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.
No.8 Boston University Terriers (2-0-1(0-0-1HEA)) vs. UMass Minutemen (0-2-1(0-0-1HEA))
For the second time in as many games, the Mass Attack will face off against Boston University and its high powered offense tonight. Last weekend, BU scored two early goals and peppered freshman netminder Jeff Teglia (0-0-1, 3.25GAA, .895save%) with 35 shots. However, third period goals by Darren Rowe and Marc Concannon forced an overtime that ended in a draw. Tonight will have the same concerns as last weekend.
First of all, goaltenders. Fear The Triangle is reporting that Teglia will start tonight. Although I have seen nothing to corroborate this, we all know that his information is solid so I will have to assume Teglia will be the starter. Teglia was pretty fantastic last weekend, saving 33 out of 35 shots, making Hennessy yell out of excitement numerous times in the process. Unfortunately, the reason Hennessy had to yell was that the Terriers had a lot of good scoring chances. This is the same problem the Mass Attack had in Minnesota; the defense needs to tighten up. This is a team problem, not just a problem with the defensemen. Paradoxically, there is both too much and not enough movement. At times, everyone seems to be watching the puck and aggressively pursuing it while the one or two skaters not pressuring the puck are just standing still and not covering the offensive players they are responsible for.
To not cover BU’s skaters is to make a huge mistake. Had Teglia not been out-of-his-mind-on-fire last Saturday, the Minutemen could have easily given up four or five goals. I don’t think I need to remind anyone about the existence of Chris Connolly (1G/2A/3Pts/+2), Joe Pereira (3G/1A/4Pts/+1), or David Warsofsky (2G/3A/5Pts/+2). And I don’t think I need to remind anyone of the 6 and 7 goal embarrassments BU handed out to the Minutemen last season (Although those were both at Agannis).
Other than Jeff Teglia’s sparkling performance last weekend, the bright spot on this year’s UMass team has been the offense. Averaging three goals a game may not be a fantastic statistic, but it will keep you in games and the Mass Attack could easily have more if they could just fine tune their passing a little and finish their chances. The most impressive offensive players thus far have been TJ Syner (2G/1A/3Pts/+2), Darren Rowe (2G/1A/3Pts/+2), Michael Marcou (1G/2A/3Pts/-2), and Mike Pereira (1G/1A/2Pts/even). Pereira, in particular, could have had more goals if he finished his chances, which have been many.
The offense does, however, need work on the powerplay, where they are just 2 for 16 (12.5%) on the season. The PK needs work too; The Mass Attack penalty killers have only managed to kill nine penalties out of thirteen (69.2%), although they did go a perfect 4-for-4 against BU last weekend. BU’s powerplay has been better than the Mass Attack’s (23.1%) and their PK has been much better (88.2%), so scoring on the powerplay tonight may prove difficult.
So the game plan should be the same as last week. The defense needs to be tighter, they can’t give up early first period goals, and they need to pepper whoever’s in net with lots of rubber. Kieran Millan, while not as spectacular as Teglia was, had very good night last Saturday, stopping 28 of 30 shots. Saturdays numbers boosted him to very respectable 1-0-1, 2.40GAA, .912 save% numbers. However, Millan has been known to have off nights in the past and he certainly isn’t an Alex Beaudry or a Carter Hutton (Although, so far this year Alex Beaudry doesn’t look like an Alex Beaudry, either).
Hopefully, the crowd is a positive factor. Tonight’s game is televised on NESN (UMass has been 0-4-0 on NESN in the last two seasons), and it’s the home opener, and it’s against BU. So, everyone will be there. Here’s a tip for you hockey neophytes out there. If somebody who looks like they know what they’re doing starts a chant and you don’t understand it, just go along with it anyway. As fun as it is to yell it, there are more hockey chants than “Fuck BU!” You gotta trust me on this one.
Other Hockey East Teams in Action this Weekend:
Providence @ UMass Lowell
No.7 UNH @ Northeastern
No.2 North Dakota @ No.12 Maine
Northeastern @ UMass Lowell
Providence @ No.8 BU
Merrimack @ Vermont
No.2 North Dakota @ No.12 Maine
No.1 BC @ No.17 Notre Dame
All you need to know about tomorrow night’s game is that Jeff Teglia is starting in net for the Minutemen… Wait, is that how I’m supposed to start these?
UMass Minutemen (0-2-0 (0-0-0HEA)) vs. No.10 Boston University Terriers (2-0-0 (0-0-0HEA))
Freshman netminder Jeff Teglia will get his first start tomorrow night for the injured Paul Dainton. He gets to enjoy this start against a team that just put up a total of nine goals in two nights against two ranked teams. This is a team that also has 11 NHL-drafted players, including five forwards. To say it will be tough sledding for Teglia is a massive understatement. Threats come from everywhere on the BU squad; in only two games, thirteen BU players already have points. Special teams-wise the Terriers have been outstanding (in an obviously small sample). Three for nine on the powerplay last weekend while allowing only two goals in twelve opponents’ powerplay chances. BU is a fantastic passing team, as is evidenced by the fact that eight of their nine goals had two assists, with the ninth having one.
If the Terriers do have an Achilles heal right now, its in net. Neither Kieran Millan nor Grant Rollheiser looked particularly good last weekend. Millan will probably start tomorrow night, and he carries a .905 career save%. That’s more of a keep the team in the game number than evidence of a great goalie. However, when the offense is playing like this, keeping the team in the game is really all the goalie needs to do.
This doesn’t mean that UMass doesn’t have a chance. The snipers have been hot for the Minutemen, who scored seven goals of their own last weekend against a ranked team. Those seven goals were scored by six different players, and among those who looked really good were Mike Marcou, TJ Syner, Darren Rowe (what?! really?), and Michael Pereira (although that last one needs to work on finishing the great chances he gets).
Unfortunately, the defense has been ATROCIOUS. I don’t know if they haven’t been standing around too much and watching the play happen or if they’ve been overpersuing the puck carrier and leaving men open, but I know they haven’t been moving the right amount. Conor Allen was a –4 last weekend. A MINUS FOUR!!! And the PK gave up four goals on nien chances (although one of them was on a five minute major)! If that defensive performance didn’t cut it with Paul Dainton in net, there is no chance for Teglia, whose career save% now stands at .818.
There seems to be a confluence of fail surrounding tomorrow night for our beloved Mass Attack. There have been so many injuries, including to their captain netminder. They have to face a ranked team whose offense is white hot at the moment. And they have to do it all in the generic splendor (read: heavy sarcasm. That place is an awful, stupid “multi-purpose” arena that has no business hosting hockey games.) of Agganis Arena, which, incidentally, has been a house of horrors for the Minutemen of late. So if the defense doesn’t show up, expect a big loss. I’m talking anywhere from eight to twelve goals for BU. If the defense does decide to show up, then we’ll see. Maybe we’ll have a hockey game.
Other Hockey East teams in action this weekend:
On Thursday, No.8 Maine drew No.20 Michigan State 4-4.
RPI @ Northeastern; UMass Lowell @ Niagara; Providence @ No.7 Minnesota-Duluth; No.8 Maine @ No.20 Michigan State; No.1 Boston College @ No.6 Denver
No.3 Michigan @ No.9 New Hampshire; Connecticut @ Merrimack; UMass Lowell @ RIT; No.1 Boston College @ No.6 Denver; Providence @ No.7 Minnesota-Duluth
Your UMass Minutemen take on the No. 15 Minnesota Golden Gophers
So the Mass Attack begins the season with two in the upper Midwest against a ranked opponent. Sound frightening? Sound like the Minutemen are way overmatched? Why? Let’s see, the Golden Gophers were 18-19-2 last year, 12-14-2 in the WCHA. They finished 7th in their conference and were bounced in the first round of their conference tourney. Your Minutemen finished at .500 with a record of 18-18-0 (despite a MASSIVE Cahoon Swoon), 13-14-0 in Hockey East. They finished 6th in the conference and were also bounced in the first round of their tourney. Okay, so we’re willing to concede that Minnesota played a MUCH more difficult non-conference schedule last year, but even given that, this was a sub-.500 team, they certainly weren’t world-beaters.
Well, we lost some key guys. Yeah, well so did they. The Gophers return fifteen from last year’s roster (10 forwards, 3 defensemen, 2 goalies), that’s the same amount as your Minutemen who return 10 forwards, 4 defensemen, and 1 goalie (not included are Anthony Raiola, who was redshirted, and Kevin Moore, who has yet to play a minute in his two years with the team). Among the Gophers’ losses were their top two point scorers, Tony Lucia (11G/17A/28Pts) and Jordan Schroeder (9G/19A/28Pts), as well as two of their top four defensemen (David Fischer and Kevin Wehrs). However, the Gophers do return Mike Hoeffel (14G/10A/24Pts/7PPG), their top goal scorer and top powerplay goal scorer, from last year, along with top defensemen Cade Fairchild (4G/21A/21Pts) and Aaron Ness. Also back is forward Jay Barriball, who will be their captain this year. He played only five games last year before receiving a medical redshirt due to a season ending knee injury. Although Barriball hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in the last three years, he could always return to the form of his freshman year, when he put up 20 goal, 23 assist, 43 point numbers. Minnesota also returns both starting goalie Alex Kangas (16-15-1, 2.61 GAA, .911 save%) and backup Kent Patterson (2-4-1, 3.10 GAA, .901 save%).
The Mass Attack’s depletion is a little more severe. Brace yourself, we’re about to drag up some memories; we’ll try to make this as quick as possible. Gone are: the top 5 point scorers from last year: James Marcou (11G/40A/51Pts), Casey Wellman (23G/22A/45Pts), Justin Braun (8G/23A/31Pts), Will Ortiz (13G/13A/26Pts), and Matt Irwin (7G/17A/24Pts); three of last year’s top four blue-liners: Braun, Irwin, and Martin Nolet (5G/4A/9Pts/59PIM); and a true heart and soul guy, great leader, and fantastic P.J. Axelsson-esque 2-way forward in Brett Watson (3G/6A/9Pts). Key returning skaters include last years no. 6 point scorer, T.J. Syner (8G/12A/20Pts), as well as defensemen Mike Marcou (7G/3A/10Pts) and Doug Kublin (we’ll get to his importance later on). Also returning is the man who is now undeniably, unquestionably the most important player on the team. That man is Paul Dainton. Dainton had the best record of his career last year (15-15-0), but otherwise had his statistically poorest season (3.08 GAA, .901 save%). Compare this to the numbers from his freshman (12-14-6, 2.56 GAA, .911 save%) and sophomore (12-14-1, 2.45 GAA, .913 save%) seasons. If the Minutemen are to succeed this year, Dainton needs to prove last year was an outlier and continue the trend of the previous two years (something in the 2.40 GAA, .920 save% range would be fantastic, but I’d be very happy with something like 2.60, .910).
Since both these teams lost a lot, it stands to reason that they are both pretty young. The Minnesota roster features 10 freshmen (6 forwards, 4 defensemen) and UMass has 13 (8 forwards, 4 defensemen, 1 goalie). The quality of recruits may be where the Gophers have the edge. UMass is counting on guys like Troy Power, Eric Filiou, Peter DeAngelo, and Michael Pereira. And these guys are all solid recruits. But if you google the names of the Minnesota freshmen, you are likely to find a professional scouting report on all of them. One in particular, 6’4” 188lb. center Nick Bjugstad, was the 19th overall pick of the NHL draft this year. He supposedly has good speed and vision and a fantastic shot to go along with his size. So, yeah, there’s that. But prospects are only prospects and no one knows how well they’ll do; just ask Danny Hobbs. (Incidentally, Danny Hobbs, you looked very, very good in the exhibition game, and we really need a guy like you to step up and shine now that Jimmy and Casey are gone. So if you could do that, we’d really appreciate it.)
There is one more reason to be excited for this season opening series, and that is this: Doug Kublin does not have mono. Allow me to explain how important Doug Kublin is to the UMass Minutemen. He played 25 games last year. In those games, the Mass Attack was 16-9-0. In games without Doug Kublin in the lineup, the Minutemen were 2-9-0. Stark contrast? Yes, but it goes deeper than record. In the 25 games the Manlius, NY defenseman played, the Minutemen averaged 3.08 goals against. In the 11 games he missed, 3.64 goals against! Almost half a goal more per game! Every 2 games you play without Kubbie, you spot the opposition a goal. So ignore the fact that Doug Kublin has career scoring numbers that look like your mother’s (1G/5A/6Pts in 74GP); he is a plus player and vital to this team and if Paul Dainton needs to stand on his head and get numbers like those mentioned above to give this team a shot at going anywhere, Doug Kublin needs to be in the lineup and on the ice to give him a fighting chance.
So there it is, my vehement defense of our beloved Mass Attack’s chances this weekend. It’s gonna be tough and it ain’t gonna be pretty, but damnit, our freshmen look good and our vets look energized and if we could steal some wins this weekend we could have a dangerous team on our hands that just might think it’s good enough to go somewhere. And it might shut up Roman Augustoviz, whose tweets are some of the most annoying on the planet. Go ahead, check them out, I dare you. @eyeonupuk do it.
Also: Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Don Lucia was a hoodrat. Now you finally know that.
So… yeah, let’s get back at it. Is it Friday yet?
~Update: Apparently Eddie Olczyk’s injury is more severe than my “source” stated. According to Dick Baker, Olczyk will likely miss the Minnesota series, as will freshman Troy Power, who sustained an undisclosed injury in practice on Tuesday.
Well, your UMass Minutemen lost their preseason game to UNB for the second time in as many years (this time 4-3 in OT). While we could pout about losing to a CIS team, in truth there were quite a few positives to take out of this game and at least one of the major downsides of this game should not affect the team too much this season.
Danny Hobbs (backhand) from Troy Power and Eric Filiou
Michael Pereira (powerplay scrum goal) from Troy Power and Adam Phillips
Danny Hobbs (powerplay slapshot) from Michael Marcou
First, the positives:
~Your humble blogger actually bothered to take a notebook to this game and form coherent thoughts about it. Savor these game notes, because he will probably not be sober or emotionally detached enough to form rational thoughts during the game again.
~Danny Hobbs played well, his goal in the first period was one of the prettiest you will ever see. Hobbs had the puck at center ice a flipped a clever back pass to Power, who was charging up the side boards. Power threaded a beautiful return pass to Hobbs in the slot, who then delayed until the UNB goalie committed and moved the puck to his backhand for the goal. Hobbs also scored the third Minuteman goal on the powerplay in the 3rd Period. Marcou slid the puck across the blue line, and Hobbs took a hard low slapper from the right point. The puck had the slightest of deflections off of a UNB defenseman in front of the net and found the bottom left corner of the net. It would be nice to see Hobbs continuing this trend in the regular season, especially considering that he was a highly regarded recruit who has not really panned out (4G/7A/13Pts/-6 in 57 Games).
~Paul Dainton. He looked strong; he gave up only one of UNB’s four goals in two periods of work, and the sunlight coming through the practice rink’s windows could have had something to do with that one. He made a fantastic glove save in the first period, extending the glove just above his pad to snag a hard shot out of the air that appeared to be netward bound. In classic Dainton fashion, he played the puck a lot and kept us on the edge of our seats, but it didn’t cost him, and he played a very strong game overall.
~Brian Keane’s skating. It was simply exquisite (if you ignore the fact that he fell down away from the play while not moving with no one around him at one point). Keane’s skating created opportunities for himself and others and he was involved in the two best scoring chances the Mass Attack had in which they did not score a goal (One where his shot produced a very juicy rebound for Mike Pereira, and another where he screened the goalie on a Joel Hanley slapshot from the point). Keane’s fancy skating in the neutral zone allowed the team to do one of my favorite things which is:
~Rushing the puck instead of dumping it in. I know that we’re a speed team and, as such, Toot has thought it wise to dump the puck instead of carrying it into the zone a lot. Despite this logic, the dump and chase hasn’t seemed to work too well over the last couple years whereas creating plays off the rush has worked well when we have done it. I was pleased to see Toot allowing the guys to carry the puck in more and dump it in less today.
~The aggressive 2 man forecheck. I LOVE THE AGGRESSIVE FORECHECK. UMass forwards created havoc in the UNB zone when they used it, and it was very effective, especially in the first and third periods. I feel like they took their collective foot off the throat in the second and used the 2 man forecheck less, but when they used it, it was super effective.
~The Langeraap-Czepiel-Sheary Line. Okay, what can I say about a 5’9” center from Holyoke who had one goal last year? You take him and pair him with a freshman winger who is also just 5’9”. And then you match them both with a 6’2” 202lb. senior winger who has been injury prone, but still looks like he could kill you with just a look. Well, you’d probably say you’ve got a finessey fourth line with one big guy to protect it. You’d be wrong. This line played scrappy, hard-nosed hockey all day long. Czepiel and Sheary were constantly creating havoc for UNB and coming up with great takeaways in New Brunswick’s zone. Sheary also had a nice deflection on a Colin Shea shot that was saved, unfortunately. Langeraap looks like he’s in good form, as well, and he didn’t mind showing a little physicality in the game. In fact, this line started the game (much to my annoyance, at the time). My apologies to these guys, they played their hearts out in an exhibition game and I’ve gotta say my hat’s off to them and I hope they play this way in the regular season, because if they do they will be a fantastic energy line.
~The powerplay while inside the offensive zone. I really liked the down low cycling and looking for the man in front of the net. This was combined with a few point shots to keep the PK honest. Although the powerplay goals that our boys did score was a point slapper and a scrum in front of the net, I feel like most of our powerplay production this year will come from that down low cycling game, if it remains strong.
Now, a few concerns:
~The breakout on the powerplay. While the breakout stalled a little in the second period, the Minutemen were mostly able to gain entry all night. Except when on the powerplay. I don’t know why, but whenever we went up a man we seemed to have issues gaining the blue line. Compounding this were some shots on the rush when we did gain the line that were rushed and from bad angles. The set plays once in the zone seemed to be working really well, so why take a bad angle wrister when you could probably set up something better?
~The penalty kill. The PK let UNB have A LOT of time in the offensive zone with the man advantage. Let Maine have that much time, and I guarantee they score.
~Line changes. They were lazy and sloppy. I’m willing to chalk it up to being the first game and only preseason, but they need to be much more crisp when the regular season rolls around.
~Defensive positioning. Especially in the third period and the overtime, our D-men looked to pressure the puck on the strong side and frequently overextended themselves. (Noteworthy exception: Doug Kublin. He looked as solid defensively as ever and denied a couple opportunities with good positioning and stickwork. Fundamentals, kids. Fundamentals.) This allowed UNB to get many wide open shots that our freshman netminder couldn’t stop.
~Jeff Teglia. God, I’m sorry, he was awful. It was tough to watch. The kid definitely has potential though. One can clearly see he’s very athletic and made a couple acrobatic saves. Unfortunately, he seems to have some issues seeing through screens and controlling rebounds. He also is way too slow to close the five-hole when he goes into the butterfly. The lateral quickness was his biggest issue, though, as he couldn’t get post-to-post quick enough to stop a couple goals from shooters left wide open (see rant on defensive positioning above). Three goals in one period and an overtime is unacceptable. I’m very confident he will improve (and, who knows, maybe today was just first game jitters), but the question is, will he improve enough to be the No. 2 goalie for this season or will it be Kevin Moore, who didn’t play today, who gets the nod?
~The ice. It was so bad. They had to stop the game and sweep it. I know it was warm out and I know the practice rink is always worse than the ice at The Bill, but seeing it today brought back memories of the second UVM game last year. I do not want to relive that.
Things I’m torn about:
~Mike Marcou. He did all the little things well, like positioning himself and sticking the rebounds to the end boards. His game in the defensive zone was Kublin-esque. And he rushed the puck really well. All day long. The only concern I have is that he may be too aggressive on the rush, taking the puck too deep and exposing the team to a counterattack. He didn’t get burned today, but he could in the future. Nevertheless, I suppose we shouldn’t try to change that aggressive tendency of his game so I hope it works out and he torches the opposition more times than we get burned.
I mean, come on guys, we lost to UNB. But I guess I’m about as happy as I could be with that loss. And, to be honest, I’ve come out of that game with much more hope for this season than when I went into it. One way or another, it’s going to be an exciting season and I just can’t wait for it to start for real.
~Edit: Eddie Olczyk left the game early and was seen on crutches following the game, but sources indicated the injury was very minor, and he should be fine by next week.
~Edit Pt. 2: Darren Rowe logged all his minutes playing on the wing, which was something we had heard inklings of at the end of last season. It makes sense given his shiftiness and playmaking abilities when juxtaposed with his somewhat small size and lack of checking power.
Hockey season is just about upon us! While our boys on the gridiron were busy eking out a win at Stony Brook (in a surefire trap/letdown style game), the hockey team is conducting scrimmages. Fear the Triangle and MassLive’s Dick Baker have been the top sources for the latest info from a hockey standpoint as the season nears, and I advise y’all to keep following those news sources. Baker pretty much reports any tiny little thing he learns about the team, from Danny Hobbs looking like he’s added muscle (a scary prospect for anyone who’s seen the guy in person; he was already pretty big) to Chase Langeraap looking to be this year’s Will Ortiz and escape the underperformance and injury woes.
Meanwhile, as I battle the notorious swarms of lovebugs down here in still-sunny Florida, my cohorts up north are getting ready for the annual preseason tilt in the practice rink. Matt and Derek will be the eyes and ears of the blog for the first semester this season, and I’m relying on them to offer first-hand commentary on the team and the student fanbase. Now, let’s be realists, kids. This team isn’t going to compete for the Hockey East title. Hell, being in the discussion for home ice in the playoffs would require a miracle. That being said, there are enough x-factors on this team that simply writing them off would be foolish. A senior goaltender with stand-on-his-head capability as Dainton showed at times last year cannot be ignored. There are players like Keane, Hobbs, and Langeraap who have underperformed as sideshows to the Jimmy & Casey show and have yet to live up to the potential we heard about when they first arrived. The defense is the biggest question mark. Some would say that an already-weak defense lost some of its only good pieces. My counter is that our defense was never good to begin with, and that fresh blood might be a good thing.
In fact, that, to me, is the ultimate theme of this year from the optimist’s perspective: fresh blood, a fresh start for a team that started with so much promise last year and ultimately fell victim to the success of its key pieces. That is to say, the talent level may have dropped, but I really think lack of talent wasn’t what doomed the 09-10 Minutemen. It was lack of preparedness to handle success, something Toot Cahoon is still learning — understandably, for a program that, in all honesty, is still getting used to the idea of competing for a Hockey East title on a regular basis. It was the inability to handle the pressure of being nationally-ranked and on TV, or, far more detrimentally, the constant distraction of having NHL scouts preying on Wellman, Marcou, and Irwin. Let’s be frank: UMass’s program, and Cahoon’s staff, weren’t able to ward off the scouts the way a York or a Parker or a Umile have been doing for years. That’s part of building a program, I think: dealing with success. Unfortunately, because UMass isn’t at that level, success isn’t going to come as frequently, and so the opportunity to learn how, as a school, to avoid these distractions comes less frequently as well.
That’s not to excuse the piss-poor play of the team last year, of course. These guys, especially the ones who aren’t being tempted with six- and seven-digit salaries, have to be able to carry their end of the bargain. Now that the scouts and agents will (presumably) be absent, it’s put-up or shut-up time for these guys. If that whole “too many distractions” excuse turned out to be erroneous (and/or the injury woes of guys like Langeraap persist), then yeah, it’s probably gonna be a long-ass year. But, to take a quick detour through Simmons-ville, this team just might have Ewing Theory potential, contingent, of course, on Dainton being strong in net, the defense taking a big step forward, aforementioned underperformers performing, and freshmen breaking out the way Marcou and Wellman did a few short years ago. A lot to ask for? Sure. But this is sports, and we watch because these are the kinds of things that happen in sports to keep them from being predictable. Toot’s recruiting core of Teglia, Pereira, Gracel, Power has a bright future, I’m fairly confident. But honestly, if there was ever a season where the youngsters were gonna get a chance to shine sooner than later, it’s this year.
Whether this team is out of contention by New Years’ or surprising everyone in March, though, one thing’s for sure: today, hockey is fuckin’ back, and we couldn’t possibly be happier. 😀
P.S. Consider this a “soft preview.” We’ll have more on UMass, and on the rest of Hockey East, between the preseason game and the official season-opener, of course.
Well, frankly, yes, but your UMass Minutemen (16-13-0 (11-11-0 HEA)) need them pretty desperately in this weekend’s home-and-home series against the Merrimack Warriors (11-15-1 (8-11-1 HEA)). In fact, both these teams could really use four points. While the Minutemen have just given up fourth place to BU, Merrimack sits just two points behind struggling Vermont, who may have dismissed their Hockey East Tournament berth along with their points per game leader.
The Merrimack offense ranks fifth in Hockey East right now at 3.11 goals per game. The five on five offense features the two-man show of super freshman forward Stephane De Costa (13-22-35) and junior forward Chris Barton (17-14-31). This is combined with an excellent power play that scores on 24.6% of its opportunities, good for second in Hockey East. Six Warriors have three or more goals on the power play this season (the team leader in PPG is Chris Barton, who has seven). Secondary scoring has been an issue for Merrimack this season, so if the Minutemen can shut down De Costa and Barton (and this is a mighty big if), they should be in good shape.
Merrimack’s defense is offensive. Really, it is that bad. They are dead last in Hockey East in scoring defense at 3.37 goals against per game. Merrimack’s defensemen are so bad that only one is a plus player (Brandon Sadlowsky is a +4), and Pat Bowen is an atrocious -12. While talking about Merrimack’s poor defense, one must never forget to mention their two goalies. They are Joe Cannata (.886 save%, 3.10 GAA in Hockey East play) and Andrew Braithwaite (.895 save%, 3.40 GAA). There, I mentioned them. I’ll let those terrible save percentages speak for themselves.
Meanwhile, what can we say about our Minutemen? Last Friday, the defense played extremely well and the offense couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket. That’s it; the offense set things up well and had plenty of chances but they were either snuffed out by Chris Rawlings, sent infuriatingly wide, or completely missed by players who didn’t have their sticks on the ice. Saturday was better for the offense, but the defense had returned to their undisciplined ways. Although whistle-happy refs contributed to the loss (calling 12 penalties in the third period!), the whole team failed to keep its cool (including Toot) and Michael Lecompte got himself ejected for fighting, meaning we won’t have him tonight either. I might add, the penalty kill gave up three of Northeastern’s six goals.
Merrimack is 2-2-1 in its last five games. The Warriors are coming off a three point weekend, but it was against Vermont, and Justin Milo didn’t play. Their win the week before was against UMass Lowell, who were still reeling from the loss of Jeremy Dehner at the time. The last time Merrimack faced a legitimate opponent (read: I’m not saying UML isn’t a legitimate opponent, they just weren’t during that stretch) they gave up five goals to Northeastern. That being said, Merrimack is 10-2-0 at home this year, so beating them tonight may take quite the trick.
The offense needs to continue to produce goals as it did last Saturday if the Mass Attack expects to win this weekend. Merrimack’s sieve-like defense should hopefully give the Minutemen a spark. And sophomores Justin Braun and Mike Marcou need to step up their defense, they are -8 and -6, respectively on the season. If the offense does its job and the defense stays disciplined, there is no reason the Minutemen cannot take four desperately needed points from this weekend.
P.S. Good luck to Andres and anyone else who’s making the trip to Lawler tonight, I wish I could go but I couldn’t get out of work.
P.P.S. UMass Men’s Lacrosse has its home opener on Saturday at 1PM at Garber Field against Hartford. The LAX team is 1-0 on the year and let’s not forget they made the NCAA tourney last year. The LAX team is an often overlooked member of the UMass athletic community that deserves more fan support!
Scores UMass Fans Should Keep an Eye On
UMass Lowell (7th Place, 20 Points) vs. Maine (3rd Place, 24 Points)
Boston University (4th Place, 22 Points) vs. Providence (sucks!)
Boston College (2nd Place, 26 Points) vs. Northeastern (6th Place, 21 Points)
UMass Lowell (7th Place, 20 Points) vs. Maine (3rd Place, 24 Points)
Providence (sucks!) vs. Boston University (4th Place, 22 Points)
Other Hockey East Action This Weekend
Vermont vs. New Hampshire
Vermont vs. New Hampshire
Northeastern Huskies (13-12-1 (8-10-1 HEA)) vs. No. 18 UMass Minutemen (16-11-0 (11-9-0 HEA))
What can be said about the recent performance of our beloved Minutemen? It’s been bad. All-around poor performance. The Minutemen are 1-3-0 in their last four games and the only win came at Hockey East basement-dwelling Providence. The Minutemen have scored seven goals in this time and given up seventeen. This translates to 1.75 goals per game for and 4.25 goals per game against. These are both terrible numbers. How many games can you win with an offense scoring one or two goals? Not many. Even fewer when your defense is gives up four. Something really needs to improve for the Minutemen this weekend because they are going up against a goalie in Chris Rawlings who hasn’t allowed more than two goals in his last five games and has only allowed more than two goals twice since 2010 began.
Northeastern’s offense has been anemic this season. The Huskies have averaged only 2.65 goals per game. That’s second worst in the league, behind Providence. If you take away Northeastern’s last two games against Merrimack and Harvard, where they scored five and four goals, respectively, the Huskies haven’t put more than three on the board since a 6-5 overtime loss to UML on January 9th. It has been tough for NEU to find secondary scoring in conference play to back up Tyler McNeely (6-10-16), Wade MacLeod (8-7-15), and Kyle Kraemer (8-7-15). And those three haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire this season, either.
The Huskies aren’t fantastic on defense, either. The team lead in plus/minus is split by three players (Defensemen David Strathman and Jim Driscoll and Forward Robbie Vrolyk) at only +5. They are averaging 29.3 shots per game against in Hockey East play, while only getting 25.4 shots. While this defense isn’t great, its certainly good enough when combined with Chris Rawlings. The numbers don’t look fantastic for Rawlings (.901 save%, 3.03 GAA in Hockey East play), but he has played extremely well in the second half and the numbers are skewed by a loss to Vermont in which he gave up seven goals on only nineteen shots.
We all know the problem with UMass. Ineffective offense and incredibly horrendous defense. When this is combined with a lack of heart, a lack of discipline, and a lack of knowledge of where to be on the ice, the results can be deadly to a season. The Minutemen have the talent to play with anyone in this league, but they tend to give up on games when they get behind and the result has been a record of 0-7-0 when trailing after one period in Hockey East play. They need to keep their heads in all situations and not give up dumb goals. In last week’s game against BC, at least four goals were the fault of the defense. If you give Paul Dainton a chance, he can win games for you. This game is shaping up to be a low scoring one so the Minutemen better play a smart, disciplined game or they will probably lose.
UMass won the previous meeting of these two teams 4-1, but that was against backup goaltender Bryan Mountain and both these teams are too schizophrenic right now for me to even venture a prediction.
Scores UMass Fans Should Keep an Eye On
(For the remainder of the season, this will replace the usual “Interesting Hockey East Games” segment.)
No. 12 Maine (#3 in Hockey East, 24 Points) vs. Boston University (#5 in Hockey East, 18 Points)
No. 12 Maine (#3 in Hockey East, 24 Points) vs. Boston University (#5 in Hockey East, 18 Points)
Other Hockey East Action
No. 20 UMass Lowell vs. No. 10 Boston College
Providence vs. No. 15 New Hampshire
Merrimack vs. No. 17 Vermont
No. 10 Boston College vs. No. 20 UMass Lowell
Merrimack vs. No. 17 Vermont
Also, big ups to the UMass basketball team for a big 84-80 win in OT at Duquesne.
So… is it Friday yet?
Those of you who follow UMass hockey may have noticed that the Minutemen are currently holding on to fourth place in Hockey East. You may also know that fourth place is the last slot for home ice in the Hockey East tournament. Given the precarious position that the Minutemen are in, I decided to review all the other teams in Hockey East whose slots are up in the air. I’ve omitted BC and UNH because they will, almost definitely, finish in the top two spots. I’ve also omitted Merrimack and Providence because, well, they’re bad and should feel bad. I’ll wait until next week to make my predictions, as I’m still not sure of how good some of the more schizophrenic Hockey East teams (UMass, BU, Northeastern) are.
3. Maine Black Bears 14-9-3 (11-6-2 HEA) 24 Points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 @ Boston University
2/13 @ Boston University
2/19 vs. Lowell
2/20 vs. Lowell
2/26 @ Merrimack
2/27 @ Merrimack
3/5 vs. UMass
3/6 vs. UMass
Since the return of Scott Darling, the Black Bears have been terrific. They have gone 3-0-1 in these four games including a sweep of Hockey East leader UNH last weekend. They have a high-powered offense that has averaged 3.73 GPG in Hockey East play this season, and when you combine this with the play of Scott Darling (.916 save%, 2.40 GAA in conference), the Black Bears are a team to be reckoned with. Their remaining schedule may be the most balanced of any team’s in Hockey East. They go to play the schizophrenic Terriers next weekend, who have played very well lately. They then go to play the impotent Jeremy Dehner-less River Hawks and the Merrimack Warriors (who play like a NCAA-tournament team when at home). Their season comes down to a final weekend with our Minutemen. By this time, they may have a spot locked up, but the Minutemen will probably still be fighting for home ice.
4. Massachusetts 16-11-0 (11-9-0) 22 Points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Northeastern
2/13 @ Northeastern
2/19 @ Merrimack
2/20 vs. Merrimack
2/26 @ Boston College
3/5 @ Maine
3/6 @ Maine
Here we go again. After going 11-6-0 (6-4-0 in Hockey East) in the first half of the season with a goal differential 0.70 goals per game, the Minutemen have begun their patented Cahoon Swoon. They have gone 5-5-0 since the mid-season mark (all Hockey East games) and are actually losing the goal differential by 1.71 goals per game. (I’d say these results were skewed by some massive losses, but let’s face it, when you lose a lot of games by a lot of goals, the results are not being skewed, that’s just how bad you are.) The offense has been bad, the goaltending has been questionable (although Dainton has certainly not played as poorly as the numbers would seem to indicate), and the defense has been beyond horrendous. The team also misses savvy defense-oriented role players Mike Lecomte and Doug Kublin. The next four games are key for the Minutemen. They have a two-game series this weekend with a Northeastern team that is getting healthier and better, but these are two games the Minutemen should take. The Mass Attack then faces lowly Merrimack. Merrimack has been very good at home, but UMass cannot afford a split if it is to stay in home ice contention. UMass then goes to BC (I’m not even gonna touch this one). The fate of their playoff run could hinge on the final series of the season in Maine
5. Boston University Terriers 11-12-3 (8-9-2) 18 Points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Maine
2/13 vs. Maine
2/19 @ Providence
2/20 vs. Providence
2/26 @ Vermont
2/28 @ Vermont
3/5 vs. Northeastern
3/6 @ Northeastern
Jack Parker owns Hockey East. Apparently, he decided he wanted a little more drama in his tournament run this year. After going a horrid 4-9-3 (2-7-2 in Hockey East) in the first half, the
Jack Parkers Terriers have gone 7-3-0 in their last ten games, including a record of 6-2-0 in Hockey East. They have an offense that spreads the puck around, with no single superstar, but eleven skaters who have double-digit point totals. Kieran Millan is steadily improving. He is by no means a top-flight goaltender, but he is no longer the reason the Jack Parkers Terriers lose games. After Maine, BU does not have to face a legitimately good opponent this season, meaning they could make a serious run at home ice if they continue to improve.
6. Lowell River Hawks 14-12-2 (8-9-2 HEA) 18 Points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Boston College
2/13 @ Boston College
2/19 @ Maine
2/20 @ Maine
2/26 vs. Providence
2/27 @ Providence
3/5 vs. Vermont
3/6 vs. Vermont
At this point, the River Hawks appear to have played themselves out of home ice contention. After appearing to right the ship with wins over Boston College and Merrimack, Lowell was dealt a crushing blow. Their elite defenseman Jeremy Dehner (a +16 on the season) was diagnosed with a broken hand. Since this massive loss, the River Hawks have gone on to drop their last three games, including losses to Northeastern and Merrimack. Things don’t get better for UML this weekend; they will play the BC Eagles who have been rolling of late, and look unbeatable. Next weekend they’ll have to go to Maine for two games to play a team in the Black Bears who look to have a strong grasp on the no. 3 spot. Even a home-and-home with Providence is doubtful to save UML’s season now.
7. Vermont Catamounts 13-9-4 (7-8-4 HEA), 18 points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/12 vs. Merrimack
2/13 vs. Merrimack
2/19 @ New Hampshire
2/20 @ New Hampshire
2/26 vs. Boston University
2/28 vs. Boston University
3/5 @ Lowell
3/6 @ Lowell
Don’t let the good out of conference record fool you, Vermont is a bad team. The only thing that holds this team together is its defense. The offense is mediocre, at best. Their goaltending is very poor. Rob Madore is the better of the two Catamount netminders and he only has a .902 save% in conference! Their out of conference record has been boosted by wins against the like of Dartmouth and Alabama-Huntsville. The team’s results have been consistently mediocre, and i can not imagine them making a run at home ice. They should get a temporary boost against Merrimack this weekend (although, they couldn’t get four points against lowly Providence last weekend), but I’m not sure this team can muster even a single point over their next four games.
8. Northeastern Huskies 13-12-1 (8-10-1 HEA) 17 Points
Remaining Hockey East Games:
2/13 @ UMass
2/14 vs. UMass
2/19 vs. Boston College
2/21 @ Boston College
2/26 vs. New Hampshire
2/27 @ New Hampshire
3/5 @ Boston University
3/6 vs. Boston University
I thought I’d put Northeastern on this list because they were improving. Chris Rawlings has played really well down the stretch. In fact, he has only given up more than two goals once (to Vermont on January 29th) since he gave up six in an overtime to Lowell on January 9th. He’s boosted his save percentage to over .900 in conference play. This is a team that could get itself together and move up the standings, I thought. Then I saw their remaining schedule. Two against BC, two against UNH, two against BU. No chance.
…Is it Friday yet?
What can be said about the Providence Friars that cannot be said about Afghanistan? That shit is bombed out and depleted. The Friars are once again trapped in the Hockey East basement and that is truly where they deserve to be. They score, by far, the fewest goals of any team on Hockey East (ONLY 1.88GPG in Hockey East play). They don’t have a single player with double-digit goals on the season, let alone in conference play, and only three skaters with double-digit point totals in Hockey East action (Mark Fayne 3-9-12, Kyle MacKinnon 6-5-11, Matt Bergland 4-7-11). Meanwhile, the defense is giving up 3.00 goals per game. That is an average margin of 1.12 goals! The Friars’ defense also makes their vaunted goalie face almost 35 shots a game in Hockey East play.
If Providence has one saving grace, it is their outstanding netminder, Alex Beaudry. Up until last night, Beaudry was probably the best goaltender in Hockey East, narrowly edging out Carter Hutton. (Hutton is clearly the premier goalie in Hockey East now) However, even his game looked poor last night as he gave up five goals on only fourteen shots in one period of play. (He was replaced by Justin Gates who shutout BC on 22 shots for the remainder of the game) Beaudry is still a formidable opponent, and he will be looking to make up for last night’s shitshow with a strong performance tonight.
The Minutemen are not without their own problems. UMass is coming off back to back losses in which Paul Dainton has not played at the high level we have come to expect from him. In the loss to Vermont last Sunday, Dainton gave up two goals on only eighteen shots. One of those two was a ridiculously slow moving puck that probably should have been a cake save for Dainton. The Minutemen still should have won this game, but Rob Madore had the game of his life, and got extremely lucky (I personally witnessed Madore being shocked to find out that a shot had been taken and hit him right in the glove at least twice). Last night at Boston University, both the defense and Dainton let the team down. While the offense was busy barraging Kieran Millan with 41 shots on goal, the defense was letting BU’s lackluster offense shred them for 37 shots on net. Dainton let six of these shots find the back of the net behind him. (Add to this the fact that the UMass power play went 1 for 14 in these two games)
These last two games aside, there are a couple of rather disquieting statistics that have plagued the Mass Attack all year. In Hockey East play, the Minutemen are 1-6-0 when giving up the first goal and 0-6-0 when trailing after one period. These numbers suggest a lack of resolve and mental toughness that parallel the team’s playing down to the level of its opposition the previous two seasons. All Dave Chappelle jokes aside, tonight is a game that the Minutemen MUST WIN. The Friars have lost four in a row, and I am sure that Alex Beaudry wants this game on a personal level. It’s time for this team to dig deep and show us all that they are not the Minutemen of the past two years.
(UMass and Providence split a home-and-home series earlier this season, the Minutemen came away from Providence with a 5-3 victory, but lost 2-1 the following night at the Bill)
Offense: UMass (by a lot)
Defense: slight edge to UMass
Special Teams: UMass (please get the power play back on track, boys)
Other Factors: Providence
UMass 2 – 0 Providence
(If Dainton’s in net, it’s about fucking time for him to get a shutout.)
Other Hockey East action tonight:
Merrimack vs. No. 13 New Hampshire
No. 19 Maine vs. No. 17 Vermont