I’m a man of my word.
Jokingly, a few weeks ago, in response to counter-criticism to our blog’s continued (perceived) crusade against Michael Marcou, I promised that, should Mikey score an overtime goal this season, I will rename the blog in his honor for the remainder of the season.
Frozen Fenway was an absolute blast, despite less-than-stellar sightlines, questionable choice of officials (Bunyon and Keenan? Really?) and the fact that we had to share our beloved Fenway with the unwashed, toothless masses that occupy three inferior state institutions. From our awesome pregame at The Lower Depths (extra props to Skinnier Andy Dwyer, our new favorite bartender of all time) to the moment Marcou snuck that rebound home in the waning seconds, ’twas an experience like no other. Now, Matt and I stayed afterward to watch UNH-Maine, despite our proximity to literally the worst human being we’ve ever encountered in our lifetimes (the supposed Maine fan? or maybe UNH? or Lowell? in a brown hoodie surrounded by people clearly horrified to be associated with him). I think the entire experience kind of college-hockeyed us out a little bit, to be honest. And it did sort of suck how unprepared they were in terms of stocking the merch stands (at the end of the game, all the UMass shirts had long flown off the shelves). But all-in-all, Hockey East and Fenway did a great job hosting an event that none present will soon forget.
All that being said…it’s a narrow win for UMass over a horrible, horrible Vermont team, and the Catamounts had numerous opportunities to steal this one. Especially troublesome is the continued taking of dumb penalties by the likes of Yevenko and Kiley, although I think the former brings more to the table than the latter. Kiley’s penalty was followed by an embellishment call that we, err, didn’t quite care for to say the least, but to UMass’s credit, they survived the five minutes at the end of regulation and start of OT. Of course, having seen the game on NESN replay now, it’s more clear than ever who really won that game for UMass. Tegs made some outstanding stops early in OT to keep UMass in striking range. With all respect to Mastalerz, I think it’s becoming clear that Boyle is the starter and Teglia is #2, albeit maybe less dramatically so than Quick/Dainton were with Meyers. I’m positive Boyle will be in net next weekend against BC, but finally getting that first win has to be huge for Jeff’s confidence.
More than anything, though, this game affirms what the numbers have slowly been hinting at for weeks now: Mike Marcou is no longer a laughing stock, and I was only half kidding when I tweeted during the Providence game that I see Mikey having a huge second half. Yeah, he’s prone every now and again to a bad turnover, and I still vividly remember seeing him commit the worst turnover of all time that somehow didn’t actually lead to a goal during the Harvard game. But he finally – FINALLY – seems to be comfortable on the offensive end of the ice handling the puck. More often than not, his positioning defensively has been stellar. And, when the Minutemen desperately needed at least three out of four points this week before the going starts getting tough again, you could reasonably argue that he earned UMass those three points with his game-saving blocked shot against PC and the walk-off winner at Fenway.
Now, get this – UMass leaves Fenway ahead of two of its fellow participants, as Vermont falls deeper into the cellar and actually leads UNH by a point. Remember, the Minutemen go to Orono for two and host the Wildcats for two, all in a two-week span toward the end of the season that now looms pretty large. I hope it doesn’t come to this, but I could see those four points at the Bill determining 8th and 9th place for UNH and UMass. Here’s the bigger surprise – UMass trails Maine by just five points for home ice (!) with two games to play and a game in hand. True, Lowell lurks in the middle there, but as we’ve seen in years past, the second half is where we will see if these upstarts like Lowell and Providence are for real.
So bring on the second half. Just as this team was left for dead around Thanksgiving after a few abysmal performances in a row, so too did this fanbase – ourselves included – basically give up on Marcou making the most of his potential after his atrocious, injury-plagued junior year. I never expected to say this, but…be like Mike, guys. (Wow.)