Preview ▲ UMass Hits The Road To Take On UNH, #13 Merrimack

New Hampshire Wildcats 3-4-2 (1-0-2) Hockey East 8th


Massachusetts Minutemen 6-3-2 (2-2-2) Hockey East T-5th

The Massachusetts hockey team will hit the road this weekend to face a couple Hockey East foes they’ve already seen once this weekend.  On Friday the Minutemen head to Durham to take on the team that was part of their most memorable game this season.  On 10/23 the New Hampshire Wildcats visited the Mullins and were up 6-1 with a little more than a period left before UMass roared back to secure maybe the best tie in the history of the program.  On Saturday the Minutemen will take on Merrimack, who they just faced and lost 4-2 to last weekend, at Lawler Rink in North Andover.


Preview ▲ Minutemen Host #14 Merrimack Friday, Travel To Vermont Sunday

Merrimack College Warriors 5-1-2 (1-1-2) Hockey East T-5th


Massachusetts Minutemen 6-2-1 (2-1-1) Hockey East 4th

The Massachusetts Minutemen will look to build off last weekend’s sweep of league foe UConn when they take on another couple Hockey East opponents.  Friday night they’ll host the surprising #14 Merrimack Warriors and then will take a day off before heading up to Burlington to take on the Vermont Catamounts for a Sunday afternoon affair.  A strong performance against a couple talented teams could result in UMass breaking into the national rankings.

The early season performance of the Minutemen have been a surprise around the league, but Merrimack’s early record has likely raised more eyebrows.  The Warriors were picked to finish 11th in the league, just ahead of the Minutemen.  They began their season with a home sweep versus Clarkson and St Lawrence.  Both of the North Country teams are improved this year and are currently ranked.  They followed that up with two ties in a home and home versus nearby rival and top ten ranked Lowell.  The next weekend they would beat Boston University but fall to UNH before sweeping an Atlantic Hockey road trip against Bentley and Canisius last weekend.

As the usually do, Merrimack is succeeding with a very good defense.  They are allowing a national low 23 shots on goal per game.  Only 1.75 of those shots are finding the back of the net, 7th best in the country.  Even a man down they’re doing well with a .929 penalty kill, 5th best in the country.  Key in that defensive play is sophomore goaltender Colin Delia, who has a .924 save percentage on the season and a 1.73 goals against average.

The Warriors are averaging 3.75 goals scored per game and are led offensively by senior Ben Bahe who leads them in both goals (4) and points (10).  The Warriors are only 7th among Hockey East teams in scoring, but that’s still good enough to be 21st nationally.  Of course the other player to watch out for on offense is Brett Snively who is coming off a strong freshman season with 2 goals and 8 points so far in the 8 Warrior games.  Merrimack does not represent much of a power play threat, converting just twice on 30 chances this season for a fourth worst 6.7% nationally.

Merrimack will be an interesting test for the Minutemen.  When you look at the teams that have let in the least amount of goals nationally you have Boston College first, Yale, tied for 5th, and Merrimack 7th.  UMass lost 7-0 against BC and 6-1 against Yale.  So far, against pretty good competition, the Warriors have been among the best in the country when it comes to defense and UMass has struggled against the best.  Will UMass continue to struggle against a team that executes as well defensively as Merrimack?  We’ll see.

The other thing to keep an eye on Friday is what happens to Austin Plevy.  The UMass freshman originally committed to play for Merrimack and Warrior coach Mark Dennehy.  He went as far as to enroll in the school, spend the summer working out with the team, and begin fall classes before reconsidering and leaving North Andover.  Plevy had a very good couple games last weekend against UConn, good enough to be named Hockey East Rookie of the Week.  Does playing against his would-be team serve as motivation or as distraction?  Are there hard feelings on the other side of the ice that could potentially put a target on Plevy’s back?  We’ll have to see if the Warriors have a message they want to convey to Plevy in his first game against them.

Massachusetts Minutemen 6-2-1 (2-1-1) Hockey East 4th


Vermont Catamounts 2-6-1 (1-2-1) Hockey East T-7th


On paper it looks like the Catamounts are having a pretty bad season with a 2-6-1 record.  But on closer inspection, maybe Vermont isn’t quite as bad as they appear at first glance.  Their 6 losses have come in the form of three weekend sweeps against very good opponents.  In Mid-October they dropped two games at home to then #3 Omaha.  The next weekend they hosted then #1 North Dakota and lost both.  And last weekend they played #4 Lowell at home and lost both of those games.  While the fans of Burlington have seen some of the best teams in the country this year at Gutterson, they haven’t seen any wins.  The two Catamount wins have come on the road, first at then #8 Minnesota and at hapless Northeastern.  The Cats will look for their first home win of the season this weekend, either Friday against UConn or Sunday versus Massachusetts.

Last year the Catamounts were one of the best defensive teams in the league, giving up the second least goals per game among Hockey East teams with 2.22.  They returned junior Mike Santaguida who saved .923 of shots last year and was third in goals against average.  Maybe it’s the level of competition he’s faced or maybe it’s something else but so far this season Santaguida has not been able to repeat last year’s performance.  He comes into the weekend with a .907 save percentage, 41st in the country (just ahead of Nic Renyard).  Vermont does boast an experienced defensive corps that includes the likes of Alexx Privitera, Rob Hamilton, and Yvan Pattyn.

Without a doubt Vermont’s biggest problem this season is that they’re just not scoring goals.  The Catamounts are scoring just 2.00 goals per game, 10th worst among DI teams nationally.  They do have some skilled offensive players to be aware of however.  Junior Mario Puskarich is averaging a point per game with 4 goals and 5 assists in 9 games.  The Privitera brothers both have six points apiece so far this season.  UMass commit turned BU commit turned Vermont freshman Liam Coughlin has four assists on the season thus far.

This is a tough Vermont team to read.  Their record is bad and their stats are skewed in the wrong direction.  But they’ve played some really tough competition.  Does this team have some fundamental flaws or have are they a product of who they’ve had to play?  My guess is the answer is somewhere in between.  Yes, the Catamounts have had an incredibly tough schedule having to play three top five teams across 6 games.  Yet, all of those games against top ranked teams were at home.  You would think a decent team would at least win one or two at home?  But they haven’t.  Is this a tough Vermont team?  I’m not sure.  But they’ll be hungry to prove themselves this weekend when they get a couple of unranked teams to the Gut.

Beer The Triangle

If you’re heading up to Burlington I highly recommend hitting a few places.  Zero Gravity Brewing that’s part of American Flatbread is a great place to go for food an beer.  Zero Gravity makes some really good german-style beers.  Farmhouse Tap & Grille is pricey, but has a lot of good beers you can’t get elsewhere, including a selection of Hill Farmstead usually.  And of course no trip is complete without stopping in Waterbury for a Heady Topper, preferably at the old Alchemist brewpub, now the Prohibition Pig.  There’s no better road trip for beer in Hockey East.

The game in Burlington on Sunday has changed from a 1pm start time to a 2pm start time due to Catamount soccer’s participation in the America East tournament.

Weekend preview from UMass Athletics.

The Collegian advocates for bigger student crowds for hockey going forward.

Ahead of his first home game as a Bruin tonight, Masslive/The Republican has a whole host of stories on Western Mass native Frank Vatrano.  There’s this piece on Vatrano’s undrafted status being a source of motivation.  There’s a really interesting story of Vatrano’s callup and his father sitting at the Canadian border desperately trying to get across to watch his son’s debut in Montreal.  And there’s this story on Vatrano’s connection with local institutions creating a big rooting interesting for East Longmeadow’s own.

Preview ▲ UMass Looks To Get Back On Track With Home And Home Series Versus UConn

UConn Huskies 3-4-0 (1-3-0) Hockey East T-5th


Massachusetts Minutemen 4-2-1 (0-1-1) Hockey East T-9th

If Hockey East was really serious about cultivating a rivalry on the ice between the Massachusetts and UConn hockey programs this weekend’s series would be taking place in February or March.  But instead we have the Minutemen and Huskies meeting in the first week of November.  That doesn’t mean these games mean any less in the grand scheme of things though.  Both teams are coming off lopsided losses and are looking for a rebound.  UMass was hammered 7-0 by #3 Boston College on Tuesday, a game preceded by a 6-1 loss to #13 Yale, while UConn lost 8-2 to Notre Dame in a game played in Brooklyn over the weekend.


Preview ▲ Minutemen Travel To #3 Boston College For Tuesday Tilt

Massachusetts Minutemen 4-1-1 (0-0-1) Hockey East T-8th


Boston College Eagles 5-1-0 (0-0-0) Hockey East T-10th

The Massachusetts hockey team is looking to get back on track after picking up their first loss of the season to #13 Yale over the weekend at the Capital City Classic.  But the specific challenges they faced against the Bulldogs could prove to be even tougher against the #3 Boston College Eagles on Tuesday.  Yale came into their game with UMass carrying over a strong defensive team from last season, but playing in their first game of the year.  BC through six games this season has already proven that they’re just as good defensively as Yale and maybe even better.


Preview ▲ Unbeaten Minutemen Travel To Capital City Classic

The Massachusetts Minutemen hope to continue their strong start to the season as they head south to Trenton, New Jersey where they’ll spend Halloween weekend participating in the Capital City Classic.  UMass will take on the Maine Black Bears in a non-conference matchup on Friday evening before facing either #13 Yale or Princeton on Saturday.  This weekend’s action will represent the beginning of the regular season for the two Ivy League participants.


Preview ▲ Minutemen Look To Stay Perfect As They Open League Play Against UNH

New Hampshire Wildcats 1-2-0 (0-0-0) T-1st Hockey East


Massachusetts Minutemen 3-0-0 (0-0-0) T-1st Hockey East

The Massachusetts hockey team has found early success in their non-conference schedule, starting out the year 3-0-0.  They’ll look to carry over that early momentum as they kick off their Hockey East schedule at home against the New Hampshire Wildcats.  After starting their season against a rebuilding Colorado College program and Atlantic Hockey’s Sacred Heart, UNH, a team picked to finish 6th in the league, should prove to a step up in terms of competition for the Minutemen.

UNH is hoping to rebound from a disappointing weekend at home where they dropped a couple one goal games to the North Country teams of Clarkson and St Lawrence.  The trip to the Mullins Center on Friday will be the first game away from Durham for UNH after they opened the season with a dominant home win against AIC by the score of 7-3.

UNH’s problem so far seems to be goaltending.  Danny Tirone joined the Wildcats in mid-season last year and ended up being one of the prominent storylines for the team.  He went 9-4-0 in the second half of last season with a .924 save percentage.  Through three games this season though he’s made 78 saves on 88 shots on net, just a .886 save percentage.  Even in the AIC game he allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for a sub-.900 save percentage.  If Tirone is unable to get the job done in net for the ‘Cats, they’ll have to turn to freshman Adam Clark who had a .894 save percentage in 21 games last season.

Though the AIC game skews their statistics somewhat, UNH has been getting the job done offensively, averaging 4 goals per game so far.  They have matched their opponents in terms of shots on goal per game with 29.3, right around the national average.  It’s no surprise that Tyler Kelleher is among the top scorers so far for the Wildcats as he’s one of the best forwards in the league.  Kelleher led his team in points last year with 42 in 39 games and so far has 2 goals and 2 assists in their four games.  It is a little strange though to see senior Maxim Gaudreault as the top goal-scorer for UNH as the 3 goals already scored so far this season matches the amount he scored in 30 games last season.

There has been a lot of talk about the quality of UMass’ 3-0-0 start this week.  Some people have pointed to their easy schedule.  Others have said that their high shooting percentage (16.9%) or shots attempted differential (-67) shows that they’ve been “lucky” and that once they play tougher opponents their fortunes will turn.  It’s true that their shooting percentage will come down and they need to do a better job of possessing the puck, but I would argue there are other reasons why they’re winning.

They’ve gotten some solid individual efforts from the likes of Dennis Kravchenko, Austin Plevy, and Shane Walsh.  Those three have accounted for 11 of UMass’ 26 goals so far.  The team has also done a great job at converting their power play opportunities.  Their 33% power play conversion is tied for 5th best in the country so far.  Lastly, while UMass has allowed opponents to attempt a good number of shots, they’ve gotten very solid goaltending on the other end of those shots.  Nic Renyard and Henry Dill have an identical .938 save percentage so far this season, which is good for 17th best in the country.

UMass will probably have to do a better job in terms of possessing the puck against a talented, yet struggling UNH team this weekend.  But aside from that, I’m not sure I’d do too much differently if I were Coach Micheletto.  The team is playing extremely well right now and their success so far should allow them to play confidently in their league opener.  With the game at home a 4-0-0 start is within their grasp.  But in the long run starting off Hockey East with a 1-0-0 record may be more important.

Beer The Triangle
The merger of the Hangar and Amherst Brewing Company has not only made it a little easier to find a table and enjoy some wings pre or post-game, but it has helped relaunch ABC brewing.  After kicking off the new era with a very good IPA, Jess, the most recent addition to the ABC lineup is an aromatic wet hop brew, Chelsea.  Definitely worth a try.

Preview From UMass Athletics.

The Collegian has their preview of Friday’s game as well as this interesting piece on sophomore Dominic Trento and his start so far.

The Gazette has their preview.

For a UNH viewpoint, here’s the preview from the Foster’s Daily Democrat.

To get you psyched up for Friday’s matchup, here’s the UMass hockey intro video:

Preview ▲ Minutemen Return Home To Open Mullins Slate Against Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart Pioneers 0-0-1 (0-0-0) T-2nd Atlantic Hockey


Massachusetts Minutemen 2-0-0 (0-0-0) T-1st Hockey East

The Massachusetts hockey team will look to build off a very successful trip west where they gained two wins when they play their first home game on Friday against the Sacred Heart Pioneers.  The Minutemen swept the Colorado College Tigers in Colorado Springs last week thanks to offense outbursts from freshman Austin Plevy and senior Shane Walsh as well as some solid goaltending from the duo of Henry Dill and Nic Renyard.  UMass will look to stay undefeated on the young season against a Sacred Heart team that’s a little tough to read.


Weekend Preview ▲ Minutemen Head West To Open Season Against Colorado College

Colorado College Tigers 0-0-0 (0-0-0) T-1st NCHC


Massachusetts Minutemen 0-0-0 (0-0-0) T-1st Hockey East

The Massachusetts hockey program travels to the foot of the Rockies to open the 2015-16 season.  The Minutemen taking on the Colorado College Tigers to kick off the season won’t be seen as one of the marquee opening weekend matchups, but it is a very interesting one.  And while I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying whatever happens this weekend will be a precursor to the entire season, it should at least give UMass fans a glimpse of what the team may be capable of in the early going.


Game Preview ▲ What To Watch For Versus Dalhousie

Normally FTT game previews are an in-depth look at the opponent, their strengths and weaknesses, and what the Massachusetts hockey will need to do to gain a win.  For Saturday’s exhibition game against Dalhousie however I’m much more concerned with the Minutemen.  I don’t really care if they get the win or not, as long as they play well.  So let’s take a brief look at the Dalhousie Tigers, but focus more on a few things UMass fans should keep an eye out for with the Minutemen taking the ice for the first time this season.


UMass Travels To Notre Dame For Hockey East Playoffs; Pöck Named To UMass Hall Of Fame

Notre Dame

12 Massachusetts Minutemen 10-21-2 (5-16-1)


5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 15-16-5 (10-7-5)

The Massachusetts Minutemen could’ve been on a bus to Boston this weekend to take on the Northeastern Huskies but last week’s loss to UConn means they’ll have to fly to the Midwest for their opening playoff series.  UMass will take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the best of three Octofinals in the newly formulated Hockey East playoff system.  Pulling off an upset over the 5th seeded Irish will be a tough task for the Minutemen, who have won consecutive games just once this season.



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