Tagged: Preview

Speaking of tomorrow, how will it ever come?

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?


Doesn’t it always come down to this?

Walsh has some more pressing things to deal with at the moment, so it’s me, Max, to the rescue with your weekend preview of the Maine series. So without further ado, here are the keys to #WINNING.

1) The playoff scenario is pretty clear. UMass, Vermont, and Providence – three teams, two playoff slots. UVM gets Lowell for two. Providence gets Merrimack for two. The most likely scenario is UVM wins two and clinches 7th place, and Providence loses both and would finish out of the playoffs. UMass just needs to win one of these two games and it would take a miracle sweep for the Friars to knock out UMass. But a win tonight and a Providence loss would clinch that playoff spot and take all the pressure off of senior night. Let’s try to do that one.

2) Maine hasn’t won a game in Amherst since October 2005. I was still a BU fan back then – that’s how frickin’ long it’s been. Meanwhile, let’s look at some fun shit.

Note: Fucking Hockey East Online. I can never get this stuff to format properly, and if you think I’m not too lazy to retype it all, you obviously don’t know me very well.

vs. MAINE *
W 3-1
vs. MAINE *
W 5-3

Hockey East Quarterfinals
W 3-2
Hockey East Quarterfinals
W 5-2

And then…

vs. MAINE hea
W 4-3 OT
vs. MAINE hea
W 4-3

And oh yeah, even though it wasn’t in Amherst…

at Maine hea
W 5-2
at Maine hea
W 4-3

So, seriously, guys. It’s tradition. Don’t fuck this up.

3) A glance at Maine’s top three scorers: Gustav Nyquist (16-26-42), Spencer Abbott (15-20-35), Brian Flynn (18-14-32). They’re all juniors. Needless to say, if Gus returns for his senior year (he’s Red Wings property), combined with UNH losing its formidable senior class and Merrimack’s inevitable return to Earth with Cannata graduating and the Flyers hovering around Da Costa like vultures, Maine will be likely to give BC a run for its money next year.

But that’s next year. This year, even with all that talent, they enter the weekend out of a home ice slot in Hockey East, although they walloped Merrimack last weekend. And we all know how important home ice can be in the playoffs. Hopefully, the pressure gets to them like it did a year ago, and that was on their own home ice!

4) Dan Sullivan is fucking ridiculous. Like, almost Tim Thomas-in-Boston-this-year ridiculous. Well, okay, not rally. But a 2.28 GAA. A 90.3 save percentage – not the greatest ever, but pretty damn good for a freshman. But, uhh, fuck it. Break him. His mom’s name is Doris, by the way. (And just for good measure, in case we see another goalie, Shawn Sirman’s mom’s name is Heather. Martin Ouellette’s mom’s name is…uhhh…France Gagnon? What the fuck kind of name is that? You can’t even chant that. Never mind. Call him Frenchie or Marty McFly or something, I don’t even know.)

4a) BTW, “Wilson” chants are, and always will be, still relevant somehow.

4b) Oh, and “She-Man” chants for Adam “I like to fake getting seriously injured so my team can be justified in headhunting Casey Wellman, then play the very next night because it was all an act, and also my name sounds girly” Shemansky. He’s #26. And he sucks.

5) We are all rooting for UNH this weekend, and not just because I’d root for the Yankees, Canadiens, Jets, and Lakers if they were all playing BC. But really, the tiebreaker scenarios only involve that series in one unlikely situation: the bottom 3 all winding up tied with 17 points if UMass and Maine tie both games. Then, the three-way tiebreakers (I believe) come down to the teams’ record against the conference champion, and so the difference between 7th place and 9th place (thus sharing the basement with Lowell)  will be whether UNH or BC finishes atop the conference. TL;DR: UNH-BC probably means nothing, but the only way it helps us is if UNH wins.

6) It’s for the seniors. Saunders, Keane, Langeraap, Kubbie, Concannon, Lecomte, and of course Dainton. It’s certainly not the greatest senior class we’ve ever had (although it might have been if certain people had stayed) but it is one of the most likable and hard-working. They deserve one last gasp against BC or UNH next weekend, both of whom UMass has shown they can hang around with this year. It’s the playoffs. Anything can happen.

6a) Oh, that goes for the senior fans, too. Matt and Derek and Ben in particular, and also everyone else who has spent the last four years making the trek to the Bill to cheer on this team. This senior class has had a rough go of it hockey-wise, and, while likely, it would suck if they went their whole four years without seeing a Garden run. It was bad enough for my class, getting that taste freshman year and never seeing it again. This freshman class has a bright future, no matter how much this year has sucked, and a surprise run right now would be a great springboard going forward. They’ve been so damn close to breaking through for four straight games. Which ties in to my final key:

7) Winning. Duh.


P.S. There are also temporary plans to join Triangle in gracing Garber Field with our presence as our 9th-ranked(!) lax team takes on Brown, which is the color of poo. But we make no promises.

[enter a post title]

No.2 Boston College Eagles (22-7-1(16-6-1HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (6-18-5(5-13-5HEA))

Preface: Sooooo we probably won’t win tonight, but Paul Dainton is just 20 saves from breaking Brian Regan’s career saves mark. So, that’s something to look forward to.

What can we say about Boston College this year that everybody doesn’t already know? They have the best scoring offense in Hockey East (3.78GPG), the 3rd best scoring defense in Hockey East (2.22GA/G), and the best scoring differential in Hockey East (+1.57). The Eagles are a team that possess both Cam Atkinson (24G/16A/40Pts) and Brian Gibbons (13G/26A/39Pts). John Muse’s Hockey East numbers (14-4-1, 1.86GAA, .936save%) are rather absurd. They have the top power play in Hockey East action (23.9%); their Hockey East PK (87.3%) is a mere 0.3% behind BU for league lead. The BC roster boasts seven 20-point scorers and 11 NHL draftees.

The game plan against the Eagles should be the same as it has been the past few weeks. Discipline and special teams. Discipline is obvious. BC has the top power play in Hockey East. The UMass penalty kill unit looked atrocious last week. The Minutemen cannot afford to take penalties. Along the same lines, the defense needs to stay disciplined and cover their assignments well against a team as skilled as BC. The power play looked better last week and actually scored a couple goals. Let’s hope it continues to progress this weekend. The Eagles are averaging 7.7 penalties a game in Hockey East play, so the PP unit should have plenty of chances to hone their skills against a really talented penalty kill.

Northeastern showed us the book on how to tie or beat BC last weekend. Either your goalie has to have a fantastic night… or BC has to start Parker Milner (3-2-0, 2.66GAA, .901save%). Our hopes for Milner are rather low, as he started last Friday and gave up 4 goals on 9 shots and got yanked halfway through the game. Barring a surprise Milner visit, the Minutemen will need a godly performance out of Dainton, along with disciplined play and strong special teams work, to have a shot at winning. Oh, and score that first goal. When scoring first, the Minutemen are 5-5-2; when not, they are 1-13-3. The story is much the same (although with better numbers) for the Eagles. When scoring first, they are 18-2-1; when they don’t score first, they are 4-5-0.

Notes for fans: Wear a polo with a popped collar. The irony is great. Three Boston College players, Milner, Philip Samuelsson (4G/11A/15Pts), and Patrick Wey (1G/6A/7Pts), were involved in an incident over the summer in which they were in a car that collided with an MBTA train. Low quality vodka and blood smeared low quality beer cans were found in the vehicle the BC players were in. Chants like “Greeeeeeeeeeeeen line,” “Watch that train,” “Blood smeared beer cans (clap clap clap clap clap),” should be used liberally whenever aforementioned players are on the ice. Also, as suggested by friend of the blog Tyler De Ruiter, the “wheels on the bus” chant shall be replaced by a “wheels on the train” chant. Feel free to come up with your own chants. As long as they have some smatterings of wit, they will be appreciated.


and here’s where we died this time last year

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.


A game more important than BU? Then why are there no free t-shirts?

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.


Ugh, Bright Out Night

No. 14 Boston University Terriers (13-8-7(10-5-5HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (6-15-4(5-10-4HEA))

Tonight, UMass will face a team that is 4th (technically, tied for 3rd) in the Hockey East standings. This seems like a daunting task, especially considering that last weekend’s results make it look like the Minutemen don’t have a chance against any team with a winning record. Although BU looks like its miles behind of the BCs and UNHs of the world, they are still quite a formidable force. Offensive contributions by familiar faces have been strong; Alex Chiasson (9G/15A/24Pts), Chris Connolly (8G/13A/21Pts), David Warsofsky (7G/12A/19Pts), and Joe Pereira (12G/6A/18Pts) are as good as ever. Freshmen Charlie Coyle (7G/14A/21Pts) and Sahir Gill (4G/13A/17Pts) have been outstanding, as well. And junior backstop Kieren Millan’s numbers in conference play (8-4-5, 2.48GAA, .929save%) have been very solid.

The Terriers are a team that likes to play close games. They haven’t had a Hockey East Game decided by more than two goals since a 5-2 loss at Boston College on 12/4. In games decided by one goal this year they are 8-3; by two goals: 3-0. In blowout games (by 3 or more goals), the Terriers are just 2-5. The fact that BU is involved in so many games is not surprising considering that they are averaging 2.93 goals for and 2.93 goals against per game this season. The Minutemen prefer to play wide open games; their record in games decided by less than 3 goals is a miserable 1-8. If the Minutemen are to play in a game with a 3+ goal margin and win, huge contributions will be needed from guys like Mike Pereira (10G/10A/20Pts), Danny Hobbs (7G/13A/20Pts), TJ Syner (7G/12A/19Pts), and the red-hot-of-late Chase Langeraap (7G/5A/12Pts). A much better night in net will be needed as well, obviously, as both Paul Dainton (6-10-3, 2.88GAA, .912save%) and Jeff Teglia (0-5-1, 4.81GAA, .851save%(ouch, those number are physically painful)) looked overmatched last weekend.

Boston University LOVES to pass the puck around. They are a very skilled team with 9 NHL draftees, not counting the goalies, and they clearly know how to make some NHL-level passes. Seven Terriers have double-digit assist totals this year (tied for most in Hockey East with Maine and Merrimack, but done with less goals for than either). For comparison, UMass has 4. What the key to this game is to the Mass Attack should be clear. Solid, fundamental defense. A goalie can stop a guy with a great shot, but it is exponentially harder for a goalie to go post-to-post to stop a tap in that follows a great pass. The only way to disallow great-passing-goals is to stay with a man on a man. This means discipline in all meanings of the word (not getting caught up ice, not taking bad penalties, and executing clean line changes). It’s surprising that BU’s powerplay is not better (12.1%) given how good their passing is. But I still wouldn’t take a chance playing undisciplined hockey against the Terriers. To me, this is the key to the game. To even have a chance, the Minutemen must play solid defensively and let the offense come to them.


The Semester Hasn’t Started Until the First Home Game

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.

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.


Kublin Kounter

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

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

Saturday matinee

UMass Lowell River Hawks (2-11-2(2-9-0HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (2-6-3(1-3-3HEA))

(Today at 1:30 PM)

Over the past few weeks, something surprising and exciting has happened. Our beloved Mass Attack has been playing extremely well, and winning games. Over their past 3 games, the Minutemen are 2-0-1 and they have moved up to eighth in the Hockey East standings. The continuing presence of freshman forward Michael Pereira (7G/4A/11Pts/+6) and the emergence of freshman defenseman Adam Phillips (3G/2A/5Pts/-2) has been apparent. Pereira scored 3 goals, had 2 assists and was a plus-3 over the last three games, while Phillips had 3 goals, 1 assist and was a plus-4. Senior captain goalie Paul Dainton (2-3-2, 3.00GAA, .914save%) has gotten back into his sophomore form by putting up a career-high 43 saves against UNH, then breaking it with 44 against Vermont, and finishing the stretch with a solid 25 save effort against Quinnipiac. Dainton has elevated his game in his last three starts and the team has responded by elevating their play, as well. In the last three games, they have averaged 4.00GPG, while the season average for the Minutemen attack is only 2.82GPG. And the defense only allowed 2.00GPG and killed 90% of penalties in that stretch, which is much better than the season averages of 3.27GA/G and 74.1%.

While UMass and UMass Lowell are similar teams in terms of youth, it would appear that the two are on diametrically opposing paths. The River Hawks have dropped six straight games and ten of their last eleven. Although some of their losses have been close, they have also lost by four, five, and six goal margins this year. They sit dead last in the Hockey East standings despite playing the second most in conference games this year (BC has played 12, BU and Merrimack have both also played 11). The offense is only squeezing out a meager 2.13GPG. Their top goal and point scorer, Riley Wetmore (6G/6A/12Pts/-7) has only six goals in 15 games! Pereira has one more in five fewer games. This paltry offensive attack is not going to get it done with a young defense and a pair of freshman goalies. There is not a single skater with UML that has a positive or even plus/minus. In fact, five River Hawks have plus/minus ratings in the negative double-digits. The two frosh netminders, Doug Carr (2-7-1, 3.33GAA, .902save%) and Marc Boulanger (0-4-1, 4.25GAA, .868save%) are not exactly superstars, at least not yet. UML has, however, been sharp on the PK, killing 85.2% of power plays faced this season.

Despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, this is not a slam dunk. This game has trap written all over it. Nothing kills a hot team more quickly than failing to get up against an inferior opponent. It remains to be seen whether Toot will stick with the hot hand in Dainton, whose 2.41GAA and .935save% in Hockey East play have been superb, or if he will roll the dice with the freshman Jeff Teglia (0-3-1, 3.37GAA, .899save%), who has also been getting progressively better. It remains to be seen if Eddie Olczyk or Anthony Raiola, who have played only one game apiece, will see ice time. No matter what lineup is out there for the team in white on the ice of The Bill this afternoon, it is certain that this is a game the Mass Attack should win against a team it needs to beat if it is to continue progressing towards greatness. (…Uh, goodness? Mediocrity? I guess mediocrity, but, hey, you’ve got to be mediocre before you can be great.)


Kublin Kounter – Where we get to point out the stats which will not tell you how great the play of Doug Kublin is because his play is all about intangibles.

Last Week


Season Totals



UMass Minutemen (0-5-2(0-2-2HEA)) vs. No.8 UNH Wildcats (4-1-2(2-0-1HEA))

Your humble bloggers will be taking a road trip up to Durham, NH tonight to witness what will surely be some fantastic hockey. If we stop blogging after tonight, assume we have been killed as we have heard that New Hampshirites are as hostile toward opposing fans as they are toward moderate legislators.

The story of this game will be told between the pipes. While the Wildcat offense is nothing to shake a stick at (just ask the Patriots, hah!), the true prize of the team is junior goalie Matt DiGirolamo. He has started all seven games in net for UNH this season and has posted stellar numbers (4-1-2, 2.66GAA, .921save%). His numbers in Hockey East play? Even better (2-0-1, 1.30GAA, .958save%). The fact that UNH is only scoring two goals a game against Hockey East foes doesn’t even begin to stop them from looking like a powerhouse.

The UNH offense likes to spread the puck around; eleven Wildcats have at least three points this season and seven have had multiple goals, including three tied for the team lead with four goals apiece (Dalton Speelman, John Henrion, and Stevie Moses). The scoring has also been spread around by the Minutemen, but some players we were hoping to be key scorers at the beginning of the season have not yet stepped up – we’re talking about Brian Keane, with your zero points and your –5 +/-.

Despite this, UMass’s main problem has not been scoring goals (2.71 GPG isn’t fantastic, but it’s certainly not awful). Guys like Darren Rowe (5G, 1A, 6Pts, 3PPG) and Michael Pereira (4G, 2A, 6Pts, 1PPG) have been coming up huge for the offense. The problem has been not keeping pucks out of our own net. 3.86GA/G is a pretty awful thing to have to contend with. This problem lies with the entire team. The forwards have seemed sluggish and lackadaisical at times when trying to clear the puck. The young defense has struggled with its positioning all year long. Both the defensemen and the forwards have made colossal errors in judgment when passing in the defensive zone on the breakout This has led to some beautiful scoring chances for the opposition. Unfortunately, neither UMass netminder has been up to the task of stopping beautiful scoring chances thusfar this season. The consistency is just not there in net from either Dainton (0-3-1, 3.82GAA, .881save%) or Teglia (0-2-1, 3.49GAA, .890). Coach Cahoon has been defending his goalies, saying that they have faced a lot of tough shots. Unfortunately, this is Hockey East, and you are going to face a lot of tough shots if you want to play in net in Hockey East and you are going to need to step your game up at some point or your team will go nowhere.

One final thought, UMass gets to play on the massive sheet of ice up at Lake Whitt tonight. This may behoove a young, small, and fast team that has struggled on smaller ice surfaces. But, we must also remember that this has primarily been a finesse team for the last few years and the Mass Attack has been 0-3-1 at the Whittemore Center in the last three years. Hopefully, the boys can buck that trend this weekend and earn an upset victory that would surely shock most in the college hockey world.