UMass ready for hockey rivalry with AIC

Last modified: Saturday, November 08, 2014

AMHERST — If the annual hockey game between UMass and American International College is going to become the rivalry that Minuteman coach John Micheletto is hoping for, AIC did a good job stoking the fire last season.

In a January game at the Mullins Center, the Minutemen outplayed the Yellow Jackets and outshot them 59-18, but then freshman Hunter Leisner was outstanding making 57 saves in AIC’s 3-2 win.

“I pursued the game because I thought it would be a great rivalry that I was surprised we didn’t have,” Micheletto said. “I thought it would be kind of a unique rivalry. It should generate a lot of local interest. We want to take the title back after last year.”

The only two Division I teams in western Massachusetts will renew their fledgling rivalry Friday at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

The Minutemen (2-5-0) are coming in on a three-game losing streak after being swept by Maine last weekend. While Friday’s game isn’t a Hockey East game, Micheletto said his team’s urgency to win isn’t diminished.

“Winning is a skill we want to own. At this point it doesn’t matter who it is, home or away,” he said. “We’re looking for wins. We’re looking to learn how to win and we’re looking to exercise that muscle as much as we can.”

The Yellow Jackets (2-4-1) opened the season with a 7-3 loss to No. 5 Union starting a five-game winless stretch. AIC broke through last weekend sweeping Niagara, 3-1 and 4-2.

Sophomore David Norris leads the Jackets in scoring with six points, all on assists. Three players are right behind him. Alexander MacMillan, who had the game winner against UMass last year, has five goals this year. Austin Orszulak, a Springfield native, has three goals and two assists, while Johno May has a goal and four assists.

Leisner and freshman Alex Murray have split the work in goal. Murray appears to be grabbing the No. 1 role. He’s 2-1-1 with a 1.96 goals against average, while Leisner is 0-3-0 with a 4.37 GAA.

MUSTACHE IN PROGRESS — Micheletto has begin growing facial hair above his upper lip as part of his participation in Movember, an annual event in November where men grow mustaches to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer.

This will be Micheletto’s eighth year growing a mustache.

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