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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Men’s Hockey looking for a big finish

When University of Massachusetts Boston Men’s Hockey coach Peter Belisle assembled this year’s team, he had a hunch the Beacons would be a tough -out for their Eastern College Athletic Conference East opponents.
With much of the team’s roster returning from last season’s 17-6-4 finish, Belisle believed his team possessed the talent to compete alongside the best teams in Division 3.
The coach, who is in his ninth year at UMass Boston, was right.
After a season-opening 15-3 win over UMass Dartmouth on November 1, the tone was set for the Beacons. The team went on to win each of its next nine games, outscoring opponents 56-20 to garner a 10-0 record at the start of winter break. They currently stand at 14-3-1.
“I knew we had potential to be very good, but to think we’d go 10-0, that’s one hell of a start,” said Belisle. “In hockey, to have success, things need to go well. We’ve been very fortunate to get some puck-luck and to stay healthy so far.”
Although UMass Boston opened the second half of its season with a 0-2-1 record after a 1-1 tie with Hamilton College, sandwiched between losses to Connecticut College (4-1) and Norwich University (6-3) on Jan. 4 and Jan. 9, respectively, the team bounced back to find its stride a week later.
Since the Beacons suffered their lone down-week of the season, the team ripped off four consecutive wins—including a 4-1 victory over New England College on Jan. 17.
Even though Belisle aims to lead the team to victories each time they play, the longtime Beacons coach couldn’t help but believe his team’s struggles upon returning from vacation may have provided the Beacons with a wakeup call of sorts.
“It might be good for us,” said the coach. “I don’t know if we overlooked Connecticut College, but our mindset wasn’t right. We were too cocky and it was going to come to us. They wanted it more than us on that day.”
Ever since the team lost at Norwich in early January, UMass Boston has relied on its crop of upperclassmen to lead the goal-scoring efforts like they had in the start of the season. Three different forwards have registered more than 20 points this season, with senior forward Stephen Buco leading the way with 30 points. 
Buco, a North Providence, Rhode Island native who transferred from UMass Lowell in the midst of his junior season, is tied with senior Nathan Milam for a team-high 11 goals on the season. Buco has also tallied 19 assists.
With a total of 24 points (including 10 goals), senior forward Mike Kuhn has also helped the Beacons score at a rapid rate, while juniors Peter MacIntyre (seven goals and 15 assists) and Kit Sitterley (10 goals and seven assists) have tried their hardest to match the senior’s production at the offensive end.
“It’s huge,” said Belisle in regards to the team’s experience translated to points. “Our biggest asset is our offense; it’s what wins us hockey games and it’s our bread and butter. Even our defensemen tend to be offensive.”
Despite the recent success, the coach recognizes the team will have its work cut out for the remainder of the season. As the Beacons prepare for the ECAC East tournament and a potential place in to the NCAA Tournament, they will face a daunting schedule in the second half of the season.
Only one of the team’s remaining opponents will carry a higher ranking in the USCHO.com national rankings than UMass Boston at number 10, and that is Norwich, who dealt the Beacons their second loss of the season.
The Beacons will look to reap revenge on the Cadets in its regular season finale on February 14, as there will be no love lost when Norwich University travels to Boston to take on the Beacons on Valentine’s Day.
If there’s one area of his team Belisle is relying on to lead them to a successful finish, it’s their understanding of what it takes to win games in big moments.
“We’re a junior and senior-laden team, which is different because we’ve always been heavy with freshmen, so that’s helped this year,” said the coach. “Experience pays off and this isn’t these guys’ first rodeo. They’ve been in the rinks and know what to expect, so we’re hoping we can finish the season strong.”