Tagged: no really Lowell SUCKS this year

Weekend in Review: February Thaw Edition

The Mass Attack found ways to lose games this weekend. In the Friday game, the Merrimack Warriors proved that it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. After taking a 1-0 lead into the 3rd period, the Minutemen found themselves down 2-1 with less than 6 minutes to go in the game. Enter Adam Phillips (8G/5A/13Pts), who scored back-to-back goals (the first 5-on-5, the second on a 4-on-3 power play) to give the Mass Attack the lead. Credit Mike Pereira (10G/13A/23Pts) with a fantastic screen on the first of these goals, as the shot was one that would’ve been easily savable, if not for the screen. Unfortunately, with less than 1:30 to go in the game, Colin Shea (1G/4A/5Pts) lost his stick and then inadvertently slapped the puck into his own net with his hand. Shea was, unsurprisingly, a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game. Shortly into OT, Paul Dainton (6-13-4, 2.95GAA, .910save%) gave up a juicy rebound that was netted by Carter Madsen (7G/6A/13Pts). And that was that.

Game two was all about Dainton and offensive ineptitude. Shots: 41-16 Merrimack. Score: 2-1 Merrimack. It was pretty much what you’re thinking right now. Dainton had an up and down night on Friday. He made some spectacular saves, but he let in two goals he probably shouldn’t have (including the game winner). On Saturday, Dainton made some spectacular saves. Then, he made some more. Then, he made some more. Dainton was great on Saturday. Unfortunately, Merrimack did what Merrimack does when it gets a lead at home. It clogged the neutral zone. Considering the ice at Lawler is about five feet wide, it isn’t hard to do. The one UMass goal came courtesy of TJ Syner (8G/15A/23Pts) in the 3rd, with the ice opened up because UMass was on a 4-on-3 power play. Saturday’s game did have some terrible officiating, too. Danny Hobbs (8G/14A/22Pts) got absolutely mugged in the corner by an elbow and came off the ice very slowly, but no call. Fortunately, Hobbs returned later in the game. Bunyan and Keenan also missed an incredibly blatant delay of game call with less than 20 seconds to go in the game.

Some notes:

  • The power play went a respectable 2-for-9 (22.2%), but both of those goals were on the 4-on-3. Still, I thought the 5-on-4 power play featured much better player movement and a better net-front presence. The power play did have a difficult time getting into the zone against Merrimack’s stifling forecheck.
  • The penalty kill, on the other hand, was pretty bad. It only killed 5 out of 8 penalties on the weekend (62.5%) and the power play goals came at the worst times. On Friday, power play goals flipped the game from a 1-0 lead to a 2-1 deficit and on Saturday, the game winner was a power play goal. One of the two power play goals on Friday was Dainton’s fault, but even if he didn’t let that in, a 6-for-8 on the PK isn’t very good.
  • Conor Sheary (6G/7A/13Pts) scored again and later added an assist on Friday. It’s nice to see a kid who has excelled at some of the grittier aspects of the game (even given his somewhat diminutive stature) find his scoring touch at this level. It’s also nice to hear “That goal scored by Conor Sheary from Melrose, Massachusetts” (my hometown) come out of John Hennessy’s mouth.
  • Mike Pereira has not scored in a long time. He hasn’t had a goal since the January 29th 2-2 tie with Northeastern. That’s 6 games without a goal for the Mass Attack’s leading goal scorer. Pereira has had 3 assists in that timeframe, but as a guy who accounts for nearly 15% of UMass’s goals in Hockey East play, he needs to be putting more pucks in the net.
  • UMass Lowell was swept by Maine this weekend meaning they have [finally] been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Hopefully we’ll see some brotherly love from this sister school. They play Providence twice next weekend and Vermont twice after that. We could use some UML wins (or ties); maybe the statistical elimination will create some spoiler-drive in the River Hawks.
  • Mike Marcou (3G/6A/9Pts/-14) still sucks. Real bad.
  • Lawler Arena also sucks.
  • And most importantly: Paul Dainton will almost definitely (barring injury) break Brian Regan’s UMass career saves record (3,050) in his next start. After this weekend’s 70 save performance, Dainton needs just 20 saves to get to 3,051 for his career and pass Regan’s record mark.

-Derek

Kublin Kounter

Last Week: 0Pts/Even/1SOG/4PIM

Season Totals: 3G/4A/7Pts/+4/22SOG/32PIM

We’re stumbling, but I think we’re still in it

Oh, Craig Finn, is there anything you haven’t already written a great lyric for?

UMass hockey fought valiantly this past weekend against BU, but fell exasperatingly short once again against the Warsofsky-less Terriers in front of a large, but (once again) fairly disinterested crowd. I’ll weigh in eventually (pinky swear!) with that long-promised overview of where I feel the student section is going – the wrong direction, by the way – and the factors that have led to the discontent of the Fight Mass writing staff and my fellow alumni who were present for better days. In the meantime, let’s see where UMass stands as the final three weeks of the regular season approach.

At this point, I think we can divide the rest of the conference into subgroups: the contenders (BC, UNH, and – gasp – Merrimack), the pretenders? (BU and Maine), the plucky upstarts (Northeastern), the scrappers-to-make-the-playoffs (us, Providence, and Vermont), and Lowell (Lowell). The skeptical question mark for the pretenders is where the biggest grey area is for me. There’s no question that the top 3 teams have differentiated themselves as the class of Hockey East. You could argue that BU or Maine can still play their way back into that discussion, but with Maine falling ever-closer to the middle of the pack hurts their legitimacy, and I don’t trust either of their goalies anyway. BU barely squeaking by us doesn’t change the fact that they just finished fourth in their own four-team tournament, one that their home PA announcer is the PA announcer of. I’ve seen Merrimack in person and watched BC and UNH on TV several times. BU is just not as good as those teams, regardless of the fact that they’re only 2 points behind the Warriors. Northeastern, meanwhile, damn near won the Beanpot, are looking better by the week – and, of course, have 4 games left against BC and UNH while BU gets to feast on UVM and Providence. With 6 points to overcome, it’s gonna take recent trends for the two Boston dog teams to escalate if those last two games between them are going to matter. Still, you have to admire Cronin’s team and how far they’ve come, even if they do rely waaaay too heavily on that McNeely-MacCloud tandem and Rawlings occasionally standing on his head. And they have a guy named Dongara. Hehe.

So then you’ve got the bottom of the standings, with a rebuilding team (us), a hard-to-figure-out and probably underachieving Vermont team, and, well, Providence, who does nothing particularly well but isn’t awful enough to mitigate the fact that on any given night, their goaltender can steal a game. (See: last Saturday or 50% of the fucking games Beaudry has against us.) Lowell, of course, is historically, hysterically bad, but our lead over the rest of Hockey East is tenuous at best. There’s two playoff spots left for these three teams, and someone’s gonna get left out in the cold. Here’s where they stand:

7. UMass – 15 points

Remaining: 2 vs. Merrimack (H/A), 2 vs. BC (H/A), 2 vs. Maine (H/H)

8. Vermont – 14 points

Remaining: 2 vs. UNH (H/H), 2 vs. BU (A/A), 2 vs. Lowell (H/H)

9. Providence – 12 points

Remaining: 2 vs. BU (H/A), 2 vs. Lowell (H/A)), 2 vs. Merrimack (H/A)

For tiebreakers, UMass holds the breaker on Vermont, Vermont holds the breaker on PC, and PC holds the breaker on UMass. Think of it as the worst game of rock-paper-scissors ever. Or for the nostalgic nerds out there, think of UMass as fire, Vermont as grass, and PC as water. And Lowell as Magikarp. Except nobody’s super-effective.

So obviously, the Minutemen have the toughest task ahead. If UVM and PC both sweep Lowell, as one can reasonably expect, that would put each of them ahead of UMass if the Minutemen fail to gain a point for the rest of the year. And that’s even if they lose the other four games apiece (which is also quite reasonable). UMass has definitely played better at home of late – relatively speaking – and I give them a fighting chance to pull off an upset over a Da Costa-less Merrimack team or a coasting BC team. But as usual, those last two games of the season against Maine are probably going to decide our fate. Last year’s team went up to Alfond against a pretty similar Maine team and stole two wins. This year, they’re at home, and Maine is in a bit of a nosedive since an impressive win over BC on January 16th. They’ve since been swept by UNH, earned just 1 point against BU in two games at home, tied Northeastern, and got walloped by Vermont at home before edging by the other night. Maine has two with Lowell that will likely get them back on track, but they follow that with two against Merrimack. One would expect Maine won’t have nearly as much to play for in that final weekend, if BU beats up on the rest of their schedule and locks down the final home ice slot.

Here’s hoping UMass can pounce on the Black Bears like they have in years past in that last weekend. Otherwise, our playoff hopes might mean – wait for it – rooting for Lowell. Eww.

-Max

Note: I’ve got plenty to say about the basketball team’s recent slide as well, but I’ll wait on that, maybe until after the Rhody game. I can only hope that things will be much more fun to talk about by then.

Shippin’ up to, uhh, North Andover, whoa-oh?

Last night,

Anyway, tonight, the Mass Attack enter what has been a house of horrors for them, Lawler Arena, and Fight Mass will be making a trip there as well. It’s sort of an unofficial trip, since it’ll only be Matt and I, but damnit, it’s a presence nonetheless. UMass presently holds a 3-point lead over Providence for 7th place in the conference. They trail Northeastern by 5 in the race for that 6th place spot. The difference between 6th and 7th this year is the difference between “playing a BC or UNH team having an all-time great season” and “playing a pretty damn good Merrimack team or an inconsistent-but-still-Satan-coached BU squad.” Needless to say, I like the Minutemen’s chances in the latter over the former, but even with 2 games in hand, that’s a lot of ground to make up against a team holding the tiebreaker.

Still, you have to have goals besides “make the playoffs in a league where 8 out of 10 teams make the playoffs and one of those 10 teams is fucking Lowell.” And so the Minutemen soldier on, with the odds squarely against them thanks to this brutal schedule. Fortunately, their recent injury woes are starting to subside, with guys like Marcou and Concannon coming back. They’ll need all the help they can get against a top-15 Merrimack team that is playing extremely well and comes off last night’s overtime comeback against the previously white-hot Huskies. Dainton is gonna have to continue his very strong season, and the offense is going to have to break out of this slump one way or another.

Overly optimistic? Nah. At this point wins are gravy. We’re looking for progress here. Lowell and Vermont are brutal enough this year that I’m not overly concerned about either of them (facing similarly harsh schedules, although they play two at the end of the year in which we may actually have to root for Lowell) going on a run this year. UMass probably needs to steal a game or two here just to be sure to spare themselves the embarrassment of missing the playoffs, but it’s not panic-button time yet. There’s three games left against these Warriors. Let’s see how the teams match up tonight.

On the flip side of the coin, basketball takes on St. Joe’s tonight. Losing at Saint Louis was ugly, but not humiliating. Sometimes the shots don’t go, and a bad team like the Billikens can catch fire from 3 long enough to fluster a young team like the Minutemen. The truth of it is, this squad plays too low-scoring of a style to fall behind or spend too much time struggling from the field. Ford’s teams, you could never count out because of the high-speed tempo, but you never felt comfortable with their defense, either. Kellogg’s Minutemen have exhibited tenacious D for much of the game almost the entire year, with a few notable exceptions. They don’t have enough scoring talent right now to take a game over if Gurley gets neutralized. Between Riley, Farrell, Putney, Morgan, and Laguerre, I envision the offense becoming more balanced next year. Until then, we need to understand that this offense, despite their occasional successes, is very much a work in progress, and doesn’t have the consistency to avoid games like Wednesday’s 100% of the time. That said, the Hawks are once again atrocious this year, and considering the competition, getting a top-4 (read: #3 or #4) seed for these guys is probably out of the question if they lose tonight. (Of course, I’m not convinced this team is capable of winning the A-10 tourney this year regardless, at least not right now, and if that’s the case, wouldn’t we rather have a round-one home game to try and generate buzz? Just a thought.)

We’ll have reax to both games, Lawler Arena impressions, and my overdue take on the current state of student athletic marketing at UMass in the next few days. Until then, don’t forget to follow me (@bittym87) and Matt (@blindspots) for personal reactions as we take in the game tonight.

-Max

greatness itself: the best revenge

With all due apologies to The Gurley Show, Census-Designated Place (our new nickname for the downsized Big City Bailey), Coach Kellogg’s hair, and the rest of our slightly-improved basketball team, it is time to take hockey coverage into full gear. (Frankly, I have no desire to talk about that Richmond game anyway.)

UMass has won 3 out of 4, they’ve returned to respectability in conference play after that god-awful start, and the bandwagon is looking as inviting as ever.  Could this be the year they pull a reversal, and have a monster second half after an awful first half instead of vice versa? …Okay, even our glasses aren’t that maroon. But a glance at the standings will show that our boys have slowly been creepin’ on up the ladder the last few weeks:

(EDIT: formatting sucks. Just go here. Yes, I’m lazy, but so are you if you can’t click a link.)

As you’ll notice, the Minutemen, thanks to a 5-1-0 record against the Lowells and Vermonts of the world, are actually above the 8th place position they so calamitously backed into last year(EDIT: we ended up 7th last year, Max is a JV blogger -Matt). Notably, we were picked to miss the playoffs, along with Lowell, by seemingly every season preview. Instead, the team could find themselves as high as 5th (!) depending on the outcome of this coming weekend, with two games against Northeastern (and Merrimack getting Vermont twice).

Now, objectively, we know that we can’t expect UMass to take these two games against Northeastern, and that hoping for a split is the most rational thing. But we’re optimists, damnit, and we also just watched UMass unleash an epic ass-whooping on Vermont sans two players (Lecomte and Phillips) who had been playing quite well offensively in past weeks. We see guys like Syner and Pereira emerging as offensive forces, while Hobbs and Langeraap are finally starting to show live up to their recruiting hype as scoring threats. It hurt to watch highlights of last year’s similar shellacking at Gutterson and seeing just how fun Jimmy and Casey were to watch when they were playing well, but with the mix of young and old, this team makes up for its pure star power with a much more balanced attack. Different guys are stepping up on different nights. Last year, it was the SWARM line, or Will Ortiz, or nothing.

We’ll have more specifics later in the week on the Huskies. But UMass, save for the Jekyll-Hyde act of Rob Madore shutting them down on Friday night, has seemed to make big strides since the debacle a few weeks ago at the Mullins Center, where they let a seemingly easy win slip away in a snap. You know the boys are gonna want revenge. They have had some recent success at Matthews in past years, and they’ve got a hopefully raucous crowd awaiting them for the first home game of the semester Saturday night. Go out and do your part as always to FTFB (fill the fuckin’ Bill! I’m coining it) and hell, if you live in the Boston area, or even if you don’t, round up a posse and make the roadtrip. Matthews is a great arena to visit, and there’ll always be plenty of UMass fans in a Boston-area game. We certainly are considering it depending on how things shake out schedule- and money-wise. UMass has a real opportunity here, just 3 points back. A sweep would not only secure a season series tiebreaker and likely put more distance between UMass and the dreaded playoff spot cutoff, but remember – UMass has two games in hand on Northeastern, and obviously still will after this series. Again, it won’t be a cakewalk against a hot goalie like Rawlings, but the defense and Dainton have been mighty impressive the last 3 games after that near-meltdown in Lowell.

Looking further down the line, UMass admittedly has its work cut out for it. 3 games against BC are gonna be a chore, but we’re due for at least one win against them after the last few years. One more big home game against a very beatable BU looms as well. We can beat NEU and PC at home. It’s the three games left against Merrimack (the next foe in the way, provided this weekend goes well) that loom the biggest, I think. Two of those are at Lawler Arena, a historic house of horrors for the Minutemen, and the Warriors are legit…but again, sometimes, you just gotta believe. The last two of the season are at home against Maine, and if things continue to go well for UMass, well, who knows? I’ve seen that scenario determine home ice between these teams before. Current students, I guarantee you – you’ve never seen the Bill rock like it did that weekend.

All of this being said…it’s my job to get ahead of myself. It’s UMass’s job to do just the opposite, or all of this speculation will be for naught. Personally, I think there’s a bright future ahead for this core of young players, and if nothing else, it’s been fun watching them improve and mature as the year’s gone on. But my co-writers are seniors, and thus not around for the magic of the NCAA run in 06-07. I just hope they – not to mention Langeraap, Kublin, Dainton, and the rest of the seniors – somehow get the opportunity to see this team do something special before they graduate. (D’awwwwww.)

-Max

P.S. The title is a reference to this. Note to self: somehow get the other writers to watch Parks and Rec so that Ron Swanson can become our official mascot. #impossibleisnothing

Not so funny meow, is it?

Saturday Recap – UMass 6 – 0 Vermont

It was quite the road trip for us here at Fight Mass (helped by the fact that we only went to the Saturday game). As a quick aside from the hockey action, our pregame spot needs mentioning. Per the advice of Rocks over at Fear the Triangle, we had to check out The Alchemist in Waterbury. Gotta say, he was right on in his assessment; it was fantastic. Two of the beers I had there were definitely in the top 5 of beers I’ve had all time. Also before I start this recap in earnest, I have to give a big thanks to the staff at the Gut, who actually came up to us before the game and explained their policies and then actually enforced the policies on their own students (also, thank you to the Vermont State Trooper who stood at the end of our row for the entire game making sure we didn’t get killed). We also got to meet Brendan Gracel’s mom Christine (it’s pronounced gray-CELL, btw), who is a very nice person and a great supporter of our team and Conor Sheary’s dad Kevin who is a great guy (which I knew before last night anyway because it turns out I used to work with him). He had just made it back from Northeastern where Sheary’s sister was playing for the UNH women’s hockey team.

To sum up this game in a nutshell, I would call it a fantastic 50 minute effort. Our boys scored 5 even-strength goals and one on the powerplay (the 6 goals came from 5 different skaters), aaaaaand successfully killed off 5 penalties. The majority of the first period was a fierce battle. It even looked like the Catamounts would score first as Paul Dainton was forced to make two incredible glove saves against Drew MacKenzie while lying on his stomach at around the 9 minute mark of the first. At 15:27, when Danny Hobbs scored off of T.J. Syner’s rebound on the rush, the Minutemen never looked back. Less than two minutes later, Syner took a puck in the neutral zone, skated right into the slot, and shelved a picture perfect wrister past Madore. Syner would add a second goal just 37 seconds into the second period on a snapshot from the low slot off a nifty pass from Doug Kublin.

Then came one of the prettiest goals I’ve ever seen (at least from the Mass Attack). So pretty, in fact, that it gets its own paragraph. Pereira stripped Funky A (see last post) at the defensive blue line and skated through the neutral zone. As he crossed the Vermont blue line, he slid the puck over to Conor Sheary, who then delayed and made a cross-ice pass to Eric Filiou. Filiou rushed the net, forcing Madore to commit, and then neatly slid the puck across the crease to Pereira, who tapped the puck into the vacant net. It was technically executed perfection.

14:06 into the second, Kevin “Holyoke” Czepiel potted the fifth UMass goal off a rebound from Chase Langeraap’s backhander. Patrick Kiley also figured into this goal; the assist was his first NCAA point. At this point, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon decided he had had enough of Rob Madore, and benched him in favor of freshman Alex Vazzano. Vazzano played well, holding the Mass Attack off the board for more than a period. The final goal was scored with about a minute left in the game when Chase Langeraap’s powerplay backhander beat Vazzano (I believe it went 5-hole, but I’m not positive. The play was at the other end of the ice).

Paul Dainton played spectacularly, but definitely not perfectly. He was even more eager to play the puck than usual; Matt even was moved to ask, “Who gave Paul Dainton a Red Bull?” At one point, Dainton went to play the puck, and immediately gave it away, giving Vermont a brief opportunity at an open net… which they missed. Yes, Vermont’s offense is THAT bad (full disclosure: it was a tough angle, but still, no goalie!). Also bad was the play at the beginning of the third period. There was a lot of prevent defense being played by UMass. The whole let UVM have offensive possession for a minute and a half, clear the puck, change lines, rinse, repeat thing was going on. Granted, the defense was doing a pretty good job of not allowing a ton of great shots during these possessions, but it’s still not a good way to play hockey (I know we were up 5-0 at that point, but I really think Toot should be pressing 60 minutes of good hockey, no matter what the score is).

There were plenty of guys who had good nights other than Dainton, three were particularly noteworthy. Danny Hobbs started the scoring and tacked on two assists for a tidy 3 points on the score sheet. T.J. Syner had two goals (including that beautiful wrister) and an assist on the first three goals of the night, and he really got a fire lit under the offense. Also of note was Doug Kublin, if for no other reason than for the fact that HE WAS A +5 FOR THE GAME. That’s right, a +5. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen that before. Shoutouts for solid all-around play should go to guys like Gracel, Langeraap (who had 2 points), Sheary, and Hanley, as well.

For anyone who’d like to watch some highlights, I’ll just leave these here:

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

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

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

-Derek

Kublin Kounter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Derek

Kublin Kounter

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

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

Exactly What I Was Looking For

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)

-Matt

Hawk Hunting

There are three sure things in life: death, taxes, and the pure unadulterated joy that Fight Mass experiences when bad things happen to the Lowell River Hawks hockey program.

So you can only imagine our elation in the fact that, 12 games into the conference slate, the ugly sister is now a hideous 2-10, three points behind the Mass Attack despite playing four more games, and, most importantly of all, appeared thoroughly mismatched for a majority of today’s 5-2 Minutemen win that easily could have been more of a blowout.

Lowell showed next to no heart in the first and third periods, inept in just about all aspects of the game of hockey, bailed out by a few near-misses and a couple nice saves by their freshman goalie Doug Carr, a former recruiting target of the UMass program. UMass completely dominated the opening frame, highlighted by T.J. Syner’s brilliant lightning-strike goal that the cameraman could barely keep up with. They finished the period up 2-0 and, frankly, should have tallied at least one more time given their momentum.

After a 26-minute, penalty-free first, the refs decided to call one type of penalty (tripping) rather than zero, as UMass found themselves with three straight trips to the box. Lowell promptly sleepwalked through two 40-second 5-on-3 advantages, but Ryan Blair’s shot from the point unfortunately found its way through past Dainton, a seemingly-crushing blow for a UMass squad just seven seconds away from that post-huge-penalty-kill momentum boost. For a while, it looked like Lowell finally had something going, competing on UMass’s level for the remainder of the period, and tying things up at the end of the period on Wetmore’s cheapie goal that handcuffed Dainton.

Shades of last year’s 2-0 collapse a year ago in Tsongas, right? Nonetheless, you had to sense that, all things equal, UMass would turn things back around in the third, given how the first period played out and given the lack of talent and composure Lowell has shown all season long. That’s exactly what happened, as Doug Kublin, who is incidentally The Official Favorite Player of Fight Mass (TM), accounted for a goal and an assist in a 3-goal third period where Lowell could get absolutely nothing going. 5-2, final. Pure joy.

So don’t look now, but the Mass Attack is now unbeaten in its last four games. Is this finally the year where they start poorly and THEN play well, instead of vice-versa? Probably not. But the fact that they’re holding up against the likes of UNH and BU, and winning games against dregs like Quinnipiac, Lowell, and Vermont, is a wonderful sign of progress on Toot’s team’s part. Next on the schedule is a date with the Black Bears, who surely want revenge from last year’s regular-season finale. Thanks for practice, River Rats…time to see where these youngin’s really stand now.

To recap: today, the Red Sox have gotten Adrian Gonzalez, the Mass Attack have made big strides in their battle to keep out of the Hockey East cellar Lowell so fittingly occupies this year…all that’s left is tonight’s rumble in the Garden (and maybe a certain announcement from the MAC, hint hint…) and tonight has a good chance at being redemption for the shortcomings of my birthday weekend of a year ago. And really, that’s the most important thing here.

-Max

Let the good times….uhh…roll?

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Don’t tell anyone, but UMass’s hockey and men’s basketball teams have quietly been on a bit of a roll of late, since our last suddenly-few-and-far-between update. Hockey, in particular, has stepped it up big-time in dominating Vermont and Quinnipiac, improving from 0-6-3 (ugly as hell) to 2-6-3 with a bullet. It’s a year of very low expectations for Toot’s transitioning crew, and honestly, you can’t be too upset with the effort put forth by the Minutemen after 11 games. Only one of those games can truly be viewed as an awful showing, that being the Army debacle, and when you consider just how rough the schedule has been for the Mass Attack, things ain’t so bad. The tissue-soft schedule continues with a visit from the ugly sister. Let’s keep it rolling, boys.

Meanwhile, UMass hoops has continued its perfect start right through the first five games, albeit all in the Springfield/Amherst area, and the most recent, the return to the Cage against Holy Cross, being in “almost lose to an awful team” fashion. But hey, I’ve been saying (to nobody in particular) all along that last year, we’d find a way to lose these games to bad or fatigued teams. The truth is, the team rolled pretty easily through TCU and NM State, favorable travel conditions be damned, and they seemed to just lose focus in the Cage game; that combined with being shorthanded (no Traynham, who already looks like a key bench cog for this year and a star in the making) and some hot Crusader shooting and it’s easy to see how that game unraveled. Hopefully the focus is restored tomorrow night as UMass gets their first road test of the year, at Quinnipiac. A year ago, the Bobcats swept hockey and basketball. Time to return the favor, no?

So why are we whispering? Because I’m pretty sure these teams are still flying safely under the radar, based on poor attendance during these winning streaks, aside from the small-capacity Cage getting fairly full, even on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Granted, the holiday had a lot to do with the last few hockey turnouts, and the tournament in Springfield was too far and not free enough for students to make the trip. But make no mistake that the fanbase is watching that BC game next week veeeerry closely (and the QU game as well, to an extent). A 7-0 start in D1 play, and we might really be seeing the Mullins rocking for Seton Hall’s visit.

But first things first. Take care of business, boys. After the last few years, these fans just want to see winning basketball, and they’ll be back in droves. Hate to say it, but….just win, baby!

– Max

P.S. Oh by the way, I’ll just leave this here.  More about this exciting subject when I get the chance :P.