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.
Well, it can only go up from here.
Last night’s 3-0 loss against the Huskies of Northeastern was not as bad as the score may indicate. Make no mistake, UMass was beaten soundly and in no way deserved to win last night, but it was in no way a colossal failure on par with the now infamous “3 goals in 38 seconds” game.
In the begining, prospects looked bleak. UMass was outplayed soundly in the first period, giving up 13 shots, all of which had a chance to find the back of the net. Dainton stood on his head this period, and despite the loss, deserves alot of credit for keeping the game in reach for the minutemen. On offence, it was slim pickings. Unable to create a sustained offensive oppertunity, the minutemen got a few cheap shots on the rush, but never made me feel like they had a legitimate scoring chance. Things were bleak heading into the second period, although the game was still tied.
Coming out of intermision, the minutemen continued to play uninspired, lazy hockey. Early in the 2nd they gave up the inevitable goal off an absolutely horid attempt at a clear by Kublin (et tu Kubby?). However, coming off that goal, UMass controled most of the period, generating good opertunities but always being an inch or two away from a much needed goal. And that, my friends, is the problem with the team last night. Close was never close enough. Every pass that would have led to an easy goal was a few inches off, every rebound was barely blocked by Rawlings (who played out of his mind yesterday) and every break was broken up by some small mistake. Terrible execution.
It was over when the second NU goal went in top shelf against Dainton (no thanks to the defence which gave up the uncontested shot off the rush) which the fans at home wern’t able to see because of a NESN comercial break. After that, it was more “almost’s” that never made me feel like we had a chance. It was hopeless, and by the time we gave up the empty netter, we were defeated and depressed (as oposed to when we arived, when we were ripping high)
That being said, I still remain optimistic about tonight’s game at the Bill. UMass could have (and should have) easily won the first meeting against the Huskies, and if we play as well as we did last night, with a few easy bounces we could easily leave victors. The key too this team has long been limit the mental mistakes, and tonight will be no different. Don’t turn over the puck in your own zones, don’t give away easy breakaways, and for the love of god, stay in the net Dainton. I expect a goal or two, but its not going to be a high scoring game by any means. We need to beat Rawlings when he gives us the oppertunity (which he did last night). If we can make the most of these, and have Dainton keep on playing as well as he has, we should win.
Not that it hasn’t been said before, but this weekend is extremely important for the minutemen. There are no easy games ahead (Providence is not going to be easy this year, if the haloween weekend was any indication) and we desperately need points in order to make the playoffs in a respectable seed. At this point, standings wise, tonights game isn’t that important. Its only one game against a team I realisticly don’t expect to catch up to. However, if the minutemen want to be respectable in this conference, they need a win tonight. I think they can do it, but this team has consistantly proved my optimism wrong. Lets hope they turn it around
- NESN didn’t have a scorebar up for the first 15 minutes of the game. Good job NESN. Collosal fail.
- We didn’t give up a PP goal last night. Silver lining?
- Tonight is 80’s night at the Mullins Center, which brings up a mixture of emotions. Does this mean that Northeastern will be relevant in Hockey East and UMass won’t exist? Will the swesties be out in full skankish force? Will free neon sunglasses (Ugggggg) draw T shirt like crowds? Will anyone who actively dresses for 80’s night actually be born in the 80’s?
- Note: because of the glasses, 2 goals by any UMass player will herein be refered to as a “glass trick” where we all throw our terrible glasses on the ice. If it happens, you must do it. Matt commands you.
- Saturday Night game+morning shift at work=more time to pregame=hammered bloggers. With that in mind, please understand if my tweets tonight are misspelt nonsense
- If basketball is the only team with a win this weekend I’ll be sad. Thats more of a statement about my love for hockey than disenfranchisement with Basketball, but still
- I hope we win tonight, sunglasses are hard to drunkienly set on fire on the walk home
- I wrote this at work, so apoligized for the terrible wording/spelling/opinions
See you at the Bill kids!
Northeastern Huskies (7-10-5(6-7-4HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (6-12-3(5-7-3HEA))
This weekend’s home-and-home scrap with Northeastern could be a crucial one in the Hockey East race. Our Minutemen are coming off of two of their most successful games. With a four-point weekend, the Mass Attack could actually move ahead of Northeastern in the standings, even though the Huskies have played two more Hockey East games than the Minutemen. As noted in a fantastic post by our fellow bloggers at The Gut, Northeastern has the toughest remaining Hockey East schedule. If the Minutemen could get ahead of the Huskies this weekend, there could be no looking back. Equally important is the fact that UMass has a very difficult remaining schedule, as well. All but one of the Mass Attack’s remaining games after this weekend are against BC, BU, Maine, and Merrimack. Any way you look at it, this is a very important weekend for UMass Hockey.
Northeastern is a team with a good combination of size and shiftiness. Two of the smaller players on the team, seniors Wade MacLeod (11G/11A/22Pts) and Tyler McNeely (7G/10A/17Pts), are their two top scorers. On the other hand, their defensive corps (although small in number) is quite large in terms of physical stature; only one defenseman under 6 feet has played for the Huskies this year. This size is backed by sophomore standout goalie Chris Rawlings (6-8-5, 2.27GAA, .928 save%). As NESN is quite fond of noting, Rawlings has never lost to UMass. On the off chance Rawlings doesn’t start both games, their backup, Clay Witt (1-2-0, 1.57GAA, .938save%), is no slouch either.
With this size and these backstops, one would expect Northeastern to play a solid defense-first game. And one would be correct; Northeastern’s 2.29GA/G in conference play is the third lowest in Hockey East. Only Boston College (2.28GA/G) and New Hampshire (1.73GA/G; Matt DiGirolamo is, notably, ridiculously good) have allowed less goals per game in Hockey East play. For comparison, UMass is giving up 2.67GA/G against Hockey East foes. And only one Huskie defenseman (Drew Ellement (-4)) has a negative plus/minus rating. What the Huskies sacrifice for this defensive prowess is some offensive firepower. Other than MacLeod and McNeely, only Mike McLaughlin (7G/3A/10Pts) has more than 4 goals on the year. They also don’t get much offense from their defensemen. Only 2 Husky d-men have multiple goals (Anthony Bitetto (2G/11A/13Pts and Jamie Oleksiak 2G/4A/6Pts). For comparison, UMass has 4 in Phillips, Rowe, Marcou, and Kublin. (Even though Phillips and Marcou are possibly injured, the point is that the system the Minutemen play in allows for offensive contributions from everywhere on the ice.) The result of all these numbers is that Northeastern only scores 2.47 goals a game in Hockey East play. Only UML (2.22GPG), Providence (2.20GPG), and Vermont (1.73GPG) score fewer goals in conference play. UMass scores on Hockey East opponents at a clip of 2.87 goals per game.
The Mass Attack comes into the game hot. They have won 3 of their last 4 while riding a hot goaltender in Paul Dainton (6-7-2, 2.63GAA, .919save%). However, these four games were against Lowell and Vermont. Prior to those four games, UMass had lost five straight. The last team UMass beat before beating UML and UVM? UVM. In fact, ALL FIVE UMASS WINS IN HOCKEY EAST PLAY ARE AGAINST UML AND UVM. If this team wants to be taken seriously, it needs to beat a Hockey East opponent who is not a colossal joke. This could be the weekend to do it, given the positive momentum from the wins against aforementioned shells of teams. Northeastern also comes in riding a hot streak. They have gone 4-1-1 in their last 6 games, including beating UMass thanks to a third period collapse by the Minutemen. Rawlings had two shutouts in this period, but also gave up an inexplicable three goals to Vermont in the one loss.
One more note: as mentioned to me by Matt, the Bill will be hosting a [shitty] concert on Friday night. The mercury is supposed to get down to 11 that night/Saturday morning, so hopefully the ice will recover. If it doesn’t, it could be bad news. A slow, sloppy ice surface would fit the Huskies style of play far too nicely. I believe the key to the game is to be extremely aggressive. I mean, on-the-verge-of-recklessness-offensive-aggression. Why do I say this? Well, it’s because Northeastern usually dresses only 5 defensemen. If the Mass Attack can wear out the Husky defense, Northeastern’s defensive edge will disappear. On the defensive side of the ice, MacLeod and McNeely need to be taken away as offensive options. To me, this means playing Kublin and Shea whenever possible against Northeastern’s top line. This might be difficult during Friday’s game, but when UMass has home ice and last change on Saturday, there will be no excuse for not matching Kublin and Shea against MacLeod and McNeely.
If all goes well, we may dare to dream of a sweep and sliding up a spot in the standings. But, if we cannot sweep, two points is absolutely essential for anyone to take this team seriously. Providence is playing UNH this weekend, so losing position in the standings is doubtful, but a backslide is definitely not what we want to see out of this team right now.
Aside: Harpoon’s current release of its acclaimed 100 barrell series is entitled Catamount Maple Wheat. Let’s hope the beer tastes better than their hockey team plays.
Aside pt. 2: Apparently, we have a Facebook page. If we don’t get 100 likes by Tuesday, Matt’s going to light Outlaw Pete from Minuteman Nation on fire. So, yeah, unless you want Outlaw Pete to get extra crispy, you should probably like that shit.
Well, another weekend, another disappointment for UMass athletics. The 12th-ranked men’s lacrosse team managed to falter on the road to an inferior Yale team, killing any sort of mome…
Hold the phone.
What’s this you’re wharrgarbl-ing on about?
Hockey SWEPT Maine? Basketball BEAT Rhode Island?
….PLAYOFFS? You can talk to me about playoffs, because both teams won a game (and then, in hockey’s case, another game)?!
Okay, so we at Fight Mass will admit, we had higher hopes for both of these teams than “barely sneaking into their conference tourneys on the last day of the season.” Particularly after basketball beat Memphis and looked poised to at least improve on last year’s in-conference performance, and after hockey got up to #9 in the country with the harder half of their schedule seemingly in the rear-view mirror.
Regardless, the Mass Attack took advantage of Scott Darling’s mysterious suspension and roughed up Shawn “The New Wilson” Sirman two nights in a row, then had to withstand the storm of a furious comeback bid by the Black Bears last night, and nearly doubled their all-time Alfond win total in a 26-hour span. The offense woke up again by running through the points, with Justin Braun and Matt Irwin exploding onto the scene in a manner eerily similar to last year’s near-shocker at Matthews Arena. Paul Dainton was magnificent in holding Maine’s potent offense to 5 total goals in two nights. In what can only be described as “Derek being proven triumphantly right,” the defense gelled around the return of Doug Kublin from mono. And Brett Watson of all people provided two more goals.
So yeah, next weekend, UMass gets to return to the Conte Forum, where we’ll likely see the bizarre sight of a noticeable BC student section at home against the Minutemen. The Iggles haven’t played a truly meaningful game in a couple of weeks now and are, naturally, considered the runaway favorites in the series. However, if the Minutemen play as well as they did last weekend, and are able to catch a couple breaks and ride the momentum of this Maine sweep, and Dainton is on his game…okay, that’s a lot of if’s. But “if” is a fun word to toss around when, just a few days ago, things were as grim as they were. There’s hockey yet to be played, and that’s all we can ask for.
Meanwhile, the basketball team (unlike hockey, those bastards) send out the seniors in style, continuing the annual tradition of ruining Rhody’s season. This is the third year in a row; two years back, the Minutemen dragged URI kicking and screaming into the NIT (and then damn near won it). Last year, UMass marched into the Ryan Center and made little Jimmy “Date Rape Baby” Baron cry on his senior day, the game we will always know as the C-Lowe/Matty Glass Game (I could watch that Glass pick on Ulmer every single day until the end of time). And now, the year in which the gap between the teams is the greatest, where URI is a win away from the NCAA Tournament and UMass needs a win just to make the conference tourney in which only 2 of 14 teams miss it, and yet history just continues to repeat itself with these two. If the roles were reversed, I think we might hate URI even more than we hate BC here. And we hate BC a lot.
Honestly, it wasn’t a pretty game. At one point, when the teams were trading fast-break misses back and forth, someone near me likened it to a hockey game, with the near-misses coming fast and furious – only there’s no goalies in basketball, and the scores aren’t supposed to be that few and far between. The officiating — horrendous, but it was bad both ways, and we’re used to that by now. And the thing that struck me the most was that URI really does not have a go-to guy. They’ve got a lot of pretty good players, sure, but they had no answer for Ricky Harris, who woke up in a big way after a just-okay first half. It’s worrisome that the future of this team will bank on someone (Freddie? TV?) stepping up and becoming the new face of the team next year, and although I think that taking the Ricky crutch out of the equation will speed up the process, there’s no doubt that he will be missed. 3rd all time in school history in scoring, no matter how you look at it, is fantastic. Ricky’s the one guy who played for all four of my years at UMass, and for that, I’m certainly grateful.
The URI student section was impressive (although not unexpected given that this is pretty much the only sport they have), but I saw hope for us as well. Sure, a number of kids were coming over from the Rec Center to grab t-shirts and promptly leave, but for the most part, I felt like kids were into it. They should definitely try to schedule more Saturday afternoon games next year if that’s at all possible; this was definitely the best student section of the year even having to compete with the Blarney Blowout over in town, and the end of the game was as loud as I’ve seen the Mullins for basketball in quite some time. Hopefully the kids who came out for this one were sold on this team’s potential and will be more inclined to see more games next year as a result, but, of course, the guys need to win games to attract fans, simple as that.
And so now the Minutemen survive to play Tuesday at Charlotte, a team in freefall mode, and whom UMass owes some revenge from a few years back. At the very least, Ricky gets one more game, and the freshmen get their first taste of playoff basketball together. This can only be a good thing.
Unlike hockey, whose expectations were understandably a lot higher (both at the beginning of the year and, especially, after their stellar first half), basketball’s fate for much of year has been a first-round road game and likely exit from the A-10 Tournament. A strong showing against Charlotte, and especially a first-round shocker (and I can’t stress enough how due this team is to be on the other side of that equation), could do wonders for this team going forward.
And if they lose by 30 in Charlotte? We’ll always have that senior night. Sad to think I will never again set foot in the Mullins Center as a UMass student, but the memories from my tenure here will live forever, and my entry into the alumni club – my graduation to the other side of the arena (not that I won’t be general-admissioning it up and joining the student fray for a few more years, naturally) is an exciting prospect that is just beginning.
So, not to crib that whole “live together, die alone” theme that Rocks has been using lately, but the countdown to the weird red hieroglyphs and the accompanying disaster has been, for the moment, put on hold. UMass typed in the Numbers and hit execute. Now, the road ahead is wrought with challenges. But for at least one more week, there is a road ahead.
…and, given the dire situation UMass found itself in coming into this weekend’s tilts in Middle-of-Nowherono, ME, it may yet be ongoing. But let’s not take anything away from the fact that the Minutemen sounded like a team on a mission tonight. They pounced all over freshman Shawn Sirman, to the point where we actually did get to see old friend Dave WIIIIIIILLLLLSSOOOOONNNN make a cameo (and, oddly enough, he didn’t give up any goals, which is decidedly un-Wilson-like).
Now, granted, we’re talking a UMass team with the season on the line against a Maine team that might not get home ice if they drop both games and the rest of the league action goes against them, not to mention playing in a not-so-hostile Spring Break edition of Alfond Arena. But the stakes for UMass’s last game were basically the same on both ends, and despite playing one of the best defensive games we’ve seen from the maroon-and-white all year long, against an Eagles team playing in front of a listless crowd and with 2nd-place (no more, no less) all but locked up, the Minutemen still weren’t able to capitalize on their chances.
Now, the three principal writers here at Fight Mass were sitting mere feet away at the Hangar on Tuesday for the RNX hockey show, and though we weren’t really able to hear most of Toot’s outburst about his team, we were able to piece together between the various web recap/transcripts and our visible impression of him that Mr. Cahoon was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore, regarding the behind-the-scenes behavioral stuff going on with this team. Clearly, his words finally got through tonight, and Hockey East was reminded that UMass is about as big a wildcard as one can imagine.
Could they still miss the playoffs? Easily. But the Minutemen have nonetheless put themselves into a position to climb as high as 6th, grab some positive momentum (which had slowwwwly been building during two straight frustrating L’s), and crash someone’s playoff party, like they came so very very close to doing to Northeastern last year.
Barring a disaster tomorrow, the Minutemen have, at the very least, shown us that they cared. The eulogy we were prepared to write for these guys a few weeks ago involved more of the same from the past couple years: lamenting the Cahoon Swoon, pondering what might have been had a key underrated defenseman not missed significant time down the stretch, wondering what exactly is going on with the discipline behind closed doors and the mentality of the players, even considering blaming ourselves and our friends for contributing to the players’ sense of celebrity and entitlement on this campus.
But why worry about the eulogy before we know when the funeral is?
P.S. Tomorrow afternoon. Senior night for men’s hoops at the Mullins Center, 4 PM. Free t-shirts, and a chance to honor one of the all-time greats to don the maroon-and-white, or at least one of the best pure scorers in school history, Lex Mongo Ricky Harris. Plus, it’s URI (sucks). So, uhh, go. And get your friends to go too. Did I mention free t-shirts?
Wednesday night’s basketball game against George Washington was one of the ugliest things I’ve ever watched. G-Dubs (their own fans’ embarrassingly-bad name for the team, as in “let’s go G-Dubs,” something I never want to hear again) got upwards of eleventy billion rebounds, while Javorn “Junk Yard Dog” Farrell got tossed for some sort of physical altercation which, thanks to the A-10’s marvelous visibility issues, we will likely never, ever see replays of, and which will live on only in the hearts and minds of the approximately 12 members of the “Colonial Army.” (Yes, that’s their student section, and fine, I will admit that it did seem to be at least on par with the Maroon Platoon Minutefans Mullins Militia on a non-free-T-shirt b-ball game.)
Honestly, it was an abortion of a basketball game, and because we’re trying to avoid getting too far into the politics dealie here at Fight Mass, I don’t want to discuss abortions. So we’re just going to leave this game behind and hope it was an aberration in terms of the improved recent play of the Minutemen. Now let’s hope Rick Majerus’s team doesn’t eat up the now Ferrell-and-Gibbs-less Minutemen on Sunday. Oh, by the way, fatass, please vacate the Atlantic 10 immediately and stop complaining about it. You coach at fucking Saint Louis University. Your mascot is…uhh… this thing. Christ, even we have more prestige than you, and our current fan favorite is a 350-pound man with no discernible basketball talent. Also, when Majerus is jumping around on the court complaining about calls several feet away from City, will City finally look skinny by comparison? All sorts of fun subplots coming up this weekend.
Anyway, UMass also apparently still has a hockey team, and one which is still somehow predicted by USCHO to make the NCAA tournament, if only barely. UMass’s offense showed signs of life in the whistle-tacular Matthews debacle, so it’ll be interesting to see if Toot stays with the Casey/Jimmy split-up again, especially since Lecomte, fresh off of injury, will miss Friday’s game after getting tossed. Then again, Lawler Arena is a horrible place that deserves to be burned to the ground, and I’ve never even been there (and sadly, this year’s only trip, which I’d otherwise jump all over, is lining up with my friend’s 21st birthday). UMass’s struggles there are well-documented, and North Andover Community College is coming off an impressive 3-point weekend against Vermont — although, now that Milo is gone, I’m not entirely sure UVM will even make the Hockey East playoffs, ridiculous as it may sound since they’re still tied for 9th in the PWR right now. Of course, the mind-numbing scenario of Vermont making the NCAA’s but missing their own conference tourney would also require Merrimack to surge past them (something which would involve winning this weekend’s series against UMass) and would also likely involve Vermont losing games to Lowell, a team we obviously hate far more than the Catamounts. The Ugly Sister is just 2 points back of UMass, too, so there’s that.
Do or die time for the Minutemen this weekend. This 5-of-6 stretch has been horrendous, but the Minutemen played much better against the red-hot Huskies than they had in previous games, and there were signs of life from the offense. However, as long as Kubbie stays out (and since my Facebook stalker scouts are reporting that “mono is kickiing [his] ass” as of a week ago, I’m not overly optimistic on his timely return), the defense is still lacking something. Last year, the D stepped up in a big way at Matthews, but it was just a little too late. In these last five games, it’s all on Marty and Bronco to establish their legacy here at UMass. It’s up to Mikey and Irwin and Donnellan and Rowe to get it figured out. It starts with these two games against a small liberal arts college from North Andover, whose best player is a Frenchman and whose scoreboard makes even Lowell’s look NHL-caliber.
It starts with all of these, or, sad to say, it ends this weekend, because if you can’t beat Merrimack, you can’t beat Maine or BC.
(Now watch them get swept by Mack and then win their last 3.)
Wednesday afternoon, the University of Massachusetts closed its campus for the day in preparation for an anticipated nor’easter. At around 1 PM, we still didn’t have a flake of snow on the ground, but hey, we’re college kids. We’ll take a day off any way we can get one. (Actually, I don’t have classes scheduled on Wednesdays anyway, so it didn’t do much for me, but I’ve been told it was much-appreciated by most everyone else.)
Last night, UMass’s offensive performance was about as potent as the “snowstorm:” it looked poised to strike on paper, it certainly threatened, and there were flurries of offensive chances, but the goal tally matched the total snow accumulation in inches. (Rounded to the nearest whole number. You know what, shut up, it’s my metaphor and I’ll stretch it if I so please.)
Derek said it, and I’m starting to agree: this was almost worse in a lot of ways than losing 7-1, because at least then you know it’s over after one period and you don’t have your heart ripped out at the end. This one was 1-0 until the last five minutes, and UMass was > < this close to knotting it up and breaking the offense funk seemingly a million times. Like the other shutout game, against Madore and Vermont, the boys played well enough to win in basically every aspect of the game – the luck just wasn’t on their side. The defense was miles ahead of where it was against BC and BU the last few games, the offense got plenty of opportunities, but it comes down to finishing, and right now the Minutemen can’t do it. It didn’t help that the hottest goalie in Hockey East played out of his mind, but when your backup goalie holds the other team to one goal for the majority of the game, that’s a game you just have to win. (By the way, even though both of the goals Meyers have up were sort of weak, particularly the second one, you really can’t blame the goalie when you get shut out. Still, unless Dainton’s hurt, I would’ve preferred to see him in net and let Meyers start against Merrimack on senior night if you want to give him a start at all. Just my opinion.)
So, where do we go from here? Six games left, five on the road, and it starts tonight at Matthews. “Must-win” is sort of cliche, and we do play in a league where a team that is completely and totally dead in the water can dominate a team on an absolute roll. But realistically, if UMass gets swept by the Huskies tonight, they can say goodbye to home ice – if they haven’t already. Either way, this whole “Cahoon swoon” thing is getting more and more legitimate as the season continues.
…by the way, hockey aside, it was a pretty good start to the weekend for UMass sports. Softball won, lax opened their season with a win, and basketball actually pulled off one of their recent second-half comeback attempts to beat Duquesne in OT. (Big City’s stat line? 6 minutes. I think DK finally gets it.) The boys are back at home tomorrow afternoon at 4, hopefully they can see what a conference winning streak looks like. (Or any type of UMass winning streak. Sigh.)
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.)
No. 12 Maine (#3 in Hockey East, 24 Points) vs. Boston University (#5 in Hockey East, 18 Points)
No. 12 Maine (#3 in Hockey East, 24 Points) vs. Boston University (#5 in Hockey East, 18 Points)
Other Hockey East Action
No. 20 UMass Lowell vs. No. 10 Boston College
Providence vs. No. 15 New Hampshire
Merrimack vs. No. 17 Vermont
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?