#13 Boston University Terriers (2-2-0, 1-1-0 Hockey East)
Massachusetts Minutemen (1-2-1, 0-2-1 Hockey East)
The BU Terriers come stumbling into Amherst this Friday to start a home-and-home weekend series with the Minutemen. After managing to fell Denver, that’s number two in the nation Denver, two weekends ago, the Terriers were stunned by a huge upset loss to Holy Cross at home last Saturday. Starring in this loss was senior BU goalie Kieran Millan. Starring for the Crusaders, that is. Millan gave up five goals to the Crusaders last weekend. His up and down performance thus far this season has been a bit of a microcosm of his entire career at Boston University. His stats this year (2-2-0, 3.28 GAA, .903 save%) have been pretty terrible. Unfortunately for the Minutemen, the Terriers can still score goals and they have been scoring them at a rate of four a game. The team is still packed with talented offensive forwards, with guys from Alex Chiasson (4G/3A/+7) to Matt Nieto (4G/1A/+5) to Corey Trevino (3G/2A/+1) to Sahir Gil (1G/4A/Even) to Wade Megan (2G/1A/-1). The team is packed with 10 NHL draft picks, six of them forwards. The Terriers have yet to score less than three goals in any single game this season and have scored four or more in all but one.
The key to beating the Terriers is to contain their offense. Let’s face it, on the defensive side of the puck there are not nearly as many recognizable names. Gone is David Warsofsky and the only really impressive D-men the Terriers have left are Adam Clendening and Garret Noonan. That leaves four defensemen for the Mass Attack to pick on. Hopefully, Toot will go back to the star-studded top line of TJ Syner (1G/6A/+1), Danny Hobbs (3G/2A/+1), and Franchise Pereira (3G/2A/+1) this weekend and stop fucking with an offense that has been great, minus the BC game where he did fuck with the lines. If the offense has its chemistry right, it should be able to exploit some of the lesser BU defensemen and put a few past Millan, who will hopefully continue to be iffy.
Now to the real question. If the offense does play up to its ability, the game can certainly be won with some solid, fundamental defensive play. Unfortunately, this is a defense featuring The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou and that can be problematic. Minus the aforementioned Show and some lapses in discipline from Mountain Man Олэг Евэнко, I think the defense has been okay. The issue has been that okay defense only clears rebounds away some of the time when goalies leave them in the slot. We have to assume that Tegs will be in net for at least one (hopefully both) of these games, so the rebound issue shouldn’t be too bad. The defense just has to deny BU any golden opportunities and hopefully Teglia will be able to stop the shots he’s supposed to and won’t leave any juicy rebounds. Denying BU golden opportunities is definitely easier said than done, given how strong the Terriers’ offense has been this year, but if the Minutemen stay disciplined and stick to the fundamentals it should not be a particularly difficult task.
That’s really it. These two games could certainly be high scoring shootouts. If that’s the case, I don’t know how I feel about the Mass Attack’s chances this weekend. The keys are to minimize the damage the high octane Terrier offense does and put a decent amount of shots on Millan and hope they find their way through screens or drop in front of the net for easy rebound opportunities. I think it’s really key that the Minutemen compete in both these games and come out of this weekend with AT LEAST two points. If the Minutemen do that, it’s a weekend we can all feel good about. If they don’t, well we’re going to start seeing some fan apathy and a lot more questions about how strong this team, and its coaching staff, really is.
On a personal note, I’m quite excited. This Friday will mark my first return to the Bill as an alumnus, which will be quite a bittersweet experience for me. Hopefully the result will make it more sweet than bitter. I say this with the utmost joy and anticipation. Is it Friday yet?
Massachusetts Minutemen (1-1-1, 0-1-1 Hockey East)
#2 Boston College Eagles (3-1-0, 1-0-0 Hockey East)
The Minutemen take on one of the best teams in the nation on Friday as they will do battle with the Eagles from Boston College. BC is a perennial Hockey East powerhouse and it looks like this year won’t be any different. The Eagles’ offense has been scoring at an impressive 4.50 clip while they have been giving up 2.25 goals a game, a figure that is deceptively high due to their one loss which included an empty net goal. In their three wins, the Eagles have amassed 16 goals while only allowing five. BC’s goal scoring is well distributed amongst the team; junior forward Chris Kreider leads the team with three goals and five other Eagles (Bill Arnold, Johnny Gaudreau, Barry Almeida, Pat Mullane, and Stephen Whitney) are tied for second on the team with two goals apiece. The offense is fueled by the forwards, who account for the top eight point scorers on the team. The defensive corps is only responsible for seven of the Eagles forty eight points thus far (two goals and four assists).
Boston College’s defense is led by a solid core of upperclassmen who know what it takes to get things done on the defensive side of the game. Senior captain Tommy Cross is the only defenseman on the team with an official leadership role but these guys clearly all know how to lead by example. Not only are there no minus players in the top six group of Cross, four juniors, and one sophomore, but there aren’t even any defensemen with even plus/minus ratings. Brian Dumoulin leads the team in plus/minus rating with a +5. Other than sophomore Isaac MacLeod, who I have not seen very much of, I can say that I have not seen a single defenseman on the Eagles who is anything less than outstanding. Junior Parker Milner finally has a chance at being the go-to guy between the pipes for the Eagles, and he is not squandering that opportunity so far. His stats are simply fantastic (3-1-0, 2.01 GAA, .923 save%). Those of us who had hoped that he wasn’t good enough to fill John Muse’s jockstrap are certainly disappointed.
While the Mass Attack cannot claim to have the kind of suffocating defense that the Eagles have right now, they can claim to have the kind of offensive firepower that rivals Boston College’s. The Minutemen are averaging 4.00 goals a game and the Syner-Pereira-Hobbs line has been mind-numbingly good since the return of Danny Hobbs. In those two games, they’ve accounted for six goals and ten assists. What’s concerning is that they have provided almost all of the offense. Although the Mass Attack certainly has other offensive talent to fall back on, so far only four players not from the top line (Colin Shea, Conor Sheary, Brendan Gracel, and Adam Phillips) have lit the lamp this year. Two of the five goals not produced by the top line have come on the powerplay, which is another exciting part of the 2011-2012 edition of the Mass Attack. So far in this early season, the Minutemen are converting powerplays at a very proficient clip of 21.1%.
What is not as exciting about this year’s Minutemen is the defensive side of the puck. On the whole, the team has played relatively well on defense. No one has played poorly, but the momentary lapses the team has seem to come at the worst possible moments. Despite outshooting their opponents by a wide margin, the Minutemen have given up as many goals as they have scored this year. A big part of the problem is the penalty kill, which has been successful a dismal 75.0% of the time. The penalty kill is all about fundamentals. Body positioning, stick positioning, denying passing lanes, keeping the puck to the outside, clearing bodies from the front of the net, clearing rebounds from the front of the net. That last one has been a killer. Freshman goalie Kevin Boyle has given it his all so far this season, but where he most clearly needs work is on his rebound control and his recovery and positioning for the second shot. College hockey goalies deny the first shot and rely on their defensemen to get to rebounds before the opposing forwards do; Hockey East goalies deny the first shot and prevent a second chance, either by allowing no rebound or by steering one out of harms way. I would expect to see Jeff Teglia’s first start of the year tonight. Boyle looked out of his element last Saturday and gave up some really ugly goals before he was finally (Yes, finally, Toot left him in WAY too long against the Friars on a night where he clearly just didn’t have it.) yanked for Teglia. Tegs stopped all eight shots he faced and looked rock solid in his first action of the year. Hopefully his great play in relief last weekend carries into this weekend; the Minutemen will need a huge performance from him if they want a chance to steal one from the Eagles at Conte.
This one should be exciting, folks! No more excuses. Our number one goalie should be in net, our offense is firing on all cylinders, our defense is playing well enough to pull out wins as long as Tegs helps ‘em out a little. Everyone should be excited because this is a game where we can see how our lineup matches up with one of the best out there. I expect they will matchup quite well and I expect a tight game tonight. I can’t tell you who’s gonna win this one, but I can tell you this is the most positive I’ve felt about the potential result of a UMass-BC game in a long, long time.
Bentley Falcons (0-2-0, 0-0-0 Atlantic Hockey) vs. UMass Minutemen (0-0-1, 0-0-1 HE)
It is once again the most wonderful time of the year for the young students of the University of Massachusetts. The home opener is upon us again, bringing with it majesty, grandeur, and fresh hope. Although our beloved Mass Attack has already been tested in a fiery duel of aggressive offenses and spectacular goaltending, this Friday’s bout with the Falcons will be the first chance most of the UMass fan base will have to see the team play with their own eyes this year.
In their first game of the season, the aforementioned duel to the death… or tie, the Minutemen found heroes old and new. Senior co-captain TJ Syner scored and was instrumental on the powerplay, sophomore winger Conor Sheary started to make good on my prediction of a 20G/20A season by notching two brilliant assists, winger Emerson Auvenshire tallied his first career NCAA point by assisting on Branden Gracel’s goal, and, perhaps most importantly, goalie Kevin Boyle stood tall in net and made 29 instrumental saves in his very first collegiate start. Unfortunately, the team tired in the third period and Northeastern was hungry for a point. The Mass Attack failed to notch their first win of the year by less than three seconds, and honestly would have had the win if not for some really outrageously bad turnovers in their own zone throughout the entire game. BUT, you, noble reader, must keep in mind that the Minutemen were missing a couple key faces on the ice last Friday in Boston. These faces are, of course, those belonging to senior co-captain Danny Hobbs and sophomore netminder Jeff Teglia; they are once again healthy and ready to join the fray.
Looking at the team offensively, Hobbs can only add to an offense that was firing on all cylinders last week. The Minutemen scored three goals, blasted 39 shots on Chris Rawlings, took nine shots on net in five-plus (technically six, but one lasted only 13 seconds) powerplay opportunities (believe me, I’ve been watching UMass hockey for awhile now, this is a tad better than usual), and even scored a powerplay goal!!!!!!!!!!11 This was all done without last year’s leading scorer, Hobbs, who will certainly be a force to be reckoned with if he wants to improve on last season’s point total of 28.
Defensively, the team certainly will not be made worse by the return of Jeff Teglia. Boyle stopped 29 of the 32 pucks sent his way last week, for a very respectable .906 save percentage. If Teglia wants the full-time starting goalie job, he’ll have to do a lot better than that, and he certainly seems capable. Hopefully a little competition between the two (and, also, Steve Mastalerz) will bring out the best in both goalies and whoever starts Friday night should be looking to shut out an obviously inferior team.
But wait, are the 0-2 Falcons really that bad? Well, to be fair, we can’t really say that just yet. In two games this season, Bentley has scored two goals and given up nine. These numbers have, however, been posted against Michigan. The Michigan that’s ranked number four in the country. That Michigan. So Bentley’s numbers thus far this year are a little skewed. Let’s look at Bentley’s numbers from last year. They went 10-18-6, with nine of those wins coming against fellow Atlantic Hockey cupcakes. They scored 2.53 goals a game while giving up 3.44 and their 8.4% powerplay success rate made the Mass Attack’s mediocre man advantage (12.5%) look downright lethal. Bentley’s meager offense lost two of its top three scorers at the end of last season and only return one guy (sophomore forward Brett Gensler) who scored more than eight goals last year.
One can go on and on about Bentley’s offense, from their lack of true playmakers to the absolute dearth of scoring ability from the point, but what may give Bentley fans a glimmer of hope this year is what’s between the pipes. On back to back nights last weekend, Bentley’s skaters were dominated on the ice by a far superior team; however, their two netminders acquitted themselves quite nicely. Despite giving up five goals, senior Kyle Rank made 44 saves. A save percentage of .898 is not something most goalies aspire to, but it is certainly nothing to sneeze at when you post it against the fourth best team in the nation while they are blasting 49 shots at you. Compared to Rank, sophomore Branden Komm got off lightly, having to face only 42 shots. He saved 39 of those for a very tidy .929 save percentage. That, by the way, is the same percentage Chris Rawlings posted against the Mass Attack while he was standing on his head last Friday.
Okay, I’m just going to say it. Even if Bentley’s goalies play well again, we should win this game. This is a game Kevin Morris probably couldn’t lost. It’s embarrassing enough that I can actually remember the last time we played the Falcons. Because we lost. It was the middle of the beginning of the end for the 2009-2010 Minutemen, who proceeded to follow up the Bentley loss with the worst (by far) Cahoon swoon ever seen. But that’s all in the past, and this is the first half of the season. The Bentley Falcons are a team that managed to finish tenth out of twelve teams in the worst conference in D1 hockey last year. They are, frankly, a joke, and for guys like TJ Syner, Danny Hobbs, Kevin Czepiel, Darren Rowe, Rocco Carzo, Eddie Olczyk, and The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou (By the way, what the fuck was The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou doing out there last Friday night?! I mean, yeah, two assists, that’s nice, but where the fuck were you on the defensive end? Clear the fucking puck! For fuck’s sake, man! You are a fucking defenseman. Not offenseman, DEFENSEman. I’m so fucking sick of this. Just make the fucking simple fucking play and get the puck out of the fucking zone. Fuck, am I the only one who sees this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.) to lose twice to Bentley, in two tries, would be absurd. Come on guys, I know you remember that last loss, make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Really, all it’s gonna take to win this Friday is smart play. That’s it, simple, smart play. No bad penalties (I’m looking at you, Oleg), no dumb turnovers in the defensive zone, and just put plenty of rubber on goal. As long as whoever’s in net for Bentley doesn’t decide that last week was just a springboard for an even better performance this week, enough pucks will find their way to the back of the net to top the Falcons’ anemic offense. And, if not, well, I’ll eat Scoops Mazurek’s hat.
P.S. Check back for part two of this weekend preview, which will appear sometime late Saturday morning or early Saturday afternoon.
Hockey season is upon us once again and have we at Fight Mass worked long and hard on a season preview? No, fuck that. Well, kind of. But also kind of a game preview, too. Just read it, it will all make sense. Or not. Whatever.
Massachusetts Minutemen vs. Northeastern Huskies
The Minutemen enter this year without an exhibition test to “judge” the boys by. A spirited intra-squad public scrimmage highlighted by a penalty shot goal by Edzo “via Chicago” Olczyk , a near fight between Conor “Mr. Most Improved” Allen and a Himalayan mountain disguised as a freshman named Oleg Yevenko, and a game winning powerplay top corner snipe by the gunslinger himself, Conor Sheary.
Conversely, the Northeastern Huskies did play an exhibition game against St. Francis Xavier… and lost 8-5. (Oh man! This team must suck. I mean come on guys, 8-5 loss to St. Francis Xavier???) Yeah, well, six of the eight goals were given up by sophomore backup Clay Witt in the third period. And as Confucius once said, Clay Witt is not Chris Rawlings. Rawlings gave up one goal on 12 shots in his period of work. Junior forward Garrett Vermeersch had a goal and an assist and sophmore defenseman Anthony Bitetto (the team’s leading returning scorer) had three assists in the losing effort.
The Huskies and the Minutemen both suffered key losses in the offseason. The Mass Attack’s losses were primarily defensive. Superstar captain netminder Paul “I’m so nice I found a guy’s class ring from thirty years ago, looked him up, and returned it to him” Dainton and rock solid reliable defensive defenseman Douglas “I invented the Dougie and, therefore, my Dougie is better than your Dougie” “God” Kublin are gone. However, the Minutemen do return 10 of last year’s top 11 point scorers (in case I need to jog your memory, the top 11 point scorers for the Mass Attack last year were: Danny Hobbs, TJ Syner, Mike Pereira, Joel Hanely, Chase Langeraap, Adam Phillips, Conor Sheary, Brendan Gracel, The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou, Rocco Carzo, and Darren Rowe with Langeraap obviously being the one to go). And Sheary and Michael “the Franchise” Pereira look poised for breakout years after solid freshman campaigns. (I’m predicting a 20G/20A season for Sheary. You heard it here first, folks!)
Hopefully the back end will be able to cope with the loss of Kublin. Conor Allen, Joel Hanley, Adam Phillips, and Colin Shea are all a year into the league and, hopefully, a year wiser thanks to their experiences. Freshmen Oleg Yevenko and Mike Busillo will be competing for playing time. Maybe Darren Rowe will play some defense. Maybe he’ll play some forward. Maybe Toot will forget he exists again. It’s anyone’s guess. And then there’s The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou. The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou had another terrible season last year in terms of plus/minus rating. What’s frustrating is that he played really well at times. The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou just needs to stop trying to do too much and play within himself; if he can do that, it’s very likely UMass will have one of the most solid defensive cores out there.
I doubt anyone can truly replace Dainton in our hearts and minds, but there are a few candidates who would have a good chance to make us think quite fondly of them, too. Sophomore Jeff Teglia had a freshman season that looked pretty bad on paper, but the truth is he didn’t give up many bad goals at all. He makes the stops he’s expected to, and if he’s improved just a little bit at controlling rebounds and making the truly great saves he could have quite the year. But he may not even have the chance to have a full year of work, if a tandem of exciting freshmen has their way. Kevin Boyle looked pretty good in the scrimmage, but he overcommitted on quite a few shots and relied a little too much on his defensemen to clear the puck from danger. We didn’t get a chance to see Steve Mastalerz play, as he was nursing an injury at the time, but according to some inside accounts he may be the best goalie of the three.
Jesus, I’ve said all this positive shit and I’ve barely even touched on the freshmen. In fact, I’ve neglected to mention the freshman forwards at all. We will possibly get our first chance to see how highly touted freshmen Zack LaRue and Andrew Tegeler fare in Hockey East play this Friday. And I’m pretty confident we’ll finally get to see Steven Guzzo, who sat out his entire freshman year due to a horrendous knee injury. The knee looked healthy last Saturday and Guzzo looked very fast on his skates in the scrimmage. I, for one, am excited to see the new faces get their shots.
Northeastern faces the opposite problem coming into the year. They need to find where their scoring is going to come from. They need to replace the scoring proficiency of a Wade MacLeod, a Tyler McNeely, a Steve Silva, and a Brodie Reid. That’s 138 points to find! In total, Northeastern lost players who produced 167 of the 288 points the roster scored last year. Almost 58% of last year’s production just gone. Wiped off the roster. And, yes, Bitetto, Vermeersch, and Mike McLaughlin are very talented players. And, yes, they have some promising young kids. But, come on, replacing 58% of your production? That’s just an absurdly difficult thing to do. It’s especially disheartening for the Huskies that Brodie Reid signed with the San Jose Sharks after just his freshman season (And you thought Casey Wellman was bad!) and that Jamie Oleksiak, the team’s leading plus/minus player and a guy who looked poised to become a force in this league, up and went to the OHL after his freshman year.
Northeastern’s defense is still passable thanks to a rock solid young core of Bitetto, Luke Eibler, and Drew Ellement, but depth certainly may become an issue at the defenseman position for the Huskies. Chris Rawlings is a phenom and one of the best goalies in Hockey East, but the Huskies may be asking too much of him if they can’t find a way to put pucks in the back of the net. They only had a +0.11 goal differential last year. It’s a pretty safe bet that that number will go into the negatives this season unless Rawlings has an ungodly year.
This is certainly not a game to take the safe route in. There will be quite a few fresh faces out there for the Huskies, and the Minutemen should look to test them early and often. This does not, however, mean the Mass Attack should open the throttle all the way and get sloppy. Despite the loss of offensive power, the Huskies did score four powerplay goals in their exhibition game. It would be wise to not test if this was just because they were playing St. Francis Xavier.
So, IT IS OCTOBER, but I still do want to know… is it Friday yet?
No.5 Merrimack Warriors (19-5-4(13-5-3HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (6-16-5(5-11-5HEA))
The last time these two teams met, Merrimack beat UMass 11-2. That’s it; that’s the preview.
Okay, not really. The Warriors come into Amherst last night winners of their last 5 and 11 of their last 12. They are currently riding the longest hot streak of, well, their entire existence. This is a team that has beaten every other Hockey East team, except, somehow, for Providence. UMass has only beaten 2. This is a team that, in Hockey East play, scores 3.48 goals per game and allows only 2.19. The +1.29 goal differential is 3rd best in Hockey East, behind only the two teams who are ahead of Merrimack in the standings. (This number is slightly inflated due to aforementioned 11-2 win.)
It feels essential that I should mention that superstar Warrior forward Stephane Da Costa (13G/23A/36Pts) may be out with a knee injury. But, that might give some the hopes that Merrimack will somehow roll over for the Minutemen this weekend. To those who would think this I just have two things to say. 1) The Da Costa-less Warriors beat UNH last weekend. 2) Merrimack has 13 other players with double-digit point totals this season; 13! And this 13 includes senior forwards Chris Barton (12G/20A/32Pts) and Joe Cucci (10G/20A/30Pts). It also includes juniors Jesse Todd (15G/10A/25Pts) and Karl Stollery (5G/16A/21Pts) and freshman Mike Collins (9G/11A/20Pts). That’s right, Merrimack has 3 30-point scorers and 6 20-point scorers and 13 10-points scorers. How does UMass compare? Zero, 3, and 8, respectively. (In case you’re wondering, the 3 20-point scorers for the Mass Attack are: Mike Pereira (10G/12A/22Pts), Danny Hobbs (8G/14A/22Pts), and TJ Syner (7G/14A/21Pts).)
Junior Warrior goalie Joe Cannata (19-5-4, 2.11GAA, .923save%), the pride of Wakefield, MA, has evolved into a very solid netminder. In contrast, it would appear that senior UMass captain Paul Dainton (6-11-4, 2.94GAA, .908save%) has put his best years behind him. It’s not really fair to blame Dainton, as his best years were certainly behind a much stronger team, especially defensively, but it still seems that he doesn’t make all the stops he used to anymore.
Special teams numbers for Merrimack are certainly respectable. The power play has a 19.3% success rate in Hockey East play while the penalty kill is successful 87.2% of the time. UMass special teams, on the other hand, have been atrocious. The penalty kill success rate for the Mass Attack in Hockey East action sits at a below average, but not terrible, 80.4%. The power play, on the other hand, is just downright awful. A 10.4% success rate in conference play is simply unacceptable. It’s good to hear that Toot has finally acknowledged that the power play woes need to be systemically corrected, and aren’t simply the product of a young team needing to figure it out. I , for one, cannot understand why Toot got away from playing Darren Rowe on the wing during the power play. Does anyone else remember this? At the beginning of the year, Toot featured Rowe on the wing during the power play and he netted 3 power play goals in the first 5 games. Well, that worked well, so we went away from it. But more than anything else, there is one fundamental problem with the power play and it is this: lack of movement. Power plays are about creating odd man situations and making goalies have to think about who is going to shoot the puck. This means good passing and this means MOVEMENT WITHOUT THE PUCK. I cannot emphasize this enough. You must move your body when you don’t have the puck in order to create mismatches and make the PK unit move and make mistakes. The way the UMass power play works, it’s 1 guy skating around with the puck a bunch and 4 guys just standing and watching. Then, there is a pass… to a man who is covered perfectly by a PK guy because he has been standing still the entire fucking time. They repeat this process several times until, eventually, the puck is cleared or someone takes a bad shot. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO FUCKING NOTICES THIS?! I feel like I’m taking crazy pills over here. MOVE WITHOUT THE PUCK AND YOU WILL SCORE POWER PLAY GOALS. That is all.
And, that being said, special teams will be a key to this game. The 5-on-5 game has looked pretty good of late, the power play just needs to get its head out its ass. Special teams and not letting the opponent score early. BU scored just 1:09 into the game last weekend then took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission and, guess what, we lost. UMass has not won a game this year when trailing after one period and has only won one game when giving up the first goal (Record: 1-12-3 when giving up first goal). So, those are the keys: good special teams play, score first, don’t trail at the end of one. Do that, and there’s a fighting chance. Don’t and, well… this happens.
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.
No.8 Boston University Terriers (2-0-1(0-0-1HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (0-2-1(0-0-1HEA))
For the second time in as many games, the Mass Attack will face off against Boston University and its high powered offense tonight. Last weekend, BU scored two early goals and peppered freshman netminder Jeff Teglia (0-0-1, 3.25GAA, .895save%) with 35 shots. However, third period goals by Darren Rowe and Marc Concannon forced an overtime that ended in a draw. Tonight will have the same concerns as last weekend.
First of all, goaltenders. Fear The Triangle is reporting that Teglia will start tonight. Although I have seen nothing to corroborate this, we all know that his information is solid so I will have to assume Teglia will be the starter. Teglia was pretty fantastic last weekend, saving 33 out of 35 shots, making Hennessy yell out of excitement numerous times in the process. Unfortunately, the reason Hennessy had to yell was that the Terriers had a lot of good scoring chances. This is the same problem the Mass Attack had in Minnesota; the defense needs to tighten up. This is a team problem, not just a problem with the defensemen. Paradoxically, there is both too much and not enough movement. At times, everyone seems to be watching the puck and aggressively pursuing it while the one or two skaters not pressuring the puck are just standing still and not covering the offensive players they are responsible for.
To not cover BU’s skaters is to make a huge mistake. Had Teglia not been out-of-his-mind-on-fire last Saturday, the Minutemen could have easily given up four or five goals. I don’t think I need to remind anyone about the existence of Chris Connolly (1G/2A/3Pts/+2), Joe Pereira (3G/1A/4Pts/+1), or David Warsofsky (2G/3A/5Pts/+2). And I don’t think I need to remind anyone of the 6 and 7 goal embarrassments BU handed out to the Minutemen last season (Although those were both at Agannis).
Other than Jeff Teglia’s sparkling performance last weekend, the bright spot on this year’s UMass team has been the offense. Averaging three goals a game may not be a fantastic statistic, but it will keep you in games and the Mass Attack could easily have more if they could just fine tune their passing a little and finish their chances. The most impressive offensive players thus far have been TJ Syner (2G/1A/3Pts/+2), Darren Rowe (2G/1A/3Pts/+2), Michael Marcou (1G/2A/3Pts/-2), and Mike Pereira (1G/1A/2Pts/even). Pereira, in particular, could have had more goals if he finished his chances, which have been many.
The offense does, however, need work on the powerplay, where they are just 2 for 16 (12.5%) on the season. The PK needs work too; The Mass Attack penalty killers have only managed to kill nine penalties out of thirteen (69.2%), although they did go a perfect 4-for-4 against BU last weekend. BU’s powerplay has been better than the Mass Attack’s (23.1%) and their PK has been much better (88.2%), so scoring on the powerplay tonight may prove difficult.
So the game plan should be the same as last week. The defense needs to be tighter, they can’t give up early first period goals, and they need to pepper whoever’s in net with lots of rubber. Kieran Millan, while not as spectacular as Teglia was, had very good night last Saturday, stopping 28 of 30 shots. Saturdays numbers boosted him to very respectable 1-0-1, 2.40GAA, .912 save% numbers. However, Millan has been known to have off nights in the past and he certainly isn’t an Alex Beaudry or a Carter Hutton (Although, so far this year Alex Beaudry doesn’t look like an Alex Beaudry, either).
Hopefully, the crowd is a positive factor. Tonight’s game is televised on NESN (UMass has been 0-4-0 on NESN in the last two seasons), and it’s the home opener, and it’s against BU. So, everyone will be there. Here’s a tip for you hockey neophytes out there. If somebody who looks like they know what they’re doing starts a chant and you don’t understand it, just go along with it anyway. As fun as it is to yell it, there are more hockey chants than “Fuck BU!” You gotta trust me on this one.
Other Hockey East Teams in Action this Weekend:
Providence @ UMass Lowell
No.7 UNH @ Northeastern
No.2 North Dakota @ No.12 Maine
Northeastern @ UMass Lowell
Providence @ No.8 BU
Merrimack @ Vermont
No.2 North Dakota @ No.12 Maine
No.1 BC @ No.17 Notre Dame
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?
~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.
Yes, Virginia, the UMass Minutemen basketball team just won a game in the Atlantic 10 tournament. I’m going to repeat that: the Minutemen won an A-10 tourney game. In what top scientists are describing as “by a wide margin the least likely thing that has ever happened,” UMass, which managed in consecutive years to suffer a shocking upset in the first round of said tournament that ultimate cost Travi$ Fraud’s teams a pair of NCAA Tournament bids, second-year (and, for some reason, already-embattled) head coach Derek Kellogg took a 10-19 team that very nearly 0-3 against the Atlantic 10’s two worst teams, snuck into the conference tournament on a last-day victory, and proceeded to do what Ford’s teams, featuring the likes of Forbes, Harris, Brower, Milligan, Lasme, and Freeman never did. The Derek Kellogg statue is to be placed in between the Mullins and the practice arena, and will feature lifelike hair to be re-jelled on a daily basis. Oh, and let’s name the Champions Center after him too.
Okay, so dramatic hyperbole aside, the Minutemen were playing a Charlotte team tail-diving in a way that makes the Cahoon Swoon look tame by comparison. They also didn’t have to play in UMass’s personal house of horrors, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. (No, really, I was so excited when I realized this game would be on Charlotte’s home court. I hate Boardwalk Hall; it’s right there with Safeco Field and Lawler Arena in the “places my favorite team should win but never seems to” pantheon, and it’s not even anyone’s home arena.)
Did UMass deserve to win this game? The defense in the first half and down the stretch was fantastic, though the lapse in the middle there nearly did them in. Derrio Green (and, really, the whole Charlotte offense) didn’t exactly set the world on fire from the field. And certainly, they got some help from the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen, a too many men technical foul. I’ve never seen that in a basketball game (that’s roughly seven full seasons of Celtics, four full years of UMass and countless pro and college games on TV in between). and I can guarantee you the crazies calling for DK’s firing would be louder than ever if such a thing happened with his team.
On the other hand, UMass, as if to continue the A-10 First Game tradition, tried their darnedest to lose this game. The team continues to struggle to hit open shots, although at least they’re getting more of them. Anthony Gurley, as the UMassHoops chat room can attest, had one of those frustrating games that has really epitomized his time here in Amherst. Bailey got lots of minutes. And yet they still pulled it off, thanks to the continued stellar rebounding effort and Ricky continuing to go out with a bang here.
So what’s next? A Richmond squad that UMass took to overtime on its own court, and could have beaten if Ricky hadn’t dribbled down the clock to about 1 on the final possession before heaving a terrible shot. On one hand, UMass doesn’t have to play them in Richmond this time. On the other hand…right. Atlantic City. Fuck. Well, that was fun. No, but seriously, this is two great wins in a row for DK and for this team going forward, regardless of how central Ricky was to them. If the guys can’t pull the victory and bring a 19-loss team into the NCAA tournament this year (which is like saying “if I can’t go try out for the Red Sox and make the starting rotation”), at least it’s nice to have not just A-10 Tournament experience for the kids, but also Boardwalk Hall experience going forward.
But hey, anything is possibbblllleeeee! (Except, again, that Red Sox scenario.)
Oh, other things to note…I caught the first half of UMass-Albany today, my first-ever men’s lax game at Garber Field. (I know, I’m a slacker, though in my defense, the home games always seem to be either a) during class or b) too far away for my hungover ass to walk on a weekend.) UMass came back from down 4-1 to win 11-6. I’m not even going to pretend to be a lacrosse expert, but I’ll do my best to keep an eye on Cannella’s talented young squad.
Last but not least (but certainly most obvious): the new layout is finally here! After finally getting some free time to mess around with GIMPshop (my new laptop, unlike my old PC, does not have the real Photoshop, and I’m not made of money), I was able to put something together with a shot Walsh took a few weeks back before a game. Accordingly, I switched up the blog template, and I think this one looks better; plus, I enjoy having the tags and author stuff BEFORE the post, so you guys know whose work you’re reading right away. We’d love to hear any input you might have on the layout; notably, we’d love to change the color scheme but WordPress only gives you so many templates, so we’ll just deal with what we’re given. Enjoy!
One more thing…we will most definitely on hand for this weekend’s festivities at Chestnut Hill University. Is it Friday yet?
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?