Looking to avoid Terrier bite

By Jeremy Rice Massachusetts Daily Collegian

November 8, 2007

Amherst, MA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- At first glance, the Massachusetts and Boston University hockey teams may not look like they have a lot in common, but if there is one link between the two Hockey East rivals (other than UMass coach Don Cahoon's connections to his alma mater), it's that these are two teams in transition in 2007.

The Minutemen and Terriers entered the year sans their team-MVP goaltenders, Jon Quick and John Curry, and a beefed-up offensive end, as both teams were aggressive in recruiting forwards in the offseason.

After a season-long battle with BU (2-4-1, 2-1-0 HEA) in 2006-07 - which the Terriers eventually won - winning the final game of the season series after tying the first two, the Minutemen (3-2-2, 1-1-2 HEA) head to Agganis Arena Friday night to renew their cross-state rivalry.

UMass, ranked No. 20 in this week's USCHO.com/CSTV poll, then heads to Lowell Saturday night for the second of three matchups this season with its sister school, UMass Lowell.

"[BU] is a real hard team to play against," Cahoon said. "Physically they may be as strong a team as we play all year."

Last season UMass battled BU to a 2-2 tie in Boston on Nov. 28. The teams did not meet again until this past winter, when they tied again, 3-3, inside the Mullins Center on Jan. 27, a game the Minutemen had in their hands until a late fluke goal bounced past then-starting goaltender Quick.

The rubber match went to the Terriers, 3-2, in another close game. Of the four other Hockey East squads to make the NCAA tournament last spring, BU was the only one UMass did not have a winning regular season record against.

"We played them really well [last year] at the BU rink, and that's a tough place to play," Cahoon said. "We're going to have play really well to get something back from them."

 

 

This year, both teams are playing the goalie-by-committee with Dan Meyers and Paul Dainton in Amherst, and Brett Bennett and Karson Gillespie sharing time in net for BU.For UMass, Dainton has gotten the majority of the playing time, going 2-2-2 in six starts with a 2.27 goals-against average. Meyers got the nod in the Minutemen's first victory of the year, at St. Lawrence, giving up one goal, but has struggled with a groin injury since then. Though he was in uniform for the team's 5-1 win over Merrimack Saturday.

For BU, Bennett has been head and shoulders above his counterpart, Gillespie, statistically. Bennett is 2-1-1 with a 2.99 GAA, while Gillespie has struggled, losing all three of his decisions.

In addition to their symmetry in net, both the Minutemen and Terriers became younger offensively, as a freshman sits atop the scoring lists at each school.

James Marcou leads the Minutemen with six points on a goal and five assists, while Mike Lecomte shares the team lead in goals with three. Brian Keane has also been an early contributor for the Minutemen with three points on a pair of goals and an assist.

Down the Mass Pike from Amherst, freshman Nick Bonino - this week's Hockey Easy Rookie of the Week - shares the BU lead for points with Brian McGuirk, recording six points on two goals and four assists. Two other Terrier rookies, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colin Wilson, are not far behind with four points on a goal and three assists each.

In their one game at Agganis last season, the Minutemen looked more comfortable than they had on the road against other teams with considerably smaller rinks. The Terriers' rink measures 90-feet wide, just five feet narrower than the Mullins Center's 95-foot wide rink.

Considering how close the teams played in their three meetings last year, this game should prove to be an early-season battle from puck-drop to buzzer.

Speaking of rink sizes, however, UMass Lowell's rink at Tsongas Arena in just 85-feet wide, something the Minutemen have been known to struggle with at similar arenas at Merrimack and Providence.

Just two weeks ago, the Minutemen and River Hawks fought to a 2-2 tie in a soggy, slushy Mullins Center. With the temperature well above normal, fog, soft ice and thick, heavy air made for a tough game on the ice for UMass's home opener.

After scoring a pair of goals in the first period, UMass gave up two in the second to even the score. And with conditions on the ice worsening as the night went on, neither team could muster the game-winner in the third period or overtime.

The slow play of the ice neutralized the Minutemen's usual home-ice advantage, and this time UML will have the advantage of playing at home on the smallish rink the River Hawks are accustomed to.

Barry Goers and Maury Edwards, who scored the two goals against UMass in the first meeting, are the top two scorers for the River Hawks this season. Goers is first in points, with six - netting one goal and adding five assists. Edwards leads in goals scored with three, tacking on a assist for a total of four points.

(C) 2007 Massachusetts Daily Collegian via CSTV U-WIRE

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