AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts hockey team returns to the Mullins Center for the first time this season, opening its home slate with a pair of out-of-conference bouts with Michigan State.
UMass (0-2-0) will look to rebound from a disappointing opening weekend. The Minutemen fell to Boston University and UMass Lowell, while spending an ample amount of time killing penalties. They spent a combined 57 minutes in the penalty box.
“We can’t be giving up seven, eight penalties a game. That’s too many chances to hand the other team,” sophomore defenseman Ben Gallacher said. “Obviously, we’re playing good teams in the Hockey East that are going to capitalize on the power play. I think we just need to be a little bit more disciplined this weekend against Michigan State and I think it’ll definitely help our offense.”
In their first two games, the Minutemen failed to score an even-strength goal. The team as three power-play goals.
UMass coach John Micheletto hoped his team can start fast against the Spartans.
“The number of chances we had in the first period both nights, if we break the ice there, potentially it sends those games down different roads,” Micheletto said. “We’re aware of the impact of scoring early.”
The two-game series is a part of the Hockey East/Big Ten Challenge. There will be 13 games between 11 teams from Hockey East and newly formed Big Ten. This is Michigan State’s season opener.
Gallacher, who transferred from Ohio State after one season, hoped he could use his experience with the Spartans to help his teammates.
“I’m a little bit more familiar with them. I played them four times at Ohio State so hopefully I can give the guys a little insight,” Gallacher said. “They work really hard, they got good offense and they have two really strong goaltenders so we’re going to need to get a lot of pucks on net and hopefully we can get it passed them.”
Micheletto simply wanted his team to worry about its own game.
“This time of the year I think with everybody, you’re always focusing a little bit more on what you need to tend to as opposed to what other teams are doing,” he said.
Steve Mastalerz should be in goal for the Minutemen this weekend. Mastalerz has allowed eight goals this season, but has also spent a considerable amount of time in high-stress situations due to the abundance of penalties.
“I thought he did a good job,” Micheletto said. “Statistically, save percentagewise, maybe the number can be a little misleading. But I thought in all situations, he was square to the puck and utilized his size well.”
Mastalerz wasn’t dwelling on his opening weekend performance.
“I was alright, let some goals in I want back, obviously, but for the most part I thought it was pretty consistent play,” he said. “Overall, I thought the team played pretty well. There’s a lot to improve on in the first weekend and get better from there.”