UMass Minutemen (5-11-3(4-6-3HEA)) vs. Vermont Catamounts (4-12-4(2-8-3HEA))
Coming off of a home-and-home sweep of Lowell last weekend, the Minutemen hope to keep the moment this weekend as they head to Burlington for a two game set with UVM. After their almost-collapse on Friday, the Mass Attack rebounded with one of their finest efforts of the year for a decisive 4-1 victory on Saturday.
Vermont is ranked 9th in Hockey East right now and could be considered a bizarro-Lowell. By this, I mean that UVM has pretty decent goaltending and defense coupled with an anemic offense (the worst in Hockey East). It’s an offense that can only muster 1.85GPG in conference play and has a powerplay success rate of under 13%. Then came the news that Wahsontiio Stacey (and probably his mom) is leaving the Catamounts. Stacey has been UVM’s leading goal- and point-scorer this year (9G/6A/15Pts). UVM coach Kevin Sneddon said that Stacey’s departure probably wouldn’t affect the team’s play very much. Well, he’s probably right; Stacey hasn’t scored a goal in Hockey East play since a 3-2 loss to BC in early November, so we shouldn’t expect his loss to turn the Catamounts into complete pushovers. But still, with Stacey gone, the UMass defense will have one less “threat” to worry about this weekend. Without Stacey, UVM will probably rely more on such goal-scoring luminaries as: Sebastian “Funky A” Stålberg (5G/9A/14Pts), Jack Downing (5G/3A/8Pts), and Chris McCarthy (5G/3A/8Pts). I might add that only 2 of Funky A’s 5 goals and 5 of his 9 assists came against Hockey East foes.
It’s been a different story for the Minutemen of late, whose 9 goals in their last 2 games (take it with a grain of salt people, these two games were against “the worst team in the history of Hockey East) have bumped the season average to 2.77GPG in Hockey East play. This isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but when considered that Dainton’s GAA in Hockey East play is the same 2.77, it gives you at least a 50/50 shot of winning (which might explain why Dainton is 4-4-2 in Hockey East action this season). The offense has received contributions from everywhere, and has 5 players with double-digit point totals: Michael Pereira (8G/9A/17Pts), Danny Hobbs (5G/11A/16Pts), T.J. Syner (5G/10A/15Pts), Branden Gracel (3G/7A/10Pts), and Joel Hanley (1G/9A/10Pts). Also of note is Adam Phillips, a freshman defenseman who has potted 6 goals (4 on the powerplay) so far this season. Speaking of the Mass Attack powerplay, it sits at a respectable 16.4% against Hockey East opponents.
The Minuteman problems have been the same for most of the season. Defense. At best, it’s average; at worst, it’s atrocious. Conor Allen and Michael Marcou (Marcou, yes a junior with 71 games experience) both have dreadful –9 plus/minus ratings. How Toot ever decided Mike Marcou was worthy of an A on the sweater is beyond me. The penalty kill sits at an awful 78.9% success rate and I swear to god at times it seems like some of the PK guys are playing with themselves out on the ice. The Mass Attack allows 34.8 SOG a game to Hockey East opponents and many of these shots come from prime scoring real estate. The lazy and undisciplined defense let a garbage UML team back in the game last Saturday and almost blew it. The only guys doing a consistently good job on the back end are Doug Kublin and (somewhat surprisingly) freshman Colin Shea. Both are +3s and we all know that Kubbie is a solid, fundamental, lockdown D-man. Shea, on the other hand, can strike a bit of fear at times as he is a still-learning freshman, but he is certainly learning very quickly.
Vermont’s defense, on the other hand, is allowing less than 32 shots against in Hockey East play, but, they are even worse on the PK, with a 78.3% kill rate in conference play. They play in front of a serviceable junior netminder in Rob Madore (4-12-4, 2.95GAA, .904save%). Madore has been known to stand on his head at times (especially last year against UMass), but he is usually a fairly average backstop. Given the numbers, you’d have to give the goaltending edge to Paul Dainton (5-6-2, 2.86GAA, .914save%).
The key to this weekend is to play 6 periods of good hockey. In all honesty, Vermont is a bad team. If the boys in maroon don’t allow this series to be two trap games, they should come out with at least 3 points. Better offense, better goaltending, and about equal defense can hopefully lead to some wins for UMass this weekend and will hopefully lead to some angry fifty-year-old from Vermont hilariously challenging myself, Matt, and Max after Saturday’s game.
Last Week: 0Pts/2SOG/+1/0PIM
Season Totals: 3G/1A/4Pts/15SOG/+3/18PIM