In case you hadn’t noticed, season three of Fight Mass is in full swing. Tomorrow, the Minutemen will take to the Mullins Center ice against the Bentley Falcons, and UMass hockey will officially be back. (Technically they started last weekend, and yes, the game counts in the standings, but the home opener is when it really begins in our hearts. Or something.)
If you’re just joining us, welcome aboard. We hope to keep you entertained during the torturous stretches during the coming weeks where there is no hockey but only the empty, cold shell of non-hockey and asking “is it Friday yet?” Well, we also cover basketball (or as UMass play-by-play announcer Josh Maurer calls it, “bas-KET-a-ball”) and football to a lesser extent, but the banner is 90% hockey because this blog is 90% hockey. And let’s be honest, this is a hockey town at this point.
Anywho, we invite you to check out other pages on our site. The About page sets the stage for how this blog came to be. The Encyclopedia UMass-ica is a work in progress, but it’s a good indicator of our sense of humor, our attitudes toward the program and its competition, etc. There will be more tabs added in the near future so stay tuned to that. We also have some not-really-surprises in the works for those of you who’ve been following us the past two years. Honest.
I’m in the process of putting together a “newbie primer” for all you freshmen out there (or upperclassmen who, for some ridiculous reason, have yet to attend a game) as to what you can expect from the Mullins experience. It’s a lot of fun, but as with any collegiate athletics program, there are traditions handed down from generation to generation. We’re a bit concerned about how this process has been handled the past few years; a lot of the traditions from when I was a freshman (aka the Jon Quick year, when UMass made it to hockey’s Elite Eight) have deteriorated in the time since.
We’re not gonna resort to handing out chant sheets or BU-style choreography. This is simply a primer on what traditions should be upheld. Welcome, newbie, to UMass Hockey 101. Take notes, there’s a quiz tomorrow night.
The Fight Song
Also known as “Fight Mass,” believe it or not. We don’t really need to teach you the “go! go U!” thing because from what I remember, they actually teach you that during orientation. If you can’t figure this part out, well, there may not be much hope for you to begin with. We like the little twist of
inserting Shane Hnidy into it…the sheriff adding the back and forth clapping to the second part of the chorus (you’ll see a few people still doing it at games, ourselves included). So yeah, you should probably do that.
Pretty simple. Index finger in the air, “sucks!” after each visiting player is intro’d. The goalie gets the “sieve! Sieve! Sieve!” treatment. The other team’s goalie is a sieve because he lets things in. (Hardcore hockey fans, I know you’re rolling your eyes, but you gotta look at this from the perspective of “some of these people have seriously never seen a hockey game before.” Rather than laugh at the pink hats, we should be educating them. Then there will be less pink hats. And who’s NOT on board with that?) Also, Walsh will inform one lucky member of the opposing starting lineup that they, in fact, suck the most.
For the home team…nothing special. We used to have a Nolet! (ole!”) chant for Martin Nolet, and now that he’s gone, there’s room for Oleg Yevenko to get an Oleg! chant if he earns it and if he’s ever starting. Oh, and when UMass’s goalie is intro’d, it goes goalie! sieve! goalie! sieve! pointing back and forth at him and his counterpart. If this all sounds rudimentary to you, good. You’re ahead of the curve.
The Puck Drop
Here’s a tradition I’d like to see come back. There’s a little techno song that plays right before the puck drop. There’s a noticeable pause at one point in the song, usually just moments before the puck is dropped. Used to be, the student section would just yell its fucking lungs out from the pause until the drop of the puck, whether that’s 2 seconds or half a minute if someone gets chased from the faceoff. Bring this back. Yelling is fun.
“Let’s Go UMass”
(clap clap clap-clap-clap). One person starts, then we go three more times. If we’re playing Lowell, and they respond with “…Lowell!”, we might try to add “…sucks!” right back. We haven’t had the chance to test this out because, since we though of this, Lowell hasn’t been good enough for their fans to care.
Oh, also, we used to have “Goooo Mass, Go! (clap clap clap)” and this has disappeared off the face of the earth, like dinosaurs or Alicia Silverstone or Pepsi Blue or Lauryn Hill. It’s a nice little change of pace, and not in a Mike’s Hard Lemonade kind of way. We might actively try to bring this back this year.
Wave, yell “ohhhhhh…” and when they reach the box “…seeya asshole!” We change it to “ya turkey” or something else for road games, particularly in venues that kick visiting fans out for swearing but curiously ignore the profanity of their own students, cough Agganis cough.
And please reserve the “bullshit!” chant for cases where UMass is legitimately screwed on a call. Don’t you worry – it will happen. A lot. But not as often as you’d think based on how much we hear this chant.
To the tune of Gary Glitter’s “Rock n Roll Pt. 2”, aka “the Hey song,” it’s technically “Sieve! You suck!” although “sieve” can be replaced with “hey” if you want. Really it doesn’t matter. The point is to point at the goalie who let the goal in, but we’ve always found it more fun to direct our points at visiting fan sections when applicable. After three rounds of that it’s “Sieve! Sieve! Sieve! Sieve! Go UMASS!” but of course the “sieve!” part has given way to “fuck ’em up! fuck ’em up!”, borrowing a tradition employed by a few other college hockey programs. The administration, obviously, is not a fan of the latter, and we’ll stick with the “sieve” version around little kids or on the road, but the fun thing is that we’re not affiliated with the school. So if you’re in the student section, we say curse away.
But whatever you do, do not just yell “fuck fuck fuck fuck Go UMass!” If you’re gonna curse, it should at least make sense. For fuck’s sake people…there’s a fine line between “being offensive” and “having Tourette’s.”
The One Minute Warning
The tradition of thanking Matt “Matty G” Goldstein, the PA announcer, for telling us there’s a minute left in the period…that has thankfully continued. We’re still clinging to the old tradition of asking “How much time’s left?” at about the 1:03 mark on the clock. So should you, just don’t get distracted watching the clock if something important is happening on the ice at that particular moment.
If UMass is up by at least two goals with a minute to go in the game…everyone get out those keys to signify it’s time to warm up the visiting bus. We don’t blame students for not knowing this one since this scenario was, uhh, rather uncommon last year.
The Other Goalie’s Mom
Throughout the game, particularly when the Minutemen are shooting on the goal on the student section side during the 2nd period, but really all the time, fans should make sure to learn the opposing goalie’s name and chant it derisively. If you’re new here, just picture the Luooooooongoooo chants from the Stanley Cup finals, and apply that to Parker Milner or Alex Beaudry or whatever cardboard cutout of a goaltender Lowell puts in there. And ask around to find out the goalie’s mom’s name, because that’s always fun to chant too. We’ll keep you posted in our game previews.
Class dismissed…for now. If it all seems pretty fundamental…it is. It’s very fundamental. That’s why we’re slightly frustrated that even these basics aren’t carrying forward, and I guess we partially have ourselves (that is, the classes of ’10 and ’11) to blame for letting this happen. But we’re not asking for rocket science, we know you’re not BU kids with years of private theater school and a year or two of jazz dance under your belts. Just yell, be loud, and keep these basic traditions alive. We’ll go from there.
See ya Friday, kids.
Hey guys, hey. The home opener is mere days away and this week we’ve noticed a bump in views and such. We welcome you aboard and I promise to find the time tomorrow to roll out a full year 3 introduction to the site for those of you who are joining us for the first time, and I guess for the rest of you to get reacquainted.
In the meantime, I’ve been harping on and on and on about how much I want to get you, the readers, involved in the site this year, in whatever capacity seems appropriate. If you want to contribute to the site, you shoot me a message on Facebook or Twitter or whatever and, if I smell what you’re stepping in, you just may have yourself your 15 minutes of non-fame.
To that end, I present a piece by one of our supporters, Jarod Hendrickson, who wrote my student section article before I did, and made a lot of interesting points. Bear in mind this was written after the end of last season, since my hardcore procrastination on writing that article extended to me posting other peoples’ articles on the same subject as well. (Or, just maybe, I didn’t want to get shown up by some upstart kid before I got around to my own piece. And by then it was, well, summer.) Anywho, in the glass half full category, this article is pretty timely given that the home opener is coming up and I am committed to making sure this year’s freshman class gets off on the right foot. Take it away, Jarod:
“I Can’t Complain if I Don’t Know How”
by Jarod Hendrickson ’13
Unfortunately I missed the glory days of hockey’s 2007 NCAA tourney run and two home playoff games at the Mullins, and how great the student section must have been that season. I can only base this article on what I’ve seen over the end of one era (the Jimmy and Casey reign and abrupt mail in of 09-10), and the rebuilding but entertaining and still equally heartbreaking 10-11 campaign. So here are some observations from a current sophomore [Ed: junior as of now], completely dedicated to this team, only to find out that a majority of his fellow “fans” aren’t even aware where they are during the game, let alone go to them.
When I arrived in Amherst the fall of 2009, I was already familiar with the student section. YouTube helped point me in the right direction, so unfortunately I was probably already ahead of most freshmen. The drunken haze of the 9-2 start to the season was great. The Bill was rocking every home game for our nationally ranked team, and chants were loud and coordinated. For the first half of the season, everything went fine, and even with the Cahoon Swoon in full effect during the second half, fan turnout was still good. As we fell flat on our face to conclude the 09-10 season (hell, at least we made it dramatic), I was cautiously optimistic of what the future of UMass hockey had in store for me and our fans. However what I saw this year out of our fans has led me to worry about the state of our student section.
To say we got off to a slow start to this season would be an understatement, earning our first win in a late November tilt against Vermont. The home opener against BU (that first goal still gives me chills) gave me hope fans would still show up, but that wasn’t the case. Obviously attendance was affected by the poor record, but should that really matter if we’re truly fans? Night after night we were competitive (with the exception of the Army game..no comment). People look at the record and immediately dismiss this team, but there is a future here (I promise!). Facebook helped spread the word of upcoming games, as did the slips of papers on tables at DC’s that people hopefully looked at. Home attendance was still good for the free t-shirt games (except senior night..embarrassing). Fans still missed out on the games that really mattered, such as the 2/12 Providence game, where our season was on the line (we didn’t lose that one btw). And at games where student turnout was good, the majority of them left early. I mean thanks for showing up for the start I guess. But it’s hard to consider such individuals “fans”, who show up shitfaced (nothing wrong there), know nothing about hockey, get their free shirt, and then leave after the first period. It was frustrating to see this happen on a regular basis, I know we’re better than that.
What’s the hurry to leave anyways? You’re just gonna end up back in your dorm at 8:30, where you will probably end up staying the remainder of the night blacking out. DU isn’t open, and Phillips and Sunset are on lockdown by the cops. Or maybe you will stagger to a party that will be busted within the first 10 minutes of your arrival. So why not make yourself useful and stay at the game for another hour and support your team? Oh we’re down by 3 goals? Well tough shit. This is college hockey, and that deficit can become a tied game in a matter of minutes, as was the case this season (but you wouldn’t know, would you, because you left every game early this year). Seriously, it happens with football and basketball..(please..rolls eyes) too, and I’m guilty as charged with leaving those games early sometimes. But let’s just stick to the team that matters, the Mass Attack. You (that’s right, YOU and all your fucking friends who know nothing about hockey) need to stay. Maybe you’ll learn something. Students need to make an attempt to learn the basics of hockey and our traditions that make the Mullins Center special. (BTW it’s “Fuck ‘em up, Fuck ‘em up, Go UMass” when we score, not “Fuck Fuck Fuck Go UMass” and obvious penalties against us don’t warrant a “Bullshit!” chant) [Editor’s note: More about that in the freshman primer that I will try to get done by Friday. – MB] For christ sake it’s only a few simple chants, nothing too hard to grasp.
So where do we go from here? Maybe it was just a down year in terms of fans and things will pick up again next year. Or it could continue to deteriorate even further. As other Fight Mass writers have suggested, there needs to be some organization and leadership to the student section, other than “that one drunk asshole everyone can hear” [Editor’s note: hey bud, Matt resembles that remark :P]. And how this changes remains to be seen. We have something special here at UMass, whether we realize it or not. I will feel personally responsible if our student section suddenly went to hell and closely resembled a line waiting to get into a frat. It’s up to us current students (with maybe some guidance from alumni) to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Not bad kid. Not bad at all. And, casual fans, if I may say something… if he and I and the rest of us are being a tad harsh at times, remember, we do this out of love. We love the team. We love this school. And hell, we have a funny way of showing it, but we love you. Even while we hate you. Don’t think about it. Just show up, this Friday and every home game after that. I cannot stress enough how much the future direction of our athletics program is in more than just the players’ and the administration’s hands.
Okay, no more fucking around, I’ve been officially blackmailed into writing this piece that I’d been procrastinating for so long. Much like Duke Nukem Forever, Daikatana, GnR’s Chinese Democracy, Marco Scutaro’s throws across the diamond, and the 2010 New York Jets, this piece was long-delayed, had to be re-done several times, and will almost assuredly disappoint in the end. Deal with it.
So here we stand in a bizarre time for New England sports. This is a hawwkey taaawn, for the first time in a long time. The Bruins are the hottest ticket in town, hoisting a Stanley Cup, running shirtless around town and running up million-dollar bar tabs. Hell, even Dreamboat Ellsbury can’t get enough action to keep up with Marshmont, Seguin, and the boys. The Swesties this fall will be trading in their pink Red Sox caps for pink Bruins caps. And with the NBA on a one-way ticket to Lockoutsville (the NFL having cancelled its reservations in the city’s town’s skeezy motel, thankfully heeding the advice of a psychopath), hockey seems destined to be ready to fully captivate everyone’s sports eyes, save for one and a half days a week this winter. You know what that means, right? I would be shocked – SHOCKED I say! – if attendance doesn’t skyrocket around Hockey East this year. That would include our beloved Minutemen, as our freshly-minted Bruins fans invade the Mullins Center eager to see some good ol-fashioned HAWWWWKEY in person, without the possible distraction of, say, the Celtics playing the Bulls or Heat or Lakers at the same time. (Of course, there’s always the off chance that more people will stay home to watch the Bruins now, but shut up, let me continue pontificating for a bit, geez.)
I’ll be totally honest – I was rooting for the NFL lockout too. Why, you ask? Well, aside from my not-so-secret sentiment that the NFL receives a disproportionate amount of coverage from the sports media compared with equally-if-not-more-deserving sports like hockey, hoops, and baseball (nothing pisses me off more than random offseason notes in the NFL like Brett Favre’s latest unretirement distracting from oh I don’t know A FUCKING PENNANT RACE MAYBE), I was also kind of really excited for the potential benefits this might have toward a little thing called UMass football. Yes, our boys are finally graduating to the “big show,” and technicalities aside, I guarantee I’m not alone in suddenly caring a hell of a lot more about what this team does now that it “matters.” Yes, it’s just the MAC, and yes, the CAA was actually a slightly stronger conference last year despite its higher “status.” Whatever. UMass was not bowl-eligible, and now they can be.
…Well, except for the fact that they’re stuck in CAA purgatory this year. It’s hard to imagine that won’t impact the players, who really have nothing but pride to play for. But it will mean everything that the fans come out and show their support, because it’s gonna depend on us, and on you, for this to work. The Kraft family has provided the stage, but the difference between this being “the big step up the UMass program’s been waiting for” and “another mistake that the Globe can flaunt around as ‘proof’ of the state school’s inferiority to their darling private schools, while ignoring anything positive UMass does” is whether or not the fans show. If the fans don’t show, this doesn’t succeed, and it sets the whole athletics program back big-time. If it succeeds, UMass is a name brand, the only (likeable) D1 FBS college football program in Massachusetts, and all of a sudden things get a little easier on the recruiting and ticket-selling fronts for the other sports, all of a sudden Dick’s Sporting Goods is putting Sam the Minutemen next to Baldwin the Eagle, all of a sudden the Big East is knocking again…alright wait, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. That’s all way down the road. Like, you can’t see it from atop Du Bois far. (That’s good, hopefully I can afford season tickets by then.) But it has to start somewhere, and it’s starting in Foxborough of all places.
It starts with 5-6 Saturdays a year, against schools that (UNH aside) are about as interesting to UMass fans as the William and Maryses of the world. In this economic climate, taking the family to a Pats game on a Sunday for $500+ (and that’s just the tickets) is out of the question. The chance to see FBS college football, however technically that description is, is going to draw casual interest in New England, I’m convinced. It’s going to be whether the team gets the diehards, the lifers, the young alumni still not ready to leave UMass behind (ahem, the founders of this blog say hi) and – of course – the students.
Therein lies part of the problem. Frankly, the quality of the UMass student section in all sports has gone decidedly downhill in my five-plus years of being associated with this school. (THERE. I SAID IT.) When I was a freshman, the diehards were standing in the preseason game at the Practice Rink teaching newbies the chants and singing Fight Mass with the full left-right diagonal clap dealie. Now? There’s seriously kids who think it goes “Hey…you suck…fuck fuck fuck fuck go UMass!” Nobody aside from us three has asked Matty G how much time is left in the period for a couple years now. Clever chants, fun twists on old ones (“Your mom called! She said you suck! Your dog called! He said you suck!”), even dumb guilty pleasures like Noleeeeeet-Nolet-Nolet-Noleeeeeeeeeet” have been supplanted with – yup – “fuck (name of school).” And the occasional “let’s go UMass!” And that’s fucking it. All the things that make college sports fun – all the shit that got me hooked in the first place, besides the hockey of course – have gone by the wayside, and though the gate numbers have been solid despite the team’s less-than-stellar record, the atmosphere has suffered. We’ve gone from “notoriously profane fans who yell mean-spirited things and get really loud when they need to” to “notoriously profane fans who yell really fucking stupid things and have to be told when to get loud by a NOOOOOOOOOISSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEMEEEEEEEEEEEETERRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!1” I don’t need S&P to tell me that’s a downgrade. (hurrr he made a political funny)
See, here’s what I loved about the Bruins this season – there were no pink hats yet. It was like watching the Red Sox back in ’04. The bandwagoners always seem to watch on the edge until the very end. I was at games 3 and 4 of the Flyers series. That place was loud. People were actually into the game, people knew what was happening. Maybe that’s just the difference between hockey and baseball, or maybe it’s because cell phones are exponentially more powerful these days, but I feel like the atmosphere at Fenway ain’t what it used to be. It’s not about the team anymore – it’s about being seen. I have a horrible sinking feeling that this is the Bruins’ impending fate, actually. Actually, the Bruins’ run has put the UMass students into perspective for me. For so long, I felt like the sudden surge of Tourette’s-like stupidity was a sign that our students really were the neanderthals the Globe and the rest of the eastern-MA media stereotypes them as. Then I watched kids from all over the Commonwealth erupt from the North Station area after game 7 with, not “let’s go Bruins” but “fuck Vancouver” – and after every chant for a Bruin was something like “Luongo sucks! Luongo sucks!” It actually distracted me from celebrating that emotional moment (which, by the way, I wrote about over here, shameless plug). For a moment I was disgusted, but in a way, it was also a relief – these are BC kids, and BU kids, and Northeastern kids, and they’re no classier than our guys. At the same time, though, it’s a bit discouraging to think that, as a whole, these are Massachusetts kids.
That’s what this boils down to, methinks. Boston kids are spoiled sports fans. I mean, no shit we are. No fanbase has been this lucky over a decade, and with three teams at least in the conversation to win their sport’s next championship (and the other, well, not playing for a while). That’s why apathy about the sports teams makes so much sense. We have an NFL team that contends for a Super Bowl literally every year, so why care about a D1-AA football team aside from some tailgating? The Celts have the big three, so it’s no big deal if Derek Kellogg’s boys aren’t winning. (Just wake us up when BC or URI is in town.) And the hockey team? It’s a great pregaming event, but let’s try to get out before the third period so we can drink some more before we head to the frats/Hobart and banging/being drunk Swestie sluts. I mean, even the group of friends me, Matt, and Walsh partied with my senior year after games in North…most of them were there as a pre-pregaming event.
Ah, but I think I’ve argued this before – hockey’s a special case. It’s become the thing to do on campus that the University doesn’t discourage. The other big two either a) don’t play in “real” D1, or b) play on weeknights. Friday and Saturday nights can’t be overslept, nor can studying get in the way. This works heavily in hockey’s favor – they can draw a crowd without playing particularly well, due to the perfect timing of most of their schedule. Ironically, though, this has been a huge negative for the quality of the student section.
See, the team hasn’t played particularly well over the past three semesters. Alright, “dismal” might be a better word. They never had a stretch that bad for that long in the few years prior, when the fanbase was breaking attendance records and riding the momentum of the ’04-05 Hockey East and ’06-07 NCAA runs that finally put the program on the map. Anyone who started following the team starting midseason of ’09-10, though, has seen nothing but failure. We still have the upperclassmen who were freshmen and sophomores when the school was still buzzing about those then-recent playoff runs, so hockey’s status as a popular weekend event lives on through them. The enthusiasm and hockey know-how just didn’t carry on to this generation, though, because the teams they witnessed were mediocre. We now, however, have another batch of freshmen and sophomores who have seen three semesters of low-quality play (half a year of the Jimmy/Casey fiasco, and a whole year of rebuilding) and who are getting bad habits from the start.
Look, I can’t just stand here on this soapbox and say I want every student to do this when this happens and say that when this happens. But I’m not horribly enthused about where this is going. I guess I’d rather the Mullins be full of students for hockey games than the barren wasteland it’s become for basketball, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t have a Hockey East-caliber student section as it stands today. And we totally did for a couple years there. Now? Like I said…one big pregame party, where the douche yelling “fuck BC!” in between looking at the Smokeshow of the Day on fucking Barstool and talking about that one time he played JV in high school to the girls in Marchand shirts reigns supreme, until he leaves midway through the second. Oh, and we’re probably playing BU that night.
That’s where we stand now. There are a number of directions it can go in, but you – yes motherfucker, YOU – have a lot to do with it. I really want Fight Mass to get bigger this year. I’m not looking for personal gain from it – I’m happy with my software support job in Manchester for now, and am more than happy to delay pursuing my dreams in sports journalism until my financial situation is more clear. And I’ll be damned if this thing ever makes any money. No, I really want this to be a rallying point for those of you diehards who, like me, have bigger and better things in mind for our alma mater. For a while, you see, this dream was just that – a pleasant thought, like “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we had even half a section of kids wearing our school colors, let alone a jersey or something to indicate they know they’re at a sporting event?” But now, with this football thing (oh hey look I tied it all together, go me!), shit’s for reals. Integrating the fanbases is something I’ve preached before, but now I mean it. The students who go to hockey and the students who go to football and the students who go to basketball…it’s never seemed as uniform as when I was a freshman. Granted, those were the best of times for me, it turned out. Lasme and Freeman were around, the hockey team had Jon Quick, football had its epic playoff game against UNH…the future seemed so bright, and everyone knew it. Moreover, Maroon Platoon was present at every game. There was some kind of school-sanctioned unity going on. I’ve seen the rise of Mullins Militia presence last semester when I came back from Florida. This has GOT to continue next year. Get kids hooked early, spend whatever budget there is to keep these kids devoted. Sell big on the future for this program, and get the kids who care to spread the word.
And it IS a bright future! Football may be spinning its wheels for a year, but building momentum for the first year in the “big show” is important. Hockey is returning a very promising young class, keeping almost everyone who did any scoring last year, and adding some more talented freshmen, all in a year where the rest of Hockey East figures to be down. Basketball…Kellogg finally has “his” guys in there and seems devoted to simplifying that offense to fine-tune it to the players he actually has. The Big Three programs on campus seemingly have nowhere to go but up after last year, and this is a perfect time to get freshmen excited about the team. Push hockey to the kids who are hooked on the sport after the double-whammy of Olympics last year and Bruins this year. Push basketball to those who need something to fill the Celtics void. And push football, because as much as I love hockey, I’d be a fool not to acknowledge that the success or failure of football’s FBS jump is vital for the entire program going forward. That’s why, for the first time, I’ll actually be including some football coverage on the site this year (though rest assured, it’s still a hawwwkey taaaahwn.)
I haven’t lost faith completely in the classes of ’12 and ’13. There’s some very passionate sports fans there who are waiting for something to cheer for. The teams have to do their part, of course, to make the games count for more than just an amusing diversion from books or a place to be seen before the parties. But, silly as it sounds, I want this incoming freshman class to learn the traditions the right way, before “fuck fuck fuck fuck Go UMass” becomes part of the lexicon. It might come in the form of a basic rookie guide, which sounds lame when you picture a school-sanctioned “appropriate” one, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I’d much rather prefer a more natural approach, and that means you – the student readers and fellow recent alumni – to band together and make an example. Speaking of bands, this would be so much easier if we had a hockey band, and it looks like this might finally almost be a possibility at some point, but until then, it’s in our hands. I have no problem with the douche in the Howitzer t-shirt, aside from his taste in sports websites and his inability to at least use the word “fuck” in a more clever manner/chant. But in order to get him to care about what’s actually happening on the ice, or to get him and the Swesties and everyone else to realize there’s (gasp) a THIRD period, it’s up to those of us who do know and care to start showing it a little more. So let’s give last year a mulligan with the rebuilding effort, and actually build something ourselves this winter, shall we?
So there you have it – yet another meandering rant-turned-pep-talk from yours truly. Hope it thoroughly fell short of your expectations, which I imagine were massive at this point. Now for some more teasing – I have some fairly big plans for this blog in its third year, as part of my strategy for FM to become a rallying point for my fellow devoted UMass student fans and/or a place where I can bitch and moan about the power play for several paragraphs. You’ll have to stay tuned for that. In the meantime, for your concrete hockey news based on things like numbers and journalism, stay tuned to everyone’s favorite craft beer enthusiast/hockey fan, Fear the Triangle, and keep asking yourself: is it October yet?
That’s really the only way to describe a year where your absolute favorite sports team finishes 6-23-6. That’s a bafflingly ugly number, ain’t it? In perspective, UMass finished just six points ahead of Lowell, which had one of the worst seasons any D1 athletics program has ever had in any sport ever. The difference there was UMass’s 3-0 record against its vastly inferior little sister school. The Minutemen would win three other games all season – two against a pretty-bad Vermont program, and a lonely nonconference rout of Quinnipiac (hardly adequate revenge for last year’s heartbreaking loss which sent the Minutemen into a season-collapsing tailspin).
We all saw this coming, although some of us (i.e. this blog) saw a slightly less hopeless season ahead. While most critics rightfully saw an already-overrated Lowell squad losing pretty much every relevant player to graduation as a recipe for disaster, most were equally skeptical of a UMass team losing its five leading scorers to either graduation or the professional ranks, and UMass was thus picked to barely finish ahead of Lowell in many preseason rankings. Indeed, in many years, 16 points would be enough to doom UMass to miss the postseason, and only yet another awful Providence season allowed UMass the chance for a hard-fought two-game sweep against BC (again). The Minutemen managed not to win any of its final 14 games down the stretch. Their last win? Paul Dainton’s only career shutout victory, which we attended, the 6-0 thomping of Vermont that led the three of us to some misguided optimism about how far this primarily-freshman team had come in just over half a season.
Yet, for once, the long stretch of winless games down the stretch actually showed signs of improvement, believe it or not. As the schedule turned from the dregs of Hockey East, from the Lowells and Vermonts and Providences of the world, we saw the Minutemen jack up the caliber of play to match the opposition. With the notable exception of one weekend, during which the UMass men’s club hockey team apparently suited up and wore the varsity team’s numbers in a 17-2 combined clubbing at the hands of BC and ‘Mack, UMass played a long series of down-to-the-wire heartbreakers against the class of Hockey East – Merrimack, BC, Maine. Five straight one-goal losses followed by an easily-winnable tie.
In fact, making that weekend more inexplicable, the Minutemen played the class of Hockey East pretty damn close all season long. Even in that BC game, the Eagles were kept mostly in check until they broke it open in the waning minutes. In the three-game series against UNH and BU, the Minutemen pulled off two ties (again, both winnable games, but I digress), and kept the other games close enough considering the considerable blue line youth on display back early in the year. UMass blew leads against the Huskies twice at home (though their visit to Matthews was a pretty poor showing) too. All of these woulda-shoulda-coulda moments can come to a couple conclusions, not any of which are mutually exclusive:
1) These guys were young, like REAL young, and has yet to learn how to close games out.
There was a severe lack of experience at pretty much every key position this year for UMass. Doug Kublin led the blue line corps, but everyone else of note was a freshman or sophomore. Adam Phillips and Joel Hanley saw a huge chunk of minutes. Anthony Raiola was forced into a lot of action. Conor Allen and Colin Shea logged a lot of ice time. See a pattern? Outside of Kubbie, who really had any significant experience coming in? Darren Rowe played a bit, as did Mikey Marcou. The latter had a pretty awful season, but he’s also going on just one year of regular playing time, and missed a number of games this year to injury. The young D-corps got better as the season went on, but can we really expect/trust these guys to be able to know how to shut down bigger, more experienced forwards when the game’s on the line? Not yet, my friends. Not yet.
Likewise, the forwards, outside of Hobbs, Syner, Concannon, and Langeraap, were a rotating group of youngsters. The offense performed admirably in the absence of Jimmy and Casey and the like, but even those guys took until their sophomore years to develop into offensive leaders. Mike Pereira, Conor Sheary, Branden Gracel – all of them look poised to have great careers for this squad. I’m also high on the prospects for guys like Troy Power and Adam Phillips (as I’ve said in the past, I’m a big proponent of having a blue-line scoring threat like Irwin showed flashes of being) contributing in big ways offensively next year. Syner and Hobbs, while not as dominant as Marcou and Wellman were, are a dynamic scoring duo who I think will have a lot better support around them than their predecessors had (no offense to Syner and Hobbs themselves, who were part of that support). This unit will nonetheless require a bit more time playing together to really find their groove. The offense unfortunately did struggle at times this year, but again – it’s hard to imagine such a young team succeeding against bigger, more experience teams, when the Minutemen are already at such a recruiting disadvantage to the more established powers of Hockey East. The program is making strides, but it’s not there yet, and it’ll take a lot more sustained success if and when it wants to get up to that level.
On the flip side…
2) The results would have been even worse – a lot worse – without #31 between the pipes.
The Minutemen, as I noted in last year’s postseason recap, did have one important crutch coming back – a senior goaltender, one who has always been at least above-average in Hockey East, and one who’s had a penchant for stealing games on occasion. Dainton was true to form this year, posting solid numbers and seemingly playing his best hockey down the stretch run, including another strong showing in the playoffs at Chestnut Hill. Obviously, next year the training wheels come off, and UMass will be relying on Jeff Teglia an awful lot.
There are some bright spots to this. Jeff Teglia may have struggled a bit in his initial appearances for the Minutemen, but he nonetheless got some experience under his belt. When Dainton took over following Jon Quick’s sudden departure in ’07, he was a pure freshman with no collegiate experience, handed the starting job with only sophomore Dan Meyers behind him. Granted, Teglia’s “experienced” backup next year is Kevin Moore, similar to Meyers in clubhouse presence and leadership but slightly less legitimate as a “backup.” On the other hand, Dainton also didn’t have a young buck behind him competing for playing time. Tegs will have two freshman recruits, Boyle and Mastalerz, and the competition for the starting job can only help as a motivating factor.
Beyond that, though, it’s pretty well-established in the local media that Dainton was the prototypical “good clubhouse guy,” earning that “C” on his uniform in his leadership of the young Minutemen. Here’s hoping that this means he taught Tegs everything he knows (minus the whole “wandering around outside the crease to play the puck” thing? Please? My heart can’t handle three more years of this!) and maybe even offered some advice to Boyle and/or Mastalerz, too.
And who knows? Not to belittle the accomplishments of the program’s all-time saves leader, but couldn’t it be within the realm of possibility that one of these recruits (who, for what I can recall, all seem more highly-touted than Dainton was when he was recruited) could emerge as being better than Pauly D was? Is that blasphemy? This is a program that produced a top-5 NHL goalie right now in Quick. Sure, that was back when Dennehy was pulling in quality recruits, but goalie coach Mike Buckley is still here. While I think that the students’ chants of “Teg-li-a!” in that last weekend against Maine were frankly pretty moronic (that student article is coming in the offseason, I swear!), I still have a good feeling that the goalie situation with resolve itself sooner than later. (As in, before the bulk of the conference schedule starts next year. Fingers crossed.)
So, yeah. The walk through hell is over. It was one of the worst seasons in program history on paper, yet, unlike the baskettaball team’s season, the trend was upward nonetheless. Aside from Dainton, what is this team losing next year? Chase Langeraap finally started to put it together at the end of his career, and everyone knows that we’re heartbroken to be losing Kubbie, but Saunders was a frequent healthy scratch, Concannon and Lecomte are what-could-have-been stories thanks to lingering injuries, and Keane never really lived up to expectations.
Next year, we’ll see another couple blue-line prospects in Mike Busillo and the towering Oleg Yevenko. Between Yevenko and Phillips, the blue-line will finally have something we haven’t really seen much of in this program: size. Meanwhile, while losing Kublin, UMass will bring back a solid young corps who have improved throughout the year, with Phillips, Hanley, Rowe, Raiola, Allen, and Shea. With all those guys coming in, Donnellan hopefully returning from injury, and Mikey hopefully using his rough year as motivation to come back much-improved (being healthy from the get-go would help), hopefully the team can cover up the loss of one of the most consistent defensemen the team’s ever seen.
Likewise, offensively, unless someone unexpectedly bolts to the NHL like last year (highly unlikely), there are a lot fewer question marks. Again, Pereira, Hobbs, Syner, Gracel, and Sheary form the basis of a highly effective offensive corps. Rocco Carzo will hopefully use his strong finish to the season as a springboard to becoming a contributor offensively. Czepiel, Olcyzk, Filiou, DeAngelo, Power, and Kiley all saw playing time this year and have potential to be a strong supporting cast with another year under their belts. Shane Walsh and Zack LaRue will come in as freshmen with solid juniors numbers and a chance to contribute without the pressure this year’s freshman class had of carrying the team. Last-minute update: And you can add Joseph Manno to that list, too. He and LaRue both have some pretty impressive scouting reports going for them. And really, for Derek’s sake, it would be sick to have a guy named Walsh AND a guy from his hometown of Melrose (Sheary) on the same team, both doing well.
Do I think these guys will suddenly become the class of Hockey East next year? Of course not. Unless eeerrryone gets up and leaves, BC’s current crop of stars has one more year together, although I’m far less sold on Parker Milner than I am with John Muse. BU and Maine also have a significant amount of talent returning next year, and Northeastern could be frisky if their young stars can fill the McNeely/MacLeod void right away. UNH loses a massive percentage of its scoring and should be on the decline next year, and, while Merrimack’s days in the basement appear over for a while, they do lose some key seniors, including goalie stalwart Joe Cannata, and I just don’t see Da Costa turning down the limelight of the NHL as well. In the bottom ranks, I don’t see Vermont getting significantly better anytime soon, and who knows what to make of Providence or Lowell given their coaching situations. In other words, the middle of the pack is, honestly, a pretty reasonable expectation. I could see this team finishing anywhere from 3rd to 7th next year. There’s a lot of factors at stake. Given everything, though, improvement is the only logical scenario. The question is how much this team improves, and we will have to wait through another long summer and fall until we get to find out.
So that’s the year and the outlook in a nutshell. Now, as for the blog. This was my first year following the team as an alum. Half the year I was limited to watching choppy streaming video online from my apartment in Disney World, and the other half I got to experience the game from the student section a few more times (albeit at 12-16 bucks a game) with Derek and Matt and the gang. We also made a number of roadtrips, one successful (Vermont!) and a few less so (to Merrimack, as well as Matt and Derek’s trip to UNH, which I still need to visit). We will continue to follow the team next year, both from a blog standpoint and literally, as we look to cross Orono and Providence off our to-do list. We also want to make trips to Quinnipiac and any other New England venues the team gets scheduled to visit (Harvard? Cornell?).
That said, I founded Fight Mass to create a venue for the student section to band together, something I haven’t quite seen yet. I love that some of you have approached us about the blog, and your continued readership has been tremendous. Really, I could write about this all day regardless of who reads it, but at the same time, I’d love for those of you who do read it to continue to get involved and spread Fight Mass to your friends. I’ll get into it further when I write my student section piece (I swear, offseason, it’ll happen soon – I figure it’s the perfect thing to fill the offseason void), but I think part of the problem with UMass from a student fanbase perspective is a lack of organization. Without organization, a student section cannot build tradition, aside from “one random drunk guy yells ‘fuck BU’ and everyone else joins in, derp!” It was an organized, albeit small, group of fans that built the limited tradition UMass has (i.e. its chants, many of which are cribbed from other Hockey East schools, by the way), and even these traditions are falling apart (i.e. we don’t even say “how much time’s left?” anymore, people think the goal chant is “fuck fuck fuck fuck go UMass,” and other various fails one would expect from a Lowell but certainly not from a school of this caliber). I don’t want to just tell people what to do, because a) that will never work, and b) no one man should have all that pooowah. Instead, I want the students who know what’s going on to have a place to gather, and tell themselves what to do, together.
More on that later. For now, what you need to know is that myself, Matt, and Derek will continue to write for the blog, observers that we are. (Ben is welcome to continue contributing as well, if he so desires.) We have a few interested undergraduates who have contacted us about contributing. I’ve talked to all of them and gotten a writing sample from one, and I like the cut of all of their very different but interesting jibs. None of us is comfortable about “handing the reins” off to anyone, of course. I’m not entirely sure if that will ever really happen, because if someone with a 9-to-5 “real” job like Coogan can find the time to maintain a blog at a high level of involvement, we should be able to do so between the three of us with whatever employment we post-graduate scrubs can scrounge up.
How the blog will continue remains to be seen, but I envision the three founders contributing more the way we have so far: myself as the “big picture” guy, Walsh with the nitty-gritty hockey knowledge, Matt with his sharp wit and fury of a thousand suns fueling his various rants. Alongside that we see contributors as a chance for us to stay in touch with the student section, as we almost surely will be limited in our ability to all three of us commute all the fucking way to Amherst from wherever we happen to be when next season rolls around. For all we know, we might all end up closer to Boston (the other two already do live near there and I live slightly closer to there than to Amherst) and we’d catch the Minutemen in person more often in their road games out here. This is where the contributors would be useful. Again, it’s all up in the air. For now, if you’re a reader and interested in contributing, hit us up on the Facebook group and send us a message. And keep telling your friends, goddamnit! “Like” the Facebook group. It takes like 10 seconds. Really.
One more thing I’d like to say before the sun sets on our season recap is that the highlight of the year, for me anyway, was the chance to befriend Mark of Fear the Triangle. I’ve made it no secret that FtT is my most prominent inspiration for starting Fight Mass, and I’m pleased to announce that he’s also a great guy outside of his Internet persona, too. His blogging advice has been priceless and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone with a more genuine love for this program and dedication for what he does. And on top of all that, he’s provided us with some tremendous beer recommendations to boot – even Toot gave him a shout out on senior night at the press conference. (Seriously. Read the “Road Trip” section on FtT if you’re going to a UMass road game ever.) We here at Fight Mass are proud to call him a friend and the UMass hockey community is lucky to have him.
So that’s it for the 2010-2011 season. Like I said, I’ll be offering my take on what’s wrong with the student section soon, and maybe the occasional update on our nationally-ranked men’s lacrosse team or the hopefully-imminent move of UMass football to the FBS, but otherwise, there’s not a ton to talk about in the offseason. I would like to take this opportunity to mention my forthcoming secondary blog, Six Lengths Ahead (tentative title, which will probably stick since I already started it and such) in which I will be publishing various musings, from Boston’s pro sports teams and other non-UMass happenings, to other pop culture things. Yeah, it sounds kinda Simmons-y, but hopefully with all the wit and none of the continuous references to the same three or four 80’s movies. Anyway, I haven’t written anything yet (I’ll probably start with a roundup of this week’s returns of Community, 30 Rock and Parks & Rec, or a look at the soon-to-be-done-for-the-season U.S. adaptation of the brilliant British show Skins) but rest assured that content is coming. Oh yes, it’ll be coming, hard and long (maybe not 3,000+ words long, but you know) all summer long and beyond.
As for the hockey team, the future is always brighter than the surface of a freshly zambonied ice surface. For all we know, Hobbs will head off to the Rangers early, all the goalies will suck, and the team will struggle along yet again. Or they’ll bolt out of the gate to a 10-2-2 record, then Cahoon Swoon their way to another low seed and early exit.
But maybe, just maybe, they won’t. And so goes the life of a UMass hockey fan. Call it masochism, call it madness, call it blind loyalty to an alma mater. We call it devotion. And one of these years, damnit, we’re bound to be right.
And so the question begs to be asked…
Is it October yet?
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.
Greetings from sunny Orlando, Florida! (yeah, it’s pouring rain right now.) The offseason is thankfully more than halfway over, and though I won’t be experiencing the utter joy of Minutemen hockey in person until January (I’ve got that home-and-home with Blowell marked on my calendar), I’ve been able to follow the offseason online here and there. Of course many rightful thanks go to Rocks and his fabulous work at Fear the Triangle, but we’re finally getting some official information out of the UMassAthletics camp; specifically, the 2010-2011 roster, which is now available for your viewing pleasure.
Now, as one might expect, there are a lot of unfamiliar names on that roster. A LOT. If you haven’t been keeping up with FtT’s offseason coverage of the newcomers, now’s your chance to take a look at the last month or two’s worth of reporting he’s done, which includes seeing some of the guys in person. We can’t claim to offer anywhere near that level of in-depth analysis of these players yet, but obviously a big theme of the season will be Matt and Derek’s (and, eventually, my) first impressions of the freshman class. I see a lot of potential with this freshman class, especially with a solid, veteran backstop in Dainton to anchor the team, but a lot is going to ride on a) how NCAA-ready the new guys are (and how many can break out the way Jimmy and Casey did their freshman year), and b) whether the remaining old guys, like Langeraap, Concannon and Keane among others, can finally realize their potential, much like Will Ortiz did last year.
I’m not as worried as many people are about the defense; I think Kublin-Mikey will be better than people realize, I like Donnellan and I think Rowe played well down the stretch last year, and I like (at least on paper) the incoming guys like Phillips and Hanley. But the offense has a ton of question marks, although I do like that these incoming freshmen, like Gracel and Power, are being described with words like “scrappy” and “gritty,” things the trying-to-get-way-too-fancy-too-often UMass offense has lacked in recent years.
Realistically, we should have expectations of a season much like last year’s men’s basketball team, minus the coaching problems but also with the senior leadership and scoring of Harris replaced by the goaltending of Dainton. Both can keep a team in the game by themselves, but both need more than just potential around them if the season will be a success. A big help to the Minutemen is that, unlike the bball team last year, the coach is certainly not still learning his craft. Toot, in the final year of his contract, has his work cut out for him, but if the immediate success of the team rests on the coach’s ability to get the best out of freshmen, I’d put way more stock in Toot than in DK.
Having said that, it’s impossible to overlook the amount of sheer talent this team has lost since the end of last season. It would take a great number of these freshmen reaching their potential right away, the upperclassmen significantly improving, and a little bit of luck for this team to contend for a Hockey East title this year. A little bit of luck and we might be talking home ice, but I’d be satisfied with a 5th or 6th place finish with momentum going forward and with a handful of the new guys establishing themselves in the league. I also think missing the HEA playoffs would be a huge disappointment this year, given a senior goaltender and how bad teams like Providence (because they’re Providence) and Lowell (whose “best team ever” lost about a jillion players, including their two goalies, to graduation, and also because we hate them with a fiery passion) figure to be. Is it possible? Sure. But our motto is “stay positive” for a reason.
And as I type that, the sun’s coming back out down here in Orlando, so I’ll leave you with that for now. No matter what happens with this team, we’ll be there for the ride and we’re delighted to have you with us. Help us out and spread the word on campus, and let’s make Fight Mass truly by-the-students, for-the-students this year. Until then, continue to enjoy your summer, and…is it October yet?
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.
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 listen. EDIT: 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.
If you can’t make it to the game, kids, remember to listen online if you can on 91.1 FM in Amherst, or stream it using this link, because my lovely (but somewhat under-the-weather) voice will be doing play-by-play.
Is it Friday yet? …IT IS. LET’S GO UMASS.
Before this post, some business: First off, we’ve had an absolute explosion of new visitors in the last few days, undoubtedly thanks to our self-pimping on Goggles’s/Hamel’s/my event page for the UMass-BC game on Facebook. I just want to thank you all for checking us out and we hope you keep following the blog for the rest of the season and beyond, and again, contributors are always welcome so if you want to write for us in any capacity, big or small, contact one of us through here or Facebook or wherever. And please spread the word. We’re trying to make this about the student body here, something I think gives us a unique perspective as opposed to the other college hockey blogs out there (not that we don’t like their angles – we’re just filling an empty niche). As soon as our lazy asses get around to it we’ll be pimping the blog out on bulletin boards around campus, but word-of-mouth is always nice too. We’re not doing this for money or for our own careers – we just want our work to get read, and to open discussions.
And one more thing: Welcome aboard Ben, a.k.a. “Flag Guy!” We’re lovin’ your contributions so far.
So halfway through tonight’s Xavier-UMass basketball game, with X up 50-33 and with all the momentum in the world, I said to nobody in particular, “Let’s just make it respectable. That’s all I ask. Get it to single digits, make a run, show us something.”
It started reasonably enough, with Vinson and Riley knocking down a few shots and UMass up 13-10. And then Big City checked into the game and proceeded to play zero defense, Xavier got away with a vicious trip on someone (Gurley, IIRC) and everyone fell apart as the Musketeers went on a monster run to seemingly put the game out of reach before the 10 minute mark of the first half. The Gurley Show looked like it needed to be cancelled. Ricky Harris looked…old. Vinson disappeared. “Here we go again,” we groaned. “Is it Friday yet?” we groaned. It was so bad that the biggest applause came when the Hoop Band decided to reveal that they have, in fact, learned how to play not one but THREE Lady Gaga songs (Bad Romance, Paparazzi and Poker Face). Sidenote: This is the greatest moment for the Hoop Band since they started playing “Army” by Ben Folds last year.
Then, lo and behold, UMass came out of the halftime locker room possessed. Gurley and Riley stopped taking stupid 3’s. Ricky started to actually knock down shots. Javorn Farrell became a beast on both ends of the floor, as did TV. UMass was hustling defensively. Even City looked more like the guy we saw in the Memphis game, shedding the “Big Shitty” label if only fleetingly. People like Sean “Hov” Carter and Big City were – gasp – actually hitting free-throws.
This is the UMass team we want to see from here on out. This is the up-tempo, aggressive, drive-and-dish offense Kellogg wants to run. This is the energetic defense these guys need to start using. This is what DK and Walberg are building here in Amherst, a team that could develop into a serious A-10 title contender and bring basketball glory back to the Pioneer Valley. UMass erased that 17-point deficit, and even held a lead in the later stages of the game! Hell, that’s better than T-Fraud’s teams did last time Xavier was in town a couple years ago, and we were good back then!
Ultimately, and somewhat predictably, the machine ran out of gas – Xavier showed their combination of experience and young talent, pulling away with a big run as the defense came together to shut down Ricky, Gurley, et al. There were still some rough edges, sure, and Xavier shot itself in the foot with careless turnovers to help fuel the run. But for once, the Mullins faithful finally saw first-hand for the first time (unless they were in Boston for the Memphis game) flashes of the potential this team has. Remember, Farrell’s a freshman. Riley’s a freshman. Vinson’s a freshman. These guys are only going to get smarter, stronger, more efficient, more adjusted to the offense they’re trying to run.
Until tonight, and even through the first half, I was concerned about the progress this team was making. I’ve conceded that the gelling of this team probably won’t end up happening quickly enough to rescue their A-10 tournament hopes, but I was getting to the point where I actually felt this team was regressing. But they heeded my call. They showed me something. And that’s all you can ask for in a rebuilding year.
Baby steps. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the team keeps taking them, in a forward direction, from here on out.
So yeah, Friday. BC. About that…I’ll be hitting up the Motion City Soundtrack concert tonight (Thursday) in Hartford, and between that and classes I prooobably won’t have time to write anything before the BC game, or, for that matter, Saturday’s annual URI road-trip. Maybe the other guys will having something to say, but otherwise, fear not, there’ll be plenty to say after the games, good or bad. Until then, all I have to say is…Friday, PACK THE DAMN MULLINS CENTER! (as if it even needs to be said!) And as for Saturday: this.
It will never, ever, ever get old.
Well hey, it’s been a couple days, hasn’t it? Well, we’ll admit, as students, there’ll be weeks like this one (the first “real” week of school of the semester) where we don’t have much to say in the middle of the week. Deal with it.
First of all, a special shout-out to Sam and Neil, the sports directors at WMUA and co-hosts of its Sportsline program, for giving me a couple minutes to plug the blog yesterday. Matt was there too, but there was already a shortage of microphones in a very crowded master control room. Anyway, I’m hoping that now that I finally can do the show without a total scheduling conflict, I’ll be able to contribute this semester with some hockey and basketball talk (and MLB when that comes around). SportsLine airs 4:30-5:30 on 91.1 FM WMUA and you can stream it with the link in our links section.
Now that the name-dropping is out of the way, in less than an hour, the Mass Attack will take to the ice against the defending champions, and the team I followed throughout high school, the BU Terriers, for the rubber match of their three-game season series. For the first time, I will not be behind a microphone for this one, having called both the thrilling 3-2 victory at the Mullins Center and the embarrassing 7-3 debacle at Agganis a few weeks back for WMUA. Tonight, sadly, with no bus trip being coordinated and with BU’s exorbitant ticket prices being a little too much for our college-kid budgets to absorb, we’ll be stuck listening or streaming the game from the warm comforts of the North Apartments. Luckily, if you haven’t listened to a UMass game all season, the new guys, Hennessey and Hines, are a couple of experienced hockey broadcasters with delightful voices and great chemistry, enough so that we’ll let slide the occasional “C.J. Snyder.”
So what can we expect tonight? BU has certainly been decidedly not bad this second half of the year so far, although you have to wonder how much of their success is contingent on the fact that the Terriers are a motivationally-challenged team which has played its archrival, in what is (in our Hockey East-tinted glasses) the fiercest rivalry in all of college hockey, twice, once at Fenway Park and once on enemy ice. This, by the way, is also a caveat to the “hey, look, BC’s not that good after all, like we thought coming into the season!” crowd, though the Eagles did just stink up the joint last weekend against the formerly down-and-out River Rats.
Anyway, based on recent comments in the Collegian, it appears (at least according to Bronco) that the Minutemen miiiight have looked past the Terriers last time they played; this coupled with the disparity in rest (remember, 3 games in 5 days for UMass, first game in a month for BU) are a bad combination for a team that already relies heavily on speed rather than physicality. With the rest situation much more even, and Toot Cahoon surely reminding his boys on a daily basis of the final score of that last meeting, and with the Beanpot coming up this week, it would be shocking if the Terriers were to blow out the Minutemen again, especially given the way the Minutemen have played lately.
That power play (2 for its last 23 I believe) needs to get going, although I’m hoping for a much less whistle-happy game than the slopfest we saw at the beginning of the month. But as long as the defense continues to play as well as they’ve been doing of late, I’m confident that the Minutemen can bounce back from an offensive perspective. I’m looking for a 4-2 or 5-3 win, but it’ll probably be closer than that. A tie would be acceptable, barely, if the Minutemen can bounce back tomorrow night; I’ve accepted the fact that one is inevitable given that UMass is one of like 3 teams in the country that has yet to play to a draw.
Fear the Triangle’s Twitter just popped up that Langeraap and Coco are back in the lineup, but Kublin (who’s been playing very well on the blue line) and Hobbs are both out. Here’s hoping neither is a lasting injury, especially since we don’t know what to expect from Chase yet.
I’ll have reactions and a look at the Providence game (and tomorrow’s Charlotte basketball game) later on or in the morning, depending on my level of sobriety. Go UMass!