Minutewomen prepare for their two of possibly five matchups against rival Rhode Island

UMass still sits at number six in ACHA rankings

Collegian File Photo

By Anthony Syrek, Collegian Staff

After dominating the last clash with rival Rhode Island, the Massachusetts women’s club hockey team looks to keep the upper hand as the Rams return for another two-game weekend matchup.

During their last matchup, UMass dominated, dropping seven goals in each with coach Bill Wright saying this was some of the best hockey they have played all year.

Even though UMass prospered recently in this heated rivalry, Wright doesn’t feel like it has a collective advantage over the Rams. He said the Minutewomen have a positional advantage, particularly up the middle.

“At center, I think we are a little bit bigger than they are,” said Wright. “We try to play a fast, aggressive game and it helps to be strong down the middle.”

The Minutewomen must face URI two more times after this weekend in a “playoff” like set up. Both teams will play at Mullins Feb. 21, followed by a road game hosted by the Rams. If a game three is necessary, it will go back to Mullins. This will break up the time between the regular season and nationals if they’re eligible.

UMass still sits at number six in the ACHA rankings even after two decisive victories against No. 14 Penn State.

For a team to be eligible for nationals, it must be ranked in the top eight by the end of the season and play a minimum of 18 games against WI teams to count. The top eight eligible teams will travel to Frisco, Texas and play tournament style.

This team is very young and doesn’t have much nationals experience, with only three girls on the roster who have prior experience. Wright said the team isn’t thinking ahead , just focusing on one game at a time.

“I think the girls that haven’t played in the nationals aren’t really getting ahead of themselves because they don’t know what it’s about,” said Wright. “I think it’s easier this year more than any to kind of stay focused at the task at hand.”

Wright also said these games are very important to focus on because they decide if they are in national contention. If they trip up once in this four-game stretch, it can decide their fate.

The Minutewomen traditionally schedule URI for their senior night, which is this Saturday, but Wright likes to get a team near the end of the season that is a tough matchup. The rivalry will allow the team to stay focused mentally to finish out the season.

As far as game planning is concerned, Wright wants to switch the focus back to the defensive side after really hammering on finishing in the offensive zone last week.

“Obviously, finishing around the net is important, but not forgetting about our defense is the most important,” said Wright. “You can keep the puck out of your net you’re always going to have a chance to win.”

The games against URI will be held Friday Feb. 7 at 8:50 p.m. and Saturday Feb. 8 at 10:50 a.m. at Mullins Center Practice Facility.

Anthony Syrek can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @ASyrek.