Well, crap on a crap cracker.
The joy ride of a three-game win streak was halted quickly this weekend, as UMass managed just one of a possible four points over the course of two miserable, lifeless performances. Really, there’s not much to say about this weekend: the power play reverted to its evil ways Friday night against a team full of thugs that was all-too-eager to give away extra-man opportunities with dumb penalties, not to mention a bevy of hilarious turnovers. UMass did play well in the overtime period but Dan Sullivan stood on his head to save the day and force a tie. A point is a point, except when that point means a critical failed opportunity to gain two points on a conference rival, one who (stunningly) looks like it will be battling not for home ice but for a playoff spot.
Then there was last night. Hoo boy. My 12-0 prediction came a third of the way true as UMass truly didn’t look like they belonged on the same ice as the Reject Sonic-the-Hedgehogs. It really looked like the guys were assuming they were getting the awful River Hawks of a year ago and thought they could coast to a win, but a funny thing happened in Lowell this year – they decided to actually field a hockey team, and said hockey team – playing, no less, without its freshman sensation Wilson – thoroughly dominated every aspect of the game. There is literally nothing about this game that can be taken as a positive, other than that Mastalerz didn’t completely suck? It is an ugly loss to an ugly team that damnit I hate them all so very very much and…ahem. Yeah. This doesn’t sit well with us. Remember, until last night, UMass hadn’t lost to Lowell since we started the blog. It was a nice run, and it came to a crashing halt just like most good…cocaine…ah for crying out fuck, I don’t even feel like it anymore.
(Besides, if you exclude the actual game, Derek and I had a wonderful time in Lowell, one of the easiest and most fun roadtrips in Hockey East. Aside from the fact that it is now literally four times closer to where I live than Amherst is…parking is a breeze, the arena has improved significantly with recent renovations, Lowell Beer Works is right down the street, I can’t believe I’m typing these words, I can’t believe I’m saying these things, I’m gonna just go cry in the corner now. Oh also we met Monty of UML Hockey fame. Cool guy. Had the distinct pleasure of being directly adjacent to him for all four increasingly-awful goals UMass allowed. Yeah, we get it, sieve, we suck. Indeed.)
Anyway, Tuesday brings the last chance in a while for UMass to get back on track in Hockey East play before a stretch of five straight non-conference (read: basically exhibition at this point) games to get back on track (including a possible “non-conference” game against Maine, lol watch as UMass wins this time). UMass has played well in the Fieldhouse in recent years and this is possibly the worst Vermont team in a long-ass time. If those two points slip away…well, that’d be the worst of all possible timelines, wouldn’t it?
P.S. I don’t feel like awarding a Kubbie Point for this game, but if I have to, what the fuck, Mastalerz wasn’t terrible given that he had zero help in front of him the whole game. Also haha we will eventually get the Kubbie Kounter up and running. Maybe.
Massachusetts Minutemen (1-1-1, 0-1-1 Hockey East)
#2 Boston College Eagles (3-1-0, 1-0-0 Hockey East)
The Minutemen take on one of the best teams in the nation on Friday as they will do battle with the Eagles from Boston College. BC is a perennial Hockey East powerhouse and it looks like this year won’t be any different. The Eagles’ offense has been scoring at an impressive 4.50 clip while they have been giving up 2.25 goals a game, a figure that is deceptively high due to their one loss which included an empty net goal. In their three wins, the Eagles have amassed 16 goals while only allowing five. BC’s goal scoring is well distributed amongst the team; junior forward Chris Kreider leads the team with three goals and five other Eagles (Bill Arnold, Johnny Gaudreau, Barry Almeida, Pat Mullane, and Stephen Whitney) are tied for second on the team with two goals apiece. The offense is fueled by the forwards, who account for the top eight point scorers on the team. The defensive corps is only responsible for seven of the Eagles forty eight points thus far (two goals and four assists).
Boston College’s defense is led by a solid core of upperclassmen who know what it takes to get things done on the defensive side of the game. Senior captain Tommy Cross is the only defenseman on the team with an official leadership role but these guys clearly all know how to lead by example. Not only are there no minus players in the top six group of Cross, four juniors, and one sophomore, but there aren’t even any defensemen with even plus/minus ratings. Brian Dumoulin leads the team in plus/minus rating with a +5. Other than sophomore Isaac MacLeod, who I have not seen very much of, I can say that I have not seen a single defenseman on the Eagles who is anything less than outstanding. Junior Parker Milner finally has a chance at being the go-to guy between the pipes for the Eagles, and he is not squandering that opportunity so far. His stats are simply fantastic (3-1-0, 2.01 GAA, .923 save%). Those of us who had hoped that he wasn’t good enough to fill John Muse’s jockstrap are certainly disappointed.
While the Mass Attack cannot claim to have the kind of suffocating defense that the Eagles have right now, they can claim to have the kind of offensive firepower that rivals Boston College’s. The Minutemen are averaging 4.00 goals a game and the Syner-Pereira-Hobbs line has been mind-numbingly good since the return of Danny Hobbs. In those two games, they’ve accounted for six goals and ten assists. What’s concerning is that they have provided almost all of the offense. Although the Mass Attack certainly has other offensive talent to fall back on, so far only four players not from the top line (Colin Shea, Conor Sheary, Brendan Gracel, and Adam Phillips) have lit the lamp this year. Two of the five goals not produced by the top line have come on the powerplay, which is another exciting part of the 2011-2012 edition of the Mass Attack. So far in this early season, the Minutemen are converting powerplays at a very proficient clip of 21.1%.
What is not as exciting about this year’s Minutemen is the defensive side of the puck. On the whole, the team has played relatively well on defense. No one has played poorly, but the momentary lapses the team has seem to come at the worst possible moments. Despite outshooting their opponents by a wide margin, the Minutemen have given up as many goals as they have scored this year. A big part of the problem is the penalty kill, which has been successful a dismal 75.0% of the time. The penalty kill is all about fundamentals. Body positioning, stick positioning, denying passing lanes, keeping the puck to the outside, clearing bodies from the front of the net, clearing rebounds from the front of the net. That last one has been a killer. Freshman goalie Kevin Boyle has given it his all so far this season, but where he most clearly needs work is on his rebound control and his recovery and positioning for the second shot. College hockey goalies deny the first shot and rely on their defensemen to get to rebounds before the opposing forwards do; Hockey East goalies deny the first shot and prevent a second chance, either by allowing no rebound or by steering one out of harms way. I would expect to see Jeff Teglia’s first start of the year tonight. Boyle looked out of his element last Saturday and gave up some really ugly goals before he was finally (Yes, finally, Toot left him in WAY too long against the Friars on a night where he clearly just didn’t have it.) yanked for Teglia. Tegs stopped all eight shots he faced and looked rock solid in his first action of the year. Hopefully his great play in relief last weekend carries into this weekend; the Minutemen will need a huge performance from him if they want a chance to steal one from the Eagles at Conte.
This one should be exciting, folks! No more excuses. Our number one goalie should be in net, our offense is firing on all cylinders, our defense is playing well enough to pull out wins as long as Tegs helps ‘em out a little. Everyone should be excited because this is a game where we can see how our lineup matches up with one of the best out there. I expect they will matchup quite well and I expect a tight game tonight. I can’t tell you who’s gonna win this one, but I can tell you this is the most positive I’ve felt about the potential result of a UMass-BC game in a long, long time.
Massachusetts Minutemen (1-0-1, 0-0-1 Hockey East)
Providence Friars (1-0-0, 1-0-0 Hockey East)
Last night, the eighth-ranked Boston University Terriers discovered that the Providence Friars are no joke. Or at least they weren’t for one game. Yes those lowly basement dwellers, that team that was so bad it inspired this to be written about it near the end of the 2009-2010 season, the pushovers of yesteryear (pretty much every yesteryear) proved they could play some puck last night. Much to my amusement, Kieran Millan was forced to fish the biscuit out of the back of his own net five times. The Terriers were outshot in every period, except the third where both teams recorded 11 shots on net. The most impressive part of last night’s Friar win was that it was a full team effort. The five goals were put in by five different guys (Drew Brown, Matt Montesano, Stefan Demopoulos, Myles Harvey, and Ross Mauermann) and eleven skaters picked up points. Only three Friars were on the wrong side of the plus/minus rating for the night. Even when the team’s former best player, goalie Alex Beaudry, tried to blow the game by letting a 3-0 advantage slip away, the Friars found away to recompose themselves and put two more behind Millan to earn the W.
If last night’s game is any indicator, this is a much stronger squad under new head coach Nate Leaman than it was under Tim Army. We do, however, have to consider the possibility that this game was an aberration. Last year’s team went 4-16-7 in Hockey East play earning it ninth place (one point behind your beloved Minutemen). The Friars have not reached the postseason since my freshman year, the 2007-08 season. Last year’s top three scorers, who were not exactly setting the hockey world on fire anyway, have graduated. The team’s top returning point scorer, Tim Schaller, had all of five goals last season. Providence’s most remarkable returning freshman is Derek Army, son of the former coach. He managed to put up six goals and 13 points last year. Last year’s Friars scored just 1.96 goals per game in conference, and netminder Beaudry’s .901 save% was nowhere near good enough to carry the team.
In fact, if we’re talking about the Friars, we might as well forget about the upper class altogether. It’s all about the youth movement now in Providence. Four of last night’s five Friar goals were scored by freshmen. The exception was Myles Harvey’s powerplay game-winner. Harvey is a junior defenseman. It was his first career goal. That means that Providence had five first-time goal scorers last night. Pretty nifty feat there. Still, one game is a very small sample size and the Minutemen are unlikely to overlook the Friars as the Huskies may have. The Friars are a bit of an enigma right now. If nor overlooked, can the freshmen really continue to carry this team? And will Alex Beaudry return to his sophomore form (he posted a solid .914 save% that year without much help from the rest of the team) or will he be the reason the Friar’s lose games instead of the reason they eek out wins?
Okay, so let’s not forget this is Providence, the college whose only notable accomplishment is having Death as an alumnus. They grabbed a win last night but so did the Minutemen. The top line looked PHENOMENAL out there and Danny Hobbs, Franchise Pereira, and TJ Syner managed to rack up 10 points between themselves. The Mass Attack blasted 46 shots on Bentley goalie Branden Komm, plus one on an empty net. What was a slightly bit concerning was that such a high percentage of the production came from the top. Other than a goal scored by Brendan Gracel on a fantastical feed from Troy Power, the goals came exclusively from the top line. Also concerning was the penalty kill, which let in two goals on five chances. Although, to be fair, one of those goals came on a five minute opportunity after Adam Phillips received a five-and-game for contact to the head midway through the third period. (Thankfully, no further discipline will be imposed on Phillips for the hit.) Freshman Kevin Boyle… did not have his best night in net. Although Boyle is good on the first shot, it is becoming apparent that his rebound control and recovery are not up to par, at least not yet. I expect to see Jeff Teglia make his first start of the year in net tonight, but, honestly, he was probably already penciled into the lineup anyway.
As usual, tonight’s game will come down to who plays harder and smarter. The Friars were playing a nationally-ranked team (who probably was overlooking them) last night and it was their home and opener with a brand new coach. Plenty of motivation there to start off on the right foot and Providence clearly outworked the Huskies in pretty much every facet of the game. It’s unlikely that UMass will come out tonight expecting the Friars to just roll over for them. The top line has the firepower back at full force. Brendan Gracel is playing out of his mind right now. And pretty soon teams are going to start playing Conor Sheary as a pass-only guy. They will be making a mistake when they do cuz that kid’s got a wicked wrister. In fact, I think two games without a goal is quite enough for Sheary. I expect him to net one tonight. And, yes, I do think the Minutemen will pull off the win. But, I will admit that I’m A LOT more worried about this matchup than I was yesterday. It just goes to show you, there are no easy games in Hockey East.
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.
Hockey season is upon us once again and have we at Fight Mass worked long and hard on a season preview? No, fuck that. Well, kind of. But also kind of a game preview, too. Just read it, it will all make sense. Or not. Whatever.
Massachusetts Minutemen vs. Northeastern Huskies
The Minutemen enter this year without an exhibition test to “judge” the boys by. A spirited intra-squad public scrimmage highlighted by a penalty shot goal by Edzo “via Chicago” Olczyk , a near fight between Conor “Mr. Most Improved” Allen and a Himalayan mountain disguised as a freshman named Oleg Yevenko, and a game winning powerplay top corner snipe by the gunslinger himself, Conor Sheary.
Conversely, the Northeastern Huskies did play an exhibition game against St. Francis Xavier… and lost 8-5. (Oh man! This team must suck. I mean come on guys, 8-5 loss to St. Francis Xavier???) Yeah, well, six of the eight goals were given up by sophomore backup Clay Witt in the third period. And as Confucius once said, Clay Witt is not Chris Rawlings. Rawlings gave up one goal on 12 shots in his period of work. Junior forward Garrett Vermeersch had a goal and an assist and sophmore defenseman Anthony Bitetto (the team’s leading returning scorer) had three assists in the losing effort.
The Huskies and the Minutemen both suffered key losses in the offseason. The Mass Attack’s losses were primarily defensive. Superstar captain netminder Paul “I’m so nice I found a guy’s class ring from thirty years ago, looked him up, and returned it to him” Dainton and rock solid reliable defensive defenseman Douglas “I invented the Dougie and, therefore, my Dougie is better than your Dougie” “God” Kublin are gone. However, the Minutemen do return 10 of last year’s top 11 point scorers (in case I need to jog your memory, the top 11 point scorers for the Mass Attack last year were: Danny Hobbs, TJ Syner, Mike Pereira, Joel Hanely, Chase Langeraap, Adam Phillips, Conor Sheary, Brendan Gracel, The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou, Rocco Carzo, and Darren Rowe with Langeraap obviously being the one to go). And Sheary and Michael “the Franchise” Pereira look poised for breakout years after solid freshman campaigns. (I’m predicting a 20G/20A season for Sheary. You heard it here first, folks!)
Hopefully the back end will be able to cope with the loss of Kublin. Conor Allen, Joel Hanley, Adam Phillips, and Colin Shea are all a year into the league and, hopefully, a year wiser thanks to their experiences. Freshmen Oleg Yevenko and Mike Busillo will be competing for playing time. Maybe Darren Rowe will play some defense. Maybe he’ll play some forward. Maybe Toot will forget he exists again. It’s anyone’s guess. And then there’s The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou. The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou had another terrible season last year in terms of plus/minus rating. What’s frustrating is that he played really well at times. The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou just needs to stop trying to do too much and play within himself; if he can do that, it’s very likely UMass will have one of the most solid defensive cores out there.
I doubt anyone can truly replace Dainton in our hearts and minds, but there are a few candidates who would have a good chance to make us think quite fondly of them, too. Sophomore Jeff Teglia had a freshman season that looked pretty bad on paper, but the truth is he didn’t give up many bad goals at all. He makes the stops he’s expected to, and if he’s improved just a little bit at controlling rebounds and making the truly great saves he could have quite the year. But he may not even have the chance to have a full year of work, if a tandem of exciting freshmen has their way. Kevin Boyle looked pretty good in the scrimmage, but he overcommitted on quite a few shots and relied a little too much on his defensemen to clear the puck from danger. We didn’t get a chance to see Steve Mastalerz play, as he was nursing an injury at the time, but according to some inside accounts he may be the best goalie of the three.
Jesus, I’ve said all this positive shit and I’ve barely even touched on the freshmen. In fact, I’ve neglected to mention the freshman forwards at all. We will possibly get our first chance to see how highly touted freshmen Zack LaRue and Andrew Tegeler fare in Hockey East play this Friday. And I’m pretty confident we’ll finally get to see Steven Guzzo, who sat out his entire freshman year due to a horrendous knee injury. The knee looked healthy last Saturday and Guzzo looked very fast on his skates in the scrimmage. I, for one, am excited to see the new faces get their shots.
Northeastern faces the opposite problem coming into the year. They need to find where their scoring is going to come from. They need to replace the scoring proficiency of a Wade MacLeod, a Tyler McNeely, a Steve Silva, and a Brodie Reid. That’s 138 points to find! In total, Northeastern lost players who produced 167 of the 288 points the roster scored last year. Almost 58% of last year’s production just gone. Wiped off the roster. And, yes, Bitetto, Vermeersch, and Mike McLaughlin are very talented players. And, yes, they have some promising young kids. But, come on, replacing 58% of your production? That’s just an absurdly difficult thing to do. It’s especially disheartening for the Huskies that Brodie Reid signed with the San Jose Sharks after just his freshman season (And you thought Casey Wellman was bad!) and that Jamie Oleksiak, the team’s leading plus/minus player and a guy who looked poised to become a force in this league, up and went to the OHL after his freshman year.
Northeastern’s defense is still passable thanks to a rock solid young core of Bitetto, Luke Eibler, and Drew Ellement, but depth certainly may become an issue at the defenseman position for the Huskies. Chris Rawlings is a phenom and one of the best goalies in Hockey East, but the Huskies may be asking too much of him if they can’t find a way to put pucks in the back of the net. They only had a +0.11 goal differential last year. It’s a pretty safe bet that that number will go into the negatives this season unless Rawlings has an ungodly year.
This is certainly not a game to take the safe route in. There will be quite a few fresh faces out there for the Huskies, and the Minutemen should look to test them early and often. This does not, however, mean the Mass Attack should open the throttle all the way and get sloppy. Despite the loss of offensive power, the Huskies did score four powerplay goals in their exhibition game. It would be wise to not test if this was just because they were playing St. Francis Xavier.
So, IT IS OCTOBER, but I still do want to know… is it Friday yet?
No.2 Boston College Eagles (22-7-1(16-6-1HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (6-18-5(5-13-5HEA))
Preface: Sooooo we probably won’t win tonight, but Paul Dainton is just 20 saves from breaking Brian Regan’s career saves mark. So, that’s something to look forward to.
What can we say about Boston College this year that everybody doesn’t already know? They have the best scoring offense in Hockey East (3.78GPG), the 3rd best scoring defense in Hockey East (2.22GA/G), and the best scoring differential in Hockey East (+1.57). The Eagles are a team that possess both Cam Atkinson (24G/16A/40Pts) and Brian Gibbons (13G/26A/39Pts). John Muse’s Hockey East numbers (14-4-1, 1.86GAA, .936save%) are rather absurd. They have the top power play in Hockey East action (23.9%); their Hockey East PK (87.3%) is a mere 0.3% behind BU for league lead. The BC roster boasts seven 20-point scorers and 11 NHL draftees.
The game plan against the Eagles should be the same as it has been the past few weeks. Discipline and special teams. Discipline is obvious. BC has the top power play in Hockey East. The UMass penalty kill unit looked atrocious last week. The Minutemen cannot afford to take penalties. Along the same lines, the defense needs to stay disciplined and cover their assignments well against a team as skilled as BC. The power play looked better last week and actually scored a couple goals. Let’s hope it continues to progress this weekend. The Eagles are averaging 7.7 penalties a game in Hockey East play, so the PP unit should have plenty of chances to hone their skills against a really talented penalty kill.
Northeastern showed us the book on how to tie or beat BC last weekend. Either your goalie has to have a fantastic night… or BC has to start Parker Milner (3-2-0, 2.66GAA, .901save%). Our hopes for Milner are rather low, as he started last Friday and gave up 4 goals on 9 shots and got yanked halfway through the game. Barring a surprise Milner visit, the Minutemen will need a godly performance out of Dainton, along with disciplined play and strong special teams work, to have a shot at winning. Oh, and score that first goal. When scoring first, the Minutemen are 5-5-2; when not, they are 1-13-3. The story is much the same (although with better numbers) for the Eagles. When scoring first, they are 18-2-1; when they don’t score first, they are 4-5-0.
Notes for fans: Wear a polo with a popped collar. The irony is great. Three Boston College players, Milner, Philip Samuelsson (4G/11A/15Pts), and Patrick Wey (1G/6A/7Pts), were involved in an incident over the summer in which they were in a car that collided with an MBTA train. Low quality vodka and blood smeared low quality beer cans were found in the vehicle the BC players were in. Chants like “Greeeeeeeeeeeeen line,” “Watch that train,” “Blood smeared beer cans (clap clap clap clap clap),” should be used liberally whenever aforementioned players are on the ice. Also, as suggested by friend of the blog Tyler De Ruiter, the “wheels on the bus” chant shall be replaced by a “wheels on the train” chant. Feel free to come up with your own chants. As long as they have some smatterings of wit, they will be appreciated.
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
Providence Friars (7-14-6(3-12-5HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (6-16-4(5-11-4HEA))
Preface: To any fan who managed to fuck up the goal song badly enough to actually chant “Hey! You suck! Fuck fuck fuck fuck, go UMass!” last night, please go away and die, because you are a horrible person and I don’t want this blog or hockey in general to bring any amount of pleasure into your miserable existence.
Well, last night was what it was. The Mass Attack looked great at times; the offense was very proficient and the defense looked solid for about 95% of the game. Unfortunately, the few lapses the defense did have became markers for BU. The first 2 BU goals came from men who were uncovered and the game-winner in OT came on a short 3-on-1. The Minutemen played disciplined until late in the 3rd period when they gave BU a long 5-on-3 opportunity and then proceeded to have a too many men call during a sloppy line change. The offense got good production out of Pereira, Syner, and Hobbs, but also spread the scoring around; 9 Minutemen had points last night.
So, onto a much weaker opponent tonight in a game that matters more. The Friars are one of the worst teams in Hockey East. In Hockey East play, they average just 1.90 goals per game (worst in Hockey East) and give up 3.45 goals a game (2nd worst in Hockey East). The –1.55 goal differential is also 2nd worst (to Lowell) in Hockey East. The Providence power play (7.2%) is so bad that it makes the UMass power play (10.9%) look halfway decent by comparison. When the Friars do get offensive production, a lot of it comes from a trio of senior forwards: Kyle MacKinnon (13G/7A/20Pts), Ian O’Connor (7G/12A/19Pts), and Matt Germain (7G/8A/15Pts). In a lot of ways, Providence can be thought of as the anti-BU. While BU gives you crisp passing and smart plays, Providence, uh, just doesn’t. The Friars average a league-worst 2.95 assists per game in conference play. Providence’s best player of last year was the guy in between the pipes, but junior goalie Alex Beaudry (6-12-6, 3.25GAA, .901save%) appears to have taken a step back this year.
The game plan for tonight should be simple. Be aggressive. Score early, score often, and don’t let up. Get the Puck to Pereira (10G/11A/21Pts), Hobbs (8G/13A/21Pts), and Syner (7G/13A/20Pts). Run up the score if need be, but whatever you do, don’t take your foot of their throats for a second, because if the Friars are given any life tonight, it might be the death of the 2010-2011 Minutemen. With Vermont’s inexplicable 7-2 win over Maine last night, the Minutemen are now tied with the Catamounts for 7th in Hockey East. One would doubt Maine will have anything less than a win tonight, so a Mass Attack win would put UMass back into 7th alone with a 2 point lead over UVM. More importantly, a win tonight would put UMass 5 points ahead of Providence. A loss or draw would cut the Mass Attack’s lead to either 1 or 3 points ahead of the Friars AND give Providence the tiebreaker. If the Minutemen can’t win tonight, one would have to seriously question and perhaps even doubt the likelihood of UMass making the Hockey East tournament.
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
No. 14 Boston University Terriers (13-8-7(10-5-5HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (6-15-4(5-10-4HEA))
Tonight, UMass will face a team that is 4th (technically, tied for 3rd) in the Hockey East standings. This seems like a daunting task, especially considering that last weekend’s results make it look like the Minutemen don’t have a chance against any team with a winning record. Although BU looks like its miles behind of the BCs and UNHs of the world, they are still quite a formidable force. Offensive contributions by familiar faces have been strong; Alex Chiasson (9G/15A/24Pts), Chris Connolly (8G/13A/21Pts), David Warsofsky (7G/12A/19Pts), and Joe Pereira (12G/6A/18Pts) are as good as ever. Freshmen Charlie Coyle (7G/14A/21Pts) and Sahir Gill (4G/13A/17Pts) have been outstanding, as well. And junior backstop Kieren Millan’s numbers in conference play (8-4-5, 2.48GAA, .929save%) have been very solid.
The Terriers are a team that likes to play close games. They haven’t had a Hockey East Game decided by more than two goals since a 5-2 loss at Boston College on 12/4. In games decided by one goal this year they are 8-3; by two goals: 3-0. In blowout games (by 3 or more goals), the Terriers are just 2-5. The fact that BU is involved in so many games is not surprising considering that they are averaging 2.93 goals for and 2.93 goals against per game this season. The Minutemen prefer to play wide open games; their record in games decided by less than 3 goals is a miserable 1-8. If the Minutemen are to play in a game with a 3+ goal margin and win, huge contributions will be needed from guys like Mike Pereira (10G/10A/20Pts), Danny Hobbs (7G/13A/20Pts), TJ Syner (7G/12A/19Pts), and the red-hot-of-late Chase Langeraap (7G/5A/12Pts). A much better night in net will be needed as well, obviously, as both Paul Dainton (6-10-3, 2.88GAA, .912save%) and Jeff Teglia (0-5-1, 4.81GAA, .851save%(ouch, those number are physically painful)) looked overmatched last weekend.
Boston University LOVES to pass the puck around. They are a very skilled team with 9 NHL draftees, not counting the goalies, and they clearly know how to make some NHL-level passes. Seven Terriers have double-digit assist totals this year (tied for most in Hockey East with Maine and Merrimack, but done with less goals for than either). For comparison, UMass has 4. What the key to this game is to the Mass Attack should be clear. Solid, fundamental defense. A goalie can stop a guy with a great shot, but it is exponentially harder for a goalie to go post-to-post to stop a tap in that follows a great pass. The only way to disallow great-passing-goals is to stay with a man on a man. This means discipline in all meanings of the word (not getting caught up ice, not taking bad penalties, and executing clean line changes). It’s surprising that BU’s powerplay is not better (12.1%) given how good their passing is. But I still wouldn’t take a chance playing undisciplined hockey against the Terriers. To me, this is the key to the game. To even have a chance, the Minutemen must play solid defensively and let the offense come to them.