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UMass hockey heads to Vermont looking to move up in Hockey East

AMHERST — Only once this season has the University of Massachusetts hockey team won back-to-back games and the Minutemen have never done it against Hockey East opponents. But with 13 games left, if they want to deliver on their goals of gaining some ground in the conference, they’ll have to reverse that trend.

After last Friday’s win at Boston College, UMass will try to build some momentum this weekend with two games at Vermont, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.

“Each night is going to get bigger. This weekend is just going to be huge trying to get as many points as we can against Vermont,” junior defenseman Joel Hanley said. “In Hockey East, it’s tough to string wins together.”

UMass coach John Micheletto said beating Vermont is every bit as important as beating BC last weekend.

“It’s hard to put any more weight on any one game, on any two points more than any other two points,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “The BC win helps us out because we weren’t able to get points the week before. To make the BC win stand up we have to get points coming out of this weekend.

“If you just get (points) sporadically, it’s never a way to get any sort of momentum or feel like you’re making any sort of gains,” Micheletto continued. “The standings are what they are. If you see yourself moving up or closing the gap, it bolsters guys. Ultimately trying to put wins together and string points together is helpful to your psyche.”

The Catamounts (6-12-4, 3-8-4 Hockey East) are tied with Northeastern for eight place with 10 points, just one behind the Minutemen (8-11-2, 5-8-1) in the Hockey East standings.

Vermont has lost four straight games and hasn’t won a Hockey East game since beating last-place Maine on Nov. 30. The Catamounts are ranked ninth in the conference in both goals scored (2.23 per game) and goals allowed (3.18). They have statistically the league’s worst penalty kill, allowing goals 79.8 percent of the time.

Senior forward Chris McCarthy leads UVM in scoring with six goals and 12 assists.

Freshman netminder Brody Hoffman has appeared in all 22 games. His goals against average (3.00) and save percentage (.900) are both worst among Hockey East goalies.

UMass beat Vermont 3-1 on Nov. 20 at the Mullins Center.

The game will be the first back at Gutterson Fieldhouse for UMass coach John Micheletto, who was an assistant coach under Kevin Sneddon for nine years in Burlington, Vt.

“It’ll be good to see people that I know and haven’t seen. I’m sure I’ll be able to do that Thursday night and early Friday, but closer to game time, I’ll be pushing all that stuff to the outside,” Micheletto said Tuesday. “It shouldn’t be a factor once Friday afternoon comes around.”

HAPPY FANS — The UMass players were among the many hockey fans glad to see the NHL lockout end.

“It’s so much better. We watch it every night. We’re in fantasy leagues. It’s fun,” Joel Hanley said. “Everyone cheers for their hometown team. There’s a lot of rivalries in the locker room. I’m from Toronto, we have fans of L.A., Boston, of course, Calgary. It’s fun to come to the rink and picking on each other for our teams.”

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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