maine the weekend before, but also because the Minutemen are about to begin the most important stretch of their remaining schedule.

One game versus BU, one at UMass Lowell this weekend and two against Boston College could very well dictate how the Minutemen conclude the year. All three teams are currently perched in the top half of the Hockey East standings.

The five games following feature three of the bottom four teams in Hockey East in Maine, Merrimack and UConn, plus one at sixth-place in Providence.

A strong showing in these next four — which doesn’t necessarily mean four straight wins — could put UMass in a tremendous spot the rest of the way. The Minutemen appeared to have rediscovered their bend-not-break mentality against the Terriers and if that continues on over the next two weeks, UMass will manage, even if its record isn’t exactly perfect.

In the first half of the season, there were multiple instances when the Minutemen looked to be in trouble before pulling out the win. The come-from-behind overtime win at Merrimack, the series sweep over Providence, the overtime victory against Princeton and the big win past Quinnipiac all showed UMass’ mental toughness.

Out of all the factors that brought the Minutemen so much success from October to December, the ability to stay even-keeled in games was probably their greatest strength. UMass had self-confidence and trusted in its abilities and most of the time, it paid off.

The second half has been a bit of a different story. It started with an underwhelming loss to the River Hawks before UMass rattled off three straight against American International and Vermont – teams the Minutemen are simply better than. The home-and-home with Northeastern didn’t end up being as much of a battle as initially expected, as UMass walked away with an easy win in the first game before falling in OT the following night. The next round of games was a sloppy series at Maine that the Minutemen probably should have swept.

It wasn’t until the fireworks against BU that UMass had to dust off its signature style, and it looked just as potent as it did early on.

With a quartet of upcoming games against quality and/or unknown competition—the Eagles are the only team the Minutemen have not played yet—it’s likely UMass’ character will be tested. If the Minutemen didn’t play like they did in Boston last week, the proposal of UMass of never again finding that spark from before would be valid.

But now that the wheels on the wagon are out of the mud, the Minutemen can enter a difficult late-season slate with confidence.

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

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