After week off, UMass hockey preparing to BC, Vermont



Last modified: Sunday, November 23, 2014

AMHERST — After a rare November week off, the UMass hockey team will play three games in five days before Thanksgiving. The Minutemen will host Boston College and Vermont on Friday and Saturday, respectively, at the Mullins Center and will travel to Vermont, Tuesday. All three games are at 7 p.m.

With a team that counts on a lot of young players in key roles, UMass coach John Micheletto liked having the week to add some things to his team’s system.

“We’re still setting some foundation pieces. We’re only six weeks into the season. Last week, we just focused on extending our offense a little bit,” he said. “We get so little time at the beginning of the year, it is nice to have that extra week to do a little install. We’ll see Friday if we used the week to our advantage, but I thought we had a really, really good and productive week of practice.”

Since beating UMass (3-5-0, 1-4-0 Hockey East), 4-1, at Conte Forum on Oct. 25., the Eagles have struggled going 2-4-0 to bring them to 5-5-0 (1-3 Hockey East).

Three BC players share the team scoring lead with eight points. Bruins draft pick Ryan Fitzgerald is the top sniper with seven goals and an assist. Teddy Doherty is top passer with one goal and seven assists, while Alex Tuch falls in between with three goals and five assists. Sophomore Thatcher Demko has played most of the minutes in goal. He’s 5-4-0 with a 2.10 goals against average. Micheletto thought his team didn’t play as well as it’s capable of in the first meeting.

“In the first 10 minutes of the first period I don’t think we were at our best. I don’t know if we were starry-eyed,” Micheletto said. “If we play 60 minutes and stay out of the penalty box, I think we’re right in a pretty tight ball game. I think there’s an advantage of having played them already. Hopefully it brings some level of comfort for us to just play our game.”

The game will be the second time Minuteman sophomore forward Frank Vatrano faces BC, a school he was initially enrolled at, before transferring to UMass.

“I’m still good friends with a lot of guys on that team,” he said. “It’ll be fun to see them. But overall, I try to look past the opponent and treat it like a regular hockey game.”

Vermont was picked eighth in the Hockey East preseason poll, but so far its been the surprise of not just the league, but the nation, as the Catamounts are ranked No. 11 at 7-2-1 (5-2-1 HE). They opened the season 4-0 and have gone 3-2-1 since and most recently split a series with Providence.

Sophomore Mario Puskarich and senior Mike Paliotta lead Vermont with nine points a piece. Puskarich has four goals and five assists, while Paliotta has two goals and seven assists. Junior goalie Brody Hoffman backbones Hockey East’s least-scored upon team. He’s 5-1-1 with a 1.96 GAA.

After Tuesday, UMass won’t play either BC or Vermont again this season unless they meet in the postseason.

“I don’t like it. It would be great if we had a balanced schedule and saw everybody early and late,” Micheletto said. “But I guess it’s the nature of the beast. But six weeks into the season and we’re already done with one of our league mates, I’d like it to be different.”

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


 


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