As you can see I’ve redecorated the blog a bit in honor of the UMass lacrosse team which begins its quest for a national championship this Saturday at Garber Field with a 2:30pm faceoff. Hockey season may be over but the lacrosse team is giving me a good excuse to spend my weekends on the Mass Pike to watch a truly historic and memorable season for a program that has always been one of UMass’ most successful. I was in Amherst again this past weekend and thoroughly enjoyed watching the team grab their first CAA conference championship with a win over Drexel. They’ll face Colgate in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday and I hope any and all UMass fans show up to Garber to fill the hill and give this team a home field advantage. It doesn’t matter if you’re just jumping on the bandwagon and don’t know the sport. All you need to know is these guys are wearing maroon and white, their jerseys say “UMass” across the front, and are focused on bringing a national championship to campus. Personally I hope Garber is absolutely bursting at the seams and as a result Colgate is utterly unable to keep their heads in the games. As one of the 50 UMass fans who watched our football team get upset during a blizzard in Hamilton, NY in 2003 it’d be nice to have the environment in our favor for an NCAA game against the Raiders for once.
Speaking of ridiculous NCAA tournament seedings, as hockey fans I think it’s time to give thanks for the Pairwise. It’s not perfect and we can always debate the formula that’s used (personally I’m a big KRACH fan), but at least all teams know where they stand and what has to happen for them to gain an tournament berth. Not the case in lacrosse when they lock five people in a room and who knows what the hell happens. As a result UMass despite being the #1 team in both polls, second in the RPI, 15-0 on the season, and CAA Champions, was given a sixth seed by the selection committee. It is what it is, luckily the team got a home game for the first round (some deserving teams, like Penn State, didn’t even get selected) and will have to fight to get to the Final Four at Gillette. But when the bracket was first announced I certainly was thankful for the transparency and straightforwardness of the pairwise.
Whlie the lacrosse tournament is just starting, things are heating up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And, thanks to former Minuteman Jon Quick, the Kings are on their way to the Western Conference Finals. Quick has put up a 1.55 goals against and a .949 save percentage which has allowed Los Angeles to take out the top two seeds in the West; Vancouver and St Louis. Quick is considered the Conn Smythe favorite to this point and is even getting favorable comparisons to legendary Terry Sawchuk.
Overseas Justin Braun and Team USA had an exciting overtime win over Canada on Saturday but dropped a game to Slovakia today. The team falls to 2-1 and is in fourth place in their group.
In the AHL playoffs both Mike Kostka and Casey Wellman are still playing, but one of them won’t be for long as their teams are facing each other. The series between Kostka’s Norfolk Admirals and Wellman’s Connecticut Whale is tied at two apiece. Former captain Kostka has a goal and four assists in 8 games and is a +4 while Wellman has three goals and four assists in 6 games (though Minuteman fans will not be shocked to learn he is a –1 so far in the playoffs).
In other alumni news, congratulations are in order to former UMass hockey beat writer Jeff Howe who will be covering the New England Patriots for the Boston Herald. Not a surprise. Howe was talented even when he was writing for the Collegian and most of the time was the best source for team coverage.
The Schedule Page has been updated with some more dates that have been announced. All of the non-conference dates are now known except Quinnipiac. UConn comes to the Mullins on Friday October 12th while Colgate travels to Amherst for the weekend of December 7th and 8th. The Minutemen travel to Yale the following Wednesday, December 12th. Also, with football heading for Foxboro this fall, a home game against Boston University on October 27th will be part of Homecoming activities.
Last week I blogged about college hockey potentially going to 3/4 face shields. It does not appear that four on four overtime would join face shields as a rule change according to CHN.