Hey everybody! It’s Matt with a bi-yearly article about UMass sports, reporting live from a Spanish household in Springfield!
Well, I might as well start this off by commenting on the improbable 3-2 victory over the number one Boston University Terriers IN BOSTON! Wut? Really UMass, really, your first road win is going to come in February and ITS GOING TO BE AGAINST THE NUMBER ONE TEAM IN THE NATION! Lol, you guys crack me up. But seriously folks, I’m still not 100% back on the UMass hockey train, but I will say this: The playoffs are starting to become intriguing again. With the glorious flagship wallowing in the twilight of the Toot Cahoon era, and UMass-LOL with an improbable breakout season, the idea of a UMass showdown in the Hockey East playoffs is in play. And while that is in no way an easy matchup, let alone a favorable one, its a sweet tossup from the perpetual 2-7 matchup at BC where we lose (seemingly) EVERY FUCKING YEAR.
I still have minimal faith in this team, having paid attention to the lows of the season in addition to the highs, something I suggest FTT commenters do (sample post: This team beat BC WHY WOULD THEY NOT BEAT LOWELL????). However, there is a chance, albeit slim, that having gotten over the hump of the first road win, an anecdote unable to ignore, its possible this team will start playing with more confidence on the road. There is absolutely no reason why this team should be dropping games to Northeastern and Vermont at ANY venue, yet this team was 0-2-1 against the cellar dwellers in Hockey east this year. Yet, with a road win behind them (and sadly, not longer from the 6-0 Fight Mass Vermont exodus last January) I hold out hope that UMass can be the gritty team they are in the Bill at Orono and the University of Sears. Unlikely, yes, but at this point can you really be certain with this team?
Ignoring very recent acts of glory, lets not forget the crushing mediocrity that UMass hockey fan experienced in the recent past. In an era of UMass athletics where there are so many high profile steps forward for high visibility sports, our beloved UMass Hockey program seems to be at a plateau. The apex of the Cahoon era came over half a decade ago, and the program has stayed consistently below average ever since. As other sports start showing potential (Basketball) or have new, exciting faces (Fooooootbaaaaaaaaallllllllll!) Hockey sits and waits for Toot to move on before its safe to be excited again.
Lets make something perfectly clear, I have a massive amount of respect for Toot. He took a program that had no identity or culture and built it to the point where the fan base earnestly feels they can make the jump to home ice contention. Toot has graduated players, limited distractions and built a fan base that did not exist before his tenure. However, the last few years has proven that UMass hockey is stuck in neutral, and frankly, there is a definable ceiling to what Toot can do. Toot is not on the level of Parker or York, and doesn’t have the youthful vision of a Dennehy or Tabbed. Toot is an old school coach who is what he is, and he is never going to be the next step that the fans of this program crave. So, like Penn State before all the kid sex, fan wait impatiently for the figurehead to step down before fresh blood comes in and reinvigorates the fan base (Yes, UMass, I said FRESH blood so no Blaise plz).
So yeah, I fully expect this team to make the playoffs barely, then get swept and I expect the same thing next year if Toot decides to ride out his contract, which according to Triangle seems to be the most likely outcome. So, in an era of great excitement for athletics at UMass, the hockey fan has years of the same outcome they have come to know and loathe. Ug.
Meanwhile, in exciting things, The UMass basketball team is also playing tonight. As a blog, we have been extremely cynical about the baskettaball team. Walsh was out at the start of the DK era, Max has been supportive yet skeptical and I nearly resigned from the blog and ruined my friendship with Max over smart ass tweets during a game the UMassHoops.com lost their shit over (please cue the Bob Dylan eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh). But this year has been transcendent for a kinda-sorta-fan like myself. This team is legit, and likable at the same time. Gone are the lifeless, lazy one man teams we have witnessed for the last few years. This team fucking MOVES. Plus, they hustle like a team that wants to win. Not only is it about running and creating fast breaks, but its the little things like diving for loose balls. This year the team does it, while I never saw it in years past. Its hard to point out a single reason for this. Yes, Chaz has been transcendent in his role as Point Guard/Scorer/Heart-and-soul/Good guy tweeter, but its not solely Chaz. It seems that the step away from a SG/SF dominated team to an interchangeable run and gun team has been the biggest change in culture. Yes, mistakes are made, but no longer is there a sense of laziness or an unlikeable player. I LOVE EVERY PLAYER ON THIS TEAM. I love this team, I do. And this is coming from someone who’s first major taste of the new look team in person was the train wreck at URI. Still love them, still love the effort. The entire culture of my UMass fandom has changed. Where I would previously be obsessing over hockey dates and giving slight glances towards the basketball schedule, I now find myself dreading Hockey games for their seemingly inevitable disappointment and feeling strong optimism towards the Basketball team. Yes, they may not be good enough to make the tournament, but at the very least I feel like theres a chance they will win any night, and at the very least they will play hard, fast and entertaining. The team that took a shit on the Mullins court against Dayton last year no longer exists, and damn, it feels good man.
Oh, and Football is going to be amazing. Molnar is the fucking boss. What a charismatic , likable dude. Now THATS something to riot over.
(But seriously folks, don’t riot and make us all look bad you fucking waste of space I hope you and your zoomass culture is systematically destroyed and your highschool quarterback mentality of cool is exposed for the immature garbage that it is. I hope you and your barstool culture is no longer viewed as ok in the lager culture and you become the social pariahs that you deserve to be you fucking scum.)
Here’s to hoping for positive peaceful gatherings for a successful Saturday,