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!
After nearly four years here at the University of Massachuetts, it has finally arrived: my senior day as a UMass hockey fan. Don’t get me wrong – this is about Nolet, Meyers, Braun, Watson, and Ortiz above all else. But it’s also a day to celebrate and to reflect for those of us who came to the Pioneer Valley as wide-eyed, stupid freshmen and will leave having witnessed the ups and downs of four full seasons of Hockey East play, all the thrilling comebacks, heartbreaking losses, fierce rivalries, and gripping drama entailed.
Should we be sad about how the past two seasons, and in all likelihood (after last night’s undiscussable, yet oddly predictable, fail of a Merrimack visit), this season, have turned out? Maybe. But in four years, we seniors have witnessed an Olympian goaltender and the team’s first NCAA tournament run, one of the most gifted and creative scorers in school history in Jimmy, thrilling wins over all of our Hockey East rivals, and maybe, just maybe, these guys will turn things around tonight and play like they showed they were capable of a month ago and make another valiant run in Hockey East like last year’s near-upset of Northeastern. (We’ll wait and see if they can at least beat Merrimack at home first.) And here’s the kicker, boys and girls — our seats, apart from being the best in the house, didn’t cost us a dime (or, at least, we paid the same for our seats as everyone who went through their time at UMass without seeing a hockey game did).
When I’m old and grey and looking back at my time in college, aside from all the partying — the proverbial sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll (alright, sometimes literal) — my fondest memories will be of those Friday and Saturday nights spend with several thousand of my fellow hockey enthusiasts, under the big comforting green roof of the Bill, living and dying by the actions of a group of our classmates and one little circular rubber object.
A friend of mine texted me yesterday to say that this will be the last time we get to hear “The Funeral” at a hockey game. He’s speaking for himself here — with so many of my friends having another year to go before graduating, I certainly plan on being here whenever I can next year and in years to come. I’ll bleed maroon until the day I die. But this is a special night nonetheless, barring a last-minute turnaround to buy us a couple more home games. This is the last regular-season home game I will see as a UMass student.
Finish on a high note, boys.