By John Connolly, Boston Herald
Ask any successful team, and the message usually is the same: It’s the process.
Take UMass Dartmouth (10-8-1, 7-4-1 MASCAC), which started 0-4 and by Thanksgiving was a dismal 2-6-0. Coach Erik Noack’s Corsairs have caught fire since, going 8-2-1 to climb one point behind league leader Plymouth State (10-6-3, 7-3-2). UMD is tied for second with Westfield State (10-6-3, 7-4-1).
“We’ve definitely picked it up,” UMD senior assistant captain and Wilmington native Brendan McDonough said. “Everyone is on the same page. No one is selfish. We’re playing for each other. There was no one game that turned it around. It was probably three or four in a row.”
The tragic loss of forward Kenny Tencza to a sudden illness in December at age 24 also has galvanized the team. UMD is wearing a decal patch with Tencza’s No. 27 for the remainder of the season.
“It definitely affected the team. We had a memorial night, and we had a big overtime win against Fitchburg (3-2 on Jan. 5), and it really brought the team together,” said McDonough, who leads the team in scoring with 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists). “We’ve been getting a lot of production up and down the lineup. No one has all the pressure to get all the offense.”
Other Corsairs helping the cause are senior forward Jonathan Ruiz (eight goals, 11 assists), sophomore forward Eric “Golden” Bolden (11 goals, six game-winners), and junior forward Steven Leonard (10 goals, eight assists). Sophomore Parker Butler (5-51, 2.43 goals against average, .915 saves percentage) and senior Tommy Bay (4-3-0, 2.72, .882) have handled the bulk of the goaltending.
Noack knew that after graduating top performers like Casey Shea (39 points in 2017-18), Mike Sones (34) and defenseman Jerry Laakso (34), the maturation process would take time.
“It took us a few games to get going. We ‘out-shot’ all four opponents to start the year. We just weren’t clicking,” Noack said. “We talk about winning puck battles and eventually it’s going to work out. We’ve gone 10-4-1 since that start and it’s a testament to the leaders on the team.”
UMD visits defending champion Fitchburg State (9-8-2, 6-4-2) on Wednesday night.