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.
Maine was named Hockey East team of the week for last week. Freshman Black Bear goaltender Dan Sullivan (9-5-1, 2.28GAA, .903save%) was also recognized as Hockey East defensive player of the week after recording allowing only 1 goal over 2 games against then No.4 Merrimack.
Also of note in Hockey East news this week, superstar Maine forward Gustav Nyquist (16G/26A/42Pts) was named Hockey East player of the month for February. Nyquist had 10 goals, including 4 power play goals, in February and added 4 assists.
Paul Dainton (6-15-4, 2.96GAA, .910save%) made 36 saves in last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Boston College. With that performance, Dainton now has made at least 30 saves in each of his last 4 games. We’re used to Dainton’s numbers dropping off in the second half of the year (coinciding with the Cahoon Swoon effect), but this year Dainton is playing his best hockey down the stretch and has kept the Minutemen in almost every game. It’s too bad the rest of the team isn’t helping him out.
TJ Syner (9G/16A/25Pts) scored the only UMass goal on Saturday. With that goal, Syner has run his point streak to 7 games. During the streak, Syner has scored 2 goals and added 5 assists. Three of these points (1G, 2A) have come on the power play.
Mike Pereira (10G/13A/23Pts) has not had a goal in his last 8 games, since January 29 against Northeastern. He also hasn’t had an assist in his last 3 games. Pereira has dropped from first on the team in points to third in this span. Despite this, Pereira still leads the Mass Attack with 10 goals. Pereira needs to learn how to deal with defenses that are focusing on him if he wants to be the elite player in this league that it appears he has the potential to be.
UMass continues to get burned when on the penalty kill. Saturday marks the fifth consecutive game where the Mass Attack has given up a power play goal. The PK played well (killing 6-for-7), but the team just took way too many penalties against a BC team that has a killer power play.
Final Note: This new banner sucks. Max, please please please please please put the old one back up. This looks like an awful conspiracy-theory snapshot of a UFO. Also, it makes the entire blog gray and white. We are not Providence. I would rather cut off my left hand than look at this banner again. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeee take it down. Please.
The Mass Attack found ways to lose games this weekend. In the Friday game, the Merrimack Warriors proved that it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. After taking a 1-0 lead into the 3rd period, the Minutemen found themselves down 2-1 with less than 6 minutes to go in the game. Enter Adam Phillips (8G/5A/13Pts), who scored back-to-back goals (the first 5-on-5, the second on a 4-on-3 power play) to give the Mass Attack the lead. Credit Mike Pereira (10G/13A/23Pts) with a fantastic screen on the first of these goals, as the shot was one that would’ve been easily savable, if not for the screen. Unfortunately, with less than 1:30 to go in the game, Colin Shea (1G/4A/5Pts) lost his stick and then inadvertently slapped the puck into his own net with his hand. Shea was, unsurprisingly, a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game. Shortly into OT, Paul Dainton (6-13-4, 2.95GAA, .910save%) gave up a juicy rebound that was netted by Carter Madsen (7G/6A/13Pts). And that was that.
Game two was all about Dainton and offensive ineptitude. Shots: 41-16 Merrimack. Score: 2-1 Merrimack. It was pretty much what you’re thinking right now. Dainton had an up and down night on Friday. He made some spectacular saves, but he let in two goals he probably shouldn’t have (including the game winner). On Saturday, Dainton made some spectacular saves. Then, he made some more. Then, he made some more. Dainton was great on Saturday. Unfortunately, Merrimack did what Merrimack does when it gets a lead at home. It clogged the neutral zone. Considering the ice at Lawler is about five feet wide, it isn’t hard to do. The one UMass goal came courtesy of TJ Syner (8G/15A/23Pts) in the 3rd, with the ice opened up because UMass was on a 4-on-3 power play. Saturday’s game did have some terrible officiating, too. Danny Hobbs (8G/14A/22Pts) got absolutely mugged in the corner by an elbow and came off the ice very slowly, but no call. Fortunately, Hobbs returned later in the game. Bunyan and Keenan also missed an incredibly blatant delay of game call with less than 20 seconds to go in the game.
- The power play went a respectable 2-for-9 (22.2%), but both of those goals were on the 4-on-3. Still, I thought the 5-on-4 power play featured much better player movement and a better net-front presence. The power play did have a difficult time getting into the zone against Merrimack’s stifling forecheck.
- The penalty kill, on the other hand, was pretty bad. It only killed 5 out of 8 penalties on the weekend (62.5%) and the power play goals came at the worst times. On Friday, power play goals flipped the game from a 1-0 lead to a 2-1 deficit and on Saturday, the game winner was a power play goal. One of the two power play goals on Friday was Dainton’s fault, but even if he didn’t let that in, a 6-for-8 on the PK isn’t very good.
- Conor Sheary (6G/7A/13Pts) scored again and later added an assist on Friday. It’s nice to see a kid who has excelled at some of the grittier aspects of the game (even given his somewhat diminutive stature) find his scoring touch at this level. It’s also nice to hear “That goal scored by Conor Sheary from Melrose, Massachusetts” (my hometown) come out of John Hennessy’s mouth.
- Mike Pereira has not scored in a long time. He hasn’t had a goal since the January 29th 2-2 tie with Northeastern. That’s 6 games without a goal for the Mass Attack’s leading goal scorer. Pereira has had 3 assists in that timeframe, but as a guy who accounts for nearly 15% of UMass’s goals in Hockey East play, he needs to be putting more pucks in the net.
- UMass Lowell was swept by Maine this weekend meaning they have [finally] been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Hopefully we’ll see some brotherly love from this sister school. They play Providence twice next weekend and Vermont twice after that. We could use some UML wins (or ties); maybe the statistical elimination will create some spoiler-drive in the River Hawks.
- Mike Marcou (3G/6A/9Pts/-14) still sucks. Real bad.
- Lawler Arena also sucks.
- And most importantly: Paul Dainton will almost definitely (barring injury) break Brian Regan’s UMass career saves record (3,050) in his next start. After this weekend’s 70 save performance, Dainton needs just 20 saves to get to 3,051 for his career and pass Regan’s record mark.
Last Week: 0Pts/Even/1SOG/4PIM
Season Totals: 3G/4A/7Pts/+4/22SOG/32PIM
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.
After a weekend so devastating that I didn’t even write a recap (even though I drove the 2 fucking hours to see an 11-2 loss in a fucking home depot (ok, maybe I will shit on lawler in the random observations)) the outlook was bleak for our young minutemen. Made worse was the fact that the greatest hockey player to ever grace us with his presence, Sir Douglas Kublin was scratched due to injury and our friday opponent, BU, was coming off a tough loss against the inexplicably less loathsome BC in a meaningless tournament game in Boston. However, on friday night, despite being outscored 16-2 in the previous weekend, the Minutemen went out and showed (probably) their strongest effort of the year against a good, not great BU team. Despite the lack of points in friday’s 4-3 overtime loss (oh why can’t you be like the NHL and give a point for overtime losses) there were alot of positives. UMass dominated the flow of the game for large stretches last night, resulting in a beautiful 2nd period (historically the worst period for this team) where they showed the potential of this team. If the team can continue to grow, where the effort shown last night becomes consistent, this team will be a force.
The saddest part of last night is that we should have won last night. Of the 4 goals scored by BU, 2 were preventable lapses. Goal 2, coming in the last 10 seconds of the 1st, was one that falls into the every growing category of “UMass not finishing the period strong”. It was a tick tack goal that seemed to come out of nowhere. I remember distinctly saying during the intermission “If we tie or lose by one, that goal will hurt”. Well it did and it does. So there.
In related news, the first goal was deserved by BU, but still grinds my gears. Coming 70 seconds into the game, it was an uncontested wrist shot in the slot, thats going in 80% of the time. I’m far too lazy to look it up, but it seems like this team gives up the first goal far too often, and of late its been coming early. Playing from behind is never a good idea, and the results have shown what such tendencies do to you.
Also a hearbreaker was the 3rd goal, a dribbler that slipped by Dainton. This came a minute or so after a Syner shot that looked in and in the very least deserved a review. It was a huge shift of momentum, a goal that would have put us up by 2, ending up going the other way and tieing the game. After that, despite flashes, the minutemen were on their heels. Because of some dumb penalties, UMass played alot of the final moments of the 3rd on the PK. While they ended up killing them all, even a long 5 on 3, the team looked exhausted and defeated by the time it was OT. Unlike the NU game a few weeks ago, victory never seemed imminent. Everyone in attendance seemed to be praying for a tie, and unfortunately we couldn’t get so lucky.
So here we are playing a game tonight against perpetual cellar dwellers Providence, that is now a must win if we want to make the playoffs. Maybe a point will do tonight, but a win is needed for both moral and practical reasons. We need the win to keep this team confident, because I can only imagine how deflating a loss like last night’s would be for a team. Loosing 11-2 is an embarrassment, loosing 4-3 in a winnable game is sad. As for practical purposes, 2 points tonight would be huge for a playoff spot. As it turns out, winning 5 of 6 against VT and Lowell most likely won’t be enough, and honestly, if going into the playoffs on a loosing streak of such sad proportions is our destiny, I’m not even sure its worth making it and causing me to spend $50 to go to 2 lashings by the best teams in Hockey East.
What do I expect tonight? Sadly I expect a 5-3 loss. Yup, after last night I fully expect this team to underperform and let the Providence team steal a win and leave the UMass community defeated and depressed. I don’t trust this team. They are the cheating trollop of a girlfriend who the day after reminding you why you love them, will get drunk and flash the bar. Its not easy to love this team. Lets hope they prove me wrong.
- Ok, Lawler. What a dump of an arena. First off, I honestly thought Merrimack was a sears. Merrimack will now be refered to as the university of sears – North andover for a long as I live. Plus, Lawler is a high school rink. HOW CAN YOU BE IN HOCKEY EAST AND NOT ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS AT YOUR BOX OFFICE???? Plus, the arena itself is a glorified Home Depot (given the ceiling). The sightlines: Bad. The fans: apathetic. The penalty boxes: without doors or glass (I’m not joking, the players have to climb over to get in and out and can just lean over the boards while in the sin bin). The PA announcer: continuously making mistakes (he kept on referring to goals as penalties. He isn’t even a JV announcer, he got cut from the freshman team). The puck band: the reason I’m weary about having a UMass puck band. Pathetic in size, fidelity and execution. I’ve been to elementary school band recitals that sounded better. I really wish I was joking. Speaking of jokes, everything about that shithole of an arena. Yes your team is good, but you in no way deserve it. I hate you so much Merrimack, you have no idea.
- The OT goal last night happened while the lowest common denominator (lol, t shirt night) started a “Fuck BU” chant. It made the loss a little more acceptable, because it withheld joy from those idiots. Karma my friends. Its all your fault everyone that chanted fuck BU last night. I also hate you so much.
- The Beer summit with Papa triangle ended up happening last night. Good times all around. Two quick stories. First, my beer selection progressively got less manly last night. I started out with a Brooklyn cuvee noire (so, so good). Then I had an Alagash White (good, but bitches love Belgian whites) and then ended with an origional sin hard cider (also good, but don’t think Walsh wasn’t mocking me openly). Secondly, and far more hilariously, Triangle almost got cut off last night. So, around last call, triangle asks for a last drink. He is in no way visibly drunk (I dare not guess his actual BAC, but hell, he seemed fine). So the bartender asks if he’s driving tonight (in stereotypical hipster fashion). He is confused. She backs off slightly with the “its just a simple straightforward question”. I point out that “BU 4 UMass 3” is the reason this man needs an extra beer, She says she does not know what that means, and as justification, points out her mormon faith. Triangle ends up getting his beer (you damn right he does!) and still tips (classy, classy man). I (who may be a little drunk) continues to think about making a magic underwear joke the rest of the night. I do not. Moral of the story: beer is fun.
- Drunkenly yelling at people cutting the student line is alot more fun than I could have ever imagined. Walsh got tripped by some dude! I envy him. I was in a punching mood. Wearing a hockey jersey does that.
- I will reiterate that I hate T shirt games so much. So, so, so much
- Mike Pereira’s mom is a really nice lady, however she can’t hold a candle to the heavenly grace that is Mrs Christine Gracel. Lady’s a saint.
- apparently the basketball team came out during the 2nd intermission to ask people to come to the game on sunday. I didn’t see it (intermissions are for cigarettes and makers mark) but I imagine it was violently awkward.
As usual for most saturday morning recaps, this was written at work, so apologies for all inevitable spelling errors.
See you at the Bill tonight
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!
Northeastern Huskies (7-10-5(6-7-4HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (6-12-3(5-7-3HEA))
This weekend’s home-and-home scrap with Northeastern could be a crucial one in the Hockey East race. Our Minutemen are coming off of two of their most successful games. With a four-point weekend, the Mass Attack could actually move ahead of Northeastern in the standings, even though the Huskies have played two more Hockey East games than the Minutemen. As noted in a fantastic post by our fellow bloggers at The Gut, Northeastern has the toughest remaining Hockey East schedule. If the Minutemen could get ahead of the Huskies this weekend, there could be no looking back. Equally important is the fact that UMass has a very difficult remaining schedule, as well. All but one of the Mass Attack’s remaining games after this weekend are against BC, BU, Maine, and Merrimack. Any way you look at it, this is a very important weekend for UMass Hockey.
Northeastern is a team with a good combination of size and shiftiness. Two of the smaller players on the team, seniors Wade MacLeod (11G/11A/22Pts) and Tyler McNeely (7G/10A/17Pts), are their two top scorers. On the other hand, their defensive corps (although small in number) is quite large in terms of physical stature; only one defenseman under 6 feet has played for the Huskies this year. This size is backed by sophomore standout goalie Chris Rawlings (6-8-5, 2.27GAA, .928 save%). As NESN is quite fond of noting, Rawlings has never lost to UMass. On the off chance Rawlings doesn’t start both games, their backup, Clay Witt (1-2-0, 1.57GAA, .938save%), is no slouch either.
With this size and these backstops, one would expect Northeastern to play a solid defense-first game. And one would be correct; Northeastern’s 2.29GA/G in conference play is the third lowest in Hockey East. Only Boston College (2.28GA/G) and New Hampshire (1.73GA/G; Matt DiGirolamo is, notably, ridiculously good) have allowed less goals per game in Hockey East play. For comparison, UMass is giving up 2.67GA/G against Hockey East foes. And only one Huskie defenseman (Drew Ellement (-4)) has a negative plus/minus rating. What the Huskies sacrifice for this defensive prowess is some offensive firepower. Other than MacLeod and McNeely, only Mike McLaughlin (7G/3A/10Pts) has more than 4 goals on the year. They also don’t get much offense from their defensemen. Only 2 Husky d-men have multiple goals (Anthony Bitetto (2G/11A/13Pts and Jamie Oleksiak 2G/4A/6Pts). For comparison, UMass has 4 in Phillips, Rowe, Marcou, and Kublin. (Even though Phillips and Marcou are possibly injured, the point is that the system the Minutemen play in allows for offensive contributions from everywhere on the ice.) The result of all these numbers is that Northeastern only scores 2.47 goals a game in Hockey East play. Only UML (2.22GPG), Providence (2.20GPG), and Vermont (1.73GPG) score fewer goals in conference play. UMass scores on Hockey East opponents at a clip of 2.87 goals per game.
The Mass Attack comes into the game hot. They have won 3 of their last 4 while riding a hot goaltender in Paul Dainton (6-7-2, 2.63GAA, .919save%). However, these four games were against Lowell and Vermont. Prior to those four games, UMass had lost five straight. The last team UMass beat before beating UML and UVM? UVM. In fact, ALL FIVE UMASS WINS IN HOCKEY EAST PLAY ARE AGAINST UML AND UVM. If this team wants to be taken seriously, it needs to beat a Hockey East opponent who is not a colossal joke. This could be the weekend to do it, given the positive momentum from the wins against aforementioned shells of teams. Northeastern also comes in riding a hot streak. They have gone 4-1-1 in their last 6 games, including beating UMass thanks to a third period collapse by the Minutemen. Rawlings had two shutouts in this period, but also gave up an inexplicable three goals to Vermont in the one loss.
One more note: as mentioned to me by Matt, the Bill will be hosting a [shitty] concert on Friday night. The mercury is supposed to get down to 11 that night/Saturday morning, so hopefully the ice will recover. If it doesn’t, it could be bad news. A slow, sloppy ice surface would fit the Huskies style of play far too nicely. I believe the key to the game is to be extremely aggressive. I mean, on-the-verge-of-recklessness-offensive-aggression. Why do I say this? Well, it’s because Northeastern usually dresses only 5 defensemen. If the Mass Attack can wear out the Husky defense, Northeastern’s defensive edge will disappear. On the defensive side of the ice, MacLeod and McNeely need to be taken away as offensive options. To me, this means playing Kublin and Shea whenever possible against Northeastern’s top line. This might be difficult during Friday’s game, but when UMass has home ice and last change on Saturday, there will be no excuse for not matching Kublin and Shea against MacLeod and McNeely.
If all goes well, we may dare to dream of a sweep and sliding up a spot in the standings. But, if we cannot sweep, two points is absolutely essential for anyone to take this team seriously. Providence is playing UNH this weekend, so losing position in the standings is doubtful, but a backslide is definitely not what we want to see out of this team right now.
Aside: Harpoon’s current release of its acclaimed 100 barrell series is entitled Catamount Maple Wheat. Let’s hope the beer tastes better than their hockey team plays.
Aside pt. 2: Apparently, we have a Facebook page. If we don’t get 100 likes by Tuesday, Matt’s going to light Outlaw Pete from Minuteman Nation on fire. So, yeah, unless you want Outlaw Pete to get extra crispy, you should probably like that shit.
Like the city of Lowell itself, last night was an ugly clusterfuck of a night. UMass comes away with a lucky as hell 5-4 win, but its a real shame that points have to be given out after a game like last night’s. Our defense was out of position and slow (highlighted by several players simply falling over with provocation, leading flag guy to comment “maybe they aren’t used to playing on good ice”) and scared the ever living shit out of me all game. Perhaps by simply watching this team all year I expect every shot on net to be a goal, but every time Lowell got the puck into our end I was in a perpetual Bob Dylan “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh” (the official sound of Fight Mass). I have zero confidence in our defense, and just looking at them execute simple hockey things like limit angles on a 2 on 2 is terrifying.
Lets be completely honest with each other here: If we were playing any team without “Lowell” on their sweaters we would have lost by 8. Too many good shots given up, far too much standing around. And that is whats scary, if we can only eek out a win against one of the worst hockey east teams in recent memory, what does that mean for the next 3 months where we are not playing the crack capital of Massachusetts?
Our ceiling this year is 6th in Hockey East, which after watching this team regress over the last month (something that should not be happening for such a young team) I have little faith we can do. If we are going to put ourself into position for making the playoffs, its going to be done in the next few weeks. First off, we need 2 points tonight, and as a personal preference, maybe we can earn them tonight. No falling asleep at the wheel and giving up 3 unanswered goals. No offensive complacency. NO SHORTHAND GOALS! Beat Lowell, show me something, anything, and then we can think about the future. Next week its a pointable weekend (thats my new phrase, remember that) against Vermont who is somehow worse than us in the HE standings (I refuse to believe that there are 2 worse teams than big brother UMass and ugly sister). Yes its on the road, but we need some points against the basement of Hockey East. After that, its a home and home with Northeastern, who is beatable (I watched 59 minutes of the last time we met and it went pretty well) and then a whole bunch of games I would be stupid to expect points from.
If there was ever a time for UMass to not suck this year, its these next few weeks. Maybe, despite the absolute shit play on the ice, last night’s win will wake up our beloved minutemen and turn this stretch around. An ugly win, yes, but maybe, just maybe, a win to stop the losing streak is all our boys need to start playing with some confidence (dear god I hope so). Get some points over the next few weekends, solidify a spot in the playoffs, and maybe give a BC or BU a scare for one game in the quarterfinals (is it too much to ask for a single playoff win in my UMass career?). We are not hard to please, UMass hockey, our expectations were low this year, but we only ask for a few things. Show us flashes of something to come, be entertaining, and for the love of god don’t be Lowell.
- I’m really disappointed Tsongas doesn’t suck anymore. The concourses may be planned out worse than Lowell’s recruiting strategy, but its still one of the better barns in Hockey East right now. The scoreboard is amazing, they finally got the lighting right, and there is no more dumb blimp. Good job Lowell (too bad we had to pay for it (lol taxpayer joke (no but seriously we’re pissed (does this mean we can have a nice football stadium?)))
- Does anyone remember when Darren Rowe was alive? That was fun.
- The sheer lack of shooting after the whistle and embellishment calls is disgraceful this year. Why can’t new Casey Wellman do that for me?
- Lowell has consistently been the best away game to be a loud asshole at. There is the perfect balance of hatred for you and knowledge that they won’t do anything that makes yelling at Lowell rewarding. Also, being a fan of the away team when they win in the last 15 seconds is a feeling that I hope everyone (except Lowell fans) gets to experience. The mix between the deflated quiet of the home crowd and our sheer jubilation was amazing
- I would like to send an official apology to the ice is life (RIP). I was an oversensitive asshole hellbent on trolling and you are hilarious. Also, misery loves company.
- On that note, Lowell has banners to remind us of all the years where weezer was still relevant and Lowell made the NCAAs
Apologies in advance for all the spelling errors and terrible writing. I’m a terrible blogger, get over it.
See you at the Bill kids,
To quell the vicious attacks I have been going through at every home game from other writers *cough Derek*, I have decided to update the fans on where the Mass Attack sits in their season so far.
Here are the current standings:
With the least amount of in-conference games, the minutemen are actually in a good place considering the shaky start. We sit within the playoff bracket, one win behind Northeastern, with 4 games in hand. Now I think that the term “must-win” gets thrown around a little too much since in Hockey East, every game is a must-win to do well, but here I go anyways.
We have at least one game in hand against every other team and in some cases, 5 games in hand. This leverage could easily skyrocket us in the rankings. The way I see it, winning against Maine is going to be a crucial step in setting ourselves up for the post season.
Now, let’s look at who is likely to lead us to our post season. It starts with Michael Pereira who is +9 on the season and leads the team in scoring with 7 goals and 6 assists. Another key player is Adam Phillips, who despite only having 8 shots on goal, has 3 Goals and two of them are game winning. Paul Dainton has also been playing well of late and his stats have started to come back up from their lows earlier this season. He is now at a .915 save % and has a GAA of 2.87.
We really need to see more results from Brian Keane in the next few Hockey East games. He has played in 11 games this season, has an assist to his name, but also a -4 rating. This might have been acceptable when almost everyone on the team had a negative +/-, but now that the team has started to put the puck in the net on a more consistent basis, we need our seniors to start pulling their weight a little more.
Another player who is completely slacking of late is Michael Marcou. Marcou wears an A on his sweater, but also carries a -5 rating as a defenseman. He does have 7 points, 2 of those goals, but some of his shots of late have been very wild and maybe he should continue the family tradition of being the playmaker, rather than the goal scorer.
All in all we finally have a team that we do not have to cringe thinking about. As fans, it looks like we can move past the loss to Army and move on to bigger and more important games that will actually count for us. We sit at 45 in the RPI (http://siouxsports.com/hockey/rankings/rpi/), which is much better than the 54 we were in not too long ago.
Here are the upcoming games as we look into the break:
At Maine 12/12 4:00
At Wisconsin 12/30, 12/31 7:00 Central
vs. Northeastern 1/7 7:00
vs. New Hampshire 1/8 7:00
We could count the two at Wisconsin’s as throwaways, practice, or momentum games, since our chances of getting an NCAA bid this season without winning Hockey East is slim to none. But the upcoming games against Maine, Northeastern and New Hampshire will be very important to finishing the season strong.
I also don’t think we can have a second half meltdown since there isn’t all that much to melt….
~Ben (Flag Guy)