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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Men’s hockey breaks into groove… briefly

Men%E2%80%99s+hockey+players+mid+face-off+during+a+home+game.+Photo+by+Dong+Woo+Im+%2F+Mass+Media+Staff.
Dong Woo Im
Men’s hockey players mid face-off during a home game. Photo by Dong Woo Im / Mass Media Staff.

A win at home Friday, Nov. 17 against the visiting University of Southern Maine marked the first time this season that UMass Boston’s Men’s Hockey strung multiple wins together. This win came after feeding off the floor of the NEHC, a 3–1 win over last place New England College a week prior, according to Beacons Athletics. (1)

Southern Maine, middling at .500, came to Boston after their best performance yet, a 3–2 win in overtime over the otherwise 6–1 Elmira College, says New England Hockey Conference. (2) The Beacons beat up Southern Maine, controlling middle ice all night to send them back to reality—that is, the bottom tier of the conference. 

An hour delay only ramped these teams up, and what was sloppy and unorganized was accounted for by smart, clean, aggressive play—at least for the Beacons—as time went on. Early in the game, however, both sides shot out with strong body contact, leading to a fast and choppy pace. 

Southern Maine capitalized on sloppiness from a third party early on; a missed tripping call in front of an incensed UMass Boston bench led to a 2-on-1 break for the Huskies and a goal for Jeff Pollara. 

UMass Boston settled in after around ten minutes, establishing a presence in the attacking and neutral zone. Freshman blue-liner Zander Lizotte shined, setting the Beacons up in these areas. A puck mover with great vision and strong skating tools, he cut up ice midway through the first, skated by three Huskies and was finally tripped up at the blue line. Again, arms stayed down from the officials as Lizotte fumbled the puck to junior Kyle Bankauskas, who snapped home his third goal of the year. (1)

UMass Boston really seemed to have the advantage over Southern Maine mentally, possibly as the Beacons’ physicality caught the Huskies by surprise. Their hard-hitting resulted in frustration penalties taken by the Huskies—opportunities the Beacons whiffed at, to begin with.

Southern Maine was sent to the box three times in the second period, but it didn’t look like it to start. Once set up, UMass Boston’s flow and puck movement came to a standstill. A very stagnant power play ran from the top accrued zero scoring chances on the first two man advantages; they looked unorganized and made fans yearn for even strength. That was, until Southern Maine’s third gift, a boarding minor late in the second. The whole complexion of the Beacons changed: A power play now set up working low from behind the goal line paid them dividends. The puck, finally worked into position to threaten the Huskies, was buried by sophomore Jude Kurtas; his fifth of the year.

Kurtas’ overall performance in this game can’t be understated, he was terrific defensively as well as on the forecheck. The center was 11 of 14 at the face-off dot. (1)

It was a short-lived high for the team and crowd as Beacons’ goaltender Sam Best, who struggled this season, turned it over, giving Pollara his second of the night, making it a tied game once again just nine seconds after UMass Boston took the lead. 

A continuously sloppy Southern Maine team was under constant stress from the Beacons in the third. Huskies’ goaltender Mason Palmer kept his team alive, robbing the Beacons of the lead on multiple occasions, including a 3-on-1 flashing glove save and a huge stop on a Beacons’ 2-on-0 halfway through the third. 

Opportunity presented itself for UMass Boston too many times for Southern Maine to stay in it, yet another defensive zone turnover for the Huskies led to the eventual game winner for the Beacons. Jacob Kaminski broke the tie, unassisted, to help secure their 4–2 win, as an empty netter sealed the game furthermore for the Beacons. 

UMass Boston imposed their physicality on the Huskies all night, gaining control of the middle of the ice for a vast majority of the game, which led to dominance of possession. Generating chances is the issue for the Beacons; offensively it seems their success is too often handed to them by their opposition rather than manufactured themselves. They need to develop more scoring opportunities on their own.

Nevertheless, the Beacons answered and shut down a team coming off a big win. But this doesn’t quite feel like the big win the team themselves are looking for. Back-to-back wins for the first time are a positive, the team just needs to focus on following this.

New England College currently stands last in the NEHC, winless within the conference and picking up just one overall this year through seven games—they’ve only been able to light the lamp nine times. (2) Six of those goals have come on the power play.

The subsequent game in their two-game heater presented a chance at a signature win against the first place Babson College. UMass Boston was thwarted in a 6–1 loss, sending them back to a losing record heading into Thanksgiving break at 3–4–1. (1)

Opportunity for turning the tide was in the Beacons’ hands Nov. 25 at Trinity College, where they took the 4–1–0 Bantams into overtime, only to come up short in possibly their performance of the year. 

Another step in the right direction came in their following game against Wesleyan University. Goaltender Best and his 35-save shutout of the Cardinals led the Beacons back to the win column. (1) UMass Boston’s two game bounce-back from Babson has been a good response so far. 

However, standing at 4–5–1 after defeating the Cardinals, the Beacons are still in search of a statement win—or any jumpstart to string some wins together, as a meeting with the number ten team in the nation, Endicott College, looms over the heads of the group. (1) With Winter Break on the horizon, the Beacons must have a “win now” mentality and capitalize on their strong suits, while leaving room for opportunity to present itself. However, the first step taken must be on the offensive front in order for the Beacons to stride toward consistent success, because if they leave their success up to the sticks of their opponents, they won’t be able to generate the goals they need, let alone the end goal overall.

 

  1. 2023-24 Men’s Ice Hockey Schedule – UMass Boston (beaconsathletics.com)
  2. Nehockeyconference.com

 

About the Contributor
Dong Woo Im, Photographer