Top Hockey East contenders square off on Thursday night
By Tyler Movsessian
The Massachusetts hockey team is amidst their best start in recent history. Currently boasting a 6-1 record, the Minutemen have won all contests aside from dropping a tough road matchup against No. 1 Ohio State. As the season rolls on, UMass, now ranked No. 9 in the country, takes on No. 4 Providence in a matchup featuring the top two teams in the Hockey East. The Friars, currently 5-1-1, have only fallen to No. 2 Notre Dame and had a shocking tie against Sacred Heart. This is clearly a monumental matchup for not only the Hockey East standings, but overall NCAA rankings as well.
Last time out for the Minutemen was Saturday against the New Hampshire Wildcats, where the team easily took care of business by a score of 5-1. New Hampshire (1-4-1,) has been struggling to say the least with their only win coming at home against Vermont. In the game, sophomore standout John Leonard tallied three points off of a goal and two assists. Freshman Mitchell Chaffee matched Leonard while sophomore Cale Makar added a pair of points off of a goal and an assist. In goal, Matt Murray had a pretty quiet night, only facing 20 shots, stopping 19 of them. Surprisingly enough, the Minutemen only outshot the Wildcats 22-20, but luckily New Hampshire goaltender Mike Robinson sprung a leak, allowing for the rout.
Thursday’s matchup against Providence will be considerably more difficult. UMass has the edge on scoring with John Leonard, Cale Makar, and Jacob Pritchard leading the conference in points. However, this will be a top-heavy goaltending matchup between Matt Murray (assuming he gets the start) and Hayden Hawkey (the fans always have fun with this name) for the Friars. Hawkey is boasting a 1.01 goals against average on a .955 save percentage. While Murray ranks second in this category at 1.5 and .947, respectively. The UMass offense will have to get creative with their scoring approach to beat this difficult goaltender.
While this is a pivotal matchup that will happen again both in Providence on Saturday and on February 23rd, I think UMass has the edge in this one. I expect it to be a hard fought, low scoring game, but I give the Minutemen the edge by a final of 2-1.
Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center, with doors opening at 6 p.m. Let’s #FillTheBill as this is the first top 10 matchup at the Mullins Center since January 11, 2008. The Militia have a Ramen Noodle giveaway planned in what should be an epic start to the long weekend. Hope to see you all there!
See you in 2️⃣4️⃣ hours 🔥
# 9️⃣ 🆚 # 4️⃣ / 3️⃣
— UMass Hockey (@UMassHockey) November 8, 2018