This weekend, pinned against its back, a Hockey East team desperately in need of a turnaround got its act together when it mattered the most and got three big points against a reeling opponent.
That opening sentence should have referred to the Minutemen, making a giant statement about its chances in Hockey East this year, about its vast improvement over last year’s debacle. Instead, Jack Parker’s Terriers laughed in the face of certain doom and found themselves back on track after rallying from a combined five-goal deficit over the course of two games. Both teams needed these points. BU needed them that much more.
Now, for those interesting in silver linings, UMass was arguably the better team on the ice for the entire weekend save for overtime of game one and the fateful second period Saturday. Particularly on Friday night, they dominated play for large stretches and seemed to have put their awful performance at Conte in the rear-view mirror. But we’ve seen this show before. The past few years, especially last season, this team accelerates quickly in the wrong direction when things start to get bad. We see this air of inevitability as fans, and I’m beginning to wonder if the sense of dread is shared by the team and the coaching staff. It was especially clear Saturday from our vantage point two rows behind the UMass bench at Agganis. You could almost feel the helplessness set in after the abortion of a 5 on 3. I’m fairly sure BU controlled the puck for 99% of the period from that point on, and then it was only a matter of time. Honestly, it was a shooting gallery on Tegs for the last few minutes of the period, and that UMass actually still had the lead in the intermission is a minor miracle. It easily could have been 7-3 BU going into the 3rd, and I’m actually being generous. And this isn’t just a Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou problem (he wasn’t any better than the rest of the gang, but I won’t pin the ending on him because the call was weak-sauce, and shame on the BU radio guys for, as Derek who was listening put it, “acting like Mike killed a guy” even after the replay showed it was clearly a weak call). True, Mikey’s actually-pretty-good performance Friday night will go forgotten after Saturday. But really, none of the guys Toot put on the ice seemed capable of even coming close to controlling the puck, let alone clearing it, once BU got going.
Major props, by the way, to Teglia for even keeping it close despite his defense literally giving up for the entire second half of the game. I mean, completely giving up. They couldn’t clear the puck to save their lives. The entire. Second. Half. I know BU has a high-octane offense, but they’re not that good. There just looked to be nothing left in the tank, and it’s way too early to be saying that. But I can’t stress enough how ugly this was. Consider the phrase “Teg Stand” coined and minted after that performance. He gets my Kubbie Point for the game despite allowing five goals, because I don’t think there was a single one you couldn’t pin on the defense.
Honestly, I don’t feel like sitting here and bitching and moaning about how bad this game was. I witnessed it with my own two eyes, and that was enough. I would be happier talking about Friday, which ended in an unfortunate tie but in which UMass played three complete periods and just couldn’t bounce in that third, clinching goal, taking a point from a top-15 team and positioning well for the road ahead. But after this loss, pessimism is the only logical course of action. The offense was sharp early and, to its credit, fought back to tie the game when all seemed lost. Alas, it was just delaying the inevitable. The Minutemen have their hands full with another daunting weekend against UNH (which seems to have righted the ship somewhat) and then another bout with BC at the Bill.
Let’s face facts. Since the end of the Jimmy/Casey era, UMass has played 32 Hockey East games and won five of them. And those five are against Vermont and Lowell. While it’s great that UMass has hung around in every game since the 11-2 disaster at Lawler last year, they still have yet to take that “next step” of, you know, actually winning some of those games. Something needs to change with the attitude of this team. It’s a tired story to hear but we’re going to keep harping on it until the worm turns: this team does NOT hold leads as presently constituted, and until that changes, the “coulda been” games will keep ending up in the loss and tie columns. This team SHOULD be 3-2-0 in Hockey East, and COULD easily be 4-1-0 (with a goaltender in Providence instead of a cardboard cutout of Kevin Boyle). They’ve been definitively outplayed once this year, at Chestnut Hill, by the #1 team in the land. What a shame, then, that they’ve played themselves out of their potential when it’s counted.
The road gets less bumpy after next weekend. But anything less than 2 points is going to make that road a hell of a lot longer.
– Attendance: great turnout by the students, but WHERE THE HELL were the locals? Y’all are lettin’ me down this year so far. Although I’d rather the side that’s near-full be loud and into the game. It was like a bizarro basketball crowd.
– Speaking of which, this nugget from Matt on Twitter: “Sluts have a postman-like ability to ignore weather.” Snowtober Presented by Amway did not keep Halloween any classier. I have to say, Josh Brown as the Ghostbuster won the night for me.
– One criticism of the home crowd: this weekend showed us just how big the divide is between UMass and BU in terms of fan awareness. Scores of BU kids brought signs referencing Mike Pereira’s “snob” comments earlier in the week. Virtually nobody in the UMass crowd had any idea about this controversy. Then again, half of them probably don’t even know who Mike Pereira is. Baby steps. To the crowd’s credit, there was only a smattering of attempts at “Fuck BU” (and a “Fuck Boston?!” lol wut?). We’re getting there, guys. Forward progress.
– And NO MATTY G. I like how his replacement (let’s call him “some guy with an actual PA announcing voice”) deadpanned the cheesy Matty G staples he was forced to do. It’s almost as if he knows that it is never, in fact, time for a noise meter. Sadly, it’ll be back to the groan-worthy stylings of Mr. Goldstein next weekend. It was a good run, other guy.
– Scoops Mazurik: Not a bad fellow, as it turns out. Fight Mass: Making Friends In Hockey East Wherever We Go! (TM) Seriously, though, classiest group of visiting BU fans I’ve encountered yet. Too bad the older home fans in our section at Agganis were so obnoxious on Saturday. (To be fair, I figure rooting for a Jack Parker team probably would skew your opinion on what is and isn’t a penalty in the game of hockey.)
– As sucky as Saturday’s game was, those new road uniforms are fucking awesome. I want to see them more, in spite of the outcome. Although I’m not as enthused about the white helmets, either at home or on the road.
– Baz-kett-a-ball starts in just 11 days! I know, I can’t believe it either. Rumor has it the Minutemen may or may not have beaten Drexel in a controlled scrimmage! Matt and I said hi to Coach Kellogg at ABC after the hockey game on Friday. He is very tall and very politician-like, but I was honest when I said I believe this team is gonna surprise some people this year. I might have more on that later this week…
– …but probably not. Merrimack, NH is still without power for the most part, and my office just got power back so it’s back to work tomorrow. I’ll try to get something up before the season opener, but I make no promises. NONE.