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UMass hockey looks to bounce back against No. 7 Boston College Thursday

UMass hosts No. 7 Boston College in a marquee Hockey East matchup on Thursday. It’s the only Thursday night home game all season for the Minutemen and it offers fans a glimpse at one of the most prolific offenses in the nation.

Led by former Hobey Baker Award finalist Johnny Gaudreau, who has 18 points in nine games, the Eagles are averaging five goals per game.

“Your guys are certainly going to be aware of (Gaudreau) when he’s on the ice,” UMass coach John Micheletto said.

Micheletto said he didn’t anticipate crafting a game plan specifically for Gaudreau. Instead, it’s on his players to maintain awareness throughout the game.

“When you defend away, you’re going to know where he is when he has the puck on his stick,” Micheletto said. “It’s when he doesn’t, you’re checking him and having guys have eyes on him because he’s obviously very elusive and very dangerous.”

In preparation for BC, Micheletto said accountability was a focus, saying the team had to walk a fine line of taking blame for their performance against UNH while looking ahead to another difficult game.

“You hope that personal pride and the pride that we have in the program and pulling the jersey over our head and all those things are things that we’re embarrassed about and that you don’t want to have happen again,” Micheletto said.

UMass was without junior goaltender Steve Mastalerz, who was out with an undisclosed injury. Micheletto said Mastalerz was day to day.

In Mastalerz’s absence, the Minutemen started Alex Wakaluk against UNH. The freshman allowed five goals before giving way to classmate Mac Haight, who allowed four more.

“It’d be nice if we didn’t give up the kind of opportunities that force them to make an unbelievable save after standing around for five minutes,” Micheletto said. “Asking any goaltender, but especially either Mac or Alex ... to see those types of opportunities barreling down on them is pretty unfortunate and unfair.”

Against a skillful Boston College team, UMass will need to tighten up defensively and limit turnovers. Micheletto wasn’t happy with the play in the defensive zone a week ago and said it needs to be better on Thursday.

“Your transition defense and managing the puck, those two things against any skilled team are going to minimize their opportunities,” Micheletto said.

The Minutemen have also struggled offensively, scoring just a goal per game over their last four. Micheletto continued to juggle line combinations in hopes of finding a spark that can ignite an aggressive offensive system.

“You got to play your game and not the scoreboard,” Micheletto said. “That was the biggest disappointment, that I didn’t think we were sticking to what we’re supposed to be doing as the game wore on.”

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