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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Men’s Ice Hockey: Is History Repeating Its Self?

Last place is the worst place, but for UMass Boston men’s hockey, there’s reason to believe that success is still a viable option.

The Beacons, currently 2-8-1 in Eastern College Athletic Conference East play, sit in 10th place with eight games remaining in the regular season. But thanks to a logjam in third place, UMass Boston finds its self only five points back of five teams: Babson College, New England College, Castleton State College, Skidmore College and the University of Southern Maine.

In mid-December, the Beacons scored a 4-2 win over the Babson Beavers for their second conference win of the season, positioning themselves near the top of the ECAC East standings.

In the following nine games (six conference), the Beacons have mustered a 1-8 record (0-6 in ECAC East), with the lone victory coming against UMass Dartmouth at Clark Athletic Center, 3-2.

“Its frustrating, no question,” said Beacons coach Peter Belisle, who has watched his team lose three consecutive demoralizing overtime games to Salem State, Southern Maine and Norwich. “But we have to stay positive somehow and keep battling.

“When Salem State’s hootin’ and hollerin’ down your hallway after they just win [4-3] in overtime is sucks but… you gotta dust your self off.”

The Beacons’ penalty kill has been one of their Achilles heels during the nine-game skid. During their six-game conference-losing streak, teams have gone a combined 8-for-21 on the power play against the Beacons. Overall this season, UMass Boston has the second-worst penalty kill rate in the ECAC East at 68.9 percent.

Kris Kranzky, the team’s captain and point leader, said the graduation of forward Kyle Simpson has had an adverse effect on the efficiency of the unit. “He took a lot of pride in the way he killed penalties,” Kranzky said. “That’s what his number one role on the squad was. When we got a penalty, throw Kyle Simpson out there and he’d kill it.”

As for the current struggles, Kranzky said, “I think we just run around a little too much and not make the right plays… We just go. We don’t think.”

For all their shortcomings on the penalty kill, for all the close losses, there is precedent.

Last season, the Beacons went through a similar stretch of schedule. Between January 25 and February 15, a nine-game stretch, UMass Boston limped to a 1-7-1 record before turning it around and winning three of their last five in the regular season.

That late-season momentum led to an upset win over Babson in the ECAC East Quarterfinals. The Beacons followed that win up with a hard-fought, 5-2 loss at Norwich, the top seed.

The Beacons have eight games remaining to turn their record around and gain some momentum going into the ECAC East playoffs. But Belisle thinks that, no matter where his team is seeded, they will still be a threat to win in the opening round. He also believes that his team is improved enough over last year’s squad that they have can win their conference and go to the NCAA Division III Men’s Ice Hockey Championships, which are being held in Lake Placid, New York this year.

“I feel like, as much as the season means a lot, I keep reminding our guys, look, we gotta be playing our best hockey and be the best that we can be [at the end of the season] so we can win three games and go to the NCAA’s,” Belisle said, “and everyone in that locker room knows we can win three games.”

Kranzky shared the same confident sentiment. “All the guys believe that we can win against any team,” he said. “If we finish in [eighth] place and play the first place team, any upset we do we’re not going to be surprised. We expect it to happen. All of us believe we can beat any team out there.”

Through the confidence that Belisle instills in his players, frustration seeps, due to penalty kill shortcomings, Ryan Donovan’s struggles in net this season and the constant flow of unlucky bounces, deflections and odd goals that seem to haunt the Beacons like a bad dream.

“Right now its frustrating because we just keep trying, trying, trying and keep giving it our all but we’re just not getting the results,” said Kranzky.

He did say, however, that the coaches are doing a good job of keeping the team in a positive state of mind and that “coach is just telling us to keep going and keep working hard and things will go our way.”

Belisle said that some luck would help his team’s woes, but begrudgingly admitted that the Beacons need to make their own.

“[Luck] would help but you gotta create your own bounces too so we can’t dwell on that.

“You gotta create your own bounces, you gotta handle and take care of the puck, control what you can control, stay out of the box, pick up your men, keep a third guy high in the forecheck to eliminate those odd man rushes.

“I’m just trying to drive home those points.”

Ryan Thomas can be reached at [email protected]

About the Contributor
Ryan Thomas served as the sports editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2007-2008; 2008-2009