Friday: Bentley 3 – Massachusetts 5
The return of Danny Hobbs clearly sparked the first line in Friday night’s game as Hobbs, Pereira, and Syner combined for four goals and 10 points. Hobbs’s first goal of the season came after the Minutemen had given up an early goal to Bentley’s Aaron Stonacek. It came courtesy of a slick feed from linemate Franchise Pereira. UMass went down 2-1 on a powerplay goal scored by Alex Grieve and trailed to end the first period. The Mass Attack then scored three consecutive goals, two by the Franchise and one by Branden Gracel, before giving up another powerplay tally. The score stood at 4-3 until Pereira scored on an empty net to complete his hat trick.
The offense played well and the Mass Attack really controlled the flow of play from the second period on. After outshooting the Falcons 12-10 in the first period, the Minutemen went on to outshoot them by a much wider margin, 35-14, in the final two periods. The first line looked like gods and no one skater looked particularly bad, although The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou was on the ice for all three goals against. The penalty kill was somewhat suspect, but so was freshman goaltender Kevin Boyle, who allowed too many rebounds and didn’t recover quickly enough to challenge second shots.
Douglas F. Kublin Memorial Player of the Game
Derek: Danny Hobbs
Yes, yes, Pereira had a hat trick, but one of those three goals was an empty netter and the other two were set up by Hobbs, one fantastically so. Hobbs’s one goal of the night was a timely one, scored shortly after Bentley took an early 1-0 lead, and it was not a coincidence that the first line, as a whole, had a breakout game on the same night he returned to the lineup.
Saturday: Massachusetts 4 – Providence 6
If you were there, you would know that the real first star of Saturday night’s game was Don Cahoon. For the Providence Friars. Listen, I’m not gonna blame Kevin Boyle. He had an off night, and it happens to all goalies. But I most certainly will blame Toot for leaving Boyle in to give up five bad goals. The first two weren’t absolutely terrible, they were rebound goals, one on the powerplay, pretty standard Kevin Boyle M.O. goals. However, the final three goals were all softies, two of which were literally give-up shots that were lobbed at the goalie to get a line change. I cannot fathom why Toot would leave in a goalie, who by most accounts is currently the number two goalie on the team, who clearly didn’t have anything when the number one goalie is sitting on the bench just waiting to go. Teglia stopped all eight shots he faced once he was finally put in net late in the second period.
I cannot complain about the way any of the skaters played on Friday night. To a man, they played hard, they played smart, and they played with skill. They earned almost twice as many powerplays as they gave up (9-5). They scored twice on the powerplay and held the Friars off the board on four of their five PP chances. Other than the first half of the third period, where they had issues possessing the puck, they played just about as well as anyone could hope they would play. I can’t single out any skater for the Minutemen who played poorly, only some who played exceptionally well. Danny Hobbs scored twice, once on the powerplay. TJ Syner had three assists. Conor Sheary made good on my promise that he would score, delivering on the powerplay. Conor Allen looked good on the back end. The list goes on. It’s just a shame that these guys weren’t given a decent shot at winning.
Douglas F. Kublin Memorial Player of the Game
Derek: Danny Hobbs
For the second night in a row, Hobbs delivered. Two goals, one on the powerplay, four shots on goal, and he threw the body around like an absolute beast. He was the Mass Attack’s best scoring threat AND the Mass Attack’s best forechecker on Saturday night. Kid’s playing like his hair’s on fire right now.
Other Games/Top Performers
- Boston University 3 – Providence 5
- BU comes out flat against the Friars, who get goals from five first time goal scorers, including four freshmen, to pull off the huge upset.
- Providence – Stefan Demopoulos: 1 Goal, 1 Assist, +2 Rating, 5 Shots
- BU – Matt Nieto: 1 Goal, 3 Shots
- New Hampshire 0 –Northeastern 4
- The Wildcats are shutout again as Chris Rawlings rebounds from a tough start against Maine. Matt DiGirolamo’s slump continues.
- Northeastern – Chris Rawlings: Shutout, 27 Saves
- Northeastern – Luke Eibler: 2 Assists, +2 Rating
- Denver 4 – Boston College 2
- The top team in the nation falls as Denver takes advantage of less than stellar goaltending
- Denver – Jason Zucker: 1 Goal, 1 Assist, +1 Rating, 5 Shots
- BC – Kevin Hayes: 1 Goal, 1 Assist (PP), 3 Shot
- Maine 1 – North Dakota 3
- Maine outshoots ND but Brad Eidsness stands tall in net for the Fighting Sioux.
- ND – Brad Eidsness: 30 Saves, 1 Goal Allowed
- ND – Ben Blood: 1 Goal, 1 Assist, +2 Rating
- UMass Lowell 4 – Minnesota State 2
- Lowell controls the flow of play and blasts 37 shots on net to become the only Hockey East team to win a non-conference game on Friday
- UML – Riley Wetmore: 2 Goals, +1 Rating, 3 Shots
- UML – Terrence Wallin: 1 Goal, 2 Assists, +3 Rating\
- Exhibition USA Under-18 2 – Vermont 1
- Lol, rly?
- Vermont – No one.
- Boston College 5 – New Hampshire 1
- UNH’s scoring offense and goaltending both continue to stink as BC rolls over the once vaunted Wildcats.
- BC – Parker Milner: 39 Saves, 1 Goal Allowed
- BC – Paul Carey: 1 Goal, 1 Assist, +2 Rating, 6 Shots
- Army 2 – Merrimack 3
- Merrimack’s offense almost doubles up Army’s shots on goal, but Cannata gives up two and the Warriors barely eek out a win at home.
- Merrimack – John Heffernan: 1 Goal, 1 Assist +2 Rating, 3 Shots
- Army – Rob Tadazak: 37 Saves, 3 Goals Allowed
- Denver 3 – Boston University 4
- Denver’s third period surge is not quite enough to complete the east coast sweep.
- BU – Matt Nieto: 1 Goal (SH), +1 Rating
- BU – Kieran Millan: 35 Saves, 3 Goals allowed
- Maine 3 – North Dakota 3
- Maine goes up 2-0 early but needs to score last to earn the 3-3 tie.
- ND – Danny Kristo: 2 Goals (2 PP), 1 Assist, 5 Shots
- Maine – Spencer Abbot: 3 Assists (2 PP), +1 Rating, 4 Shots
- UMass Lowell 4 – Minnesota State 1
- The River Hawks control the game from late in the first period on to sweep the weekend series with Minnesota State.
- UML – Derek Arnold: 2 Goals (1 PP), 1 Assist (PP), +1 Rating, 5 Shots
- UML – Doug Carr: 24 Saves, 1 Goal Allowed
Hockey East Awards
Hockey East has yet to post their weekly awards. I’m not sure if they’re waiting for the UConn-UML game to be played on Tuesday night to release them or if they’re just being slow. One way or another, there will be a supplement to this post once the weekly awards are up.
Hockey East Standings
|Rank||Team||HE Games Played (Record)||Points|
|3||Boston College||1 (1-0-0)||2|
|Boston University||2 (1-1-0)||2|
|New Hampshire||3 (0-3-0)||0|
Hockey East Teams in the USCHO.com Poll
Ranked: #2 Boston College, #7 Boston University, #13 Merrimack, #18 Maine
Receiving Votes: Providence (69), UMass Lowell (12), Northeastern (3)
Bentley Falcons (0-2-0, 0-0-0 Atlantic Hockey) vs. UMass Minutemen (0-0-1, 0-0-1 HE)
It is once again the most wonderful time of the year for the young students of the University of Massachusetts. The home opener is upon us again, bringing with it majesty, grandeur, and fresh hope. Although our beloved Mass Attack has already been tested in a fiery duel of aggressive offenses and spectacular goaltending, this Friday’s bout with the Falcons will be the first chance most of the UMass fan base will have to see the team play with their own eyes this year.
In their first game of the season, the aforementioned duel to the death… or tie, the Minutemen found heroes old and new. Senior co-captain TJ Syner scored and was instrumental on the powerplay, sophomore winger Conor Sheary started to make good on my prediction of a 20G/20A season by notching two brilliant assists, winger Emerson Auvenshire tallied his first career NCAA point by assisting on Branden Gracel’s goal, and, perhaps most importantly, goalie Kevin Boyle stood tall in net and made 29 instrumental saves in his very first collegiate start. Unfortunately, the team tired in the third period and Northeastern was hungry for a point. The Mass Attack failed to notch their first win of the year by less than three seconds, and honestly would have had the win if not for some really outrageously bad turnovers in their own zone throughout the entire game. BUT, you, noble reader, must keep in mind that the Minutemen were missing a couple key faces on the ice last Friday in Boston. These faces are, of course, those belonging to senior co-captain Danny Hobbs and sophomore netminder Jeff Teglia; they are once again healthy and ready to join the fray.
Looking at the team offensively, Hobbs can only add to an offense that was firing on all cylinders last week. The Minutemen scored three goals, blasted 39 shots on Chris Rawlings, took nine shots on net in five-plus (technically six, but one lasted only 13 seconds) powerplay opportunities (believe me, I’ve been watching UMass hockey for awhile now, this is a tad better than usual), and even scored a powerplay goal!!!!!!!!!!11 This was all done without last year’s leading scorer, Hobbs, who will certainly be a force to be reckoned with if he wants to improve on last season’s point total of 28.
Defensively, the team certainly will not be made worse by the return of Jeff Teglia. Boyle stopped 29 of the 32 pucks sent his way last week, for a very respectable .906 save percentage. If Teglia wants the full-time starting goalie job, he’ll have to do a lot better than that, and he certainly seems capable. Hopefully a little competition between the two (and, also, Steve Mastalerz) will bring out the best in both goalies and whoever starts Friday night should be looking to shut out an obviously inferior team.
But wait, are the 0-2 Falcons really that bad? Well, to be fair, we can’t really say that just yet. In two games this season, Bentley has scored two goals and given up nine. These numbers have, however, been posted against Michigan. The Michigan that’s ranked number four in the country. That Michigan. So Bentley’s numbers thus far this year are a little skewed. Let’s look at Bentley’s numbers from last year. They went 10-18-6, with nine of those wins coming against fellow Atlantic Hockey cupcakes. They scored 2.53 goals a game while giving up 3.44 and their 8.4% powerplay success rate made the Mass Attack’s mediocre man advantage (12.5%) look downright lethal. Bentley’s meager offense lost two of its top three scorers at the end of last season and only return one guy (sophomore forward Brett Gensler) who scored more than eight goals last year.
One can go on and on about Bentley’s offense, from their lack of true playmakers to the absolute dearth of scoring ability from the point, but what may give Bentley fans a glimmer of hope this year is what’s between the pipes. On back to back nights last weekend, Bentley’s skaters were dominated on the ice by a far superior team; however, their two netminders acquitted themselves quite nicely. Despite giving up five goals, senior Kyle Rank made 44 saves. A save percentage of .898 is not something most goalies aspire to, but it is certainly nothing to sneeze at when you post it against the fourth best team in the nation while they are blasting 49 shots at you. Compared to Rank, sophomore Branden Komm got off lightly, having to face only 42 shots. He saved 39 of those for a very tidy .929 save percentage. That, by the way, is the same percentage Chris Rawlings posted against the Mass Attack while he was standing on his head last Friday.
Okay, I’m just going to say it. Even if Bentley’s goalies play well again, we should win this game. This is a game Kevin Morris probably couldn’t lost. It’s embarrassing enough that I can actually remember the last time we played the Falcons. Because we lost. It was the middle of the beginning of the end for the 2009-2010 Minutemen, who proceeded to follow up the Bentley loss with the worst (by far) Cahoon swoon ever seen. But that’s all in the past, and this is the first half of the season. The Bentley Falcons are a team that managed to finish tenth out of twelve teams in the worst conference in D1 hockey last year. They are, frankly, a joke, and for guys like TJ Syner, Danny Hobbs, Kevin Czepiel, Darren Rowe, Rocco Carzo, Eddie Olczyk, and The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou (By the way, what the fuck was The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou doing out there last Friday night?! I mean, yeah, two assists, that’s nice, but where the fuck were you on the defensive end? Clear the fucking puck! For fuck’s sake, man! You are a fucking defenseman. Not offenseman, DEFENSEman. I’m so fucking sick of this. Just make the fucking simple fucking play and get the puck out of the fucking zone. Fuck, am I the only one who sees this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.) to lose twice to Bentley, in two tries, would be absurd. Come on guys, I know you remember that last loss, make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Really, all it’s gonna take to win this Friday is smart play. That’s it, simple, smart play. No bad penalties (I’m looking at you, Oleg), no dumb turnovers in the defensive zone, and just put plenty of rubber on goal. As long as whoever’s in net for Bentley doesn’t decide that last week was just a springboard for an even better performance this week, enough pucks will find their way to the back of the net to top the Falcons’ anemic offense. And, if not, well, I’ll eat Scoops Mazurek’s hat.
P.S. Check back for part two of this weekend preview, which will appear sometime late Saturday morning or early Saturday afternoon.
No.5 Merrimack Warriors (19-5-4(13-5-3HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (6-16-5(5-11-5HEA))
The last time these two teams met, Merrimack beat UMass 11-2. That’s it; that’s the preview.
Okay, not really. The Warriors come into Amherst last night winners of their last 5 and 11 of their last 12. They are currently riding the longest hot streak of, well, their entire existence. This is a team that has beaten every other Hockey East team, except, somehow, for Providence. UMass has only beaten 2. This is a team that, in Hockey East play, scores 3.48 goals per game and allows only 2.19. The +1.29 goal differential is 3rd best in Hockey East, behind only the two teams who are ahead of Merrimack in the standings. (This number is slightly inflated due to aforementioned 11-2 win.)
It feels essential that I should mention that superstar Warrior forward Stephane Da Costa (13G/23A/36Pts) may be out with a knee injury. But, that might give some the hopes that Merrimack will somehow roll over for the Minutemen this weekend. To those who would think this I just have two things to say. 1) The Da Costa-less Warriors beat UNH last weekend. 2) Merrimack has 13 other players with double-digit point totals this season; 13! And this 13 includes senior forwards Chris Barton (12G/20A/32Pts) and Joe Cucci (10G/20A/30Pts). It also includes juniors Jesse Todd (15G/10A/25Pts) and Karl Stollery (5G/16A/21Pts) and freshman Mike Collins (9G/11A/20Pts). That’s right, Merrimack has 3 30-point scorers and 6 20-point scorers and 13 10-points scorers. How does UMass compare? Zero, 3, and 8, respectively. (In case you’re wondering, the 3 20-point scorers for the Mass Attack are: Mike Pereira (10G/12A/22Pts), Danny Hobbs (8G/14A/22Pts), and TJ Syner (7G/14A/21Pts).)
Junior Warrior goalie Joe Cannata (19-5-4, 2.11GAA, .923save%), the pride of Wakefield, MA, has evolved into a very solid netminder. In contrast, it would appear that senior UMass captain Paul Dainton (6-11-4, 2.94GAA, .908save%) has put his best years behind him. It’s not really fair to blame Dainton, as his best years were certainly behind a much stronger team, especially defensively, but it still seems that he doesn’t make all the stops he used to anymore.
Special teams numbers for Merrimack are certainly respectable. The power play has a 19.3% success rate in Hockey East play while the penalty kill is successful 87.2% of the time. UMass special teams, on the other hand, have been atrocious. The penalty kill success rate for the Mass Attack in Hockey East action sits at a below average, but not terrible, 80.4%. The power play, on the other hand, is just downright awful. A 10.4% success rate in conference play is simply unacceptable. It’s good to hear that Toot has finally acknowledged that the power play woes need to be systemically corrected, and aren’t simply the product of a young team needing to figure it out. I , for one, cannot understand why Toot got away from playing Darren Rowe on the wing during the power play. Does anyone else remember this? At the beginning of the year, Toot featured Rowe on the wing during the power play and he netted 3 power play goals in the first 5 games. Well, that worked well, so we went away from it. But more than anything else, there is one fundamental problem with the power play and it is this: lack of movement. Power plays are about creating odd man situations and making goalies have to think about who is going to shoot the puck. This means good passing and this means MOVEMENT WITHOUT THE PUCK. I cannot emphasize this enough. You must move your body when you don’t have the puck in order to create mismatches and make the PK unit move and make mistakes. The way the UMass power play works, it’s 1 guy skating around with the puck a bunch and 4 guys just standing and watching. Then, there is a pass… to a man who is covered perfectly by a PK guy because he has been standing still the entire fucking time. They repeat this process several times until, eventually, the puck is cleared or someone takes a bad shot. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO FUCKING NOTICES THIS?! I feel like I’m taking crazy pills over here. MOVE WITHOUT THE PUCK AND YOU WILL SCORE POWER PLAY GOALS. That is all.
And, that being said, special teams will be a key to this game. The 5-on-5 game has looked pretty good of late, the power play just needs to get its head out its ass. Special teams and not letting the opponent score early. BU scored just 1:09 into the game last weekend then took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission and, guess what, we lost. UMass has not won a game this year when trailing after one period and has only won one game when giving up the first goal (Record: 1-12-3 when giving up first goal). So, those are the keys: good special teams play, score first, don’t trail at the end of one. Do that, and there’s a fighting chance. Don’t and, well… this happens.
Unsurprisingly, Merrimack’s Chris Barton won Hockey East Player of the Week honors after he followed up his 4 assist night against Northeastern with a 2 goal and 3 assist performance durring the 11-2 drubbing of UMass on Saturday. Rob Madore continued his Jekyll-and-Hyde season by winning Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week following his 70 save (.972 save%) weekend against Providence. For the second week in a row, no UMass player even made Hockey East’s weekly “Top Performers” list.
In other news of Hockey East players winning awards at the Mass Attack’s expense, Chris Rawlings was named Hockey East Goaltender of the Month for January. Rawlings (seriously guys, why the fuck are his eyes so close together?) went 2-0-1 against the Minutemen in January, including a shutout. In slightly happier news, Mike Pereira was named a runner up for Hockey East’s Rookie of the Month Award. In 8 games in January, Pereira had 3 goals and 4 assists.
After going 3-0-1 against the bottom of Hockey East, the Minutemen have gone 0-3-1 in their last four games against the top and middle of Hockey East. Over this period, they have been outshot 135-110 outscored 21-4. In the BC game alone, UMass was outshot 43-16. The penalty kill self-destructed on Saturday (giving up 3 goals on 6 chances) and the power play is as inept as ever (it went 0-for-19 over the last 4 games). The return of Mike Marcou has done anything but stabilize the defense (he was on ice for at least 6 of the Merrimack goals; the game sheet fails to list the defense on ice for the 9th MC goal). Excepting only the tie against Northeastern, the Minutemen have been beat in all 3 zones recently, and in the last two games the Minutemen were beaten in literally every single facet of the game.
Perhaps the embarrassing blowout at Merrimack will light a fire under the team (hoping for a silver lining, I am). This team has two home games this weekend. One against a tough BU team and another against a very, very weak Providence team. This team can either step up and compete (and beat Providence and at least show some competitiveness against BU (idk, maybe tie? if they actually somehow magically won I’d probably die of a heart attack on the spot)) or it can fold and take less than two points from this weekend, in which case the outlook for the rest of the season is worse than any I have seen in my time at UMass (bad enough to make me question whether we can even make it into the playoffs).
Well, it can only go up from here.
Last night’s 3-0 loss against the Huskies of Northeastern was not as bad as the score may indicate. Make no mistake, UMass was beaten soundly and in no way deserved to win last night, but it was in no way a colossal failure on par with the now infamous “3 goals in 38 seconds” game.
In the begining, prospects looked bleak. UMass was outplayed soundly in the first period, giving up 13 shots, all of which had a chance to find the back of the net. Dainton stood on his head this period, and despite the loss, deserves alot of credit for keeping the game in reach for the minutemen. On offence, it was slim pickings. Unable to create a sustained offensive oppertunity, the minutemen got a few cheap shots on the rush, but never made me feel like they had a legitimate scoring chance. Things were bleak heading into the second period, although the game was still tied.
Coming out of intermision, the minutemen continued to play uninspired, lazy hockey. Early in the 2nd they gave up the inevitable goal off an absolutely horid attempt at a clear by Kublin (et tu Kubby?). However, coming off that goal, UMass controled most of the period, generating good opertunities but always being an inch or two away from a much needed goal. And that, my friends, is the problem with the team last night. Close was never close enough. Every pass that would have led to an easy goal was a few inches off, every rebound was barely blocked by Rawlings (who played out of his mind yesterday) and every break was broken up by some small mistake. Terrible execution.
It was over when the second NU goal went in top shelf against Dainton (no thanks to the defence which gave up the uncontested shot off the rush) which the fans at home wern’t able to see because of a NESN comercial break. After that, it was more “almost’s” that never made me feel like we had a chance. It was hopeless, and by the time we gave up the empty netter, we were defeated and depressed (as oposed to when we arived, when we were ripping high)
That being said, I still remain optimistic about tonight’s game at the Bill. UMass could have (and should have) easily won the first meeting against the Huskies, and if we play as well as we did last night, with a few easy bounces we could easily leave victors. The key too this team has long been limit the mental mistakes, and tonight will be no different. Don’t turn over the puck in your own zones, don’t give away easy breakaways, and for the love of god, stay in the net Dainton. I expect a goal or two, but its not going to be a high scoring game by any means. We need to beat Rawlings when he gives us the oppertunity (which he did last night). If we can make the most of these, and have Dainton keep on playing as well as he has, we should win.
Not that it hasn’t been said before, but this weekend is extremely important for the minutemen. There are no easy games ahead (Providence is not going to be easy this year, if the haloween weekend was any indication) and we desperately need points in order to make the playoffs in a respectable seed. At this point, standings wise, tonights game isn’t that important. Its only one game against a team I realisticly don’t expect to catch up to. However, if the minutemen want to be respectable in this conference, they need a win tonight. I think they can do it, but this team has consistantly proved my optimism wrong. Lets hope they turn it around
- NESN didn’t have a scorebar up for the first 15 minutes of the game. Good job NESN. Collosal fail.
- We didn’t give up a PP goal last night. Silver lining?
- Tonight is 80’s night at the Mullins Center, which brings up a mixture of emotions. Does this mean that Northeastern will be relevant in Hockey East and UMass won’t exist? Will the swesties be out in full skankish force? Will free neon sunglasses (Ugggggg) draw T shirt like crowds? Will anyone who actively dresses for 80’s night actually be born in the 80’s?
- Note: because of the glasses, 2 goals by any UMass player will herein be refered to as a “glass trick” where we all throw our terrible glasses on the ice. If it happens, you must do it. Matt commands you.
- Saturday Night game+morning shift at work=more time to pregame=hammered bloggers. With that in mind, please understand if my tweets tonight are misspelt nonsense
- If basketball is the only team with a win this weekend I’ll be sad. Thats more of a statement about my love for hockey than disenfranchisement with Basketball, but still
- I hope we win tonight, sunglasses are hard to drunkienly set on fire on the walk home
- I wrote this at work, so apoligized for the terrible wording/spelling/opinions
See you at the Bill kids!
Hey, let’s start with the good news! Lacrosse downed Providence 17-3. Now for something a little darker…
Dick Baker reports (it’s too depressing of a story, so I won’t even worry you with a link) that Jimmy’s going pro, too, although where has yet to be determined.
You heard that right: he gone. (Or as good as gone. But you know how agent-speak works, since I presume you are a Red Sox fan. By the way, you should be a Red Sox fan if you’re a UMass fan. I make no exceptions to that rule unless your weird cross-dressing uncle happens to be A-Rod.)
I’ll get this all out of the way now: James Marcou is the best hockey player I’ve had the privilege of watching (aside from the two Bruins games I’ve attended). His creativity, passing skills, and heart have been unmatched, and he’s been a joy to watch since my second-favorite player, Quick, left early after my freshman year at UMass.
So where do we go from here? Well, I hate to say it, and I will have a lot more to say in the near future, but the words “rebuilding year” keep popping into my head right now. It’s one thing to lose a pure scorer like Wellman, but he was the beneficiary of so, so many of the brilliant setups of Jimmy’s. That is a hell of a lot harder to replace.
From the “glass-half-full-but-still-sort-of-empty” department: where, exactly, did James Marcou get the team? In Jon Quick’s triumphant year (sans-Marcou/Wellman), UMass went to the Elite Eight. In Jimmy’s three years? Three straight second-half collapses, three straight first-round exits in the HEA tournament.
Simply put, the offense last year was far too reliant on Jimmy and Casey, to the extent that, at one point, someone (Lecomte I believe) said in the Collegian that they were just waiting for the top line to get it going. Did anyone else notice a recurring theme for the teams that are playing at the Garden right now? They don’t rely on one line for all their offense. Even with two of NCAA’s leading scorers, the Minutemen were 8th in Hockey East in goals scored. That’s not getting it done. (Don’t even get me started on the defense, because damnit, I’m tryin’ to be optimistic here!)
Now, in no way am I saying I expect the Minutemen to be better at the start of next season. They just lost their top 5 scorers…duh. But I could see a team with a lot of young talent and some promising freshmen that will improve as the year goes on, and maybe surprise people in the Hockey East Tournament while setting up for a run the following year. And yes, it has been extraordinarily painful to write that last sentence, especially considering that it reminds me of the basketball situation. (So, basically,
I don’t mean to cut-and-run, but I’m not exactly devastated that this is all happening after my final season as a UMass student. Rebuilding sucks, especially if your head coach isn’t named Jack Parker, Jerry York or Dick Umile. Just remember, when Marcou and Wellman came in, like any touted recruits, nobody knew they’d immediately become contributors. Now it’s up to this year’s freshman class to step up and fill the void. Could it get ugly? That’s always a possibility, especially if the injury bug bites what’s left of the team, or a good number of the prospects don’t pan out. But this team’s still got plenty of unsung talent and guys who underperformed or battled injuries last year.
It might not be immediate, but life moves on without #7 and #19. We could wallow in self-pity…but optimism’s a lot more fun. Now I don’t know about you, but I intend to get out there today and let Guinness and Irish car bombs wash away the sting.
Oh, and godspeed, Mr. Marcou. As with Wellman, we will support you wherever you go. (Hopefully, if you DO make it in the NHL, you and Casey will end up with Boston somewhere down the line. …Please?)
Well, after a night of heavy drinking and a full day of recovery and putting my mind to other things, my thoughts, as always, have come back to the UMass hockey team, its once-promising season now left in shambles following its second consecutive weekend of getting swept by an inferior team in a home-and-home. Once again, the defense was atrocious in the road game, and once again, the Minutemen failed to score at home. Throw Joe Cannata up there with Rawlings and Madore in the “not-all-that-great goalies stepping their game up big-time against UMass” discussion; he was sensational.
Here’s the problem with this game though: you simply cannot turn games against inferior opponents into must-wins, and that’s what UMass did not once, but twice in this second half. The blowout losses to BU and UNH to start the second half forced them to need that win at Matthews, and for a while, the season appeared to stabilize, winning four straight. The ensuing shutout loss on that Sunday afternoon against Vermont and Madore didn’t seem so bad, since the defense played well enough to win, Madore stood on his head, etc. But the awful games that followed – at BU (again) and against BC at home – forced the Minutemen to go into these two series against hungry Northeastern and Merrimack teams desperately needing wins, and you can never count on winning a game by sheer talent disparity. These last two home shutouts prove that: UMass dominated play for the entire game, dictated the shots on goal, played solid defense for the most part, but too many mental mistakes and the collective snakebittenness of the entire fucking offense right now, combined with stellar goaltending efforts by guys whose teams desperately needed them, doomed UMass to their current fate.
Which, by the way, is somehow not as bad as it seems. With 3 games left, UMass still mathematically could finish as high as third. Seriously. And it is actually even in their own hands to a degree, since the team currently in third, Maine, is UMass’s opponent for the last two games. It would, of course, entail UMass playing with a lot more urgency than they have of late (even last night, the team visibly had given up by the midway point of the third, prompting a “please do something” chant). It would also, of course, involve a ridiculous turnaround in the luck department. And UMass would, in all likelihood, first have to win this Friday at BC, where they’ll have the misfortune of yours truly calling the game for WMUA (they’re 1-4 with me behind the mic; after the 3-2 win against BU, I’ve called the UNH home loss, the first Agganis trip and the Madore shutout) as well as playing a team which, in two games, has shown they can both grind out tough wins AND blow people the fuck out, both at the Bill.
Here’s the flipside: now that guys like Jimmy and Casey are probably tuning out the season and looking ahead at their NHL prospects (although I’m not exactly sure that “having a team on your shoulders and completely disappearing for eight games” is something NHL scouts are looking for), the Minutemen quite easily could lose these last three contests and fall out of the playoffs completely.
And if that doesn’t put Toot Cahoon on the hot seat for the duration of next season — the last year on his contract — I’m not sure what will.
Wednesday afternoon, the University of Massachusetts closed its campus for the day in preparation for an anticipated nor’easter. At around 1 PM, we still didn’t have a flake of snow on the ground, but hey, we’re college kids. We’ll take a day off any way we can get one. (Actually, I don’t have classes scheduled on Wednesdays anyway, so it didn’t do much for me, but I’ve been told it was much-appreciated by most everyone else.)
Last night, UMass’s offensive performance was about as potent as the “snowstorm:” it looked poised to strike on paper, it certainly threatened, and there were flurries of offensive chances, but the goal tally matched the total snow accumulation in inches. (Rounded to the nearest whole number. You know what, shut up, it’s my metaphor and I’ll stretch it if I so please.)
Derek said it, and I’m starting to agree: this was almost worse in a lot of ways than losing 7-1, because at least then you know it’s over after one period and you don’t have your heart ripped out at the end. This one was 1-0 until the last five minutes, and UMass was > < this close to knotting it up and breaking the offense funk seemingly a million times. Like the other shutout game, against Madore and Vermont, the boys played well enough to win in basically every aspect of the game – the luck just wasn’t on their side. The defense was miles ahead of where it was against BC and BU the last few games, the offense got plenty of opportunities, but it comes down to finishing, and right now the Minutemen can’t do it. It didn’t help that the hottest goalie in Hockey East played out of his mind, but when your backup goalie holds the other team to one goal for the majority of the game, that’s a game you just have to win. (By the way, even though both of the goals Meyers have up were sort of weak, particularly the second one, you really can’t blame the goalie when you get shut out. Still, unless Dainton’s hurt, I would’ve preferred to see him in net and let Meyers start against Merrimack on senior night if you want to give him a start at all. Just my opinion.)
So, where do we go from here? Six games left, five on the road, and it starts tonight at Matthews. “Must-win” is sort of cliche, and we do play in a league where a team that is completely and totally dead in the water can dominate a team on an absolute roll. But realistically, if UMass gets swept by the Huskies tonight, they can say goodbye to home ice – if they haven’t already. Either way, this whole “Cahoon swoon” thing is getting more and more legitimate as the season continues.
…by the way, hockey aside, it was a pretty good start to the weekend for UMass sports. Softball won, lax opened their season with a win, and basketball actually pulled off one of their recent second-half comeback attempts to beat Duquesne in OT. (Big City’s stat line? 6 minutes. I think DK finally gets it.) The boys are back at home tomorrow afternoon at 4, hopefully they can see what a conference winning streak looks like. (Or any type of UMass winning streak. Sigh.)
Those of you who follow UMass hockey may have noticed that the Minutemen are currently holding on to fourth place in Hockey East. You may also know that fourth place is the last slot for home ice in the Hockey East tournament. Given the precarious position that the Minutemen are in, I decided to review all the other teams in Hockey East whose slots are up in the air. I’ve omitted BC and UNH because they will, almost definitely, finish in the top two spots. I’ve also omitted Merrimack and Providence because, well, they’re bad and should feel bad. I’ll wait until next week to make my predictions, as I’m still not sure of how good some of the more schizophrenic Hockey East teams (UMass, BU, Northeastern) are.
3. Maine Black Bears 14-9-3 (11-6-2 HEA) 24 Points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 @ Boston University
2/13 @ Boston University
2/19 vs. Lowell
2/20 vs. Lowell
2/26 @ Merrimack
2/27 @ Merrimack
3/5 vs. UMass
3/6 vs. UMass
Since the return of Scott Darling, the Black Bears have been terrific. They have gone 3-0-1 in these four games including a sweep of Hockey East leader UNH last weekend. They have a high-powered offense that has averaged 3.73 GPG in Hockey East play this season, and when you combine this with the play of Scott Darling (.916 save%, 2.40 GAA in conference), the Black Bears are a team to be reckoned with. Their remaining schedule may be the most balanced of any team’s in Hockey East. They go to play the schizophrenic Terriers next weekend, who have played very well lately. They then go to play the impotent Jeremy Dehner-less River Hawks and the Merrimack Warriors (who play like a NCAA-tournament team when at home). Their season comes down to a final weekend with our Minutemen. By this time, they may have a spot locked up, but the Minutemen will probably still be fighting for home ice.
4. Massachusetts 16-11-0 (11-9-0) 22 Points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Northeastern
2/13 @ Northeastern
2/19 @ Merrimack
2/20 vs. Merrimack
2/26 @ Boston College
3/5 @ Maine
3/6 @ Maine
Here we go again. After going 11-6-0 (6-4-0 in Hockey East) in the first half of the season with a goal differential 0.70 goals per game, the Minutemen have begun their patented Cahoon Swoon. They have gone 5-5-0 since the mid-season mark (all Hockey East games) and are actually losing the goal differential by 1.71 goals per game. (I’d say these results were skewed by some massive losses, but let’s face it, when you lose a lot of games by a lot of goals, the results are not being skewed, that’s just how bad you are.) The offense has been bad, the goaltending has been questionable (although Dainton has certainly not played as poorly as the numbers would seem to indicate), and the defense has been beyond horrendous. The team also misses savvy defense-oriented role players Mike Lecomte and Doug Kublin. The next four games are key for the Minutemen. They have a two-game series this weekend with a Northeastern team that is getting healthier and better, but these are two games the Minutemen should take. The Mass Attack then faces lowly Merrimack. Merrimack has been very good at home, but UMass cannot afford a split if it is to stay in home ice contention. UMass then goes to BC (I’m not even gonna touch this one). The fate of their playoff run could hinge on the final series of the season in Maine
5. Boston University Terriers 11-12-3 (8-9-2) 18 Points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Maine
2/13 vs. Maine
2/19 @ Providence
2/20 vs. Providence
2/26 @ Vermont
2/28 @ Vermont
3/5 vs. Northeastern
3/6 @ Northeastern
Jack Parker owns Hockey East. Apparently, he decided he wanted a little more drama in his tournament run this year. After going a horrid 4-9-3 (2-7-2 in Hockey East) in the first half, the
Jack Parkers Terriers have gone 7-3-0 in their last ten games, including a record of 6-2-0 in Hockey East. They have an offense that spreads the puck around, with no single superstar, but eleven skaters who have double-digit point totals. Kieran Millan is steadily improving. He is by no means a top-flight goaltender, but he is no longer the reason the Jack Parkers Terriers lose games. After Maine, BU does not have to face a legitimately good opponent this season, meaning they could make a serious run at home ice if they continue to improve.
6. Lowell River Hawks 14-12-2 (8-9-2 HEA) 18 Points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Boston College
2/13 @ Boston College
2/19 @ Maine
2/20 @ Maine
2/26 vs. Providence
2/27 @ Providence
3/5 vs. Vermont
3/6 vs. Vermont
At this point, the River Hawks appear to have played themselves out of home ice contention. After appearing to right the ship with wins over Boston College and Merrimack, Lowell was dealt a crushing blow. Their elite defenseman Jeremy Dehner (a +16 on the season) was diagnosed with a broken hand. Since this massive loss, the River Hawks have gone on to drop their last three games, including losses to Northeastern and Merrimack. Things don’t get better for UML this weekend; they will play the BC Eagles who have been rolling of late, and look unbeatable. Next weekend they’ll have to go to Maine for two games to play a team in the Black Bears who look to have a strong grasp on the no. 3 spot. Even a home-and-home with Providence is doubtful to save UML’s season now.
7. Vermont Catamounts 13-9-4 (7-8-4 HEA), 18 points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Merrimack
2/13 vs. Merrimack
2/19 @ New Hampshire
2/20 @ New Hampshire
2/26 vs. Boston University
2/28 vs. Boston University
3/5 @ Lowell
3/6 @ Lowell
Don’t let the good out of conference record fool you, Vermont is a bad team. The only thing that holds this team together is its defense. The offense is mediocre, at best. Their goaltending is very poor. Rob Madore is the better of the two Catamount netminders and he only has a .902 save% in conference! Their out of conference record has been boosted by wins against the like of Dartmouth and Alabama-Huntsville. The team’s results have been consistently mediocre, and i can not imagine them making a run at home ice. They should get a temporary boost against Merrimack this weekend (although, they couldn’t get four points against lowly Providence last weekend), but I’m not sure this team can muster even a single point over their next four games.
8. Northeastern Huskies 13-12-1 (8-10-1 HEA) 17 Points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/13 @ UMass
2/14 vs. UMass
2/19 vs. Boston College
2/21 @ Boston College
2/26 vs. New Hampshire
2/27 @ New Hampshire
3/5 @ Boston University
3/6 vs. Boston University
I thought I’d put Northeastern on this list because they were improving. Chris Rawlings has played really well down the stretch. In fact, he has only given up more than two goals once (to Vermont on January 29th) since he gave up six in an overtime to Lowell on January 9th. He’s boosted his save percentage to over .900 in conference play. This is a team that could get itself together and move up the standings, I thought. Then I saw their remaining schedule. Two against BC, two against UNH, two against BU. No chance.
…Is it Friday yet?
Well, to call this the worst sporting weekend in my nearly four years at UMass is probably an understatement. First, UMass hockey fell flat on its face in front of the entire New England area on NESN and 8,000+ at the Mullins Center, doing virtually nothing right in a 7-1 bloodbath at the hands of the team everyone loves to hate. Not really much to say about this one: UMass got outplayed in literally every aspect of the hockey game. Goaltending? Dainton didn’t have it, Meyers wasn’t much better, Muse was rarely tested. Offense? Eagles. Defense? Eagles, by a LOT. Special teams? UMass got all the first-period power play time, including over a minute of 5-on-3, and looked completely inept.
Honestly, there were no silver linings other than the fact that it only counts as one game, and that aggregate goals are meaningless in the NCAA. The troubling thing is that, after going through the entire first half without getting blown out – staying close in literally every game – the Minutemen have now suffered losses of 7-3 (BU), 7-2 (UNH), 6-2 (BU…again) and now this mess. They’re a mind-numbing six goals under .500 in Hockey East and down to even overall. What does it mean? Well, this percentage of the way through an NHL season, you’d have to start worrying; in a 27-game season, it just means UMass has gotten thrashed, absolutely thrashed, four times (this the first one at home). Their overall record, which is still solid in spite of everything, tells you that when things are bad for this team, they’re REALLY bad. For some reason, games spiral out of hand for these guys, which tells me there’s a tendency to give up (whether it’s late in the game, as it was in the two BU debacles, or early in the game, like up at Lake Whitt and now this shitshow).
So that means there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that this team, I still believe, has the talent to make a run in Hockey East. The bad news is that there are still effort and character issues. You simply cannot give up early in a sport; anything can happen in a game that’s 2-0 in the first (which is the point where it felt like the wheels really came off), hell, a comeback is still possible even after it’s 4-0 after one period, but a 7-0 deficit is insurmountable. (By the way, this applies to the fans, too, but Ben covered that already in his post.)
I will say this: BC, as Derek pointed out in his preview, is a damn good hockey team, and you must give coach York and crew credit for making them into serious contenders earlier than anyone outside Chestnut Hill could have predicted. They’re scary-deep, they don’t make stupid mistakes, and yeah, it’s safe to say that their January slump is behind them. Meanwhile, I have to take back anything I said before the game about BC’s fanbase being apathetic; their little cheering section was easily the most impressive of its kind in the Mullins Center all year, and they were certainly rewarded for their efforts and creativity. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I hate most people from BC with a fiery passion, but you can’t say they don’t care when they send over 100 kids to a place they supposedly wouldn’t touch with a 50-foot pole. (Then again, we’ll see how many of them come out in their own arena in a couple weeks.)
Coupled with tonight’s results, I think you have to look at Hockey East like this: three home-ice locks (UNH, Maine, and BC), and one spot open for the taking, with UMass, BU, and Vermont as the front-runners in a jumble, along with Lowell, although they’re on their way out as their offensive struggles (and now the loss of Dehner) have them on a rather Cahoon Swoon-esque slide. Northeastern, meanwhile, could jump into the conversation, but it would require a sweep of next weekend’s home-and-home with the Minutemen. Once again, we have to hope that playing the Huskies gives UMass a spark, and that this time, they sustain it. More on that later in the week.
Meanwhile, Matt and I made the annual (third time for me, first for him) bus trip down to URI to watch our men’s basketball team against our favorite A-10 rival. We’ll point out that we were among maybe five or six students on our bus and the group was heavily alumni-centric, so it wasn’t quite as fun as the last two trips. The outcome was also pretty depressing: once again, UMass started alright, then the wheel came off and before you knew it they were down 17 at half. I don’t even feel like talking about Big Shitty anymore, because honestly, there was nothing nice to say; I cringed every moment he stepped out on the floor, and this time he never managed to prove me wrong. The Gurley Show was also teetering on the brink of cancellation for me; his inconsistency is simply maddening at times.
Now, you have to give URI credit; they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn to start the game (0 for their first 8 or 9 threes I think), and yet they were able to keep UMass from getting any sort of sustained run thanks to a devastatingly effective press that forced UMass turnovers seemingly at will. You gotta love their fan base, too — granted, there’s really nothing else to root for in Kingston, but just the same, they’ve packed that place all three times I’ve been there, their student section(s) put(s) ours to shame, and it’s freaking LOUD in there (not to mention a fantastic place to watch a game, even from the balcony corner that they always stick us in). I honestly love the Ryan Center, although I must admit that I’d love it a lot less if it weren’t for the last two trips. This one…eh.
UMass did put something together to start the second half again, and we had visions of another 17-point rally followed by actually holding the narrow lead, but then the Rams and their fans woke up again and put a quick stop to it with a bevy of dunks, not to mention their shooters finally heated up. Our guys made it respectable in the closing minutes, as Gurley suddenly realize there was a basketball game going on and started knocking down shot after shot, but it was in vain. This was a superior team with a lot more experience, especially in the coaching department, and it showed. Still, I liked what I saw out of the freshmen, and Sean Carter continues to be solid if not spectacular. And hey, at least they didn’t embarrass themselves on NESN. *sigh*