Saturday Recap – UMass 6 – 0 Vermont
It was quite the road trip for us here at Fight Mass (helped by the fact that we only went to the Saturday game). As a quick aside from the hockey action, our pregame spot needs mentioning. Per the advice of Rocks over at Fear the Triangle, we had to check out The Alchemist in Waterbury. Gotta say, he was right on in his assessment; it was fantastic. Two of the beers I had there were definitely in the top 5 of beers I’ve had all time. Also before I start this recap in earnest, I have to give a big thanks to the staff at the Gut, who actually came up to us before the game and explained their policies and then actually enforced the policies on their own students (also, thank you to the Vermont State Trooper who stood at the end of our row for the entire game making sure we didn’t get killed). We also got to meet Brendan Gracel’s mom Christine (it’s pronounced gray-CELL, btw), who is a very nice person and a great supporter of our team and Conor Sheary’s dad Kevin who is a great guy (which I knew before last night anyway because it turns out I used to work with him). He had just made it back from Northeastern where Sheary’s sister was playing for the UNH women’s hockey team.
To sum up this game in a nutshell, I would call it a fantastic 50 minute effort. Our boys scored 5 even-strength goals and one on the powerplay (the 6 goals came from 5 different skaters), aaaaaand successfully killed off 5 penalties. The majority of the first period was a fierce battle. It even looked like the Catamounts would score first as Paul Dainton was forced to make two incredible glove saves against Drew MacKenzie while lying on his stomach at around the 9 minute mark of the first. At 15:27, when Danny Hobbs scored off of T.J. Syner’s rebound on the rush, the Minutemen never looked back. Less than two minutes later, Syner took a puck in the neutral zone, skated right into the slot, and shelved a picture perfect wrister past Madore. Syner would add a second goal just 37 seconds into the second period on a snapshot from the low slot off a nifty pass from Doug Kublin.
Then came one of the prettiest goals I’ve ever seen (at least from the Mass Attack). So pretty, in fact, that it gets its own paragraph. Pereira stripped Funky A (see last post) at the defensive blue line and skated through the neutral zone. As he crossed the Vermont blue line, he slid the puck over to Conor Sheary, who then delayed and made a cross-ice pass to Eric Filiou. Filiou rushed the net, forcing Madore to commit, and then neatly slid the puck across the crease to Pereira, who tapped the puck into the vacant net. It was technically executed perfection.
14:06 into the second, Kevin “Holyoke” Czepiel potted the fifth UMass goal off a rebound from Chase Langeraap’s backhander. Patrick Kiley also figured into this goal; the assist was his first NCAA point. At this point, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon decided he had had enough of Rob Madore, and benched him in favor of freshman Alex Vazzano. Vazzano played well, holding the Mass Attack off the board for more than a period. The final goal was scored with about a minute left in the game when Chase Langeraap’s powerplay backhander beat Vazzano (I believe it went 5-hole, but I’m not positive. The play was at the other end of the ice).
Paul Dainton played spectacularly, but definitely not perfectly. He was even more eager to play the puck than usual; Matt even was moved to ask, “Who gave Paul Dainton a Red Bull?” At one point, Dainton went to play the puck, and immediately gave it away, giving Vermont a brief opportunity at an open net… which they missed. Yes, Vermont’s offense is THAT bad (full disclosure: it was a tough angle, but still, no goalie!). Also bad was the play at the beginning of the third period. There was a lot of prevent defense being played by UMass. The whole let UVM have offensive possession for a minute and a half, clear the puck, change lines, rinse, repeat thing was going on. Granted, the defense was doing a pretty good job of not allowing a ton of great shots during these possessions, but it’s still not a good way to play hockey (I know we were up 5-0 at that point, but I really think Toot should be pressing 60 minutes of good hockey, no matter what the score is).
There were plenty of guys who had good nights other than Dainton, three were particularly noteworthy. Danny Hobbs started the scoring and tacked on two assists for a tidy 3 points on the score sheet. T.J. Syner had two goals (including that beautiful wrister) and an assist on the first three goals of the night, and he really got a fire lit under the offense. Also of note was Doug Kublin, if for no other reason than for the fact that HE WAS A +5 FOR THE GAME. That’s right, a +5. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen that before. Shoutouts for solid all-around play should go to guys like Gracel, Langeraap (who had 2 points), Sheary, and Hanley, as well.
For anyone who’d like to watch some highlights, I’ll just leave these here:
Aaaaaaand since we weren’t there for the Friday game, I’ll just post a vid of some of the high(low)lights.
Last Week: 2GP/2A/+4/3SOG/0PIM
Season Totals: 21GP/3G/3A/6Pts/+7/18SOG/18PIM
Alright, so as I hinted, I’m guilty of getting caught up in the moment. The Memphis win doesn’t suddenly make this team A-10 title contenders. Being on Top Plays and the Ultimate Highlight are great for the program, but the following things are still true about UMass basketball:
1) This same team has lost to Cornell at home, UCF on the road, a pair of bottom-rung Big East teams (Rutgers and Seton Hall), got positively smoked by a probably-overrated Michigan State team, and our wins include a nailbiter against Quinnipiac (!!) and one against a Division 2 team that was, for a while, closer than any D1-vs-D2 game should ever be.
2) 99 out of 100 times, we lose that game to Memphis. They’re basically in a rebuilding year, still recovering from losing Calipari, yet even that ragtag lineup of guys like Mack, Witherspoon and Henderson-Niles was clearly the more talented team; they had an awful shooting night, weren’t helped by some of the worst officials I’ve ever seen (the kind that makes mistakes on both ends but ends up getting influenced by the home crowd in the end), got outhustled by a fired-up UMass team wearing the Dr. J throwbacks, and STILL only lost on a fluke play that might never happen in a million years.
3) …wow, that last one was harsh, I think I’ll stop there.
But I reiterate, the win does some things for this team. One, it shows us what kind of potential next year holds. Terrell Vinson was an absolute STUD in this game. Gary Correia, at least in the second half, showed that he just might be able to run the point for the rest of the year and next. Ricky Harris, our best player, was pretty clearly affected by his injury and we won despite his mediocre performance, showing that his absence next year miiiight not be a huge deal (especially if Riley continues to improve when he comes back). Carter? Bailey? Starting to get back into the thick of things and give us size. Imagine this team next year with all the freshmen being juuust a little better, and with the additions of Esho and a hopefully non-anorexic Putney. Kellogg still isn’t there yet either, but he looks so much better and more comfortable coaching than he did a year ago today.
Additionally, it could, I repeat, could, be a springboard for the rest of the year. Let’s see how things go tomorrow in Boston College, where we won’t have a “home crowd” but we’ll still probably outnumber BC’s joke of a fanbase. (Sadly I won’t be able to make it, as I’m going to the Bruins game…wait, that’s not really that sad at all!) If we get smoked by the Eagles, I’ll be a lot less optimistic. If we at least look competitive in our next two (at BC and at Davidson), I think we suddenly become serious contenders in the conference. Remember, we began this season looking up at schools like La Salle and Richmond. If we can beat BC and Memphis, shouldn’t we be able to at least compete in a mid-major conference? I think so.
Meanwhile, less than a week until our boys return to the ice. I’ll get to that season recap within a few days (consider it my Christmas present to y’all). In the meantime, I’ll point you to the midseason grades for the players that Rocks has posted on Fear the Triangle. He’s pretty much spot on with them.
Also, my buddy Walsh has joined the blog, he’ll be contributing a little more sporadically than me but he brings a lot of hockey knowledge to the table. Again guys, if you wanna be a contributor, please let me know; you don’t need to write anywhere near as much as I do!
EDIT: We have two contributors now, Matt is joining the party as well. He’s more of a basketball guy but he likes hockey too, kind of a reverse Walsh. I repeat that this is first and foremost a hockey blog, but I welcome the different perspectives and I hope that, as we gain readers (i.e. hockey starts back up again, and we start spreading the word at games), more of you guys (or gals) jump on board. For now the three of us will have admin privileges, but contributors are more than welcome.
Folks, in my four years at the University of Massachusetts, I’ve seen some crazy finishes. I’ve seen the highs: Chris Lowe driving coast-to-coast to completely ruin Rhody’s season, the David Boehm OT game-winner, the Alabama NIT game, beating Kansas on the road, erasing a massive deficit right in the face of thousands of orange-clad douchebags. But this has to be up there at the top of the list, especially since I got to be there in person. Just an all-around fantastic win for Derek Kellogg and his program. When we were within 1 at halftime, I said I was proud of the way the team played. When we built the 7-point lead in the second half, I said “even if we blow this, I’m proud of these guys.” And I would’ve been proud even if Memphis had managed to corral that ball in the final seconds before it miraculously snuck through to Ricky and then to a wide-open Vinson in the lane. The atmosphere at the Garden was unreal, like MSG for the NIT but with (obviously) a far greater percentage of UMass fans. Special props to the bartender upstairs at the Fours before the game; she put on quite the show dealing with the mob of maroon-wearers.
negativity alert, It sucked that a few loose cannons almost ruined the ending; these dumbass freshmen were so intent on storming the court that they felt obliged to fight against TD Garden security. It’s those one or two clowns that are way more visible than the 99.99% of us UMass kids who can control ourselves, and that’s where the misguided reputation comes from. We’re not storming the court (in an arena that isn’t even ours) over a win over the #26 team in the country.
resume positivity That said, I finally saw a team on the floor that I’m pretty confident will be competing with the best in the country in the next year or two (and when we beat a ranked team at the Mullins Center, then we’ll storm the court – hell, I certainly would). And, dare I say (excess optimism alert) one that might just have enough sheer talent to make a surprise run in conference play. No, I don’t think they’re quite ready to compete on a national level – not just yet. However, I’m blinded by sleep deprivation, a busy day of moving out of the dorm for break, and travel to and from Boston for a wire-to-wire thriller of a basketball game. And as such, I will go ahead and say these guys might be closer than we thought.
(Meanwhile, I have a bone to pick with ESPN. Great that they covered the game, but I can’t believe an upset like this doesn’t even manage to make the front page of the basketball section, let alone the front page. If Vinson’s not a SportsCenter Top Play, heads will roll.)
EDIT: #1 play on Top Plays. Alright, SportsCenter, I owe you an apology, you guys are on the ball.
All-in-all, an amazing day for the program. Let’s see if they go on a roll now. Who knows, maybe we’ll actually have a student section next game!