The Hangover

The first half of the 2009-2010 Hockey East season felt like the “morning-after” scene of 2009 smash comedy “The Hangover,” which my buddy Walsh and I watched last night while drowning our sorrows after UMass’s embarassing 7-3 loss to Boston University. After the drunken debauchery of the year before, all of a sudden the Terriers awoke to find their buddies (Yip, Wilson, Gilroy, et al) missing completely or, in the cases of underperformers like Millan, Bonino, and Trivino, missing teeth. In addition, they found all sorts of things they weren’t expecting to find, like UMass, Maine, and Lowell fighting for home ice, Merrimack ahead of them in the standings, and a tiger in the bathroom.

Well, in my admittedly-disjointed metaphor, yesterday’s game was a lot like the scene where Stu realizes where their buddy Doug is (no spoilers for those who haven’t seen it).  All of a sudden, the offense was clicking, the motivation and determination were back, and even Millan almost looked (at times) somewhat as good as everyone seemed to think he was last year.

UMass, meanwhile, looked like the ones who needed electrolytes, bed rest, and Advil. Every single aspect of the game of hockey looked off by just a beat. Every break they caught (thanks to 13 BU penalties, some more deserved than others) was followed by an offensive faceoff loss or a neutralizing penalty of their own. Passes were juuust off. Defensemen juuust missed keeping pucks in at the blue line. Little mistakes add up when you’re making them all game long. Barry Melrose was there calling the action for ESPNU (whom I barely missed out on meeting in the media room) and apparently referred to the Minutemen’s effort as “A full 60 minutes of ineptitude.” It’s hard to argue.

What now for UMass? 2 wins in 7 games is troublesome. 2 straight multiple-goal losses to teams in the lower half of the PWR rankings is even worse. The echoes of second-half “Cahoon swoons” are deafening at this point. Why shouldn’t we be hitting the panic button just yet?

Well, 2-5 in seven games looks bad, but UMass was in the game in the first three-game losing streak, and dominated the play for a vast majority of the Bentley game. It’s not like the Minutemen are getting vastly outplayed on a nightly basis like they did in this game. And there’s no stretch of 3 games in 6 days left on the schedule, let alone such a game against a team with 3 weeks to rest their legs.

UMass remains 4th in Hockey East with a ton of games left to go. Admittedly, BU was expected to be one of the easiest remaining opponents. But that’s why you play the games. And it’s not just UMass finding that out this weekend in Hockey East. BC got swept by lowly St. Lawrence, although they followed it up by nearly knocking off Denver. Northeastern, a team that has fallen from the top along with BU this year, topped Lowell in the Ledyard Bank Classic, sending the River Hawks to its fifth loss in their last eight. Maine may have stunned Colorado College, but not before a nailbiter against Princeton that goes into the books as a tie.

Don’t get me wrong. We here at Fight Mass are worried. We’ve seen this one before, and we know how it ends. But defeatist attitudes are no fun, and after seeing how well this team can play, we know they’re capable of getting back on track. With trips to HEA-leading UNH and suddenly-resurgent Northeastern on tap for next weekend, followed by that massive two-gamer against the little sister, it’s time for these guys to nut up or shut up. (Hey, what can I say, 2009 was a damn good year for comedies.)

Meanwhile, men’s basketball gets set to take on Fordham in the A-10 opener on Wednesday (another chance to hear yours truly on student radio!). I’ll have a more in-depth look at that later this week.

-Max

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