There are three facets of hockey that universally lead to wins: solid goaltending, balanced scoring and an effective power play. The UMass Minutemen got all three of those over the weekend as they scored 3-1 and 5-2 wins over the Michigan State Spartans, their first two wins of the season.
The Minutemen are now 2-2-0 on the season and seem to have found their footing after dropping their first two games of 2013-14 against Boston University and UMass-Lowell.
Let's start with the first part of our keys to the weekend and talk about Steve Mastalerz. The junior netminder made 62 saves in the two games, posted a .954 save percentage and (temporarily) answered one the biggest questions facing John Micheletto's team headed into the season.
A part-time starter for each the past two seasons, Mastalerz has solidified himself as the guy on top of the depth chart and earned himself Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time of his career.
The season is too young to determine whether or not freshman Alex Wakaluk is going to be a factor, but if Masatalerz keeps playing the way he did this past weekend Micheletto won't have much of a decision to make when the must-win games start coming. Hockey fans in New England don't need to be reminded of how important having the hot goalie can be, and UMass would be wise to ride the junior if he keeps performing.
At the other end of the ice, the Minutemen have been as balanced an attack as one could hope for. Twelve different players have registered a point through four games with three players leading the way with four points apiece in Steven Iacobellis (3 goals, 1 assist), Troy Power (2 goals, 2 assists) and Joel Hanley (1 goal, 3 assists).
Even UMass' leading scorers are balanced.
Iacobellis and Power combine with freshman Ray Pigozzi (3 assists) to form Micheletto's most productive line and their chemistry has translated to the Minutemen's second-ranked power play. Of the five goals UMass scored in its win on Saturday, four were scored by the extra-man unit headlined by his second-line forwards.
For the year, UMass is converting 32 percent of its power plays and having an extra skater has accounted for eight of its 11 goals through four games. Iacobellis, Power and Branden Gracel each have two power-play goals and nine different players have contributed a point to the effort.
Goaltending, balanced scoring and power play success. If UMass can get those three things on a consistent basis there could be more weekend sweeps on the horizon for the Minutemen.
Number of the Weekend
5 - For the number of goals scored in UMass' second game of the weekend and the number of power play goals the Minutemen netted during the two games. It was also the number of shots blocked during the two games by defenseman Oleg Yevenko.
On the Horizon
- 10/25 - 10/26: UMass travels to face Maine in Orono for its first Hockey East series of the season.
- 11/1 - 11/2: The Minutemen host the Black Bears in Amherst to wrap up their season series.