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UMass hosts No. 20 Merrimack in blizzard-shortened hockey weekend

AMHERST — The weekend blizzard turned two games in two days against two different teams in two different places, into a one-game weekend against a ranked team for the University of Massachusetts hockey team.

That’s been a good formula lately for the Minutemen, who will face No. 20 Merrimack on Sunday at 4 p.m in a game that was originally slated for Saturday. On Jan. 18, UMass upset No. 2 Boston College 5-2 in its only game that weekend. Last week, the Minutemen dominated No. 11 Boston University 5-1 in their only game.

UMass’ game against Northeastern on Friday has been moved to Feb. 19. There were five Hockey East games scheduled this weekend, but only three will get played. Maine and Vermont’s Saturday night game in Burlington, Vt., is the only game being played at its original start time.

The Minutemen (10-12-2, 7-9-1 Hockey East) entered the weekend in seventh place with 15 points. They’re three points back of UMass-Lowell (8-8-2), which is now idle this weekend, and two ahead of eighth-place Maine (4-9-5).

Merrimack (12-10-5, 10-6-2) is third in Hockey East with 22 points, just a point back of New Hampshire (11-6-1) and three back for first-place BC (12-6-1).

UMass coach John Micheletto said he does monitor the league’s scoreboard, but never counts on any results.

“I’d like to say it’s not important,” Micheletto said. “But natural curiosity makes you look. You can’t hope for scores. That’s the reality of anyone’s situation. You have to take care of your own business. Everybody is going to look at who does what and what winds up happening. That’s inevitable, but you have to keep your focus on doing what you do best. So many people are close in the standings. That’s what makes the league so great. Every game means something. You’re either gaining ground on somebody or distancing yourself from somebody else. There’s so much wrapped up in every game.”

The Warriors have been hot of late, going 5-1-1 in their last seven games, including last weekend’s sweep of Lowell and New Hampshire.

Merrimack’s success has come off the back of the league’s No. 2 defense, which has allowed just 2.41 goals per game.

Junior Sam Marotta (9-5-3, 2.09 GAA) and sophomore Rasmus Tirronen (3-5-2, 2.58 GAA) have shared time in goal.

Junior forward Mike Collins is tied for second in Hockey East with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists). But there’s a long drop off after Collins as the Warriors’ next four scorers all have 13 points.

This is the first game of the season between UMass and Merrimack, who play a home-and-home series against each other on March 8-9 to close the regular season.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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