The students are back on campus, intersession is in the books, and the pivotal second semester of the seasons is about to get into full swing for the Minutemen, on the ice and on the hardwood. Both teams have performed above preseason expectations (for the latter, significantly so), and now it’s time to see what both teams are truly made of, as pivotal conference matchups will determine the postseason fates of both sets of Minutemen. It all starts this weekend against some familiar foes who happen to be seasonal “favorites” of the boys of The Fight Mass Blog Starring Mike Marcou, if by “favorites” you mean we like them about as much as Tim Thomas likes big government. (TOPICAL ZING)
For hockey, it means two games against the Angry Birds of
UMass Lowell. I’ll skip the early-season reverse-jinx gimmick this time around and stick to the fact that Rowdy’s gang has wharrgarbled their way to a 9-6-0 start, a year after occupying the basement of Hockey East and occupying it hard. The University of Massachusetts ran off a five-game winning streak against its estranged crack whore sister coming into the year, then for some reason loaned their uniforms to the AIC Falcons and sent them on a bus to the Tsongas Tscenter in late November for a 4-0 loss that was never really that close. Even in the days of pro agents and scouts at ice level juggling flaming swords to distract Marcou, Irwin and Wellman, I’ve never seen a Minutemen team as disinterested in a game as they did back in November. Those were very bad times.
That, obviously, can’t happen this weekend. The Minutemen are 7-0-3 on their home ice coming into Friday’s showdown. They have a massive rest advantage, having played just twice since Frozen Fenway, while Lowell will be playing their fourth and fifth games in eight days. UMass stands four points back with equal games played in conference, and a sweep, unlikely as it may seem for a team that hasn’t had a four-point weekend in seemingly forever, would catapult the Minutemen past the River Hawks in the standings with the tiebreaker. And this is not the Lowell team that was crushing folks back in November. Lowell was blanked 1-0 by Alex Beaudry and the Friars tonight in Providence, and since edging BC 3-2 in December, they’re just 2-3-0 in the conference, all against teams in the lower half of the standings, and one of those wins was literally handed to them by Northeastern.
The River Hawks’ success has largely come thanks to the emergence of Doug Carr, who (contrary to what Beaudry’s and Rawlings’s mothers would like you to believe) is probably the conference’s best goaltender this year. They’ve also gotten unexpectedly strong contributions from upperclassmen like David Vallorani and Matt Ferreira, who have thrived in new head coach Norm Bazin’s system, and youngsters like Scott Wilson and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, who seems to be picking up where past Lowell defensive stars like Nick Schaus and Jeremy Dehner and Maury Edwards (when he was still good) left off.
Lowell, unbelievably, entered the night third in the pairwise, thought losing to Providence dropped them into a tie with – hey, lookit that – Boston College. The Minutemen are in 24th, which would be awesome if this was basketball RPI, but where only the top 16 make the tourney, there’s plenty of work to do. Still, UMass’s ability to take advantage of its few quality non-conference foes (Yale and Cornell) puts the team in a good spot. Almost every Hockey East game is good for the pairwise. As bad as the season started, the Minutemen are also just six points out of a home ice slot behind Maine, with three games in hand (and two more shots at the Black Bears on the schedule).
This weekend holds a world of importance for UMass, given the opportunity to improve their standings, improve in the pairwise, drop a hated rival, and get the student base fired up from the very first hockey weekend of the semester. If they can’t get fired up for at least the Friday game, it’s back to the “slightly bit concerned” mode for us. If they come out flying like they did against Vermont, though, and actually get some puck luck this time, and avoid penalties, I’m much more confident in this team’s ability to protect a lead. Lowell’s scored a grand total of three more goals than UMass this year in Hockey East play. Their edge, of course, is on the defensive end, which is why getting the lead early is key.
And would it hurt to win a fucking road game? Jeez. Anyway, the three of us will be there on Friday and Walsh and I will also make the tstrip to Tsongas on Tsaturday, so if you can’t make it to the games (for shame!) we’ll have some commentary for ya on @FightMass. Did I mention there’s no underscore anymore? There’s no underscore anymore, get used to it.
Now, ahem, basketball. The past week was down-and-up for the boys. Wednesday at Duquesne was one of those ugly, foul-plagued conference games that we’ve been so used to seeing over the last couple years under DK, and the Minutemen never got into any sort of rhythm in an 11-point loss to the Dukes. The team’s lack of depth with the Sampson and Cady injuries hurt them inside, forcing Sean and Putney to play soft, while Chaz had probably his worst game as a Minuteman, turning the ball over like it was going out of style. And worst of all, we had to endure the worst fucking commentary you’ll ever hear in a radio broadcast from the Dukes crew. And don’t give me that “well how can you complain about a pirated video stream” bullshit, I watched that game with my UMass All-Access Pass somehow, thank you very much. I pay like ten bucks a month for that shit.
And yet as much as I complain about the UMass broadcasts on Twitter and make fun of Maurer’s extra syllables and Hennessey combining hockey players’ first names into their last, at least both of UMass’s announcing crews call games in a fairly unbiased manner. I’ve always thought that, if you take Jack Edwards and Tom Heinsohn out of the equation, we Boston sports fans have some pretty fair announcing crews on both TV and radio, and even those two have Brickley and Gorman to temper their respective outrages. Duquesne, meanwhile, had this trifecta of failure mucking it up in the booth:
1) Old homer who clearly hasn’t left the Pittsburgh area in 60 years, seamlessly incorporating his own random thoughts into what is supposed to be straight play-by-play,
2) Token former player spouting random SportsCenter catch phrases without providing any actual useful observations,
3) “Stat boy” with a voice whinier than John Wallach’s (!) who has never touched a basketball in his life, doesn’t understand how travelling works, and shouts “CARRY!” every time Chaz touches the ball.
When these guys weren’t bemoaning the lack of calls in Duquesne’s favor (even though the fouls were going their way at like a 2-to-1 ratio for almost the entire game), the three of them decided by halftime – based on one bad performance – that Chaz must be the worst point guard of all time (you know, even though he’s 23rd in the nation in assists) and that “this is why Hofstra didn’t want him.” OMG that’s just classic, y’all are hilarious!!1 Hey, remember that last time you guys were in the NCAA tourney in 1977? No, and neither does anyone else. Shut up, dipshits.
…Ahem, but here’s the beauty of this season: the “bazkettaball” is the exception, no longer the rule. Case in point – UMass came out three days later and pulled off a good road win at Richmond in front of a surprisingly solid crowd (and I say this because basically everyone else in the A-10 has a solid home crowd by our standards). Chaz bounced back and carried the team down the stretch with some ridiculous passes, everyone played great defense in the second half, Carter had one of his better offensive games, and the team once again got enough offense from enough different sources to win.
No disrespect to Gurley, but part of last year’s struggles (besides the glaring hole at point guard) was that the Minutemen couldn’t develop a consistent second scorer to support AG, who took it upon himself to take too many shots trying too hard to carry the scoring load. Without him, the Minutemen have been forced to spread the wealth (and, again, having a real point guard who himself is a scoring threat has been a massive help in that regard). Rarely this year has one guy clearly been the lone offensive weapon, although Chaz himself is the team’s leading scorer. Some nights it’s Jesse, some nights it’s Putney, but for the most part, the scoring has been very evenly distributed when the team is playing well.
So let’s keep that ball rolling. The Minutemen are 15-5, 4-2 in conference play, and with the season 2/3 of the way down, can rack up 20 wins just by playing .500 ball down the stretch. That said, the competition gets fiercer, with seven of these games against teams in the RPI top 100. The Minutemen can – and kind of need to – win the other three, which are two against a hilariously-bad Rhode Island team and then a roadie against a not-good-at-all George Washington. Of the other seven, here’s what’s left:
Home: Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure, La Salle, Xavier
Road: St. Joe’s, Dayton, Temple
A 20-win season, provided they notch those three cupcake wins, means winning just TWO of these seven games. They can make this process a lot easier on Saturday when Fat Majerus and the Billikens come to town. Last year, the same Billikens got a white-hot three-point shooting performance at home to down the Minutemen. This year’s team has some quality-ish wins against low-level major conference teams like Villanova, Washington, and Oklahoma, but all either at home or neutral-site. They’ve hung around in some tough roadies against New Mexico and Dayton, but are overall unimpressive away from the Gateway Arch, which I should point out is nowhere near the Atlantic Ocean. (Really, the Billikens were trailblazers in this whole “play in a conference that makes zero geographic sense” trend.) This would be by far their most impressive road win. UMass is unbeaten at home. I say these trends should continue.
Saturday afternoon needs to be the biggest home crowd of the season. Needs to. The athletics department has been pimping this game out hardcore to students and locals alike. It’s the first home game after the long break, during which UMass actually won a televised game (albeit on a channel that nobody really gets). It’s a 2:00 start, which gives students zero excuse – you can part Friday, go to the game Saturday, and it’ll be over long before anything is going on again Saturday night (AND it gives the hardcore fans plenty of time to make the drive to Lowell with time to hit up Lowell Beer Works before the nightcap!). The midweek loss against Duquesne probably went unnoticed to much of the student body – in fact, let’s not talk about that game anymore, it never happened, don’t tell anybody. And the Billikens may not be the biggest draw on the schedule (that’d be Xavier, recent struggles notwithstanding) but Majerus is a big enough name and Saint Louis is at least more recognizable than, say, La Salle or St. Bonaventure. And the team is fucking 15-5. It’s time to stop with the negative stigma around this team. As Don Orsillo would say, they’re back and they’re back big.
Hockey fans who scoff at the basketball team ads on the jumbotron, I implore you – just go to the game. Unless you absolute despise the game of basketball, which means you’re not an American anyway so it’s cool. But otherwise, go. Yell your brains out. It’s a fucking Saturday afternoon, no excuses, you’ve got no other plans. Bring other people. This might not be an NCAA tournament team this year – not quite yet – but I think we’re finally, finally seeing the emergence of something special in this Kellogg era. Be part of it, or get left in the dust when the bandwagon takes off next year.
That’s all I got for ya. We’ll try to record another FightCast this weekend, maybe. Until then, enjoy the games. I know I will. It’s about time this program had two teams playing meaningful conference games in the second semester.
Uhh, no, this isn’t the long-awaited student article. Patience, Iago, patience. Today’s wrath is directed at one Chip Ainsworth of something called the Recorder, which is apparently some sort of town newsletter in something called a Greenfield. I’ve never heard of him, frankly, because, uhhh, Greenfield? Really? Wikipedia lists it as: “a six-day (Monday through Saturday) morning daily newspaper published in Greenfield, Massachusetts, USA, covering all of Franklin County, Massachusetts; Hinsdale, New Hampshire; and Brattleboro, Guilford and Vernon, Vermont.” So, in other words, a newspaper covering a region in which nothing happens.
That’s really the only excuse for an article like the one Ainsworth published, which spews all kinds of ridiculous venom about how much Don Cahoon sucks, yadda yadda yadda, McCutcheon. I won’t even begin to try to match Mark’s brilliant response article, just go read it now even though you most likely already have. Anyway, the same line that caught his ire also got our attention:
Meanwhile the hockey team’s only dedicated blog — “Fear the Triangle” — should more aptly be called “Fear the Truth.”
Needless to say, you are not in our good graces, Chipper. I might even say you’re hovering dangerously close to the level of Lowell/Jack Parker/that one dumb bitch who went to Michigan over UMass and bragged about it in the Globe. Anyway, this wasn’t going anywhere particularly deep, I was mostly just looking for an opportunity to paraphrase Aziz Ansari: FUCK YOU CHIP, WE DO EXIST!
That is all.
P.S. Oh, and Fight Mass and friends will be making an appearance rooting for the UMass hockey alumni of the Worcester Sharks this weekend. If nothing else, we get to rag on Carter Hutton some more. The game is Saturday night and we welcome anyone in the area to attend as well if you’re sad about lacrosse’s disappointing return to earth, the Bruins’ mediocrity and Boston College’s impending third national title in four years. Good, harmless fun!
P.P.S. No shit, really? Some other site has done a column called “This Week in Disrespect” before? We’ve only been poking fun at that for like a year and a half now. But I thought of a more fitting title this morning anyway. I think we’ll make this a regular feature, in fact.
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.
UMass Minutemen (5-11-3(4-6-3HEA)) vs. Vermont Catamounts (4-12-4(2-8-3HEA))
Coming off of a home-and-home sweep of Lowell last weekend, the Minutemen hope to keep the moment this weekend as they head to Burlington for a two game set with UVM. After their almost-collapse on Friday, the Mass Attack rebounded with one of their finest efforts of the year for a decisive 4-1 victory on Saturday.
Vermont is ranked 9th in Hockey East right now and could be considered a bizarro-Lowell. By this, I mean that UVM has pretty decent goaltending and defense coupled with an anemic offense (the worst in Hockey East). It’s an offense that can only muster 1.85GPG in conference play and has a powerplay success rate of under 13%. Then came the news that Wahsontiio Stacey (and probably his mom) is leaving the Catamounts. Stacey has been UVM’s leading goal- and point-scorer this year (9G/6A/15Pts). UVM coach Kevin Sneddon said that Stacey’s departure probably wouldn’t affect the team’s play very much. Well, he’s probably right; Stacey hasn’t scored a goal in Hockey East play since a 3-2 loss to BC in early November, so we shouldn’t expect his loss to turn the Catamounts into complete pushovers. But still, with Stacey gone, the UMass defense will have one less “threat” to worry about this weekend. Without Stacey, UVM will probably rely more on such goal-scoring luminaries as: Sebastian “Funky A” Stålberg (5G/9A/14Pts), Jack Downing (5G/3A/8Pts), and Chris McCarthy (5G/3A/8Pts). I might add that only 2 of Funky A’s 5 goals and 5 of his 9 assists came against Hockey East foes.
It’s been a different story for the Minutemen of late, whose 9 goals in their last 2 games (take it with a grain of salt people, these two games were against “the worst team in the history of Hockey East) have bumped the season average to 2.77GPG in Hockey East play. This isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but when considered that Dainton’s GAA in Hockey East play is the same 2.77, it gives you at least a 50/50 shot of winning (which might explain why Dainton is 4-4-2 in Hockey East action this season). The offense has received contributions from everywhere, and has 5 players with double-digit point totals: Michael Pereira (8G/9A/17Pts), Danny Hobbs (5G/11A/16Pts), T.J. Syner (5G/10A/15Pts), Branden Gracel (3G/7A/10Pts), and Joel Hanley (1G/9A/10Pts). Also of note is Adam Phillips, a freshman defenseman who has potted 6 goals (4 on the powerplay) so far this season. Speaking of the Mass Attack powerplay, it sits at a respectable 16.4% against Hockey East opponents.
The Minuteman problems have been the same for most of the season. Defense. At best, it’s average; at worst, it’s atrocious. Conor Allen and Michael Marcou (Marcou, yes a junior with 71 games experience) both have dreadful –9 plus/minus ratings. How Toot ever decided Mike Marcou was worthy of an A on the sweater is beyond me. The penalty kill sits at an awful 78.9% success rate and I swear to god at times it seems like some of the PK guys are playing with themselves out on the ice. The Mass Attack allows 34.8 SOG a game to Hockey East opponents and many of these shots come from prime scoring real estate. The lazy and undisciplined defense let a garbage UML team back in the game last Saturday and almost blew it. The only guys doing a consistently good job on the back end are Doug Kublin and (somewhat surprisingly) freshman Colin Shea. Both are +3s and we all know that Kubbie is a solid, fundamental, lockdown D-man. Shea, on the other hand, can strike a bit of fear at times as he is a still-learning freshman, but he is certainly learning very quickly.
Vermont’s defense, on the other hand, is allowing less than 32 shots against in Hockey East play, but, they are even worse on the PK, with a 78.3% kill rate in conference play. They play in front of a serviceable junior netminder in Rob Madore (4-12-4, 2.95GAA, .904save%). Madore has been known to stand on his head at times (especially last year against UMass), but he is usually a fairly average backstop. Given the numbers, you’d have to give the goaltending edge to Paul Dainton (5-6-2, 2.86GAA, .914save%).
The key to this weekend is to play 6 periods of good hockey. In all honesty, Vermont is a bad team. If the boys in maroon don’t allow this series to be two trap games, they should come out with at least 3 points. Better offense, better goaltending, and about equal defense can hopefully lead to some wins for UMass this weekend and will hopefully lead to some angry fifty-year-old from Vermont hilariously challenging myself, Matt, and Max after Saturday’s game.
Last Week: 0Pts/2SOG/+1/0PIM
Season Totals: 3G/1A/4Pts/15SOG/+3/18PIM
It seems fitting that I write this on the day that Zdeno Chara has his first career hat trick, as the key to Saturday’s 4-1 thrashing of our ugly sister was the continued amazing shooting of an tall, oafish defenseman. Adam Phillips , King Phillips for those listening to my drunken yelling, has been the highlight of UMass’s offense when they decide to actually set up shots. His slap shot from the top of the point is the greatest weapon our power-play has right now, and I’m looking forward to seeing it for many years to come.
In general. this is the game I was looking for from our minutemen, playing strongly against an admittedly weak opponent, but putting a solid effort up nevertheless. While UMass did let off the gas in the 3rd, they didn’t fall asleep at the wheel like on friday night and have to be bailed out by some last second heroics. I would like to think of this game as a turning point, giving this team enough confidence to play strongly in hostile territory this weekend in an extremely important tilt with UVM.
I hate to put so much importance on one series, but this weekend will tell us alot about the rest of the season. If we can go to UVM and take 3 or 4 points, we can almost guarantee at least an 8-spot in hockey east, with room to grow against some tougher opponents later in the season. This team seems to be gaining an identity. I have been extremely impressed with the upperclassmen as of late. TJ Syner continues to be a thrill to watch (so much speed, too much speed), Hobbs has stepped up as of late, Langeraap has had a point in 5 of the last 7 games, and Kublin has continued to be Kubtastic (which is to say more important than meaningless stats). Its good to see some leadership be established, especially given how young this team is.
Well, we can only hope this is a sign of a turn around. We (ie, me) also hopes that Derek will continue preview duties with the start of a new semester (because I sure as shit ain’t doing it). Also, welcome back Max, who will be joining myself and Walsh for the first out of state complete triangular fight mass road trip.
Happy new semester, we’ll be seeing you in the land of cheese (and Bernie Sanders)
Like the city of Lowell itself, last night was an ugly clusterfuck of a night. UMass comes away with a lucky as hell 5-4 win, but its a real shame that points have to be given out after a game like last night’s. Our defense was out of position and slow (highlighted by several players simply falling over with provocation, leading flag guy to comment “maybe they aren’t used to playing on good ice”) and scared the ever living shit out of me all game. Perhaps by simply watching this team all year I expect every shot on net to be a goal, but every time Lowell got the puck into our end I was in a perpetual Bob Dylan “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh” (the official sound of Fight Mass). I have zero confidence in our defense, and just looking at them execute simple hockey things like limit angles on a 2 on 2 is terrifying.
Lets be completely honest with each other here: If we were playing any team without “Lowell” on their sweaters we would have lost by 8. Too many good shots given up, far too much standing around. And that is whats scary, if we can only eek out a win against one of the worst hockey east teams in recent memory, what does that mean for the next 3 months where we are not playing the crack capital of Massachusetts?
Our ceiling this year is 6th in Hockey East, which after watching this team regress over the last month (something that should not be happening for such a young team) I have little faith we can do. If we are going to put ourself into position for making the playoffs, its going to be done in the next few weeks. First off, we need 2 points tonight, and as a personal preference, maybe we can earn them tonight. No falling asleep at the wheel and giving up 3 unanswered goals. No offensive complacency. NO SHORTHAND GOALS! Beat Lowell, show me something, anything, and then we can think about the future. Next week its a pointable weekend (thats my new phrase, remember that) against Vermont who is somehow worse than us in the HE standings (I refuse to believe that there are 2 worse teams than big brother UMass and ugly sister). Yes its on the road, but we need some points against the basement of Hockey East. After that, its a home and home with Northeastern, who is beatable (I watched 59 minutes of the last time we met and it went pretty well) and then a whole bunch of games I would be stupid to expect points from.
If there was ever a time for UMass to not suck this year, its these next few weeks. Maybe, despite the absolute shit play on the ice, last night’s win will wake up our beloved minutemen and turn this stretch around. An ugly win, yes, but maybe, just maybe, a win to stop the losing streak is all our boys need to start playing with some confidence (dear god I hope so). Get some points over the next few weekends, solidify a spot in the playoffs, and maybe give a BC or BU a scare for one game in the quarterfinals (is it too much to ask for a single playoff win in my UMass career?). We are not hard to please, UMass hockey, our expectations were low this year, but we only ask for a few things. Show us flashes of something to come, be entertaining, and for the love of god don’t be Lowell.
- I’m really disappointed Tsongas doesn’t suck anymore. The concourses may be planned out worse than Lowell’s recruiting strategy, but its still one of the better barns in Hockey East right now. The scoreboard is amazing, they finally got the lighting right, and there is no more dumb blimp. Good job Lowell (too bad we had to pay for it (lol taxpayer joke (no but seriously we’re pissed (does this mean we can have a nice football stadium?)))
- Does anyone remember when Darren Rowe was alive? That was fun.
- The sheer lack of shooting after the whistle and embellishment calls is disgraceful this year. Why can’t new Casey Wellman do that for me?
- Lowell has consistently been the best away game to be a loud asshole at. There is the perfect balance of hatred for you and knowledge that they won’t do anything that makes yelling at Lowell rewarding. Also, being a fan of the away team when they win in the last 15 seconds is a feeling that I hope everyone (except Lowell fans) gets to experience. The mix between the deflated quiet of the home crowd and our sheer jubilation was amazing
- I would like to send an official apology to the ice is life (RIP). I was an oversensitive asshole hellbent on trolling and you are hilarious. Also, misery loves company.
- On that note, Lowell has banners to remind us of all the years where weezer was still relevant and Lowell made the NCAAs
Apologies in advance for all the spelling errors and terrible writing. I’m a terrible blogger, get over it.
See you at the Bill kids,
1.) We need to get our acts together (specifically me) with regards to writing more.
2.) Lowell sucks.
3.) (see #2).
Off to the City of Crack we go.
Actually, let’s not and say we didn’t. It’s time for the Minutemen’s annual Halloweekend tilts against a not-so-scary foe in Providence. In last year’s visit, the Minutemen were shut down by then-sensation Alex Beaudry, donning his best Martin Brodeur costume apparently. It was then just a setback for the hot-starting UMass squad, true, but those 2 points the Friars stole were critical in the oh-so-tight Hockey East race.
This weekend, the Minutemen are not trying to avoid their first loss, but rather seeking their elusive first win on the campaign. We’ve been slacking here at Fight Mass, true, but we’re hoping that both we and our beloved hockey team pick up steam now that the season is coming into full swing. The Minnesota games felt like exhibitions, to be sure; like I said earlier, the Minutemen have virtually no shot at an at-large bid this year, and so those non-conference games can be used as nothing-to-lose experience builders. The two games against BU (which we really have failed to talk about at great length) were a bit more relevant. To summarize, UMass played well at Agganis for the first time in seemingly forever, in a game where we weren’t who they thought we were. Last week, Jackie Parker’s boys were at least a slightly bit more concerned about what was going on in there,* yet our boys still damn near pulled off a comeback despite multiple attempts to not only shoot themselves in the foot, but to damn near take a bazooka to them.
In fact, despite leading for a whopping 3.3% of their ice time this year (you can thank Walshy, who was too swamped by his ridiculous senior year courseload to get around to writing the preview this week, for that fun stat, which he hashed out with Rocks on the ever-so-delightful Fear the Triangle Facebook page), our boys have been in all four games they’ve played, against two of the nation’s top teams. In three of those games, our boys have had one atrocious period doom them…the first period in game 2 against Minny (3-0) and game 3 at Agganis (2-0), and the debacle of a middle stanza against BU last weekend (3-0). You could also throw in the first period of the opening game at Minnesota, where UMass was only down 1-0 and shots were even, but the Mass Attack also failed to cash in on an early seven minutes of power play time.
Really, if you want to get into the nitty-gritty of the stats, Rocks has you covered over at FTT, and really, his preview covers pretty much anything I could be able to tell you from listening to parts of four games and reading box scores from down here. Suffice it to say, Beaudry is the key to this Friars team; they’re not an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but Beaudry’s hot-and-cold inconsistency makes it really tough to tell what to expect out of a tilt with PC. With Dainton, I feel like you’re gonna get an above-average effort night in and night out; rarely is he dominant or awful on any given night. Beaudry can be a world-beater one night and a sieve the next. Last year, we saw the former when he came to town. Hopefully this year it’ll be more treat than trick.
Meanwhile, I’d like to take this time to address the rioting incident of last week, and more importantly, the state of hockey fandom in Amherst lately. For those living under a rock, the Mullins Center cut off admission to the BU home opener when students, fearful of not getting those last couple hundred of the 3200 reserved student seats, “bum-rushed” the gates. In addition, although thoroughly less surprisingly, the chants once again boiled down to variations of “fuck BU” in addition to the usual “let’s go UMass” and “U! MASS!” staples.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see that the popularity of the team hasn’t dropped off one bit, despite the departures of so many key players. Actually, maybe we should be concerned about this – how many of the students in attendance even know who James Marcou or Casey Wellman are? I’d be willing to bet that it’s less than we want it to be. Truth be told, UMass has a reputation for its fans being less than knowledgeable when it comes to hockey, compared to some of its Hockey East brethren. This is a volume problem more than anything, in my honest opinion. At a school like BC, where attendance isn’t nearly as great (especially when taking into account the exponentially larger pool of possible spectators the Boston area provides as opposed to middle-of-nowhere western MA), the fans that do make it out there at least know what’s up. At UMass, I’d like to say we have a comparable number of hardcore hockey fans who know the score. However, it’s hard for those students to have a voice when they’re accompanied by the frat boy/Swestie girl masses who pregame hockey and come out because it’s the thing to do. This is why schools in rural areas, like us, Maine, UNH, and Vermont, have reputations for being nastier and more vulgar than the Boston-area schools – we draw the common denominator crowd, and their voices are much louder and drunker. (Then there’s Providence, whose team scares away possible crowds, Merrimack, with its high school arena and small student body, and Lowell, whose fans we can only assume are drawn in by shiny lights and pretty colors).
But here’s the thing about those other local state schools: they have hockey traditions, vulgar though they may be. UNH, UVM and Maine have all experienced varying degrees of success in the last decade, while UMass is new to this whole “actually contending” thing. Contending for long periods of time builds tradition, and tradition breeds actual interest in the sport itself, rather than merely the spectacle. Hockey is a sport whose popularity is on the rise in this part of the country, what with the Bruins’ recent run of successful seasons (and damn, do they look good this year or what?). I honestly think that gradually, the percentage of fans who are hockey-savvy will rise, and the unorganized masses will find coherence. I agree with what Rocks said about the topic a few days ago, though: in order for a true student hockey fan tradition to begin, it needs to be helped from within, with a student movement. Hell, that’s part of why I started Fight Mass. You guys who read this at home, in class, on your iPhone during that hour of waiting for the game to start in the Mullins…this is where you guys come in. You know what’s up. You know that, for UMass to rise to the level of the elite hockey schools in the region, it has to come from both on and off the ice. With the caliber of player that Cahoon is getting rising (to the point where we’ve got NHL scouts prying guys out of Amherst – something that from all accounts was unthinkable ten years ago!), things are looking good for the on-ice product. It’s up to the fans to get their act together. Nobody’s gonna force the students to suddenly become more imaginative, more clever, more coherent. A million “Be respectful, keep it clean” signs won’t do that, and, as you’re well aware by now, I don’t want it to be kept “clean.”
Toot and the players have gushed in recent years about how much it helps to have 8,000+ in that building. It’s what gives this team its identity, its soul. It’s what makes Amherst “the zoo” and Mullins “the Bill.” This is our team, and they deserve better than drunk assholes screaming random profanities and leaving after one or two periods. We have the biggest arena in Hockey East, and there is strength in numbers. Make this blog and FTT and all the other UMass blogs and websites viral. Spread the word. Build this community. Invite people to games on Facebook. I’m not ashamed to say resorting to fliers with important chant-worthy information might be a good idea, at least until the fans start coordinating with each other independently. Hell, way back when I was a freshman, we’d have the other team’s goalie’s mother’s name. It’s harsh, true, but compared to today (where I doubt half the fans even know the name of the other team’s goalie himself, let alone his mother), it’s an upgrade.
What this all kind of boils down to, though, is the need for a hockey band. Everyone else in Hockey East has one (Christ, even fucking LOWELL has one) and we have one of the greatest marching bands in the country. I don’t know if Parks’s death would improve, due to his opposition to the idea, or hinder, due to the school wanting to honor his wishes, the chances of it happening, but the conversation certainly needs to be brought to the forefront. I know a few marching band members who say they’d be all for playing at games. I think a student pro-hockey band movement would help make it happen. If it’s funding that’s the problem, the alumni (oh wait, that’s me LOL) need to step up and get it done. As Rocks has said countless times, it would help coordinate the student body, it would fully cement hockey’s rightful place among the big sports on campus along with basketball and football, and it would just be fucking awesome. It’s a big missing piece in a program that’s been coming together brilliantly.
As my personal return to Massachusetts is still two months away, I’m afraid I can’t do a whole lot from down here. I rely on my fellow writers and to all you loyal readers to continue the revolution (to crib a marketing theme from UMass this season). As my esteemed manager Mike Whitt says every day at Blizzard Beach, “you can’t have a revolution if everybody’s not on board.” This is our time. I now open up the floor to any further discussion in our lovely comments box section for those to express their concerns.
Oh, and let’s get 4 points this weekend, please. Thanks.
*Inside jokes. You’ve gotta trust me on this one.
Greetings from sunny Orlando, Florida! (yeah, it’s pouring rain right now.) The offseason is thankfully more than halfway over, and though I won’t be experiencing the utter joy of Minutemen hockey in person until January (I’ve got that home-and-home with Blowell marked on my calendar), I’ve been able to follow the offseason online here and there. Of course many rightful thanks go to Rocks and his fabulous work at Fear the Triangle, but we’re finally getting some official information out of the UMassAthletics camp; specifically, the 2010-2011 roster, which is now available for your viewing pleasure.
Now, as one might expect, there are a lot of unfamiliar names on that roster. A LOT. If you haven’t been keeping up with FtT’s offseason coverage of the newcomers, now’s your chance to take a look at the last month or two’s worth of reporting he’s done, which includes seeing some of the guys in person. We can’t claim to offer anywhere near that level of in-depth analysis of these players yet, but obviously a big theme of the season will be Matt and Derek’s (and, eventually, my) first impressions of the freshman class. I see a lot of potential with this freshman class, especially with a solid, veteran backstop in Dainton to anchor the team, but a lot is going to ride on a) how NCAA-ready the new guys are (and how many can break out the way Jimmy and Casey did their freshman year), and b) whether the remaining old guys, like Langeraap, Concannon and Keane among others, can finally realize their potential, much like Will Ortiz did last year.
I’m not as worried as many people are about the defense; I think Kublin-Mikey will be better than people realize, I like Donnellan and I think Rowe played well down the stretch last year, and I like (at least on paper) the incoming guys like Phillips and Hanley. But the offense has a ton of question marks, although I do like that these incoming freshmen, like Gracel and Power, are being described with words like “scrappy” and “gritty,” things the trying-to-get-way-too-fancy-too-often UMass offense has lacked in recent years.
Realistically, we should have expectations of a season much like last year’s men’s basketball team, minus the coaching problems but also with the senior leadership and scoring of Harris replaced by the goaltending of Dainton. Both can keep a team in the game by themselves, but both need more than just potential around them if the season will be a success. A big help to the Minutemen is that, unlike the bball team last year, the coach is certainly not still learning his craft. Toot, in the final year of his contract, has his work cut out for him, but if the immediate success of the team rests on the coach’s ability to get the best out of freshmen, I’d put way more stock in Toot than in DK.
Having said that, it’s impossible to overlook the amount of sheer talent this team has lost since the end of last season. It would take a great number of these freshmen reaching their potential right away, the upperclassmen significantly improving, and a little bit of luck for this team to contend for a Hockey East title this year. A little bit of luck and we might be talking home ice, but I’d be satisfied with a 5th or 6th place finish with momentum going forward and with a handful of the new guys establishing themselves in the league. I also think missing the HEA playoffs would be a huge disappointment this year, given a senior goaltender and how bad teams like Providence (because they’re Providence) and Lowell (whose “best team ever” lost about a jillion players, including their two goalies, to graduation, and also because we hate them with a fiery passion) figure to be. Is it possible? Sure. But our motto is “stay positive” for a reason.
And as I type that, the sun’s coming back out down here in Orlando, so I’ll leave you with that for now. No matter what happens with this team, we’ll be there for the ride and we’re delighted to have you with us. Help us out and spread the word on campus, and let’s make Fight Mass truly by-the-students, for-the-students this year. Until then, continue to enjoy your summer, and…is it October yet?
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.)