Saturday, February 22, 2014
After playing well in a series split with Merrimack last week, University of Massachusetts coach John Micheletto liked where his team was heading into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game against Boston University at the Mullins Center.
“Last week I was happy with the process over the course of both nights. Saturday was as well as we’ve played at Merrimack in recent history,” Micheletto said. “Including the exhibition game (against the USA Under-18 team), we’re 5-5-1 in our last 11. During that time we’re almost 24.5 percent on the power play and over 90 percent on the (penalty) kill. Not only the eye test tells you we’re playing better, but the statistics do as well.”
The game, which will be televised on NBC Sports Network, will be the annual “Bright Out” game for UMass, where fans are encouraged to wear white for the game. The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive free T-shirts.
Before the game, UMass will unveil an Olympic banner with the names of former hockey players who have played in the Olympics. The four-person banner includes the United States’ Jonathan Quick and Austria’s Thomas Pöck, who will play for their respective countries next week in Sochi, Russia, and Jon Lyons and Justin McCarthy, who both played for the US in the 1924 games.
For the second straight week, UMass is playing a team below it in the Hockey East standings. BU (8-14-2 overall) has struggled in its first season under new coach Dave Quinn and the Terriers’ 3-8-1 record and seven points place them 10th in Hockey East, one point behind the Minutemen (7-16-3, 3-8-2 Hockey East).
The Terriers opened the season with a 3-1 win against UMass at Agganis Arena in Boston, but it’s been a tough go from there, especially lately as they’ve gone 1-8-1 in their past 10 games.
“Every game we’re going to play is going to have significant impact on a really really tight Hockey East race,” Micheletto said. “Having BU in the building for a single game, we’re really focused in on making sure we’re ready to go when the puck drops.”
Goaltending, which has historically been a strength for BU, has been a problem this season. Among the 14 goalies who see regular action in the conference, the Terriers’ tandem of sophomores are No. 13 and 14 in goals against average. Matt O’Connor is 13th at 3.07, while Sean Maguire is at 3.13.
Scoring hasn’t been much better. BU doesn’t have a single player among the conference’s top 20 scorers. Freshman forward Robbie Baillargeon (six goals, 12 assists) and sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksansen (four goals, 14 assists) share the team lead with 18 points.
Like the Minutemen, this is BU’s only game this weekend. It plays Boston College in the Beanpot on Monday.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage