The UMass Minutemen are undefeated on the 2011-2012 season!!!!!!
Okay, but f’real now, a frustrating way to start the season. For stretches, the Mass Attack looked like clearly the best team on the ice, something we saw very little of last year in Non-Lowell D1 (NLD1 for future reference) competition. The power play struck on the first try. Syner had some help from Pereira and Auvenshine in the “holy shit that kid can fly” department. The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou looked like he’s at least fully back from the concussion and played well in his own zone. Kevin Boyle made a number of spectacular saves. The PK unit managed to kill off TWO 5-on-3 opportunities of about a minute and a half apiece in one period.
Alright, I want to leave some positives to end on a good note with. So here are the negatives:
1) The team falling asleep with the lead. Granted, they didn’t HAVE many leads last year, but when they did, a recurring theme of last year’s squad was the inability to keep those leads. One of the things I keep harping on about this season is that the team should be learning, from trial and (last year, mostly) failure, how to hold late leads. (Protip: It doesn’t include “suddenly forgetting how to do simple things like flip a puck out of the defensive zone when nobody is anywhere near you and you have clock to kill off.”) The team turned it on big-time in OT, but if they had just played like that in the 3rd period, there wouldn’t have BEEN an overtime.
2) With all apologies to Mr. Carzo…it’s hard to imagine anyone having a worse game in every single facet of the game than Rocco did. I don’t know if he was injured, or sick, or something, but he looked even more than last year like a distant shell of the impressive kid we saw at the start of his freshman year. I can’t possibly imagine him playing next weekend if Toot has other healthy bodies at his disposal. He looked lost from the first minute, and his failure to clear the puck in the final 20 seconds single-handedly cost UMass a point in the standings. It sucks because his aforementioned hot start as a freshman proves that he’s got potential. Whether he can realize it remains to be seen. I’d like to think he’s going to have to work to earn back playing time after this showing though.
3) Much like the Bruins on opening night, we were super-psyched that UMass cashed in its first power play after such an utterly abysmal season last year. (By the way, the football secondary has replaced the power play as this year’s “common weakness between UMass and its Boston sports counterpart that is going to drive Max insane all season long.”) And, like the Bruins, the rest of opening night was more of the same on the man advantage. Especially in the later stretches of the game, when UMass had a few chances to put the game away in the 3rd with a power play score, there was way too much passiveness and reluctance to shoot. I do think the power play looked improved early on, so hopefully there’s more of that and that the passiveness is just part of the “not closing games” problem. Fingers crossed.
But before we go writing this year off as “here we go again,” let’s get back to the plus side. Again, Kevin Boyle was quite impressive, going toe-to-toe in his D1 debut with Chris Rawlings (who, lest we forget, is one of the best in the conference and who had some stand-on-his-head moments of his own that are goals on other nights). Yes, Northeastern is a mediocre-at-best (and likely, pretty bad) team missing a few bodies (Quailer and Ferreiro served suspensions). But UMass was without one of its most important players (Hobbs), another guy who I think is going to play a key role this year (Power), and started a freshman goalie, on the road, on opening night. The Huskies elevated their game in the third period and played like they had something to prove (which, remember, they most certainly do). And UMass was one clear, and/or 2.8 seconds of not letting a fluke bounce go in, from winning in spite of that awful 3rd period. They also damn near won it in overtime a couple times.
Frustrating? Of course. But here’s what it really boils down to: they got a point on the road. And last year, I guarantee you, they would have found a way to lose this game. It’s progress, it’s a point, it’s one game out of 27 in the conference and UMass is undefeated in league play. There’s work to be done, but there was enough to build on. Next weekend the Minutemen will face two opponents that they should beat. Let’s see what we’ve got after that.
Kubbie Kounter Player of the Game:
Max: Kevin Boyle
One of the new features of the year will be the Kubbie Kounter, where each of us will award the UMass player who most exemplified the Doug Kublin standard of consistency and excellence with a Kubbie point. We will keep a running tally throughout the season in the Kubbie Kounter feature. For me, you’ve got to give Boyle his due for stepping up in his first game and keeping UMass in the game on the road. He held off the Huskies on two extended 5-on-3 chances and generally looked comfortable in net. Only one of his goals against struck me as bad; the first goal is on a play that should have been blown dead and was poked in underneath him, and of course the game-tying goal was a defensive clusterfuck. The middle goal was a byproduct of coming out too far and giving up a lousy rebound, but in general, he gave a strong first effort and showed a lot of poise. I’m not saying he’s immediately my favorite to get the majority of the playing time, but he was undoubtedly a plus tonight.
Derek: Eddie Olczyk
It’s tough to argue with Kevin Boyle as a choice for Kublin Memorial Player of the Game. He stepped in for Teglia and stepped up big time. It’s also really tough to pass over Conor Sheary, who displayed phenomenal vision out there and racked up two assists, and TJ Syner, who had a goal and killed off some serious penalty time. So why would I pick Eddie Olczyk, a guy with zero points on the night, an even plus/minus rating, and a 0-5 faceoff record? The reason is his stellar penalty killing. Olczyk anchored the two 5-on-3 kills that kept UMass in the lead. Not only did Olczyk & Co. hold the Huskies off the board on those two kills, but they made sure the onus did not fall on Kevin Boyle to save the game; they allowed only one shot on goal during the two 5-on-3 kills. Props to the whole 5-on-3 unit for that and props to Eddie Olczyk for proving that a guy can make no statistical “contributions” whatsoever and still have one of the most important (if not THE most important) performances in a game.
Matt: Conor Sheary
Connor consistently looked like the best player on the ice, making some amazing jukes to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and he dropped two dimes to boot. I’m definitely on the Sheary Bandwagon.
Honorary Kubbie Point for Katie, Matt’s girlfriend, for running down the douchebag who snatched my jersey off my shoulder outside Matthews after the game and ran down the street, forcing us to pursue through a forest of dumb-as-trees Northeastern kids. (Really, “UMass sucks,” “losers,” and “state school!” are the best insults you’ve got? A lot of them legitimately thought they won the game. I thought they were supposed to be smart and that we were the classless ones?) Luckily, drunk kids have difficulty with distant sprints, and though I couldn’t even see where the kid was, Katie and her friend (a Northeastern girl!) tracked him down. In heels. So, props to her for that.
I’d be a lot more upset if, obviously, we didn’t get the jersey back, but whatever. It’s probably best for all parties involved that we didn’t manage to track the kid down afterward. I’m just saying – don’t throw stones in glass houses about our student fans when your kids are stealing $100 jerseys unprovoked. To their credit, we ran into quite a few Northeastern fans after the game in our barhopping who were much classier and I won’t let a few bad apples represent a whole school in my mind.
I forgot to have Derek and Matt make their selections
, so I will add their picks later. The Kubbie Kounter will be incorporated into the site redesign this week.
Oh yes, I did say site redesign. Between work and my pending move to greater Manchester NH, I’ve been a bit behind on this, but I fully intend to have a new logo and site design in place before the home opener. (The first step, as you may have noticed, is our move to become fightmass.com. Now you can’t use the “unwieldy WordPress URL” excuse for not spreading the word about our site to fellow UMass fans. NO EXCUSES.) Stay tuned, we’ll be, ehh, right back.