Tagged: ROAD TRIP!

ROAD TRIP!

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.

-Derek

On Melancholy Hill

It’s fitting that the Boston area is being pounded by a driving rainstorm tonight. The droves of UMass fans who made the trip to Conte Forum tonight, amassing a student section that put BC’s home crowd to shame for the second straight night, were sent home disappointed by a 5-2 final that was much more exciting than the score would indicate.

Who’s the goat tonight? If we had to pick one, it’d be the officiating crew, which trumped last night’s “performance” with a disjointed clusterfuck of a 2nd period featuring a number of dubious calls in BC’s favor, followed by yet another “let ’em play” 3rd period in which BC was able to pretty much do whatever they wanted without fear of a whistle. But blaming the refs only takes you so far; Dainton was better than he was last night, but a couple of defensive lapses here, a couple of missed scoring chances there, in series where UMass needed to catch a number of breaks…it just wasn’t happening. BC was the superior physical team, and the Minutemen sadly ran out of gas in the third period. That old sports cliche usually reserved for basketball rings true for hockey: you just can’t keep playing from behind, it takes too much out of you.

Give the team all the credit in the world. They easily could have packed it in after the horror-show of February, but first in Maine and now this last weekend, we saw a team with heart, desire, and the talent to hang around with anyone in Hockey East. It’s really unfortunate that they didn’t pull off home ice, especially how close Hockey East was and with an 0-6 February in which they played well enough to win at least 3 of them, and with all those close losses that could have been ties. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Whatever. The fact is, they put themselves in a position to erase all those bad memories, and they fell just a little short.

So what’s next? While the other three HEA playoff series go to a game 3 tomorrow, UMass prepares for an offseason which will certainly weaken their defensive corps and, depending on what happens to Jimmy and Casey, may make next year into a full-on rebuilding season. On the other hand, if one or both of UMass’s offensive stars are here next year, there’s a lot to look forward to. We’ll get into more detail soon (it’s a long offseason, after all), but I see next year being a big “step-up” season for guys like Lecomte, Keane, Langeraap, and Kublin, all of whom battled injuries at times this year. And let’s not forget that we return Paul Dainton in net. But make no mistake: the key to next year, besides whether James and Casey are here, is who, if anyone, can fill the shoes of Nolet and Braun on the blue line. Mike Marcou and Darren Rowe both showed some signs at times early on, yet both had atrocious ends to the season. Irwin and Kublin are good anchors to have, but between the other guys and the incoming frosh, someone (preferably, more than one) needs to step up.

We’ll cross that bridge when it comes. For now, it’s the time of year where we hang up our maroon and white – for now – and enjoy the spectacle that is playoff season in college hockey, not to mention March Madness (the first weekend of which perennially comprises my favorite four-day span of the sporting year). Thank you Ortiz, thank you Watson, thank you Meyers, thank you Nolet, and thank you Braun, and good luck to you all in future endeavors. Thanks for the rest of the team for a fantastic run. And thank you, the readers, for coming along on the ride with us. We’ll continue to write this summer, even as our paths take us in different directions (mine, for example, to Orlando until January, where I’ll continue to follow the teams from a distance online and hopefully be able to see in person when I return). While I won’t be here in person, the other writers will be taking the reins, and I hope this site takes off even further next year and that more students can get involved, whether it’s reading, commenting, or even contributing themselves.

Until then…ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh SEE YA ASSHOLES!

-Max

thisclose.

Last night’s Game 1 of the BC-UMass series has taken the crown of “best game I’ve seen in person with a heartbreaking ending.” The Minutemen clawed back from a number of deficits, including 6-3 to start the 3rd period, and thoroughly dominated the final frame, pulling within a goal with a ton of time left, but just couldn’t get over the hump to tie it despite numerous opportunities to do so.

And so it comes down to this: to keep playing Sunday, tonight is a must-win against a BC team that twice now has discovered it can coast through large portions of games at Conte and still eke out wins.

The offense was finally there, albeit thanks to a couple 5-on-3’s. The refs (who were brutal all night, by the way), after a whistle-fest through two periods, decided to let ’em play in the 3rd. This, of course, came after the 6th (and deciding) BC goal on a power play in the 2nd, following a penalty to Nolet on a play where he literally did not make contact with the BC player. But whatever, the fact that I literally pointed to the BC player walking up to the net to stuff home goal #6 and said “goal” to Walsh right before it happened shows us that the Minutemen didn’t play well enough on the penalty kill to win. Dainton was up-and-down, his defense burned him a few times, but he was certainly not the guy who took the ice two weeks ago here. Same with Milner; he looked sharp early, but Jimmy’s goal to cut it to 6-5 was the kind of bad goal break that UMass hadn’t been getting all of February. The fact of the matter is, though, you can’t give up 6 goals and expect to win, no matter how close UMass came to tying it up.

So it boils down to tonight and, hopefully, tomorrow. UMass has all the momentum in the world after silencing BC’s smattering of fans for the duration of the 3rd period and putting BC back on their heels. I much prefer what happened last night to, say, tying it up and losing in overtime to give BC that emotional energy. It still feels like an opportunity lost, but this was BC’s series to lose all along. My gut instinct tells me this series goes 3. (Don’t ask my gut instinct about what happens in a game 3. We’ll cross that bridge if and when we get there.)

On a side note: I think last night ends any debate over the quality of their fan support. This is a playoff game and the building was even emptier than it was two weeks ago for a meaningless regular season game at the start of their spring break. The odd thing was, the students actually were there in greater numbers (again, without the spring break excuse), eventually sort-of filling those tiny two endzone sections. The side of the arena opposite us and opposite the media booths, however, was practically a dead zone. Is there any other team in Hockey East whose arena would be half-empty for a playoff game, against anyone? To borrow from a certain regional furniture store’s ads, I DOUBT IT.

Whatever. Whether there’s 6 people in the building or 6,000…do it tonight boys, and live to fight another day.

Meanwhile, I didn’t really hear much of the UMass-Richmond game on the radio afterward, but it seemed like the usual “fall behind big early, make a semi-decent run at the game in the 2nd half and fall short” effort we saw against the likes of Xavier, Charlotte (at home) and URI (on the road) this season. The curse of Atlantic City lives on, although for the second year in a row, they were just happy to be there. Unfortunately, it sounds like cold shooting did them in early on. Still, congrats to Derek Kellogg and his squad for a couple of nice wins at the end of the season. The end result on paper was a little underwhelming, but I think there’s a bright future yet for the Minutemen basketball team. Hopefully when I get back from Florida next January they’ll be in the thick of things in the A-10 race – and the fans are out to support them. If you win games, they will come.

-Max

Long-overdue revenge

Yes, Virginia, the UMass Minutemen basketball team just won a game in the Atlantic 10 tournament. I’m going to repeat that: the Minutemen won an A-10 tourney game. In what top scientists are describing as “by a wide margin the least likely thing that has ever happened,” UMass, which managed in consecutive years to suffer a shocking upset in the first round of said tournament that ultimate cost Travi$ Fraud’s teams a pair of NCAA Tournament bids, second-year (and, for some reason, already-embattled) head coach Derek Kellogg took a 10-19 team that very nearly 0-3 against the Atlantic 10’s two worst teams, snuck into the conference tournament on a last-day victory, and proceeded to do what Ford’s teams, featuring the likes of Forbes, Harris, Brower, Milligan, Lasme, and Freeman never did. The Derek Kellogg statue is to be placed in between the Mullins and the practice arena, and will feature lifelike hair to be re-jelled on a daily basis. Oh, and let’s name the Champions Center after him too.

Okay, so dramatic hyperbole aside, the Minutemen were playing a Charlotte team tail-diving in a way that makes the Cahoon Swoon look tame by comparison. They also didn’t have to play in UMass’s personal house of horrors, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. (No, really, I was so excited when I realized this game would be on Charlotte’s home court. I hate Boardwalk Hall; it’s right there with Safeco Field and Lawler Arena in the “places my favorite team should win but never seems to” pantheon, and it’s not even anyone’s home arena.)

Did UMass deserve to win this game? The defense in the first half and down the stretch was fantastic, though the lapse in the middle there nearly did them in. Derrio Green (and, really, the whole Charlotte offense) didn’t exactly set the world on fire from the field. And certainly, they got some help from the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen, a too many men technical foul. I’ve never seen that in a basketball game (that’s roughly seven full seasons of Celtics, four full years of UMass and countless pro and college games on TV in between). and I can guarantee you the crazies calling for DK’s firing would be louder than ever if such a thing happened with his team.

On the other hand, UMass, as if to continue the A-10 First Game tradition, tried their darnedest to lose this game. The team continues to struggle to hit open shots, although at least they’re getting more of them. Anthony Gurley, as the UMassHoops chat room can attest, had one of those frustrating games that has really epitomized his time here in Amherst. Bailey got lots of minutes. And yet they still pulled it off, thanks to the continued stellar rebounding effort and Ricky continuing to go out with a bang here.

So what’s next? A Richmond squad that UMass took to overtime on its own court, and could have beaten if Ricky hadn’t dribbled down the clock to about 1 on the final possession before heaving a terrible shot. On one hand, UMass doesn’t have to play them in Richmond this time. On the other hand…right. Atlantic City. Fuck. Well, that was fun. No, but seriously, this is two great wins in a row for DK and for this team going forward, regardless of how central Ricky was to them. If the guys can’t pull the victory and bring a 19-loss team into the NCAA tournament this year (which is like saying “if I can’t go try out for the Red Sox and make the starting rotation”), at least it’s nice to have not just A-10 Tournament experience for the kids, but also Boardwalk Hall experience going forward.

But hey, anything is possibbblllleeeee! (Except, again, that Red Sox scenario.)

Oh, other things to note…I caught the first half of UMass-Albany today, my first-ever men’s lax game at Garber Field. (I know, I’m a slacker, though in my defense, the home games always seem to be either a) during class or b) too far away for my hungover ass to walk on a weekend.) UMass came back from down 4-1 to win 11-6. I’m not even going to pretend to be a lacrosse expert, but I’ll do my best to keep an eye on Cannella’s talented young squad.

Last but not least (but certainly most obvious): the new layout is finally here! After finally getting some free time to mess around with GIMPshop (my new laptop, unlike my old PC, does not have the real Photoshop, and I’m not made of money), I was able to put something together with a shot Walsh took a few weeks back before a game. Accordingly, I switched up the blog template, and I think this one looks better; plus, I enjoy having the tags and author stuff BEFORE the post, so you guys know whose work you’re reading right away. We’d love to hear any input you might have on the layout; notably, we’d love to change the color scheme but WordPress only gives you so many templates, so we’ll just deal with what we’re given. Enjoy!

One more thing…we will most definitely on hand for this weekend’s festivities at Chestnut Hill University. Is it Friday yet?

-Max

The last stand, or, can we put a win on daddy’s chaaaarge?

Honestly, what words can we say at this point?

The odds are stacked against our boys, yes. But stranger things have happened than “a talented, underachieving team wakes up at the last minute and figures it out.”

Could the sun have already set on this year’s squad? Maybe. It’s certainly not a talent issue – right now there’s clearly something mentally off with this team, whether it’s Jimmy and Casey mailing it in knowing that there are NHL scouts who (in our opinion, wrongly) believe they’re ready to make the jump to the bigs right now, or if there’s some sort of locker room unrest/divide over the Boehm incident (and from what I’ve been told, I can’t imagine how that wouldn’t affect the team), or if the mono-plagued Kublin was really the glue keeping our tenuous defensive corps together (and our eyes tell us this was very much the case). Yeah, yeah, excuses, excuses. Champions can survive when their best players are distracted/struggling, because they have more than one line capable of scoring. Champions can survive locker room unrest through strong leadership (to be fair, we have no proof that there’s any discord, but this is the third straight year the rumor mill’s been buzzing about it). Champions don’t get mono. Yada yada yada.

They’re so friggin’ due, though, and in Hockey East this year, you can’t assume anything until it happens.

So if this ship has to go down, let’s go down with it. We have no expectations anymore; if we’re back here writing about an 8-0 loss (with Muse making 58 saves or something) later on tonight, I won’t be entirely shocked.

But sports are never that predictable.

…right?

-Max

P.S. Even if UMass makes the HEA tournament, WMUA probably isn’t ponying up to broadcast the games, so this’ll be my last hockey broadcast for WMUA – here’s the link to listenEDIT: HAHA DISREGARD THAT, BC decided to give away our seats to the Globe, and didn’t call to tell us about it until today. Even their fucking media department apparently has a superiority complex. Throw that in the overflowing “reasons everyone hates BC” pile.

Weekend Preview: Has anyone ever needed four points more?

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
Friday
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)

Saturday
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
Friday
Vermont vs. New Hampshire

Saturday
Vermont vs. New Hampshire

UMass at NEU recap

Well, you can’t blame this weekend on lack of effort. Despite being down 5-1, UMass was able to get two goals in the third period in tonight’s game against Northeastern.

Northeastern’s Robbie Vrolyk got it going 5 minutes into the first period. With the puck behind the net, Drew Daniels threw it out front where it was shot in by Vrolyk. UMass was able to answer with Michael Marcou getting his seventh collegiate goal from Lecomte and Langeraap at 16:39.

Northeastern netted 2 goals in the second. The first came on a power play after Casey Wellman was called for Contact to the Head High Sticking. The second goal came in the middle of the frame on even strength.

James Marcou started the third with a tripping call, and Northeastern was able to capitalize with 0:02 left in the power play. Then, on a 4-on-4, NEU netted another one. UMass wasn’t done as James Marcou’s shot bounced off Rawlings and Danny Hobbs was able to put it home. Northeastern got a PP goal to get the 6-point touchdown (or two field goals). The final goal was scored by Will Ortiz from Casey Wellman on a shorthanded breakaway with 5 minutes left in the third.

As much as the effort was there, the discipline was not. UMass could not seem to stay out of the box with 11 penalties for 33 minutes. Northeastern had 9 penalties for 18 minutes, and was able to capitalize on 3/9 power plays.

UMass’ penalties ultimately cost them the game as they were constantly on the defensive. The minutes included some bad penalties (too many men on the ice in the first, a bench minor in the third, and fighting with a game disqualification, halfway through the third).

The bench minor came after a tripping call on James Marcou, followed by a hitting after the whistle call on Casey Wellman. Toot was upset with the calls and was trying to talk to the refs, who would not respond. He continued screaming, which drew the bench minor.

Despite all of this, I was able to leave the arena with my head held extremely high. UMass played a great game despite what the scoreboard might say. They came out and played with a lot of effort and kept working hard throughout the third period. It was a fun game to watch, and there was a lot of great playing by UMass.

Some other key points to the game were that the NEU pep band wasn’t there. The band gets quite annoying when they continue to play after the puck drops. Also, the plastic horn was missing in the student section. Maybe Northeastern got wind that they violate NCAA regulations? The horn arguably was replaced with a giant, hick-sized triangle that could bring the country redneck out of any Northeastern fan. (Also, I felt like it was callin’ ya’ll fans t’ dinnah!)

UMass currently sits in 4th place (tied with Boston University).  However, BU has a game in hand, giving them the edge on UMass. At this time, we are sitting in 15th place in the USCHO Pairwise rankings.

What does that mean for us? Next weekend we’ve got to sweep Merrimack. They’re coming off a win against Vermont, and looking to get into the Hockey East playoffs. We’re also going to need other teams to help us get a good seed in the Hockey East playoffs.  Right now, we would be traveling to Boston to play in the Agganis Arena, where we have lost at twice this year and seem to struggle every time.

Next week is senior night. Come out and support Justin Braun, Dan Meyers, Martin Nolet, Will Ortiz, and Brett Watson, and thank them for their hard work during their time at UMass.

Keep your heads held high, we aren’t out of it yet. Go UMass!

~Ben (Flag Guy)

Heading to Matthews Arena

Tonight the minutemen are heading into Boston to take on the Northeastern Huskies in the Matthews for the second time this season.

The first meeting between the teams had Paul Dainton vs. NEU backup goalie Mountain. UMass held a 4-0 lead into the 3rd period, where Northeastern was able to tally one on the board. It was quite an exciting game to be at for a UMass fan. UMass dominated play and held the Huskies to 13 shots on net.

Then, last night, the Huskies seemed to come back with a similar style play that gave UMass the edge during the first meeting. NEU dominated the play and forced turnovers. That, combined with great goaltending by freshman Rawlings, gave the Huskies the shutout. UMass played hard, but couldn’t find the back of the net. UMass outshot Northeastern 31-18, and Dan Meyers, despite playing well, gave up two goals.

Tonight, we finish off the series (tied 1-1-0) with Northeastern. The Matthews Arena proved too much for last year’s UMass team during the playoffs after losing in overtime in the third game of the series. This year started with a win, and UMass is in need of a win for sure tonight.

Some notes on the Matthews Arena: watch for falling food as the students, who sit above the general crowd, tend to get antsy.  Also, watch for the horrible starts and stops by the pep band – they just don’t seem to cut off in time. The student section has a plastic horn, in direct violation of NCAA rules, which starts a “GO NU” cheer for them, it gets old fast. And there always seems to be a few megaphones in the student section.

They just renovated the Matthews and it now has a screen in the middle of the ice, which is probably smaller than most flat panels at Best Buy. The seats are also miserable. I found myself needing to stand because if you sit, your knees hit the seat in front of you (even on shorter people). Parking is of course, Boston parking, and the garage next to the Arena is 20$. Find street parking and avoid the hour of traffic after the game gets out just leaving the parking garage.

Please check the UMass Hockey Facebook Page for game updates tonight and Go UMass!

~Ben (Flag Guy)

Weekend wrap-up: I’m not even mad; in fact, that’s amazing

Well, to call this the worst sporting weekend in my nearly four years at UMass is probably an understatement. First, UMass hockey fell flat on its face in front of the entire New England area on NESN and 8,000+ at the Mullins Center, doing virtually nothing right in a 7-1 bloodbath at the hands of the team everyone loves to hate. Not really much to say about this one: UMass got outplayed in literally every aspect of the hockey game. Goaltending? Dainton didn’t have it, Meyers wasn’t much better, Muse was rarely tested. Offense? Eagles. Defense? Eagles, by a LOT. Special teams? UMass got all the first-period power play time, including over a minute of 5-on-3, and looked completely inept.

Honestly, there were no silver linings other than the fact that it only counts as one game, and that aggregate goals are meaningless in the NCAA. The troubling thing is that, after going through the entire first half without getting blown out – staying close in literally every game – the Minutemen have now suffered losses of 7-3 (BU), 7-2 (UNH), 6-2 (BU…again) and now this mess. They’re a mind-numbing six goals under .500 in Hockey East and down to even overall. What does it mean? Well, this percentage of the way through an NHL season, you’d have to start worrying; in a 27-game season, it just means UMass has gotten thrashed, absolutely thrashed, four times (this the first one at home). Their overall record, which is still solid in spite of everything, tells you that when things are bad for this team, they’re REALLY bad. For some reason, games spiral out of hand for these guys, which tells me there’s a tendency to give up (whether it’s late in the game, as it was in the two BU debacles, or early in the game, like up at Lake Whitt and now this shitshow).

So that means there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that this team, I still believe, has the talent to make a run in Hockey East. The bad news is that there are still effort and character issues. You simply cannot give up early in a sport; anything can happen in a game that’s 2-0 in the first (which is the point where it felt like the wheels really came off), hell, a comeback is still possible even after it’s 4-0 after one period, but a 7-0 deficit is insurmountable. (By the way, this applies to the fans, too, but Ben covered that already in his post.)

I will say this: BC, as Derek pointed out in his preview, is a damn good hockey team, and you must give coach York and crew credit for making them into serious contenders earlier than anyone outside Chestnut Hill could have predicted. They’re scary-deep, they don’t make stupid mistakes, and yeah, it’s safe to say that their January slump is behind them. Meanwhile, I have to take back anything I said before the game about BC’s fanbase being apathetic; their little cheering section was easily the most impressive of its kind in the Mullins Center all year, and they were certainly rewarded for their efforts and creativity. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I hate most people from BC with a fiery passion, but you can’t say they don’t care when they send over 100 kids to a place they supposedly wouldn’t touch with a 50-foot pole. (Then again, we’ll see how many of them come out in their own arena in a couple weeks.)

Coupled with tonight’s results, I think you have to look at Hockey East like this: three home-ice locks (UNH, Maine, and BC), and one spot open for the taking, with UMass, BU, and Vermont as the front-runners in a jumble, along with Lowell, although they’re on their way out as their offensive struggles (and now the loss of Dehner) have them on a rather Cahoon Swoon-esque slide. Northeastern, meanwhile, could jump into the conversation, but it would require a sweep of next weekend’s home-and-home with the Minutemen. Once again, we have to hope that playing the Huskies gives UMass a spark, and that this time, they sustain it. More on that later in the week.

Meanwhile, Matt and I made the annual (third time for me, first for him) bus trip down to URI to watch our men’s basketball team against our favorite A-10 rival. We’ll point out that we were among maybe five or six students on our bus and the group was heavily alumni-centric, so it wasn’t quite as fun as the last two trips. The outcome was also pretty depressing: once again, UMass started alright, then the wheel came off and before you knew it they were down 17 at half. I don’t even feel like talking about Big Shitty anymore, because honestly, there was nothing nice to say; I cringed every moment he stepped out on the floor, and this time he never managed to prove me wrong. The Gurley Show was also teetering on the brink of cancellation for me; his inconsistency is simply maddening at times.

Now, you have to give URI credit; they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn to start the game (0 for their first 8 or 9 threes I think), and yet they were able to keep UMass from getting any sort of sustained run thanks to a devastatingly effective press that forced UMass turnovers seemingly at will. You gotta love their fan base, too — granted, there’s really nothing else to root for in Kingston, but just the same, they’ve packed that place all three times I’ve been there, their student section(s) put(s) ours to shame, and it’s freaking LOUD in there (not to mention a fantastic place to watch a game, even from the balcony corner that they always stick us in). I honestly love the Ryan Center, although I must admit that I’d love it a lot less if it weren’t for the last two trips. This one…eh.

UMass did put something together to start the second half again, and we had visions of another 17-point rally followed by actually holding the narrow lead, but then the Rams and their fans woke up again and put a quick stop to it with a bevy of dunks, not to mention their shooters finally heated up. Our guys made it respectable in the closing minutes, as Gurley suddenly realize there was a basketball game going on and started knocking down shot after shot, but it was in vain. This was a superior team with a lot more experience, especially in the coaching department, and it showed. Still, I liked what I saw out of the freshmen, and Sean Carter continues to be solid if not spectacular. And hey, at least they didn’t embarrass themselves on NESN. *sigh*

-Max