‘Twas an interesting weekend for the Big Two teams on campus this weekend.
As Matt so elegantly covered, it didn’t get off to the greatest start ever. That NESN Northeastern game was embarrassing, though maybe not quite the disgrace that I made it out to be on Twitter (notably, a half-pitcher of Sam Adams Winter from my favorite local hockey-themed bar may have had something to do with my reaction, or the fact that instead of TC’s commentary, I got to listen to something even worse the whole game: loud country music). I still think if they play that game ten times, nine out of those ten times Northeastern would have scored a LOT more goals than they did. Matthews is a tough place to play, though, and one relatively lopsided win there last year (with us present!) against their backup goalie should not obscure the fact that it’s a very tough place for visitors to play at.
Saturday night was a much better effort, plain and simple, and a game UMass easily could have won had Rawlings not stood on his head. That he was not named one of the three stars is truly a testament to how worthless the star-naming ceremony really is. He is singlehandedly the reason Northeastern was able to escape with a point, severely denting UMass’s chances of ascending to the sixth seed. Yeah, UMass’s power play unit, for the most part, was a pretty epic fail, almost dribble-drive-esque in its pure ineffectiveness. But the fervor with which the Minutemen attacked the Huskies net in overtime shows that, even with all the injuries, there’s still a lot of heart and energy with this bunch. Whether the youngsters’ skills are developing with all the experience of playing such close games week after week is the obvious question mark facing this team as the well-documented gauntlet of February and March (only one unranked opponent!) approaches. The good news is that John Muse and Joe Cannata are good, but they’re not Chris Rawlings. The bad news is that their respective teams score like nobody’s business, so here’s hoping the defense continues to play well, as they have since the near-collapse in Lowell.
Sunday, I got to take in my first basketball game of the season in person, with Matt and his dad. We sat near the center of general admission, rather than in the student section, marking the first time I’ve done that since my freshman year, an era where Stephane Lasme was blocking thirty shots a game, James Life was getting flown into games in three helicopters, and the NIT was a letdown, not a target. And I’ve got to say, we got pretty much what I expect from this team at this point against the rest of the middle-of-the-pack A-10 teams: a grind-out, ugly game, entertaining in spurts, which the Minutemen ultimately finished with a barely-double-digit victory.
And while I did indeed tweet that this game “set basketball back 30 years” during the stretch where UMass went some ten minutes without scoring and still managed to not trail in the first half, I can’t deny that I saw things that I liked. Gurley, Farrell, and the Carters grabbing rebounds almost at will at times. Vinson’s mobility getting better by the game. Hell, even CDP stealing the ball and getting perhaps the world’s ugliest “fast-“break basket of all time, one where it felt like he might not even beat the 35-second clock. And yes, I loved that the guys managed to get Martell and Malesevic in foul trouble within approximately five minutes, although that was more a product of URI playing too aggressively with an already-thin rotation as well as some overzealous refs on both sides. Most of all, the development of Gurley into a fringe NBA prospect – something absolutely unthinkable last year – has been really fun to watch. The Gurley Show taking over in the second half of games is becoming more and more common every week.
On the flip side, there’s that whole “setting basketball back 30 years” thing, so let’s get to the gripes. Like all the wide-open 3s that Rhody continued to get, particularly to Richmond, who was the closest thing they had to a hot hand the whole game. Like our team’s insistence on missing one or two alley-oop attempts to Hova and/or Big Skinny per game (even when they actually caught them this time, they had to come down with the ball first), and missing like three straight dunks in the second half when Rhody took its short-lived only lead of the game. Like the mind-numbing stretch where I felt like eight straight possessions consisted of “pass the ball around for 20 seconds, then have Riley chuck a contested three.”
Look, I knew without seeing a game in person that the relationship between him and the fans wasn’t great, but honestly – people were groaning every time he even touched the ball. And that’s before he missed that set of all three free throws. I don’t know how much of that is Freddie trying to shoot his way out of a slump, and how much is DK telling Freddie to shoot his way out of a slump. Right now, Riley is what he is – a knock-down shooter who can be absolutely dominating when he gets into his rhythm. What the coaches need to figure out is a way for this offense to be effective even with the point guards (Farrell included) in foul trouble, as was the case when the Riley chuck-a-thon began. Unfortunately, since it seems Traynham isn’t walking through that door, this is a problem that might not be fully resolved until next year, when Morgan is ready to play, Chaz is eligible and Laguerre arrives. But we’ll see. Riley was certainly more effective in his more traditional role in the second half, for what it’s worth.
All-in-all, though, these are pretty good times. UMass has won 4 out of 5, which ESPNBoston thought highly enough of to call “rolling!” Kind of like my eyes right now! Nah, I’ve got to say I’m fairly pleased with the squad as a whole. They’re beating who they should beat, an upgrade over last year for sure, and they’re able to even win games like this one in spite of the kinks. For the most part, the defense is doing a real nice job. The energy level of the team? That’s there, too. Dunking, free throw shooting, and shot selection…those are things DK can draw from this game as fodder for what needs to get fixed.
Next up on the docket: at Saint Louis, at Saint Joes, home vs. George Washington. Two roadies against bad teams, then a home game against that oft-mentioned middle tier. This is the warmup for the Next Huge Home Game (TM), a visit from the unbeaten-in-conference Duquesne Dukes. If, if if if if if if if if if, UMass continues to play like they’ve been doing lately, they can be 7-2 in league play when the Dukes come a-calling.
P.S. I have a lot of observations – not all of them are negative! – about the student sections, marketing department, and the game presentation in the Mullins Center in general, but since this is already a TL;DR kind of post, I’ll save that for a bit later in the week. Probably Tuesday-Wednesday when this incoming snowpocalpyse hits.
This season of UMass basketball has been alternated between relieving, frustrating, encouraging, discouraging, fun to watch and eye-melting. Sometimes, all of the above in the same game.
Tonight’s 78-69 triumph in Olean, where UMass refused to let a flight scare and a broken-down team bus sidetrack them from their goals, is another step in the right direction for a team that can’t seem to decide which direction it is headed in, but which has so far taken slightly more steps forward than backward this year.
UMass led this game wire-to-wire. They got out to a blistering start, shooting extremely well and holding Bonnies star Andrew Nicholson in check. They proceeded then to nearly give the game away in the early part of the second half, a continued recurring theme this year (see: Quinnipiac), but the strong first half gave UMass enough of a safety net that they were able to right the ship with a big run and put the game away.
What I liked about tonight’s game is that, from what I could see on the choppy ChannelSurfing feed, the dribble-drive offense was actually successful. UMass had absolutely no trouble gaining penetration, letting Gurley drive to the hoop over and over again, or dishing out to guys like Correia and Riley for threes, or finding Sean Carter for easy finishes. It was important for the Minutemen to establish their outside game early tonight, hitting 4 of their first 5 threes. When the team comes out cold, they tend to stay cold, and the D can concentrate on closing down the middle without worrying about leaving guys open outside. UMass needs to improve on its “plan B” for when the shots aren’t falling early, but in their recent wins, shooting has been great early.
And making up for their lack of practice, I thought the guys came out running tonight. Guys were beating their men down the court in transition, even Vinson (who looks a LOT better in the last few games, and I think the injury woes are behind him) had a few Tommy Point moments. Hell, even Census-Designated Place knocked down a hook. Even with all the Traynham drama, this team is a lot more organized and defined than last year’s mess. Gurley is finally becoming the brilliant scorer we always knew he could be (like Harris before him, and Gaffney before him, and Forbes before him…damnit, why does every UMass star only seem to flourish as a senior?!), and Farrell is becoming a quality #2 scoring threat who does a little of everything. Sean Carter also continues to impress with his energy and it seems like every game he’s more and more in control of what he’s doing on the court.
The non-conference struggles seem to be behind this team. Losing by 29 at CCSU seems to be more of an aberration than anything else, a case of a team being totally unprepared to play and taking a solid road opponent lightly. There’s been much more of a spark under this team ever since then, even in the blowout losses to Richmond and Xavier, both of whom look like they’re headed to the big dance this year. UMass has shown that it can win on the road against middle-to-low tier A-10 teams, carving out a spot in the 4-8 range of upper-middle tier squads in the conference, with the likes of URI, Dayton, and George Washington.
If they continue to progress, I think UMass’s ceiling for this year at this point is a home game in the first round of the A-10 tourney, a possible home game in the NIT first round, and I don’t see why they couldn’t make a bit of a run in either tournament. They’re not there yet, despite what the 7-0 start had many of us hoping. But (if you like to count D2 wins) they’ve already matched last season’s win total, are 1 away from matching last year’s conference win total, and they’ve already played two of the three best teams in the conference. If they can continue to compete like this night in and night out, 20 wins is a possibility, and that would be quite the accomplishment for a team picked to finish near the bottom of the league.
The team returns home to face Rhode Island on Sunday at 4 PM. Other than the fact that we play Temple later in the year, there’s NO REASON why this shouldn’t be the biggest home crowd of the year. Tell everyone you know. We’re certainly going to do what we can to hype this up. For chrissakes, even St. Fucking Bonaventure in the frozen tundra of western New York had a large and lively student section. I know, I can’t fault many for their skepticism. “These are the same old Minutemen. They’re gonna just let us down again. They never build off of big wins.” Trust me, I’ve thought it too. But the worm has to turn eventually. It’s 2 hours, guys. The Minutemen just risked life and limb to secure a win for our school. We can at least give them a warm welcome back. FTFB!
Well, you can put the champagne away now.
Nobody thought UMass basketball was going to run the table this year, not the craziest fan with the marooniest glasses. Indeed, the Minutemen have failed their first true test of the season, albeit barely, falling to Boston College 76-71 at the Gahhhden. No Terrell Vinson heroics this time. Hell, no Tony Gaffney tip-in at the buzzer to force overtime. Just a sloppy, sloppy game on both sides, where the Minutemen failed to find the offensive rhythm they rely so heavily upon.
Now, this is no time for our boys to hang their heads in shame. Despite the huge opportunity lost tonight to really rile up the student support, UMass hung in there with a power-conference team, one with a certifiable superstar (Reggie Jackson), an experienced lineup, a head coach on the rise (Donahue, whom you may recall from last year’s home loss to Cornell). On another night, those missed bunnies fall in, and/or BC doesn’t cash in on seemingly every single free throw, and you’re looking at a steal of a win. But truth be told, the experienced Eagles were able to overcome the disjointedness of the game, and UMass wasn’t, and that made all the difference.
There’s a lot of good to take from this game. UMass didn’t let the game get out of hand down 13 early in the second half, cutting the lead to 2 on numerous occasions. Terrell Vinson actually showed up. Sean Carter was the energy player this team really needs him to be. Anthony Gurley continues to be an absolute beast. Most importantly, Daryl Traynham, back from his foot injury, was the sparkplug in the second half, doing just about everything to try and will this team to a win. I wasn’t able to watch the game, but from the sounds of it, good things happened every time DT was on the floor. To consider that this lil’ guy’s merely a freshman makes me very excited.
Now for the bad. Hashim “Moderate-Sized Village” Bailey continues to struggle with, well, just about all aspects of the game, committing silly fouls and failing to make full use of his still-quite-large frame, which you’d think would be an asset on an undersized team like this one. Javorn Farrell battled foul trouble all night and seemed largely neutralized by the constantly-shifting BC defense. Freddie Riley’s shot continues to be way too streaky. Had that three-pointer for the lead fallen, maybe he gets it going and this game ends differently…but when he’s frustratingly cold like tonight, it limits this team’s offensive options severely. Gary Correia’s struggles continued, and there’s not a lot of point guard depth right now with the injury still seemingly limiting how long they can keep DT out there.
The Eagles, hate to say it, look a heck of a lot better than most of us figured they’d be, in the first year under a new head coach and such. Donahue, unlike Kellogg, has experience on his side, as well as veteran talent already in place. They’re a better team than UMass right now. The fact that they did what they did without Raji tonight, in what turned out to be a fairly hostile environment (despite their proximity to home; after all, Boston College is conveniently located somewhat near the city it claims to be in) is particularly impressive.
Here’s the good news: the way this season is going, BC might be the best team UMass plays all season, except for maybe UCF (Seton Hall is missing its go-to guy, or I’d throw them in there as well). The A-10 has been inconsistent in non-conference play and seems ripe for the taking. Temple looks particularly disappointing, Xavier and Dayton are solid but beatable, Charlotte’s a mess and Richmond just lost to Old Dominion. Particularly as Traynham continues to take control of this team (as I think he will), TV gets his act together (as I hope he will), and Kellogg’s in-game coaching continues to improve, I can’t imagine that UMass will have as many easy shots missed as they did tonight, against a very good defense to boot. They’re sure to get better looks against the Maines and Central Connecticuts of the world, not to mention a good portion of that conference schedule.
So here’s the key: bounce back on this mini-homestand. Maine shouldn’t be overlooked because the team’s gonna want to bounce right back. Seton Hall is a Big East team on a Saturday night, so you’d expect a big crowd (although not as big, sadly, as it would’ve been if they won tonight), playing without its best player…gotta think they can pull that off. UCF is surprising a lot of people this year, and will probably be their next big test, but I don’t think they’re as good as BC this year. BU was expected to be better this year, but they haven’t looked too impressive in the early going. Sweeping is not out of the question, but even a 3-1 stretch leaves the Minutemen at 10-2, with what should be a win at Central Connecticut standing between them and the start of conference play.
Counting our chickens before they hatch? Probably. They could go 0-4, and then it’s back to the old drawing board. Still, you gotta admit, even when they lose, as they did tonight, this team can’t help but compete night-in and night-out. They’re making strides from last year in just about every aspect of the game. They never seem out of it like they did at times last campaign. I’d be shocked if they didn’t start to click real soon and start playing to their full potential.
Stay winning. Or rather, get back to winning, and then stay there. Tonight’s just a little bump in the road.
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*
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, if there ever was, it was UMass’s game tonight against Fordham. The Minutemen pulled out a 78-76 win on last-second heroics by Ricky Harris, but unlike UMass’s last squeak-by win over Memphis, this one didn’t have the “feel-good” vibe to it. On the contrary, UMass let an absolutely atrocious Fordham team hang around to the last second and nearly suffered what would have to qualify as the program’s worst loss in many, many years. In hockey terms, imagine losing to UConn at home. I’m sorry, I know, it’s a horrible image, and like I said before, you can’t just have it purged. But that’s what it would’ve been like.
I mean, you can look at it like this, Brenton Butler basically caught fire in that 16-3 run, hitting three 3’s, none of which was a remotely intelligent shot to take. Well, that’s all well and good, but the fact that Fordham’s big run came after UMass “broke the game open” to a barely-double-digit lead tells you the big story: namely, that the Minutemen shouldn’t have even been in a position like that, at any point in the game, against a 2-10 squad with an interim coach and with their best player having transferred out less than a month ago. Not remotely acceptable.
I’d like to point at all the positives (Ricky pulling it together in the second half, Gurley’s first half, City’s near double-double, TV’s hustle, Riley’s return), but there are just too many negatives (all the rushed 3’s, City’s dumb fouls and defensive struggles, Gurley’s second half, Gibbsy in general, missed layups, blah blah blah) for anyone to feel good about this game.
But a win is a win is a win, I guess. And if the team shows up on Saturday against La Salle (High School) and plays like this, well, nobody will notice because the game was rather unfortunately scheduled opposite the Pats-Ravens game. But let’s just say that the winning A-10 record won’t stay that way for long.
In other news, I’ve got a new 30 Rock-inspired nickname for Gurley: TGS, or “The Gurley Show.” If he continues to play like he did in the first half tonight, he’ll have earned the moniker; if not for him we’d likely have trailed at halftime.
Big weekend in Hockey East coming up, and an especially-huge four games for UMass and the ugly sister, as Lowell will play the same two teams this weekend, then the two state schools will square off in a home-and-home right before school recommences. Since the Minutemen and River Rats have essentially the same record right now, the weekend will go a long way to determining these two teams’ fates. More on that later, though; first, UMass had better focus on one game at a time, and that means the dreaded visit to the Whitt. If I don’t get to it before Saturday, I’ll definitely write about the aftermath of the UNH game before I head to Boston for the Sunday night showdown at Matthews.