UMass hockey travels to Maine on Friday
AMHERST — After battling the top teams in Hockey East, the University of Massachusetts will try to gain some ground in the standings against two teams that have struggled out of the gate.
The Minutemen will travel to Maine on Friday and host Lowell Sunday. Both games are at 7 p.m.
After beating Providence in last weekend’s only game, UMass coach John Micheletto liked his team’s approach.
“Our guys’ approach has been great. They’ve been learning,” he said. “I don’t know if they naturally came out of the box approaching each game the same way, but they picked up on it pretty quickly. We’ve benefitted as a result of it. ... The buy-in factor has been really high.”
The Black Bears (2-9, 1-5 Hockey East), who lost five of its top six scorers from last year, are the league’s lowest scoring team at 1.36 goals per game. They also give up the most goals at 3.18. Maine had lost seven straight games before beating Lowell, 4-3 on Saturday.
Sophomore Connor Leen (three goals, two assists) and Devin Shore (one goals, four assists) lead the Maine offense. The Black Bears have played three different goalies with Dan Sullivan (0-6-0, 3.34 goals against average, .898 save percentage) getting the largest share of the work.
“I know they’re dangerous,” Micheletto said. Maine coach “Tim (Whitehead) always gets those guys ready to play. At the end of the season, they’re always somewhere in the mix. I think their record, like ours, is a little misleading. I know that they’re going to be harder to play against than maybe their record indicates right now. ... We need to be playing the best game that we can Friday night in order to win.”
Lowell’s struggles are a little misleading too. The River Hawks (2-4-1, 1-3-1) have two losses against national power Boston College and one against Denver, another elite team. They split with Maine last weekend.
Junior Josh Holstrom leads Lowell with three goals and two assists. Junior Doug Carr has handled most of the goaltending chores. He’s 2-3-1 with a 2.25 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
Lowell hosts New Hampshire on Friday before travelling to UMass.
The two weekend games are part of a three-games-in-five-days stretch for the Minutemen, who host Vermont Tuesday in the teams’ annual pre-Thanksgiving tilt at the Mullins Center at 7 p.m.
Micheletto said he’s only focused on Maine.
“We’re going to have a tough game in Orono Friday night. That’s the only thin we’re preparing for,” Micheletto said. “You start looking ahead and it gets goofy with games Sunday and Tuesday.”
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