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Preview: Montour To Debut As Minutemen Take On Northeastern In Non-Conference Clash

Northeastern Huskies 4-10-1 (3-6-1) Hockey East 8th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 4-11-0 (1-9-0) Hockey East 12th

It’s gut check time.  I think it’s fair to say this first half of the season has been disappointing for everyone around the Massachusetts hockey program.  Just four wins and last place in Hockey East is not where fans, coaches, or players had hoped to see the team at this point.  Tomorrow’s non-conference game against Northeastern is a big opportunity for UMass to at least take some positive momentum into the winter break.  They’ll have to find the motivation and energy from within though, because Tuesdays in December after the students are gone don’t tend to produce good Mullins crowds.  Add in the team’s record and it will likely be a sparsely attended affair.  It’s up to the players to find whatever motivates them, be it pride, a hatred of losing, or whatever, and bring that with them onto the ice tomorrow.

It should help that UMass already knows they’re capable of beating this Husky team.  They did so back in October in what was probably Henry Dill’s best game of the season.  In just his second collegiate start the freshman made 42 saves in the 3-2 win.  The guys in front of him played pretty well too, clearing rebounds away from the crease and helping shutout the Northeastern power play over 7 attempts.  The game saw both teams trade two goals apiece in the first 16 minutes of play before Dill and unexpected Husky starter Derek Roy took over.  The game winner was eventually scored in the third by Emerson Auvenshine who was making his blueline debut for the defensively depleted Minutemen.  Zack LaRue also shined offensively with a goal and an assist in the game.

The defeat at the hands of the Minutemen brought Northeastern’s record to 0-4-0 at that time.  They would eventually get to 0-8-1 before finally picking up their first win against New Hampshire in mid-November.  Since that time they’ve been downright respectable, going 4-2-0 in their last six with wins over #3 Minnesota at home and #16 Providence on the road.  It’s been very much a team effort over that six game period, with 11 different Huskies scoring a goal.  Kevin Roy and Colton Saucerman have scored two apiece during that time.

They’ve mostly gone as their defense and goaltender Clay Witt have gone during that stretch however.  In their four recent wins they’ve given up just five goals total.  But in their two losses, to Merrimack and Providence, Witt and the team have given up nine goals.  It’s likely that tomorrow night the Minutemen will face Witt, who was hurt when they visited St Botolph Street earlier this season.  Playing the Huskies is a good chance for the Minutemen to try to get their offense back on track.  Northeastern is 10th among Hockey East teams in goals against with 3.27 and their penalty kill is dead last at 72.5%.  Even in Northeastern’s recent six game stretch where they’ve been winning their PK is still just 74.1%.  The Minutemen’s offense has sputtered since their last win against AIC in mid-November.  In the 7 games since then they’ve scored just two goals per game and their power play is only converting at a rate of 10.7% (3 for 28).

It’s not just playing a poor defensive team that could give UMass an offensive spark tomorrow night.  It could potentially be the new guy wearing #26 in maroon.  Brandon Montour will make his long awaited debut for the Minutemen after being academically ineligible for the first semester.  The reigning USHL Player of the Year and 2nd Round NHL Draft pick had 6 goals and 15 assists in 17 games for the Waterloo Blackhawks while sorting out his NCAA clearinghouse issues.  Will Montour solve all of the Minutemen’s problems?  No way.  Especially considering he’s more of an offensive defenseman and the issues that have plagued UMass so far on the season have been overwhelming on the defensive end.  Still, his addition to the team may give the players and coaches an opportunity to mentally reset and refocus on games to come with a new weapon in the lineup rather than worry what transpired in November or before.

We shouldn’t forget the players already here either.  Frank Vatrano will look to start another goal streak tomorrow.  His team leading seven goals have all been scored in a couple two and three game bunches, the last of which expired with Notre Dame’s shutout last weekend.  All in all he’s accounted for 6 of UMass’ 21 goals from the AIC game onward and has been by far the team’s best player during that time.  Hopefully the week and a half between games will allow sophomore Ray Pigozzi to recover from an upper body injury as he has six points (1 G, 5 A) in his last six games played and his presence was missed against the Irish.

In net I expect you’ll see Coach Micheletto give Dill another crack at the Huskies after his strong showing at Matthews earlier in the season.  It’s still been tough to get a good gauge on the goaltending this season only because the defense in front of Dill and Steve Mastalerz has had so many problems.  Despite giving up four and a half goals a game there hasn’t been a lot of nights where it felt like the game was lost by whomever got the start in the crease.  Dill has played well at times all things considered and it’ll be interesting to see what happens if he gets another shot at a team he saw earlier in the season.  Again, Montour wasn’t brought to Amherst for his defense.  But, I don’t think he could make things any worse on that end.

I think it’s safe to say that UMass fans are desperate for anything resembling hope at this point.  A win, albeit a non-conference one despite the familiar league foe, tomorrow would be the first step to fans regaining confidence in the team and perhaps a chance for the team to regain some confidence in themselves.  Add in the energy around getting to see a much heralded player for the first time and hopefully the team will be able to feed off the buzz around the game, even if the energy in the building itself is minimal.  I’m sure the holidays for all parties involved would be that much more enjoyable if the team went into winter break with a win.  A victory seems a worthy addition to everyone’s Christmas list.

Beer The Triangle

Dear Santa,

In my last few trips to the Hangar for pregaming I couldn’t help but notice the Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin on the “Coming Soon…” list.  I think I’ve been good a UMass fan this year, making it to all the home games, and have done my best to watch my language when I have my daughter on my lap even when the officiating as been awful (who’s kidding, it’s always awful).  Is there any way this beer could find its way onto Stoney’s taps in time for tomorrow afternoon?  I would appreciate it greatly and promise to leave Left Hand Milk Stout and cookies for you on Christmas Eve.

P.S.  Could you also be generous enough to also make our Athletic Director’s Christmas wish come true so that he finds plane tickets to the West Coast in his stocking this holiday?

P.P.S  If the Grapefruit Scuplin is a no-go, how about the Stone Enjoy By 12.26.14?  Tis the season!

Game Preview From UMass Athletics.

Matt Vautour talks about Montour’s debut in his preview in the Gazette.

Yesterday I wrote about the commitment of goaltender Nic Renyard to UMass.  Here’s a scouting report from Over The Boards from last Spring stating that Renyard has “quick feet and post to post movement, as well as some decent puck handling skills.”  That link also has some very good things to say about Kurt Keats who will join the Minutemen next fall as well.  The local Okotoks Western Wheel also has this story about Renyard’s commitment with some quotes from him about his choice.

Abbreviated Polls & Awards tonight.

Boston University is again the #1 team in the country after previous top ranked North Dakota split at Denver.

New Hampshire’s Grayson Downing is the Hockey East Player of the Week after his four point performance in a win against Maine on Saturday.

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AJHL Goalie Nic Renyard Commits To the Minutemen For 2015

The Massachusetts hockey program has picked up a commitment from goaltender Nic Renyard of the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.  Renyard has been one of the best netminders in the AJHL this season with a league best 19-3-1 record to go with a save percentage of .934 and goals against average of 1.86, both second best in the league.  Renyard was the October Player of the Month for the AJHL (UMass commit Austin Plevy playing for Brooks was the POTM for November).  Renyard will fill the roster spot of graduating senior Steve Mastalerz and join Henry Dill and Alex Wakaluk on the goaltending crew next season.

It has been an interesting year for the 5’11, 170lb goaltender from Victoria, BC.  At the beginning of the season he was released his hometown Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL who wanted to prioritize playing time for their younger goaltenders.  He joined the Oilers and has been a big factor in their 24-9-3 record this year, 3rd best in the South Division just behind the Brook Bandits who have three future Minutemen on their roster (Plevy, Shane Bear, Kyler Nachtigall).  The Oilers literally picked him up for nothing and he’s been one of the best netminders in the league in return.

Renyard had a solid year in net last year for Victoria, with a .911 save percentage and 2.71 GAA.  The prior year he played for Penticton, also of the BCHL, and split time in net with Chad Kautner, who now plays for Notre Dame and picked up the win last Friday against UMass.  The duo picwon the Forslund Trophy in 2012-13 for best combined GAA in the BCHL.  Renyard had a .919 save percentage that year and 2.24 GAA.

This seems like a solid pickup for Coach Micheletto and his staff for next year.  Renyard is likely one of the best uncommitted goaltenders still available for next season.  Hopefully he’ll have as much success as the last goaltender who went from the AJHL to the Mullins Center.  Former Minuteman Paul Dainton went 13-6-4 with a .916 save percentage and 2.42 GAA for Fort McMurray of the AJHL in 2006-07.

Here’s an article from when Renyard signed with the Oilers, stating one of the reasons for the move was so he could, “…be a starter as a 20-year-old this year so I was waiting, looking for a program I know could win a championship and could get me a scholarship and move onto the NCAA next year.”

The Calgary Sun has this article on Renyard’s role in the Oilers early success this season.  The Okotoks local news website has a similar story.

Here’s a nice display from Renyard last year:

Here are some other odds and ends.

Captain Troy Power has a new post of from his season long blog.

The hockey office also has an updated Minutemen in the Pros release.

The Republican/Masslive has this excellent profile on Amherst native and UMass commit John Leonard on the eve of kicking off his season with Springfield Cathedral.

2015 Recruiting Class: Haves, Needs, and Wants

As mentioned in yesterday’s weekly recruit update tonight’s piece is going to take an in-depth look at next year’s incoming recruiting class in terms of commits and needs.  It makes sense to take a look now since the early signing period just occurred last month, so we know a little more about who is most likely to be coming in next year.  It also gave an opportunity to see if any unexpected names popped up during that time.  In coincidental timing, Jeff Cox of SBN College Hockey put out his rankings of next year’s recruiting classes.  UMass was dead last in Hockey East.

While I definitely have more than just a passing interest in college hockey recruiting, I haven’t studied the other Hockey East schools enough to know how they all shake out comparatively.  But I do understand why Coach Micheletto’s crop for next year is ranked so low by Jeff.  It’s not so much about the quality of players who have committed but more to do with having a lot more work to do to fill the holes that exist on the team next year.

Departures

Before looking at those players who will be joining the team next year it’s probably important to know who the team will need to replace.  There will be seven players honored on senior night in February.  At forward there is Troy Power, Steven Guzzo, Emerson Auvenshine, and Zack LaRue.  On defense there’s Oleg Yevenko and Mike Busillo.  And then also graduating will be goaltender Steve Mastalerz.

At forward you have four very similar players.  None are truly prolific scorers.  Power is currently tied for 5th on the team with 8 points while LaRue is just behind him at 7.  LaRue does have a career high four goals on the season, though has been kept off the scoreboard in the last seven games.  Guzzo has three assists on the season.  Auvenshine, who has put in time at both his natural forward position and defense, has just one point on the season, but as the game winning goal at Northeastern it was a big point.

So overall it does not appear that the team will be losing a lot of scoring next year.  However in Power, LaRue, and Auvenshine they’ll be losing some size and toughness.  Add in the scrappy Guzzo and all four are fairly decent defensive forwards.  Guzzo has also done quite well in limited action in the faceoff circle.

At defense the team will lose their two best defensive defensemen.  Oleg has improved his game dramatically over the years, especially in terms of his skating, and is going to be tough to replace.  Though you may find another solid defensemen to take his spot, it is very unlikely you’ll find someone with such intimidating size.  In Busillo the team will need to replace a very reliable blueliner.  Not overly flashy or athletic, Busillo has been very consistent over the years.  Playing on teams where it seems you never know if they’ll play terrific or terrible from one night to another, Busillo’s play through his career has been unheralded and a steady influence.

Mastalerz has given UMass solid minutes through his years and even a few headline wins as well.  Last year was the only year where he was the true #1 starter, but he has always been counted on for decent performances, though maybe not as consistently as he and the coaching staffs would’ve liked.  Still, he’s been a capable Hockey East goaltender and one that will definitely need to be replaced.

Arrivals

Sometimes it’s tough to know the exact make up of a class because coaches may decide to delay or accelerate certain players based on their junior performance or specific roster needs.  At forward UMass hockey fans can definitely count on seeing centers Austin Plevy and Kurt Keats however.  Plevy was originally slated to suit up at Merrimack for this current season, but found it to be a bad fit and returned to juniors for a year.  He is currently tearing up the AJHL in Alberta where he leads the league in points (51) and is 3rd in goals (20).  He was the AJHL Player of the Month for November.  Keats meanwhile is putting in a similar performance in the BCHL, where he’s 2nd in goals (22) and 5th in points (38).  Just today he was named to the Team Canada West squad which will participate in the World Junior A Challenge next week.  Both of these players will only add to a Minuteman squad that is trending upward in terms of offense, currently 6th among Hockey East in goals per game after finishing 10th last year.

Defenseman Brandon Egli is supposed to arrive in Amherst next fall as well.  The 5’10”, 190lb Egli signed his National Letter of Intent last November.  He had a big offensive year last season while playing for Victoria of the BCHL, accumulating 11 goals and 24 assists 53 games.  Early on during this season though he was traded from Victoria to Vernon and has had a tough time finding regaining his scoring touch after the move.  Through 20 games he’s only had five assists and has not found the back of the net.  Important to note that it’s always tough to truly know how good a player is defensively while looking only at stats.  Based on last year’s performance he does look like more of an offensive oriented defenseman in the mold of the blueliners in the last couple classes.

After Egli things get a little cloudy.  According to Chris Heisenberg, who runs the bible of college hockey recruiting sites, defenseman Jake McCarthy is a possible 2015 commit as well.  The problem is McCarthy has yet to play this season after getting injured during training camp out in the BCHL.  When he gets healthy again he’s due to start playing for the South Shore Kings of the USPHL, but that hasn’t happened yet.  With him continuing to miss time you start to wonder if the staff would push him back a year.

As a ‘96 birth year Mick may end up accelerating left wing Kyler Nachtigall to next fall, though Heisenberg currently lists him as arriving in 2016.  Nachtigall is teammates with Plevy on the Brooks Bandits (same junior team as current Minutemen Patrick Lee and Maddison Smiley) where he has 9 goals and 7 assists in 32 games.  Last season for the Bandits he had 12 goals and 18 assists in 50 games.

Needs

So that’s it in terms of committed players that are, or may be, coming next fall.  If we go by Heisenberg’s site the team has two forwards (Plevy, Keats) to fill the four open slots.  One defenseman (Egli) and maybe one more (McCarthy) to replace the two defenseman lost.  And the most concerning gap in next year’s class is that the coaches have yet to secure a commitment goaltender to replace Mastalerz.

To be perfectly honest, Micheletto’s fate with the Massachusetts hockey program may depend on the abilities of the goaltender he brings to Amherst next fall.  Obviously the glaring deficiency with this year’s team has been its defense and its goaltending.  I don’t want to knock Mastalerz and Henry Dill for their performance so far, especially Dill who has surpassed my expectations at times.  But sometimes I wonder if the defense is what it is and it’s really the goaltender that will shoulder the load under this style of play.  Therefore it is imperative to have not a good goaltender, not a great goaltender, but a truly elite goaltender in net.  UMass hasn’t had that in recent years, though the staff has definitely done their best to bring a top notch goaltender to Amherst.  I heard rumors that they were aggressively pursuing Zach Naglevoort, but he ultimately chose Michigan where he had a .929 save percentage as a freshman last season for the Wolverines.  At the very least Dill will need competition to push him next year.  At worst UMass will need a Jon Quick type of performance to lessen the problems on defense and have the improved offense translate into wins.

It will be interesting to see what type of player fills the second defenseman spot that is open.  Do we see another Brandon Montour or Jake Horton where their focus is very much offense?  Or do we see a more stay at home defenseman like Busillo, or perhaps a mountain of a player like Yevenko?  Does Mick try to balance the defensive corps in terms of offensive and defensive oriented?  At forward adding Plevy and Keats to the likes of Vatrano, Pigozzi, Iacobellis, Lee, and Kravchenko could make this a very scary team offensively for Hockey East opponents.  The third and fourth spots at forward could likely be filled with more grinder type players for the third and fourth lines.  Or maybe there’s another scorer that assistants Ryan Miller and Joey Gasparini have an eye on that will allow UMass to roll three deep for scoring lines.  I feel very confident in UMass’ offense when thinking beyond this year.  But will there be someone on the other end to keep the puck out of the UMass net?  That is the huge question mark for 2015 currently.

(edit: UMass addressed a major question mark with this recruiting class with the commitment of goalie Nic Renyard for next year)

Speaking of recruiting, it’s rare to hear future Minutemen discussed on the weekly coach’s show, mostly due to NCAA rules that prohibit talk of a commit before they sign their NLI.  However last night assistant Ryan Miller talked to Brock Hines about Brandon Montour, Plevy, Keats, and Ty Pelton-Byce who’s projected to come to UMass in 2016.

2017 commit and Springfield Cathedral forward John Leonard was named to Masslive’s State Super 7.  Cathedral appears to be loaded this year and could make a serious run at the Super 8 championship.

Triangle era player Sal Manganaro will be making his high school coaching debut this season for Nauset.

Frank Vatrano is featured on the most recent UMass Sports Insider (18 minutes in), giving fans a tour of his nearby hometown, East Longmeadow and nearby Springfield, including his family’s pizza joint across from the AIC campus.

Recruit Update: One Week ‘Til Montour

Here’s the latest update on UMass’ recruits.  I plan on writing an in-depth look at next year’s class in the next day or two.  So I recommend checking back for that.

Brandon Montour – D – Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) – T-Minus One Week
17 GP /6 G / 15 A / 21 Pts / 30 PIM /-11
Montour is on campus preparing to hopefully make his Massachusetts hockey debut next Tuesday against Northeastern

Brandon Egli – D – Vernon Vipers (BCHL) – 2015
20 GP / 0 G /5 A / 5 Pts / 19 PIM
Egli was scoreless this week.

Jake McCarthy – D – South Shore Kings (USPHL) – 2015 or 2016
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
McCarthy is still nursing an injury that is delaying his debut for the Kings.

Kurt Keats – C – Powell River Kings (BCHL) – 2015
28 GP / 22 G / 16 A / 38 Pts / 45 PIM
Keats had an assist in one game.  He spent the weekend at the Team Canada West selection camp.  I don’t believe the roster for the World Junior A Challenge has been announced yet, but Keats captained the team last year so he’s expected to make it.  The tournament starts next weekend.

Austin Plevy – C – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2015
31GP / 20 G /31 A / 51 Pts / 54PIM
Plevy had a couple assists in three games this past week.  Plevy is tops in the AJHL in points, 3rd in goals, 2nd in assists, 3rd in PPG.

Shane Bear – D – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
32GP / 1 G / 16 A / 17 Pts / 37 PIM
Bear had an assist in three games this past week.  He’s tied for 5th in the league for power play assists.  Like Keats, he too is waiting to see if he made the Team Canada West roster.

Troy Conzo – RW – Wenatchee Wild (NAHL) – 2016 or 2017
3 GP / 0 G / 0 A /0 Pts / 0 PIM / –2  Des Moines (USHL)
13 GP/ 2 G/ 2 A / 4 Pts / 4 PIM / +2 Wenatchee (NAHL)
Conzo had an assist this past week.

Kyler Nachtigall – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
32 GP / 9 G / 7 A / 16 Pts / 41 PIM
Nachtigall had a big week, scoring three goals in three games this past week.  He started the season a little slow but has really come on as of late.

Ty Pelton-Byce – C – Team Wisconsin U18 (Elite)/Madison Memorial (WI HS) – 2016
21 GP / 12 G / 12 A / 24 Pts / 8 PIM  Team Wisconsin U18
5 GP /5 G / 4 A / 4 Pts  Madison Memorial
Pelton-Byce had two goals and two assists in a recent 5-0 win for the Spartans.  He’s tied for first in the Big Eight conference for goals and fourth in points.

John Leonard – F – Springfield Rifles (Mass Selects)/Springfield Cathedral (MA HS) – 2017
14 GP / 21 G / 11 A / 32 Pts  Springfield Rifles
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts  Springfield Cathedral
Cathedral’s season starts December 13th.  Here is a season preview from Masslive.

Staying on the topic of recruiting, I caught this article today on how well former UMass commit Alex DeBrincat has been doing in the OHL.  DeBrincat plays on a line with Connor McDavid, who is battling Boston University’s Jack Eichel to be the top pick in next year’s NHL draft.  Reading the article got me interested in what exactly happened to lead DeBrincat to renege on UMass.  So I found this article where he says he had always preferred the OHL route but committed to UMass because of his parents.  Hey, there are two routes to the pros and it’s better the player chooses what’s best for him.

Former Collegian writer Joe Meloni discusses UMass’ lack of success this season and under Coach Micheletto in general in his weekly Hockey East piece for College Hockey News.  Nothing groundbreaking, but it is another piece of evidence that shows that public opinion is quickly turning on Mick.  Again, as I wrote Saturday, I think it’s time for him to be a more flexible with his style of play to try to get the team winning soon.  I’ll probably have more to talk about the current overall situation with the team after next week’s Northeastern game.

College Hockey News also has this look at Air Force who the Minutemen play on the 29th of this month up at the Catamount Cup in Burlington.

Here’s an interesting look at the Mullins Center going from Hockey to Hoops to Hockey and back to Hoops this past weekend.

No real news in our McGaucheon Watch but there is this football focused column by Masslive’s Ron Chimelis on the subject.

Around Hockey East, Polls, & Awards

A week after squandering their spot atop the USCHO rankings by going 1-2-0 the Boston University Terriers did better this past weekend, grabbing three points in a home and home with the Warriors of Merrimack.  Meanwhlie, Lowell played a couple games at home and won both of them, first clubbing UConn 6-4 in a mid-week affair and then beating the Maine Black Bears in a surprisingly narrow 3-2 overtime victory.  While goaltending performance at Lowell has a lot to do with the defensemen and system under coach Norm Bazin, it’s worth mentioning that former Minuteman Kevin Boyle has one of the top winning percentages in the league with a 7-1-3 record so far for the River Hawks.  The Vermont Catamounts had the a weekend off and this Saturday will face Saint Lawrence.

Providence and Northeastern split an odd Wednesday-Saturday home and home this past week, despite Friar goaltender Jon Gilles only giving up three goals total in the two games.  Boston College took three points from New Hampshire, even though the Eagles continuing to struggle on the power play this season.  BC has only scored six power play goals total this season with half of them coming at the Minutemen’s expense unfortunately.  In addition to their loss at Lowell, the UConn Huskies also lost earlier in the week 1-0 to the Brown Bears.  Since their big games where they took three points from BU and BC earlier this season the Huskies are just 1-4-2 since.

With those results BU and Lowell are atop the Hockey East standings, with the River Hawks having a game in hand on the Terriers.  Vermont is just one point behind.  There’s a logjam in the middle with just five points separating 4th and 8th place.  UMass remains in last place, with the three teams ahead of them all holding two or more games in hand on the Minutemen.  These standings will remain as is until January.  While there are some matches between Hockey East opponents coming up, they’re all non-conference tilts.

Conference     Overall
    GP W-L-T   PTS GF-GA     GP W-L-T GF-GA
1 Boston University 10 7-1-2   16 38-19     15 10-3-2 49-28
  Mass.-Lowell 9 7-0-2   16 37-16     16 10-3-3 60-42
3 Vermont 11 7-3-1   15 37-20     15 11-3-1 52-25
4 Providence 10 6-4-0   12 18-13     15 8-6-1 30-27
5 Notre Dame 8 4-2-2   10 23-20     18 8-8-2 53-50
6 Boston College 9 4-4-1   9 24-21     16 8-7-1 47-42
  Merrimack 9 4-4-1   9 19-18     17 10-5-2 44-32
8 Northeastern 10 3-6-1   7 20-34     15 4-10-1 28-49
9 Connecticut 7 2-4-1   5 15-20     15 3-8-4 26-38
10 Maine 8 2-6-0   4 19-28     16 3-12-1 34-58
11 New Hampshire 7 1-5-1   3 12-22     14 4-9-1 34-38
12 Massachusetts 10 1-9-0   2 22-53     15 4-11-0 40-67

North Dakota is still #1 in this week’s USCHO rankings.   With their win and tie against Merrimack, BU moves up a spot to #2.  Lowell dropped to #8 despite winning both their games this past weekend.  Vermont didn’t play a game but moves into the top ten at #10.  Lots of Hockey East representation at the bottom of the rankings with BC at #16, Providence at #18, and Merrimack at #19.

USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll

December 08, 2014

Team (First Place Votes) Record Points Last Poll
1 North Dakota (38) 12- 3-2 983 1
2 Boston University ( 1) 10- 3-2 900 3
3 Minnesota State ( 1) 12- 4-0 818 2
4 Michigan Tech ( 1) 12- 2-0 784 5
5 Harvard ( 6) 9- 1-2 752 9
6 Miami 11- 5-0 743 4
7 Minnesota 9- 4-1 715 6
8 Massachusetts-Lowell 10- 3-3 707 7
9 Minnesota-Duluth ( 3) 11- 5-0 677 8
10 Vermont 11- 3-1 548 11
11 Denver 9- 4-0 478 10
12 Nebraska-Omaha 8- 4-2 435 12
13 Bowling Green 11- 3-2 419 14
14 Colgate 9- 5-1 377 13
15 Quinnipiac 10- 5-1 256 15
16 Boston College 8- 7-1 177 17
17 Robert Morris 10- 1-3 170 20
18 Providence 8- 6-1 161 16
19 Merrimack 10- 5-2 138 18
20 Union 9- 6-1 66 NR
Others receiving votes: Penn State 56, Northern Michigan 51, Yale 29, St. Cloud State 28, Michigan 18, St. Lawrence 7, Ferris State 3, Dartmouth 2, Holy Cross 1, Mercyhurst 1.

 

It’s also probably time to start looking at Pairwise Rankings.  Well, not for UMass’ purposes of course.  Here are the Top 20 currently in the Pairwise.

Rk Team PCWs RPI Rk QWB-† W-L-T Win % Wgtd Win % – ‡
1 Minnesota State 58 .6328 1 .0150 12-4-0 .7500 .7561
2 Minnesota-Duluth 57 .6113 2 .0128 11-5-0 .6875 .6747
3 Nebraska-Omaha 56 .6090 3 .0092 8-4-2 .6429 .6757
4 Harvard 55 .6075 4 .0050 9-1-2 .8333 .8333
5 Michigan Tech 54 .5993 5 .0000 12-2-0 .8571 .8421
6 Miami 53 .5981 6 .0105 11-5-0 .6875 .6757
7 North Dakota 52 .5893 7 .0049 12-3-2 .7647 .7442
8 Bowling Green 51 .5889 8 .0042 11-3-2 .7500 .7619
9 Minnesota 50 .5795 9 .0031 9-4-1 .6786 .6923
10 Vermont 49 .5794 10 .0000 11-3-1 .7667 .8082
11 Boston University 47 .5786 11 .0021 10-3-2 .7333 .7237
12 Denver 47 .5627 12 .0040 9-4-0 .6923 .6667
13 Mass.-Lowell 46 .5581 13 .0013 10-3-3 .7188 .6835
14 Yale 45 .5548 14 .0061 6-3-2 .6364 .6228
15 Merrimack 44 .5495 15 .0007 10-5-2 .6471 .6429
16 Penn State 43 .5463 16 .0017 9-4-2 .6667 .6831
17 Quinnipiac 42 .5429 17 .0014 10-5-1 .6562 .6329
18 Colgate 41 .5419 18 .0003 9-5-1 .6333 .6301
19 St. Lawrence 40 .5354 19 .0040 8-6-1 .5667 .5823
20 Dartmouth 40 .5337 20 .0052 5-4-1 .5500 .5510
50 Massachusetts 9 .4319 50 .0006 4-11-0 .2667 .2821

 

As you can see Hockey East is currently in line to get four teams in, but their spots in the top 16 are shaky at best.

BU’s Danny O’Regan was able to outshine teammate Jack Eichel’s four assist performance on Saturday with a hat trick and an assist, capturing Hockey East Player of the Week honors with his actions.  Notre Dame’s Robbie Russo, who I was very impressed with in the games against the Minutemen, grabbed the Defensive Player of the Week honors with his two goal, three assist performance in Amherst.  Lowell’s Michael Louria was named Rookie of the Week.

Do you like Power Rankings?  Well here’s one from SBN College Hockey and another from Scott McLaughlin at WEEI.  I think you can probably guess where UMass falls in both of them.

Recap: Notre Dame Completes Sweep In Amherst With 4-0 Win

The big question going into last night was how the Massachusetts hockey team would respond against the visiting Notre Dame Irish coming off another third period collapse on Friday.  The hope was that the team would be fired up, looking for redemption for another blown lead and playing with desperation to gain a second league win in their last Hockey East before winter break.  Instead the 2,469 fans in attendance were treated to another series of defensive meltdowns (this time coming in the second period) and one of the most ineffective offensive outputs I’ve seen in quite a long time.

1 and 2.  The first number is the total amount of shots on goal the Minutemen had in the first period.  The second number is the amount of shots they had exactly halfway through the game.  That’s it.  Two shots was all the team could muster through 30 minutes as they finished with 14 shots total on the game.  I’ll give credit to the Notre Dame defense and Irish goaltender Cal Petersen, who picked up his second shutout of the season.  However the Irish defense is not one of the best we’ve seen this season and should not be capable of holding UMass to so few shots.  Coming into the weekend the Domers were 45th in the country in shots allowed per game.  A lot of the offensive futility for the home team last night was self inflicted.  Some of it came from what looked like a lack of effort and execution.  Some of it came from the fact that UMass was killing the 16 penalties they took last night.  Yes, the team had more penalties than shots in last night’s game.  Most of those penalties came from frustration and lazy stick calls.  I’m the first to complain about unbalance officiating, especially when you see a power play disparity of 9 to 3 in favor of UMass’ opponent, but the Minutemen deserved most of the calls.  Things didn’t go their way, they got mad, and instead of taking their frustration out on the back of the Irish net, they got chippy.

For the second time in three games UMass was held to under 20 shots.  The 14 was the lowest since they only generated 10 against Quinnipiac last season.  That is really concerning considering this team is supposed to be aggressive and up tempo.  It is also worrisome to look at the box score and see no shots registered for key offensive contributors Dennis Kravchenko and Steven Iacobellis.  Kravchenko has been especially cold as of late, going without a shot in three games since the team played AIC, totally just 7 shots on goal in those seven games.

Defensively the team started out pretty good, surrendering just 8 shots on net in a first period that did not see any scoring.  But in the second they had another one of their stretches where defensive breakdowns led to a flurry of opponent goals.  In this case it was three Irish goals in 6 minutes and 20 seconds early in the middle period, including a couple goals just seconds apart, that effectively took the Minutemen out of the game.  Immediately after is when UMass let their tempers get the best of them and took a rash of penalties and seemed more interested in fighting the Irish from that point on than trying to beat them on the scoreboard.

This team is in a lot of trouble.  They are regressing as the season is going along, not improving.  Notre Dame came into the Mullins this weekend in a tailspin and yet walk out after dominating the Minutemen on their home ice for two nights, outscoring UMass 11-5, and grabbing all four of the oh so important Hockey East points.  The Minutemen are 4-11-0 overall, just 1-9-0 in Hockey East, and in dead last place.  The team is doing very little right in any aspect of their game currently and the few fans that are still coming to the games are being treated to a mix of what looks like disinterest and confusion by their team on the ice.  Has Micheletto lost his team?  I’m not sure.  But the fact that that is even a valid question right now is scary.  This was supposed to be the season where UMass began to turn around the program and instead it has sunk to lows it hasn’t seen since it was in DI infancy in the mid-90s.  UMass is off until 12/16 when they’ll host the Northeastern Huskies for a non-conference mid-week affair.  Brandon Montour, the jewel of this year’s recruiting class, is expected to make his UMass debut after sitting out the first semester due to clearinghouse issues.  It’s unlikely that the 2nd round Ducks draft pick will solve all of the team’s problems by himself, but maybe just his addition on the ice and in the locker room gives the team a spark and allow them to regain focus and not have this season go down as a complete disaster.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steve Mastalerz
Mastalerz made his first start in five games and looked solid overall.  He didn’t have a chance on most (or maybe all) of the goals as they were more a result of defensive breakdowns in front of him.  The game could’ve been a lot uglier without his play and he was a big reason why the Irish were only 1 for 9 on the power play.

Fear The Triangle Moron of the Weekend

Recap and Box Score from UMass Athletics.

Game recap from the Collegian as well as a piece on the 16 penalties UMass took in the game.

Good to see Masslive’s Dan Malone covering the team again.  Too bad he didn’t have a better game to write about.  Here’s his short recap and notes from last night.

McGaucheon Watch is in full effect after it was reported AD John McCutcheon is pursuing the AD job for the USCB Gauchos.  Matt Vautour has his story in the Gazette while Malone has a followup piece to his first story on Masslive.  McCutcheon says his primary focus is on UMass, which seems a little weird since he admits it was him that initiated contact with UCSB.

This weekend was pretty depressing for UMass fans.  So here’s a video of a giant teddy bear eventually being tossed on the Lynah ice to cheer you up.

Recap: UMass Suffers Another 3rd Period Implosion, Loses 7-5 To Notre Dame

I have done my best to give this Massachusetts hockey team the benefit of the doubt this season.  I’ve tried to remain optimistic through the struggles.  Early on it was tough to know what to expect considering the roster included so many players making their collegiate debuts.  They also didn’t have the easiest of schedules to start the season, so I urged fans to take that into account.  But we’re now two months into the season.  The young players are acclimated.  There are no tough plane or bus trips, only the short walk or drive to the Mullins.  In short, there is no reason why this team shouldn’t be improving.  No reason why it can’t at least be competitive.  But it’s not.  This team is just bad.  Historically bad.  After last night’s 7-5 loss to the Fighting Irish the team is now giving up 4.50 goals per game.  That is epically bad.  Last year Alabama-Huntsville gave up 4.37 goals per game, holding the last place spot nationally that the Minutemen now hold.  UMass hasn’t given up that amount of goals since the mid-90s when the team was restarted and thrust into Hockey East.

Like we’ve seen throughout the season UMass played well enough early on last night to take a lead into the third period, up 3-2 after 40 minutes.  But the team then gave up four goals, all at even strength, in the first 8 minutes of the final period and just like that the Irish led 6-3.  UMass would finally wake up with just a couple minutes left in the game to score a couple goals, but an empty netter sealed the game for Notre Dame.  7-5 final. It’s the first time this season that the struggling Irish squad has won a game after being down after two periods.  UMass has now given up 31 goals in the third period this season.  Providence, Vermont, Merrimack, and Boston University have given up less in all periods this season.

We’re now two and a half years into John Micheletto’s tenure at UMass.  For the first two years we were told that the poor results were due to the carryover players from Toot Cahoon’s regime not being a good fit for Mick’s up tempo style.  We were told we just had to wait until he got “his players” to Amherst.  Well the roster is now overwhelmingly his players.  We’re now 14 games into the season.  And the team is terrible.  The results are terrible.  And attendance is reaching lows we haven’t seen in 10 to 15 years.  Something has to change.  The saying of “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” comes into play here.  Mick’s style of play is not producing wins.  It’s producing some embarrassing results and putting UMass in such a deep hole in the Hockey East standings that they’ll need something drastic to happen to get out of it.  He has to be flexible and make adjustments.  He has to put more of a focus on defense.

This whole situation reminds me a lot of when Derek Kellogg arrived in Amherst and was insistent on running the Dribble Drive Motion.  The results were maddening, even after he got a few of his own recruiting classes into the program.  In his first three years he won 12, 12, and 15 games.  It wasn’t until year 4 when he dropped the DDM and its architect, Vance Walberg, that the program took off, winning 25 games and making the NIT semifinals.  Hopefully the success of the Mullins’ other tenant serves as a good example that changing things up to better suit the skills of your players can pay off.  At this point it seems like there’s no reason not to try something different.  After all, it really can’t get any worse.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Frank Vatrano
Though his line was on the ice for much of the third period problems, Vatrano did play some of his best hockey in a UMass uniform in the first couple periods.  In the first he scored with a nice wrist shot from high in the slot and in the second scored a shorthanded goal, giving UMass the lead at the time.

Recap, Box Score, and Highlights from UMass Athletics.

Recap from the Gazette.

UMass Athletic Director John McCutcheon is one of the finalists for the same job at UC-Santa Barbara.  Whether he gets the job or not I think it’s time for the school to move on from him.  The fact that he’s out there interviewing shows that he’s not committed to seeing the school through this critical time period where it’s looking to establish itself as an FBS program and secure a conference affiliation.  Let’s face it, McCutcheon has been mailing it in for years.  Many programs around campus, including hockey, are struggling to find consistent success they once had.  The motto for the recent football seasons has been “All In”.  If McCutcheon isn’t all in to make UMass athletics successful then he should leave.  Whether to California or anywhere else.

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