UMass Lowell River Hawks (2-11-2(2-9-0HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (2-6-3(1-3-3HEA))
(Today at 1:30 PM)
Over the past few weeks, something surprising and exciting has happened. Our beloved Mass Attack has been playing extremely well, and winning games. Over their past 3 games, the Minutemen are 2-0-1 and they have moved up to eighth in the Hockey East standings. The continuing presence of freshman forward Michael Pereira (7G/4A/11Pts/+6) and the emergence of freshman defenseman Adam Phillips (3G/2A/5Pts/-2) has been apparent. Pereira scored 3 goals, had 2 assists and was a plus-3 over the last three games, while Phillips had 3 goals, 1 assist and was a plus-4. Senior captain goalie Paul Dainton (2-3-2, 3.00GAA, .914save%) has gotten back into his sophomore form by putting up a career-high 43 saves against UNH, then breaking it with 44 against Vermont, and finishing the stretch with a solid 25 save effort against Quinnipiac. Dainton has elevated his game in his last three starts and the team has responded by elevating their play, as well. In the last three games, they have averaged 4.00GPG, while the season average for the Minutemen attack is only 2.82GPG. And the defense only allowed 2.00GPG and killed 90% of penalties in that stretch, which is much better than the season averages of 3.27GA/G and 74.1%.
While UMass and UMass Lowell are similar teams in terms of youth, it would appear that the two are on diametrically opposing paths. The River Hawks have dropped six straight games and ten of their last eleven. Although some of their losses have been close, they have also lost by four, five, and six goal margins this year. They sit dead last in the Hockey East standings despite playing the second most in conference games this year (BC has played 12, BU and Merrimack have both also played 11). The offense is only squeezing out a meager 2.13GPG. Their top goal and point scorer, Riley Wetmore (6G/6A/12Pts/-7) has only six goals in 15 games! Pereira has one more in five fewer games. This paltry offensive attack is not going to get it done with a young defense and a pair of freshman goalies. There is not a single skater with UML that has a positive or even plus/minus. In fact, five River Hawks have plus/minus ratings in the negative double-digits. The two frosh netminders, Doug Carr (2-7-1, 3.33GAA, .902save%) and Marc Boulanger (0-4-1, 4.25GAA, .868save%) are not exactly superstars, at least not yet. UML has, however, been sharp on the PK, killing 85.2% of power plays faced this season.
Despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, this is not a slam dunk. This game has trap written all over it. Nothing kills a hot team more quickly than failing to get up against an inferior opponent. It remains to be seen whether Toot will stick with the hot hand in Dainton, whose 2.41GAA and .935save% in Hockey East play have been superb, or if he will roll the dice with the freshman Jeff Teglia (0-3-1, 3.37GAA, .899save%), who has also been getting progressively better. It remains to be seen if Eddie Olczyk or Anthony Raiola, who have played only one game apiece, will see ice time. No matter what lineup is out there for the team in white on the ice of The Bill this afternoon, it is certain that this is a game the Mass Attack should win against a team it needs to beat if it is to continue progressing towards greatness. (…Uh, goodness? Mediocrity? I guess mediocrity, but, hey, you’ve got to be mediocre before you can be great.)
Kublin Kounter – Where we get to point out the stats which will not tell you how great the play of Doug Kublin is because his play is all about intangibles.