UMass prepares for final home-and-home with Boston College

Minutemen haven’t beaten the Eagles since 2013

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UMass prepares for final home-and-home with Boston College

Caroline O'Connor/Collegian

Caroline O'Connor/Collegian

Caroline O'Connor/Collegian

Caroline O'Connor/Collegian

By Mollie Walker, Assistant Sports Editor

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In its last home-and-home series matchup before the postseason, the Massachusetts hockey team looks for its first win against Boston College since 2013 this upcoming weekend.

UMass (21-6-0, 13-4-0 Hockey East Association) is coming off its first sweep of Boston University in the program’s history, defeating the Terriers 7-5 in Boston on Feb. 1 and 4-2 in front of a sold-out crowd the following week at home.

But the hottest team in the league, UMass Lowell, stifled the Minutemen’s momentum this past Saturday, becoming the only team in college hockey to defeat UMass twice this season with a 2-0 win at Tsongas Center.

“They’re a team that’s – they’re playing playoff hockey, they’re clicking on all cylinders,” coach Greg Carvel said of the River Hawks. “They haven’t lost in the new year. The takeaway was I think our team needs to refocus and find that tenacity that we had earlier in the year. We’ve gotten a little comfortable and Lowell put us in an uncomfortable positon, and we weren’t ready for that level of hockey.

“Like every other game we’ve lost this year, we dig deep to figure out where we can be better,” he added. “And so we look at that game as an opportunity to help us prepare for the next seven games.”

The Eagles (10-14-3, 9-5-3 HEA) are fresh off the Beanpot, having beaten Harvard 2-1 on Feb. 4 before Northeastern defended its crown and defeated BC 4-2 on Monday night. In between the tournament games, BC also suffered at the hands of the River Hawks, losing 3-0 on Feb. 8.

The Minutemen remain at the top of the Hockey East standings, two points ahead of UMass Lowell, while BC sits just three points behind in third. The Eagles have struggled offensively, getting shutout seven times so far this season. They currently have the 10th-ranked scoring offense in the league with 2.30 goals per game.

Defenseman Mario Ferraro agreed that the Minutemen’s compete level was not up to its usual standard against UML. Going forward, Ferraro believes UMass will have to redirect its focus to the opportunity in front of them.

“It’s important that we find our purpose,” Ferraro said. “That’s what we’re talking about a lot, to find our purpose out there, to work hard every chance we get. Because this is an opportunity that can be passed by and we don’t want to let that happen, we want to make the most out of it because we’ve got a great team and we want to capitalize as much as we can this year.”

Faceoffs were a weakness for UMass against UML, with the River Hawks winning a dozen more draws from the dot. This is an area BC excels in, as three Eagles sit among the top 10 players in Hockey East in faceoff winning percentage.

Ferraro knows how vital faceoffs can be to the team’s offensive game and he anticipates it being a focus point going forward.

“It just takes practice,” Ferraro said of the team’s struggle with faceoffs. “Like today in practice, at the end we were working on faceoffs and we did a little bit of battle drills surrounding that area of our game.”

Carvel mentioned how BC is the type of team that you can’t give time and space. He hopes to focus this week’s practice on playing in the offensive zone and not giving up space on the ice to work with.

David Cotton will be someone for the Minutemen to look out for, as the junior leads BC with 26 points and tops the league in goal scoring with 16 goals and a .59 goals per game average. He’s effective on the power play and throws a lot of shots on net.

Netminder Joseph Woll has assumed much of the duties in the crease for the Eagles this season, posting a 9-13-3 record with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.

The Minutemen will have just five regular season games remaining after this weekend series before postseason play.

“It feels like it was just September,” Ferraro laughed. “Obviously the season went by pretty quick and ever since Christmas break, it flies by in the second half. It’s starting to get really exciting getting closer to playoff time and the success that we have had.”

“And now we’re excited about the success we can potentially have moving forward. It’s a big year for us and we’re really excited and it sure has been flying by.”

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @MollieeWalkerr.