Friday at 7 p.m.; Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H.
UNH is 4-5-2; UMass is 3-5-1
Last week, the Wildcats competed in three contests; they walked away with a point in two of those games, more or less not the most satisfying result. On Friday, the ‘Cats continue their home stand with another matchup in Hockey East, the second of a two-game season series with the UMass Amherst Minutemen.
The last time these teams squared off was on Friday, Oct. 28 when UNH traveled to the Mullins Center for the first Hockey East game of the 2016-17 campaign. The Wildcats came out victorious 4-1, due in large part to the efforts of Shane Eiserman and Dylan Maller. With Maller potentially returning to the lineup this weekend, the Wildcats have an opportunity to sweep the season series against UMass Amherst, and further position themselves in the Hockey East standings.
As it stands now, the ‘Cats hold five points in the conference standings, only behind UMass Lowell and Boston College, who have six and 11 points respectively. UMass Lowell plays Notre Dame on Thursday, and, depending on the result of that game, the Wildcats have an opportunity to take sole possession of second place in the conference heading into Saturday.
“New philosophy, new culture there. They’re playing hard and the scores are close, so they’re getting better,” head coach Dick Umile said. “This will be up for grabs, this will all be determined on the ice Friday night.”
As for the Minutemen, as coach Umile alluded to, they are a Hockey East team on the rise. The Minutemen are 1-2-1 in their last four, which is not entirely impressive on paper, but in the games in which they lost, they’ve lost by three or less. Boston College only won by three 7-4, and most recently; UMass dropped a road game to Vermont 2-1.
The Minutemen are led by their leading goal-scorer Jonny Lazarus, who has potted three goals for six points overall this season. Along with Lazarus, Shane Bear (who was the lone goal-scorer in the last matchup vs. UNH) and Patrick Lee are among others that could be potential threats to the Wildcat blue-line defense come Friday.
UNH’s power play efficiency as of late has been one of the more important components to its level of play. Overall, the ‘Cats have a disappointing .216 percent efficiency, but in the last three games, UNH has been 5-13 on the man-advantage, a more convincing .384 percent efficiency in that span.
If the power play stays consistent, the Wildcats shouldn’t face too many problems in their last Hockey East matchup before the break. With Maller expected to be healthy, deeper blue-line depth will surely help that claim.