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Big week lies ahead for UMass hockey team

AMHERST — If this week didn’t decide the University of Massachusetts hockey team’s postseason fate, it undoubtedly will have affected it when the season comes to a close.

With seven regular season games left, the Minutemen (10-15-2, 7-12-1 Hockey East) have 15 points putting them in eighth place, the last spot that makes the conference tournament. This week they’ll play the two teams beneath them in the standings, beginning with Tuesday’s 7 p.m. game against Northeastern at the Mullins Center. The game is the makeup for the snowed-out Feb. 8 meeting. UMass will host Maine on Friday and Saturday. Both games are at 7 p.m.

The Huskies (8-16-3, 4-13-3) are in last place with 11 points. They badly need a win tonight to stay in contention. Maine (8-16-6, 4-11-6) is in ninth with 14 points looking to overtake UMass.

UMass coach John Micheletto said these games aren’t any more important than games earlier in the season, but admitted there was more pressure.

“They’re all important. The end result becomes clearer at this time of year. But a game you win or lose in October and November is the same in terms of importance as it is now,” he said. “Is there more pressure? Because there is a clearer picture, I’m sure there is. ... We talk about it all of the time, how do you manage those emotions. How do you manage that pressure? How do you use pressure to propel you forward.”

Micheletto said playing three games in one week is a challenge.

“We knew the impending difficulties with the storm. I would have played at 10 a.m. last Friday because it’s tough to jam in a game somewhere,” he said. “They’re facing the same thing so we’re on an even playing field. But it’s tough from a preparation standpoint. Tough from an energy standpoint. Tough on the student-athletes.”

ALLEN IN, POWER STILL OUT — Micheletto said junior defenseman Conor Allen, who was a healthy scratch in Saturday’s loss to UMass-Lowell, would be back in the lineup. Allen had a misconduct in Friday’s loss to Lowell.

Sitting Allen Saturday “was an internal decision,” Micheletto said. “He’ll be in the lineup Tuesday.”

Junior Troy Power, who has been out since Nov. 30 with a knee injury, is still out of the lineup. Micheletto said Power, who is eligible to receive a medical redshirt, is attempting to return this season.

“As time is moving on it’s looking less and less like it’s going to happen,” Micheletto said. “Not having him has been a big hit from what he brings skillwise on the ice and his personality in the locker room. That’s been a big loss for us. He’s been attacking (his rehab) like he wants to come back.”

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

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