Tagged: DEFENSE

Not so funny meow, is it?

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:

Highlights from UMass Athletics, featuring the scoreboard feed and the WRNX commentary
UVM’s highlight reel from multiple angles

Aaaaaaand since we weren’t there for the Friday game, I’ll just post a vid of some of the high(low)lights.

I don’t know why you’d want to watch this, but I posted it anyway

-Derek

Kublin Kounter

Last Week: 2GP/2A/+4/3SOG/0PIM

Season Totals: 21GP/3G/3A/6Pts/+7/18SOG/18PIM

Sorry about that, Bruce. These boys get that syrup in ’em, they get all antsy in their pantsy.

UMass Minutemen (5-11-3(4-6-3HEA)) vs. Vermont Catamounts (4-12-4(2-8-3HEA))

Coming off of a home-and-home sweep of Lowell last weekend, the Minutemen hope to keep the moment this weekend as they head to Burlington for a two game set with UVM. After their almost-collapse on Friday, the Mass Attack rebounded with one of their finest efforts of the year for a decisive 4-1 victory on Saturday.

Vermont is ranked 9th in Hockey East right now and could be considered a bizarro-Lowell. By this, I mean that UVM has pretty decent goaltending and defense coupled with an anemic offense (the worst in Hockey East). It’s an offense that can only muster 1.85GPG in conference play and has a powerplay success rate of under 13%. Then came the news that Wahsontiio Stacey (and probably his mom) is leaving the Catamounts. Stacey has been UVM’s leading goal- and point-scorer this year (9G/6A/15Pts). UVM coach Kevin Sneddon said that Stacey’s departure probably wouldn’t affect the team’s play very much. Well, he’s probably right; Stacey hasn’t scored a goal in Hockey East play since a 3-2 loss to BC in early November, so we shouldn’t expect his loss to turn the Catamounts into complete pushovers. But still, with Stacey gone, the UMass defense will have one less “threat” to worry about this weekend. Without Stacey, UVM will probably rely more on such goal-scoring luminaries as: Sebastian “Funky A” Stålberg (5G/9A/14Pts), Jack Downing (5G/3A/8Pts), and Chris McCarthy (5G/3A/8Pts). I might add that only 2 of Funky A’s 5 goals and 5 of his 9 assists came against Hockey East foes.

It’s been a different story for the Minutemen of late, whose 9 goals in their last 2 games (take it with a grain of salt people, these two games were against “the worst team in the history of Hockey East) have bumped the season average to 2.77GPG in Hockey East play. This isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but when considered that Dainton’s GAA in Hockey East play is the same 2.77, it gives you at least a 50/50 shot of winning (which might explain why Dainton is 4-4-2 in Hockey East action this season). The offense has received contributions from everywhere, and has 5 players with double-digit point totals: Michael Pereira (8G/9A/17Pts), Danny Hobbs (5G/11A/16Pts), T.J. Syner (5G/10A/15Pts), Branden Gracel (3G/7A/10Pts), and Joel Hanley (1G/9A/10Pts). Also of note is Adam Phillips, a freshman defenseman who has potted 6 goals (4 on the powerplay) so far this season. Speaking of the Mass Attack powerplay, it sits at a respectable 16.4% against Hockey East opponents.

The Minuteman problems have been the same for most of the season. Defense. At best, it’s average; at worst, it’s atrocious. Conor Allen and Michael Marcou (Marcou, yes a junior with 71 games experience) both have dreadful –9 plus/minus ratings. How Toot ever decided Mike Marcou was worthy of an A on the sweater is beyond me. The penalty kill sits at an awful 78.9% success rate and I swear to god at times it seems like some of the PK guys are playing with themselves out on the ice. The Mass Attack allows 34.8 SOG a game to Hockey East opponents and many of these shots come from prime scoring real estate. The lazy and undisciplined defense let a garbage UML team back in the game last Saturday and almost blew it. The only guys doing a consistently good job on the back end are Doug Kublin and (somewhat surprisingly) freshman Colin Shea. Both are +3s and we all know that Kubbie is a solid, fundamental, lockdown D-man. Shea, on the other hand, can strike a bit of fear at times as he is a still-learning freshman, but he is certainly learning very quickly.

Vermont’s defense, on the other hand, is allowing less than 32 shots against in Hockey East play, but, they are even worse on the PK, with a 78.3% kill rate in conference play. They play in front of a serviceable junior netminder in Rob Madore (4-12-4, 2.95GAA, .904save%). Madore has been known to stand on his head at times (especially last year against UMass), but he is usually a fairly average backstop. Given the numbers, you’d have to give the goaltending edge to Paul Dainton (5-6-2, 2.86GAA, .914save%).

The key to this weekend is to play 6 periods of good hockey. In all honesty, Vermont is a bad team. If the boys in maroon don’t allow this series to be two trap games, they should come out with at least 3 points. Better offense, better goaltending, and about equal defense can hopefully lead to some wins for UMass this weekend and will hopefully lead to some angry fifty-year-old from Vermont hilariously challenging myself, Matt, and Max after Saturday’s game.

-Derek

Kublin Kounter

Last Week: 0Pts/2SOG/+1/0PIM

Season Totals: 3G/1A/4Pts/15SOG/+3/18PIM

ROAD TRIP!

UMass Minutemen (0-5-2(0-2-2HEA)) vs. No.8 UNH Wildcats (4-1-2(2-0-1HEA))

Your humble bloggers will be taking a road trip up to Durham, NH tonight to witness what will surely be some fantastic hockey. If we stop blogging after tonight, assume we have been killed as we have heard that New Hampshirites are as hostile toward opposing fans as they are toward moderate legislators.

The story of this game will be told between the pipes. While the Wildcat offense is nothing to shake a stick at (just ask the Patriots, hah!), the true prize of the team is junior goalie Matt DiGirolamo. He has started all seven games in net for UNH this season and has posted stellar numbers (4-1-2, 2.66GAA, .921save%). His numbers in Hockey East play? Even better (2-0-1, 1.30GAA, .958save%). The fact that UNH is only scoring two goals a game against Hockey East foes doesn’t even begin to stop them from looking like a powerhouse.

The UNH offense likes to spread the puck around; eleven Wildcats have at least three points this season and seven have had multiple goals, including three tied for the team lead with four goals apiece (Dalton Speelman, John Henrion, and Stevie Moses). The scoring has also been spread around by the Minutemen, but some players we were hoping to be key scorers at the beginning of the season have not yet stepped up – we’re talking about Brian Keane, with your zero points and your –5 +/-.

Despite this, UMass’s main problem has not been scoring goals (2.71 GPG isn’t fantastic, but it’s certainly not awful). Guys like Darren Rowe (5G, 1A, 6Pts, 3PPG) and Michael Pereira (4G, 2A, 6Pts, 1PPG) have been coming up huge for the offense. The problem has been not keeping pucks out of our own net. 3.86GA/G is a pretty awful thing to have to contend with. This problem lies with the entire team. The forwards have seemed sluggish and lackadaisical at times when trying to clear the puck. The young defense has struggled with its positioning all year long. Both the defensemen and the forwards have made colossal errors in judgment when passing in the defensive zone on the breakout This has led to some beautiful scoring chances for the opposition. Unfortunately, neither UMass netminder has been up to the task of stopping beautiful scoring chances thusfar this season. The consistency is just not there in net from either Dainton (0-3-1, 3.82GAA, .881save%) or Teglia (0-2-1, 3.49GAA, .890). Coach Cahoon has been defending his goalies, saying that they have faced a lot of tough shots. Unfortunately, this is Hockey East, and you are going to face a lot of tough shots if you want to play in net in Hockey East and you are going to need to step your game up at some point or your team will go nowhere.

One final thought, UMass gets to play on the massive sheet of ice up at Lake Whitt tonight. This may behoove a young, small, and fast team that has struggled on smaller ice surfaces. But, we must also remember that this has primarily been a finesse team for the last few years and the Mass Attack has been 0-3-1 at the Whittemore Center in the last three years. Hopefully, the boys can buck that trend this weekend and earn an upset victory that would surely shock most in the college hockey world.

-Derek

And it’s worth noting that throughout history, hockey teams come around the corner to a multitude of casualties

All you need to know about tomorrow night’s game is that Jeff Teglia is starting in net for the Minutemen… Wait, is that how I’m supposed to start these?

UMass Minutemen (0-2-0 (0-0-0HEA)) vs. No.10 Boston University Terriers (2-0-0 (0-0-0HEA))

Freshman netminder Jeff Teglia will get his first start tomorrow night for the injured Paul Dainton. He gets to enjoy this start against a team that just put up a total of nine goals in two nights against two ranked teams. This is a team that also has 11 NHL-drafted players, including five forwards. To say it will be tough sledding for Teglia is a massive understatement. Threats come from everywhere on the BU squad; in only two games, thirteen BU players already have points. Special teams-wise the Terriers have been outstanding (in an obviously small sample). Three for nine on the powerplay last weekend while allowing only two goals in twelve opponents’ powerplay chances. BU is a fantastic passing team, as is evidenced by the fact that eight of their nine goals had two assists, with the ninth having one.

If the Terriers do have an Achilles heal right now, its in net. Neither Kieran Millan nor Grant Rollheiser looked particularly good last weekend. Millan will probably start tomorrow night, and he carries a .905 career save%. That’s more of a keep the team in the game number than evidence of a great goalie. However, when the offense is playing like this, keeping the team in the game is really all the goalie needs to do.

This doesn’t mean that UMass doesn’t have a chance. The snipers have been hot for the Minutemen, who scored seven goals of their own last weekend against a ranked team. Those seven goals were scored by six different players, and among those who looked really good were Mike Marcou, TJ Syner, Darren Rowe (what?! really?), and Michael Pereira (although that last one needs to work on finishing the great chances he gets).

Unfortunately, the defense has been ATROCIOUS. I don’t know if they haven’t been standing around too much and watching the play happen or if they’ve been overpersuing the puck carrier and leaving men open, but I know they haven’t been moving the right amount. Conor Allen was a –4 last weekend. A MINUS FOUR!!! And the PK gave up four goals on nien chances (although one of them was on a five minute major)! If that defensive performance didn’t cut it with Paul Dainton in net, there is no chance for Teglia, whose career save% now stands at .818.

There seems to be a confluence of fail surrounding tomorrow night for our beloved Mass Attack. There have been so many injuries, including to their captain netminder. They have to face a ranked team whose offense is white hot at the moment. And they have to do it all in the generic splendor (read: heavy sarcasm. That place is an awful, stupid “multi-purpose” arena that has no business hosting hockey games.) of Agganis Arena, which, incidentally, has been a house of horrors for the Minutemen of late. So if the defense doesn’t show up, expect a big loss. I’m talking anywhere from eight to twelve goals for BU. If the defense does decide to show up, then we’ll see. Maybe we’ll have a hockey game.

Other Hockey East teams in action this weekend:

On Thursday, No.8 Maine drew No.20 Michigan State 4-4.

Friday

RPI @ Northeastern; UMass Lowell @ Niagara; Providence @ No.7 Minnesota-Duluth; No.8 Maine @ No.20 Michigan State; No.1 Boston College @ No.6 Denver

Saturday

No.3 Michigan @ No.9 New Hampshire; Connecticut @ Merrimack; UMass Lowell @ RIT; No.1 Boston College @ No.6 Denver; Providence @ No.7 Minnesota-Duluth

-Derek

I guess the heavy stuff ain’t quite at its heaviest by the time it gets out to suburban Minneapolis.

(Weekend Preview)

Your UMass Minutemen take on the No. 15 Minnesota Golden Gophers

So the Mass Attack begins the season with two in the upper Midwest against a ranked opponent. Sound frightening? Sound like the Minutemen are way overmatched? Why? Let’s see, the Golden Gophers were 18-19-2 last year, 12-14-2 in the WCHA. They finished 7th in their conference and were bounced in the first round of their conference tourney. Your Minutemen finished at .500 with a record of 18-18-0 (despite a MASSIVE Cahoon Swoon), 13-14-0 in Hockey East. They finished 6th in the conference and were also bounced in the first round of their tourney. Okay, so we’re willing to concede that Minnesota played a MUCH more difficult non-conference schedule last year, but even given that, this was a sub-.500 team, they certainly weren’t world-beaters.

Well, we lost some key guys. Yeah, well so did they. The Gophers return fifteen from last year’s roster (10 forwards, 3 defensemen, 2 goalies), that’s the same amount as your Minutemen who return 10 forwards, 4 defensemen, and 1 goalie (not included are Anthony Raiola, who was redshirted, and Kevin Moore, who has yet to play a minute in his two years with the team). Among the Gophers’ losses were their top two point scorers, Tony Lucia (11G/17A/28Pts) and Jordan Schroeder (9G/19A/28Pts), as well as two of their top four defensemen (David Fischer and Kevin Wehrs). However, the Gophers do return Mike Hoeffel (14G/10A/24Pts/7PPG), their top goal scorer and top powerplay goal scorer, from last year, along with top defensemen Cade Fairchild (4G/21A/21Pts) and Aaron Ness. Also back is forward Jay Barriball, who will be their captain this year. He played only five games last year before receiving a medical redshirt due to a season ending knee injury. Although Barriball hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in the last three years, he could always return to the form of his freshman year, when he put up 20 goal, 23 assist, 43 point numbers. Minnesota also returns both starting goalie Alex Kangas (16-15-1, 2.61 GAA, .911 save%) and backup Kent Patterson (2-4-1, 3.10 GAA, .901 save%).

The Mass Attack’s depletion is a little more severe. Brace yourself, we’re about to drag up some memories; we’ll try to make this as quick as possible. Gone are: the top 5 point scorers from last year: James Marcou (11G/40A/51Pts), Casey Wellman (23G/22A/45Pts), Justin Braun (8G/23A/31Pts), Will Ortiz (13G/13A/26Pts), and Matt Irwin (7G/17A/24Pts); three of last year’s top four blue-liners: Braun, Irwin, and Martin Nolet (5G/4A/9Pts/59PIM); and a true heart and soul guy, great leader, and fantastic P.J. Axelsson-esque 2-way forward in Brett Watson (3G/6A/9Pts). Key returning skaters include last years no. 6 point scorer, T.J. Syner (8G/12A/20Pts), as well as defensemen Mike Marcou (7G/3A/10Pts) and Doug Kublin (we’ll get to his importance later on). Also returning is the man who is now undeniably, unquestionably the most important player on the team. That man is Paul Dainton. Dainton had the best record of his career last year (15-15-0), but otherwise had his statistically poorest season (3.08 GAA, .901 save%). Compare this to the numbers from his freshman (12-14-6, 2.56 GAA, .911 save%) and sophomore (12-14-1, 2.45 GAA, .913 save%) seasons. If the Minutemen are to succeed this year, Dainton needs to prove last year was an outlier and continue the trend of the previous two years (something in the 2.40 GAA, .920 save% range would be fantastic, but I’d be very happy with something like 2.60, .910).

Since both these teams lost a lot, it stands to reason that they are both pretty young. The Minnesota roster features 10 freshmen (6 forwards, 4 defensemen) and UMass has 13 (8 forwards, 4 defensemen, 1 goalie). The quality of recruits may be where the Gophers have the edge. UMass is counting on guys like Troy Power, Eric Filiou, Peter DeAngelo, and Michael Pereira. And these guys are all solid recruits. But if you google the names of the Minnesota freshmen, you are likely to find a professional scouting report on all of them. One in particular, 6’4” 188lb. center Nick Bjugstad, was the 19th overall pick of the NHL draft this year. He supposedly has good speed and vision and a fantastic shot to go along with his size. So, yeah, there’s that. But prospects are only prospects and no one knows how well they’ll do; just ask Danny Hobbs. (Incidentally, Danny Hobbs, you looked very, very good in the exhibition game, and we really need a guy like you to step up and shine now that Jimmy and Casey are gone. So if you could do that, we’d really appreciate it.)

There is one more reason to be excited for this season opening series, and that is this: Doug Kublin does not have mono. Allow me to explain how important Doug Kublin is to the UMass Minutemen. He played 25 games last year. In those games, the Mass Attack was 16-9-0. In games without Doug Kublin in the lineup, the Minutemen were 2-9-0. Stark contrast? Yes, but it goes deeper than record. In the 25 games the Manlius, NY defenseman played, the Minutemen averaged 3.08 goals against. In the 11 games he missed, 3.64 goals against! Almost half a goal more per game! Every 2 games you play without Kubbie, you spot the opposition a goal. So ignore the fact that Doug Kublin has career scoring numbers that look like your mother’s (1G/5A/6Pts in 74GP); he is a plus player and vital to this team and if Paul Dainton needs to stand on his head and get numbers like those mentioned above to give this team a shot at going anywhere, Doug Kublin needs to be in the lineup and on the ice to give him a fighting chance.

So there it is, my vehement defense of our beloved Mass Attack’s chances this weekend. It’s gonna be tough and it ain’t gonna be pretty, but damnit, our freshmen look good and our vets look energized and if we could steal some wins this weekend we could have a dangerous team on our hands that just might think it’s good enough to go somewhere. And it might shut up Roman Augustoviz, whose tweets are some of the most annoying on the planet. Go ahead, check them out, I dare you. @eyeonupuk do it.

Also: Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Don Lucia was a hoodrat. Now you finally know that.

So… yeah, let’s get back at it. Is it Friday yet?

-Derek

~Update: Apparently Eddie Olczyk’s  injury is more severe than my “source” stated. According to Dick Baker, Olczyk will likely miss the Minnesota series, as will freshman Troy Power, who sustained an undisclosed injury in practice on Tuesday.

Weekend Preview: Has anyone ever needed four points more?

Well, frankly, yes, but your UMass Minutemen (16-13-0 (11-11-0 HEA)) need them pretty desperately in this weekend’s home-and-home series against the Merrimack Warriors (11-15-1 (8-11-1 HEA)). In fact, both these teams could really use four points. While the Minutemen have just given up fourth place to BU, Merrimack sits just two points behind struggling Vermont, who may have dismissed their Hockey East Tournament berth along with their points per game leader.

The Merrimack offense ranks fifth in Hockey East right now at 3.11 goals per game. The five on five offense features the two-man show of super freshman forward Stephane De Costa (13-22-35) and junior forward Chris Barton (17-14-31). This is combined with an excellent power play that scores on 24.6% of its opportunities, good for second in Hockey East. Six Warriors have three or more goals on the power play this season (the team leader in PPG is Chris Barton, who has seven). Secondary scoring has been an issue for Merrimack this season, so if the Minutemen can shut down De Costa and Barton (and this is a mighty big if), they should be in good shape.

Merrimack’s defense is offensive. Really, it is that bad. They are dead last in Hockey East in scoring defense at 3.37 goals against per game. Merrimack’s defensemen are so bad that only one is a plus player (Brandon Sadlowsky is a +4), and Pat Bowen is an atrocious -12. While talking about Merrimack’s poor defense, one must never forget to mention their two goalies. They are Joe Cannata (.886 save%, 3.10 GAA in Hockey East play) and Andrew Braithwaite (.895 save%, 3.40 GAA). There, I mentioned them. I’ll let those terrible save percentages speak for themselves.

Meanwhile, what can we say about our Minutemen? Last Friday, the defense played extremely well and the offense couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket. That’s it; the offense set things up well and had plenty of chances but they were either snuffed out by Chris Rawlings, sent infuriatingly wide, or completely missed by players who didn’t have their sticks on the ice. Saturday was better for the offense, but the defense had returned to their undisciplined ways. Although whistle-happy refs contributed to the loss (calling 12 penalties in the third period!), the whole team failed to keep its cool (including Toot) and Michael Lecompte got himself ejected for fighting, meaning we won’t have him tonight either. I might add, the penalty kill gave up three of Northeastern’s six goals.

Merrimack is 2-2-1 in its last five games. The Warriors are coming off a three point weekend, but it was against Vermont, and Justin Milo didn’t play. Their win the week before was against UMass Lowell, who were still reeling from the loss of Jeremy Dehner at the time. The last time Merrimack faced a legitimate opponent (read: I’m not saying UML isn’t a legitimate opponent, they just weren’t during that stretch) they gave up five goals to Northeastern. That being said, Merrimack is 10-2-0 at home this year, so beating them tonight may take quite the trick.

The offense needs to continue to produce goals as it did last Saturday if the Mass Attack expects to win this weekend. Merrimack’s sieve-like defense should hopefully give the Minutemen a spark. And sophomores Justin Braun and Mike Marcou need to step up their defense, they are     -8 and -6, respectively on the season. If the offense does its job and the defense stays disciplined, there is no reason the Minutemen cannot take four desperately needed points from this weekend.

P.S. Good luck to Andres and anyone else who’s making the trip to Lawler tonight, I wish I could go but I couldn’t get out of work.

P.P.S. UMass Men’s Lacrosse has its home opener on Saturday at 1PM at Garber Field against Hartford. The LAX team is 1-0 on the year and let’s not forget they made the NCAA tourney last year. The LAX team is an often overlooked member of the UMass athletic community that deserves more fan support!

Scores UMass Fans Should Keep an Eye On
Friday
UMass Lowell (7th Place, 20 Points) vs. Maine (3rd Place, 24 Points)
Boston University (4th Place, 22 Points) vs. Providence (sucks!)
Boston College (2nd Place, 26 Points) vs. Northeastern (6th Place, 21 Points)

Saturday
UMass Lowell (7th Place, 20 Points) vs. Maine (3rd Place, 24 Points)
Providence (sucks!) vs. Boston University (4th Place, 22 Points)

Other Hockey East Action This Weekend
Friday
Vermont vs. New Hampshire

Saturday
Vermont vs. New Hampshire

I’ll send the weak ends down the drain, down the drain…

Hockey has lost five of six and is seeing its home ice chances slipping away. Basketball has put together consecutive wins and, in their latest endeavor, looked – dare I say – dominant at times, albeit against a fairly bad St. Joe’s team. In fact, they won on national TV (being CBS College Sports, but still)…on Valentine’s Day.

…What the hell is this, bizarro UMass?

It’s been a weekend nobody would have seen coming about a month ago. Hoops rallied from 16 down on the road to force overtime, then from 5 down early in the extra frame to knock off Duquesne, and now three days later they’re looking at a tie for the 8th seed in the A-10, with plenty of momentum going into the home stretch. Hockey, meanwhile, got flustered by a hot freshman goaltender at home, then watched the defense and their own ace goalie give up another six-spot to a Boston team.

As big fans of the Hold Steady here at Fight Mass (well, Matt and myself, anyway), we live by the mantra “stay positive” around here – to the extent that I’ve seriously considered getting the band’s infinity/plus-sign logo in tattoo form. So I’d like to talk about the bright spots first, and in greater detail. The Hold Steady don’t have a song that adequately reflects how I witnessed the basketball game first-hand (and called it on the radio) while I only heard the hockey game on RNX, and even then only intermittently; however, I should mention that this also factors into the equation.

Regardless, DK’s defense was suffocating at times. Phil Martelli’s Hawks went nearly 11 minutes without scoring to close the first half. That’s over a quarter of the game. Granted, that team’s a mess right now; their top two players (Williamson and Govens) are glorified role players, their big guys (Hilliard and O’Brien) are foul-prone and they have basically zero depth. I’m not sure what they were trying to do on offense, but it involved a whole lot of dribbling and passing around the perimeter until the shot clock was down to 10. Still, you have to give UMass credit for all the flustering they managed to do. No D-1 offense could possibly be that bad on its own, and guys like Farrell, Vinson, Sean Carter, and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) even Correia were fiends on the defensive end.

The offense? Eh. ‘Twas sufficient. Another dazzling performance by Ricky, and Gurley once again decided to join us prior to the last couple minutes and knocked a few shots down. I thought Riley got a quick hook; he played sparingly in the second half so, baring an injury, it appears that he found his way into DK’s doghouse, which is surprising because now that City is finally there I’m surprised there’s any room….

Okay, sidebar time: Look, we (okay, I) feel really bad about this whole Big Shitty situation. It sucks to have to shit all over one of our own players. But really, if you haven’t seen a game yet (or if the only one you saw was Memphis), you have to watch him play to understand. He’ll play astronomically poorly for several minutes, making even the most routine rebound look like an ordeal, and then every so often he’ll dive for a loose ball or something and, because of how much better “making a fairly difficult play” looks than “botching a fairly easy one,” the crowd oohs and aahs. It’s like a Nickelback concert; their couple of I guess-they’re-serviceable hit singles sound like pure musical genius next to the rest of the shit they play. I’m sure he’s a great guy and all, and players have feelings too, but honestly – every time I watch him play I become less confident in his ability to play the game of basketball. DK finally appears to feel that way too, based on these last few games. It’s unfortunate, and I’m personally rooting for City to turn it around. Until he does, though, his minutes belong to Hov.

Ahem, as I was saying, Riley didn’t play much, and the same goes for Sampson, but the dribble drive looked refreshingly effective. It’s easy to get carried away with a couple wins when it’s literally been nearly two months since the last time they did it, but if – and I repeat, IF – they can put a nice little run together, and 3-2 is certainly doable in the last five games, then I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Minutemen hosting that new first-round campus site home game in the A-10 Tournament. Lord knows UMass can’t win in Atlantic City to save their lives, but if UMass can hold onto or even improve on that #8 seed, the Minutemen have a chance to do something Travi$ never did: win a goddamn conference tournament game.  In a rebuilding year, you can’t understate the importance of postseason experience, however fleeting it may be.

Now, going from the light at the end of one tunnel to the trainwreck on the side of the tracks, the Mass Attack Express got derailed pretty hard this weekend against the red-hot Chris Rawlingses N’Eastern Huskies. Having not been there, I’ll have to defer you to Ben’s wrap-up, but let’s just say that the last thing the struggling Minutemen needed was a game dictated by horrendous officiating (though it’s tough to say whether Toot’s bench minor-worthy outburst was fueled by the blue-balls-inducing tease of UMass’s offense the last few games).

But the fact of the matter is this: UMass has now given up 6 or 7 goals a remarkable five times in the second half of the season. To say that the defense lost it completely with Lecomte and Kublin sidelined is an understatement, and even with Lecomte and Langeraap back to bolster the size, experience, and physicality up front, the blue line is still in disarray. Kublin’s not a game-changer the likes of, say, Jeremy Dehner for Lowell (quick side note: UMass’s own struggles, aside from pissing us off as UMass fans, have severely limited the amount of enjoyment we’ve been able to draw from the ugly sister’s epic collapse). Just the same, though, his absence has had a trickle-down effect on his fellow blue liners. Mikey Marcou, while continuing to surprise on offense, has been a disaster the last few games defensively, which is a huge regression for someone who had been playing well earlier in the year. Bronco had a good game Friday night, but has been maddeningly inconsistent. Younger guys like Irwin and Rowe are, like Mikey, good offensive d-men who have struggled on D at times. Kessler’s a mixed bag, and Donnellan hasn’t gotten enough playing time to make a name for himself yet. The only constant has been Nolet, and you simply can’t get by with just one consistent defenseman. Not in this league.

So here we are with five games left, one at home, two being against a suddenly-hot Merrimack team, a game in Chestnut Hill against a BC team that might not be quite as amped up about it, and then two more up in Maine, whose freshmen want revenge for the Wilson series and whose hick fans want “revenge” for She-Man-Gate.

As UMass fans, we’re used to this script: the Cahoon Swoon, the fade to black at the end, the whimper and then, nothing.

That’s the beauty of sports, though…you never know when the script will get flipped. Here’s hoping that this Bizarro Weekend is a harbinger of said script-flipping.

-Max

Weekend Preview: Keep the Huskies in the Doghouse

Northeastern Huskies (13-12-1 (8-10-1 HEA)) vs. No. 18 UMass Minutemen (16-11-0 (11-9-0 HEA))

What can be said about the recent performance of our beloved Minutemen? It’s been bad. All-around poor performance. The Minutemen are 1-3-0 in their last four games and the only win came at Hockey East basement-dwelling Providence. The Minutemen have scored seven goals in this time and given up seventeen. This translates to 1.75 goals per game for and 4.25 goals per game against. These are both terrible numbers. How many games can you win with an offense scoring one or two goals? Not many. Even fewer when your defense is gives up four. Something really needs to improve for the Minutemen this weekend because they are going up against a goalie in Chris Rawlings who hasn’t allowed more than two goals in his last five games and has only allowed more than two goals twice since 2010 began.

Northeastern’s offense has been anemic this season. The Huskies have averaged only 2.65 goals per game. That’s second worst in the league, behind Providence. If you take away Northeastern’s last two games against Merrimack and Harvard, where they scored five and four goals, respectively, the Huskies haven’t put more than three on the board since a 6-5 overtime loss to UML on January 9th. It has been tough for NEU to find secondary scoring in conference play to back up Tyler McNeely (6-10-16), Wade MacLeod (8-7-15), and Kyle Kraemer (8-7-15). And those three haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire this season, either.

The Huskies aren’t fantastic on defense, either. The team lead in plus/minus is split by three players (Defensemen David Strathman and Jim Driscoll and Forward Robbie Vrolyk) at only +5. They are averaging 29.3 shots per game against in Hockey East play, while only getting 25.4 shots. While this defense isn’t great, its certainly good enough when combined with Chris Rawlings. The numbers don’t look fantastic for Rawlings (.901 save%, 3.03 GAA in Hockey East play), but he has played extremely well in the second half and the numbers are skewed by a loss to Vermont in which he gave up seven goals on only nineteen shots.

We all know the problem with UMass. Ineffective offense and incredibly horrendous defense. When this is combined with a lack of heart, a lack of discipline, and a lack of knowledge of where to be on the ice, the results can be deadly to a season. The Minutemen have the talent to play with anyone in this league, but they tend to give up on games when they get behind and the result has been a record of 0-7-0 when trailing after one period in Hockey East play. They need to keep their heads in all situations and not give up dumb goals. In last week’s game against BC, at least four goals were the fault of the defense. If you give Paul Dainton a chance, he can win games for you. This game is shaping up to be a low scoring one so the Minutemen better play a smart, disciplined game or they will probably lose.

UMass won the previous meeting of these two teams 4-1, but that was against backup goaltender Bryan Mountain and both these teams are too schizophrenic right now for me to even venture a prediction.

Scores UMass Fans Should Keep an Eye On
(For the remainder of the season, this will replace the usual “Interesting Hockey East Games” segment.)

Friday
No. 12 Maine (#3 in Hockey East, 24 Points) vs. Boston University (#5 in Hockey East, 18 Points)

Saturday
No. 12 Maine (#3 in Hockey East, 24 Points) vs. Boston University (#5 in Hockey East, 18 Points)

Other Hockey East Action

Friday
No. 20 UMass Lowell vs. No. 10 Boston College
Providence vs. No. 15 New Hampshire
Merrimack vs. No. 17 Vermont

Saturday
No. 10 Boston College vs. No. 20 UMass Lowell
Merrimack vs. No. 17 Vermont

Also, big ups to the UMass basketball team for a big 84-80 win in OT at Duquesne.

So… is it Friday yet?

-Derek

Hockey East Outlook (Part 1)

Those of you who follow UMass hockey may have noticed that the Minutemen are currently holding on to fourth place in Hockey East. You may also know that fourth place is the last slot for home ice in the Hockey East tournament. Given the precarious position that the Minutemen are in, I decided to review all the other teams in Hockey East whose slots are up in the air. I’ve omitted BC and UNH because they will, almost definitely, finish in the top two spots. I’ve also omitted Merrimack and Providence because, well, they’re bad and should feel bad. I’ll wait until next week to make my predictions, as I’m still not sure of how good some of the more schizophrenic Hockey East teams (UMass, BU, Northeastern) are.

3. Maine Black Bears 14-9-3 (11-6-2 HEA) 24 Points

Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 @ Boston University
2/13 @ Boston University
2/19 vs. Lowell
2/20 vs. Lowell
2/26 @ Merrimack
2/27 @ Merrimack
3/5 vs. UMass
3/6 vs. UMass

Outlook:
Since the return of Scott Darling, the Black Bears have been terrific. They have gone 3-0-1 in these four games including a sweep of Hockey East leader UNH last weekend. They have a high-powered offense that has averaged 3.73 GPG in Hockey East play this season, and when you combine this with the play of Scott Darling (.916 save%, 2.40 GAA in conference), the Black Bears are a team to be reckoned with. Their remaining schedule may be the most balanced of any team’s in Hockey East. They go to play the schizophrenic Terriers next weekend, who have played very well lately. They then go to play the impotent Jeremy Dehner-less River Hawks and the Merrimack Warriors (who play like a NCAA-tournament team when at home). Their season comes down to a final weekend with our Minutemen. By this time, they may have a spot locked up, but the Minutemen will probably still be fighting for home ice.

4. Massachusetts 16-11-0 (11-9-0) 22 Points

Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Northeastern
2/13 @ Northeastern
2/19 @ Merrimack
2/20 vs. Merrimack
2/26 @ Boston College
3/5 @ Maine
3/6 @ Maine

Outlook:
Here we go again. After going 11-6-0 (6-4-0 in Hockey East) in the first half of the season with a goal differential 0.70 goals per game, the Minutemen have begun their patented Cahoon Swoon. They have gone 5-5-0 since the mid-season mark (all Hockey East games) and are actually losing the goal differential by 1.71 goals per game. (I’d say these results were skewed by some massive losses, but let’s face it, when you lose a lot of games by a lot of goals, the results are not being skewed, that’s just how bad you are.) The offense has been bad, the goaltending has been questionable (although Dainton has certainly not played as poorly as the numbers would seem to indicate), and the defense has been beyond horrendous. The team also misses savvy defense-oriented role players Mike Lecomte and Doug Kublin. The next four games are key for the Minutemen. They have a two-game series this weekend with a Northeastern team that is getting healthier and better, but these are two games the Minutemen should take. The Mass Attack then faces lowly Merrimack. Merrimack has been very good at home, but UMass cannot afford a split if it is to stay in home ice contention. UMass then goes to BC (I’m not even gonna touch this one). The fate of their playoff run could hinge on the final series of the season in Maine

5. Boston University Terriers 11-12-3 (8-9-2) 18 Points

Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Maine
2/13 vs. Maine
2/19 @ Providence
2/20 vs. Providence
2/26 @ Vermont
2/28 @ Vermont
3/5 vs. Northeastern
3/6 @ Northeastern

Outlook:
Jack Parker owns Hockey East. Apparently, he decided he wanted a little more drama in his tournament run this year. After going a horrid 4-9-3 (2-7-2 in Hockey East) in the first half, the Jack Parkers Terriers have gone 7-3-0 in their last ten games, including a record of 6-2-0 in Hockey East. They have an offense that spreads the puck around, with no single superstar, but eleven skaters who have double-digit point totals. Kieran Millan is steadily improving. He is by no means a top-flight goaltender, but he is no longer the reason the Jack Parkers Terriers lose games. After Maine, BU does not have to face a legitimately good opponent this season, meaning they could make a serious run at home ice if they continue to improve.

6. Lowell River Hawks 14-12-2 (8-9-2 HEA) 18 Points

Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Boston College
2/13 @ Boston College
2/19 @ Maine
2/20 @ Maine
2/26 vs. Providence
2/27 @ Providence
3/5 vs. Vermont
3/6 vs. Vermont

Outlook:
At this point, the River Hawks appear to have played themselves out of home ice contention. After appearing to right the ship with wins over Boston College and Merrimack, Lowell was dealt a crushing blow. Their elite defenseman Jeremy Dehner (a +16 on the season) was diagnosed with a broken hand. Since this massive loss, the River Hawks have gone on to drop their last three games, including losses to Northeastern and Merrimack. Things don’t get better for UML this weekend; they will play the BC Eagles who have been rolling of late, and look unbeatable. Next weekend they’ll have to go to Maine for two games to play a team in the Black Bears who look to have a strong grasp on the no. 3 spot. Even a home-and-home with Providence is doubtful to save UML’s season now.

7. Vermont Catamounts 13-9-4 (7-8-4 HEA), 18 points

Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Merrimack
2/13 vs. Merrimack
2/19 @ New Hampshire
2/20 @ New Hampshire
2/26 vs. Boston University
2/28 vs. Boston University
3/5 @ Lowell
3/6 @ Lowell

Outlook:
Don’t let the good out of conference record fool you, Vermont is a bad team. The only thing that holds this team together is its defense. The offense is mediocre, at best. Their goaltending is very poor. Rob Madore is the better of the two Catamount netminders and he only has a .902 save% in conference! Their out of conference record has been boosted by wins against the like of Dartmouth and Alabama-Huntsville. The team’s results have been consistently mediocre, and i can not imagine them making a run at home ice. They should get a temporary boost against Merrimack this weekend (although, they couldn’t get four points against lowly Providence last weekend), but I’m not sure this team can muster even a single point over their next four games.

8. Northeastern Huskies 13-12-1 (8-10-1 HEA) 17 Points

Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/13 @ UMass
2/14 vs. UMass
2/19 vs. Boston College
2/21 @ Boston College
2/26 vs. New Hampshire
2/27 @ New Hampshire
3/5 @ Boston University
3/6 vs. Boston University

Outlook:
I thought I’d put Northeastern on this list because they were improving. Chris Rawlings has played really well down the stretch. In fact, he has only given up more than two goals once (to Vermont on January 29th) since he gave up six in an overtime to Lowell on January 9th. He’s boosted his save percentage to over .900 in conference play. This is a team that could get itself together and move up the standings, I thought. Then I saw their remaining schedule. Two against BC, two against UNH, two against BU. No chance.

…Is it Friday yet?

-Derek

The game we’ve all (shitty part-time fans included) been waiting for

No. 14 Boston College Eagles (14-8-2 (10-6-2 HEA)) vs. No. 15 UMass Minutemen (16-10-0 (11-8-0 HEA))

Well it is upon us again. Everyone’s favorite game of the year. I just love having to get to The Bill an hour earlier than the early time I already get there just to get the same seats I usually do. Okay bandwagon fans, I suppose I’ll grudginly allow you to come to this game (only because I can’t stop you) ability to see this game, but please don’t embarrass the rest of us who are there screaming just as loud when this team plays Merrimack and Niagara. That means you don’t chant “Fuck BC” every ten seconds (Yes, we know it’s fun, but after a while you sound retarded). That means you stay in sync during the chants and follow the clever ones that the regulars know and love (HINT: pay attention to that kid with the goggles). That means please, for the love of that crazy guy up in the sky with the beard that people who go to BC believe in, no swesties painting “zoomass” across their stomachs. Painting the name of our college is fantastic, painting a term that makes all other New England colleges look down on us is not. Thank you.

It has been said by many that only two types of people go to Boston College, rich Catholic snobs and great hockey players. This year’s edition of the BC Eagles once again proves the latter true. The Minutemen will face tonight the most statistically dominating team in Hockey East. The Eagles are the top-scoring team in Hockey East (3.67 GPG), have allowed the second fewest goals per game (2.62), and have the second best special teams scoring differential (+13). UMass ranks fifth (3.19), fifth (2.96), and fourth (+7) in these categories, respectively.

The Eagles have spread the scoring around this year, and they have eight double-digit point scorers in Hockey East games (Brian Gibbons (6-17-23), Cam Atkinson (13-8-21), Joe Whitney (6-10-16), Ben Smith (9-5-14), Carl Sneep {Sneep’s a pussy… you know the rest} (5-9-14), Jimmy Hayes (4-10-14), Pat Mullane (4-7-11), and Paul Carey (3-7-10)). UMass can counter such prolific double-digit Hockey East scorers as James Marcou (6-20-26), Casey Wellman (12-10-22), Will Ortiz (9-8-17), Justin Braun (2-15-17), Matt Irwin (4-9-13), and T.J. Syner (4-6-10). I might add that this is the first time since writing this blog that the Minutemen have actually had less double-digit scorers than their opponent. The Boston College offense averages over 32 shots on goal per game in conference and features a solid power play that scores on 20.4% of its Hockey East opportunities.

Boston College does a good job denying the opposition opportunities to score, as well. With shutdown defensemen like Brian Dumoulin, who has a +14 plus/minus (really, fucking +14! He’s +13 in conference too; what the fuck?) and good all around team defense (their top two scorers are both +8 in Hockey East play), it’s easy to see why BC has only been letting up goals at a rate of just over two and a half a game. What’s more, the Eagles have made their goalies face fewer than 26 shots a game in conference. With these numbers, its easy to see why the less than outstanding John Muse (.911 save % in conference) and that scrub Parker Milner (.887) are only allowing 2.37 and 2.60 goals a game, respectively.

Numbers, however, can be deceiving. BC has had a veritable cakewalk of a schedule so far this year. The Eagles have only had to play the other four teams in the top five of Hockey East (UNH, UMass, Maine, UML) in six of its eighteen Hockey East tilts this season. Since the start of the new year, BC has struggled. They are 4-5-0 in games played in 2010, although they are 4-2-0 in their last five. The key variable during this stretch has been shots on goal. In the four wins since the Jan 1, BC has put up 45, 39, 36, and 43 shots on goal. In the five losses, they have only topped 31 shots on goal once, and that was in an overtime game. So the key to this game would seem to be to limit BC’s shots on goal…

…Which brings us to the part of the Minutemen that makes me shudder, the defense. Our beloved team’s defense is, eh, not great. Giving up an average of 30.4 shots against in conference play not great. Having only five players on the team with positive plus/minus ratings not great. Having a plus/minus leader (Brett Watson) whose rating is only +4 not great. And missing an oft-overlooked but key defenseman in Doug Kublin for the last four games not great. (I’m holding out hope that Kubbie will play tonight, he has endeared himself to me BY KNOWING HOW TO FOLLOW HIS MAN TO THE GODDAMN POST ON A 2-ON-2 , knowledge that seems to elude our other defensemen.)

Still, I hold out hope. Paul Dainton will obviously be back in net tonight (Defense: Please, please, please give him a chance to win, just 31 shots or less, I’m begging.), and hopefully the breather given him by Dan Meyers (who performed very well in the 4-1 victory over Providence) will mean the end to the troubles he had in the two previous losses. The Minutemen are 3-2-0 in their last five and both Jimmy and Casey are due. Neither have scored a goal and they have only combined for three points in the last three games. SIDE NOTE: James Marcou has 32 assists on the year, one more will break the UMass record he set last year. I’m sure he would love to get that in a big way against a big rival.

This game is also on NESN, by the way. (They advertise it as Boston College versus UMass Amherst. Amherst, what the fuck man? This is UMass, that other college is UMass Lowell, get your shit straight NESN.) Usually a televised game would be enough to get me nervous, but there’s something else this year. There hasn’t been that January slide I’ve suffered through every year I’ve been here (please don’t come in February. Or March. Or Ever.), we don’t play down to our opposition, and I find myself really believing in this team.

The Rundown:

Offense: BC (sucks.)
Defense: BC (sucks.)
Goaltending: UMass
Special Teams: BC (sucks.)
Other Factors: UMass

Prediction:

Boston College 2 – 4 Massachusetts
(Against everything my brain tells me, my heart says we can and will win this.)

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