At UMass: UNH heavy underdogs in Hockey East quarterfinal series against regular-season champs.
UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE men’s hockey coach Mike Souza said nobody expects his team to upset No. 2/3 Massachusetts in the Hockey East quarterfinals this weekend. That does not bother the Wildcats, he said.
“I think the guys are in a good frame of mind,” Souza said of his players. “They understand the task at hand. It’s a huge task but you know what? This is what college hockey is all about.
“The pressure is on UMass. No one is giving us a chance and that’s fine with us.”
Top-seeded UMass (26-8, 18-6 Hockey East) will host eighth-seeded UNH (12-13-9, 8-10-6) for the best-of-three series, which starts tonight at 7. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. and, if necessary, Game 3 will be played Sunday at the same time.
The Minutemen won their first-ever regular-season league title this year and are hosting a quarterfinal series for the first time since 2007. UMass won both regular-season meetings with the Wildcats, earning a 5-1 victory on Nov. 3 in Durham and a 4-2 triumph in Amherst, Mass., on Nov. 18.
UMass leads Hockey East in scoring offense (3.76 goals per game) and is second in scoring defense (2.06 goals allowed per game). The Minutemen also own the nation’s best power-play percentage (29.5).
The Wildcats rank seventh in scoring offense (2.53 goals per game) and sixth in scoring defense (2.71 goals allowed per game) in the league and are 29th in the nation in power-play percentage (18.4).
“A lot of people aren’t probably giving us the best shot up there,” UNH senior captain Marcus Vela said. “They’re a good team and rightfully so but so are we. I think we’ve got some good players and talented players and we’ve got some good systems and I think we could do some damage against them.”
The Wildcats have struggled to do much damage offensively recently. UNH has scored eight goals over its past seven games, going 2-4-1 over that span. Souza attributed UNH’s recent scoring drought to not playing hard enough around the net in the offensive end.
“We’ve had some chances these past couple games. It just hasn’t gone in for us,” Wildcats senior forward Ara Nazarian said. “I think that eventually they’re going to go in. We need to pressure their D, make plays behind the net and just get two or three guys crashing the net (for) second or third opportunities and those will go in.”
UNH will try to best a Minutemen blue-line corps that contributes both offensively and defensively.
UMass sophomore Cale Makar, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft (Colorado) and a Hobey Baker Award candidate, set the program record for points by a defenseman in a single season this year with 42 on 13 goals and 29 assists. Fellow blue-liner Marc Del Gaizo (12 goals, 12 assists), who Souza called arguably the top freshman in Hockey East this year, has scored 10 goals in league play, which is tied for the fifth-most in league history.
“Their D jump up a lot in the play,” Vela said. “They’ve got some skilled D so they have, often, four or five guys up in the attack and we’ve just got to be aware of that.”
Souza said UNH forwards Justin Fregona and Patrick Grasso will miss the remainder of the season. Fregona, who was injured at Boston University on Jan. 11, had ankle surgery last week. Grasso had a minor procedure done to deal with a medical issue last month.
Souza also said the plan is for senior defenseman Matt Dawson, who had season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this year, to return for a redshirt season next year.
Souza praised what the Minutemen have accomplished this season but said his team has to focus solely on itself.
“We can’t control who UMass rolls out,” Souza said. “The only thing we can control is the lineup we put on the ice, the effort we put forth and the execution that we go into the game with and come out of it with. I think if we do those things, we give ourselves a chance and that’s all we’re asking of our guys.”
Beaudoin helps end loooong game
Londonderry’s Brent Beaudoin helped the Brown men win the longest game in program history and advance to the ECAC quarterfinals in the process last Saturday.
The junior forward earned the helper on Alex Brink’s game-winning backhander from the slot 3:30 into triple overtime that earned the Bears a 6-5 ECAC first-round-series-clinching victory over Princeton.
Beaudoin has tallied a career-high 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) for Brown, which will play at Quinnipiac in the ECAC quarterfinals this weekend. Game 1 of the best-of-three series is tonight at 7.
The Bobcats will be without two of their top defensemen for tonight’s contest. Senior captain Chase Priskie and classmate Luke Shiplo were both issued suspensions by the league for their actions in Quinnipiac’s 5-1 regular-season win at Yale on March 2.
Priskie will miss the first two games of the series as discipline for kicking fallen Yale player Tyler Welsh in the second period of that bout. Shiplo will miss Game 1 because he received a fighting major in the third period, a penalty that carries a mandatory one-game suspension.
Quinnipiac’s scarcity at the blue line could mean more ice time for Cam Boudreau, a freshman defenseman from Salem who joined the team in December. Boudreau has played in 17 games.
Robbins lights up Terriers
Maine forward Brendan Robbins had his best game of his senior season in the Black Bears’ 6-0 senior-night win over Boston University last Saturday to close out the regular season.
Robbins, a Nashua resident, had a season-best three-point game in the win, logging two goals and an assist. The Nashua North graduate finished the regular season with 14 points (nine goals, five assists) for the Black Bears, who open their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series at No. 9 Northeastern tonight at 7.
‘Proud’ of PSU Panthers
The Plymouth State men saw their season end last Saturday despite scoring first and receiving a 38-save effort from senior goaltender Evan Morelli.
No. 7 Hobart defeated the Panthers, 2-1, in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament. Last Saturday marked Plymouth State’s third national tournament appearance and its first since the 2014-15 season.
The Panthers, who finished with a 17-8-3 overall record, punched their tournament ticket on March 2, when they beat Salem State to win their third Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference championship.
Plymouth State senior Ryan Stevens scored 5:48 into the first period to give his team a 1-0 lead over Hobart last Saturday. The Statesmen responded by scoring once in each of the final two periods.
Hobart outshot the Panthers 40-14.
“We were expecting a low-scoring, defensive game and that’s what we got,” Plymouth State coach Craig Russell said in a statement. “We knew we had to be strong in front of Evan and I thought we were really good at not giving them extra opportunities. …I’m proud of the guys for accomplishing what we did. We went through a lot this year and it was nice to see those seniors celebrate with a (conference) championship.”
UNH forward Taylor Wenczkowski, a redshirt junior from Rochester, earned her first career post-season honor last Friday, when she was named a Hockey East Third Team All-Star.
Wenczkowski led the Wildcats in goals (20) and points (26), posting single-season career highs in both categories. She is the first UNH player to surpass the 20-goal mark in a season since Jonna Curtis did so during the 2016-17 campaign.
Wenczkowski is also the first Wildcat to receive a post-season award since Curtis and Amy Schlagel were both named to the Hockey East All-Star First Team at the end of the 2016-17 season.
“Taylor had a breakout year for us,” UNH coach Hilary Witt said in a statement. “It’s hard to score in our league and she scored so many huge goals. I couldn’t be more proud of and happy for her.”
Avery going dancing
Brooke Avery helped the Syracuse women defeat Robert Morris, 6-2, to win their ever first College Hockey America championship and earn their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance last Friday.
The redshirt senior from Loudon registered what proved to be the game-winning goal in the second period and also assisted on Kristen Siermachesky’s tally that came 2:58 earlier in the period.
Avery, who has logged 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) this season, and Syracuse (13-21-3) will play at No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Wisconsin (32-4-2) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Badgers swept Syracuse by a combined score of 15-2 when the Orange last visited Madison, Wis., Dec. 1-2.