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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.

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Massachusetts Hockey 14-15 Season Preview

John Micheletto arrived to coach Massachusetts hockey twenty seven months ago and in his two seasons behind the bench has led the team to a couple disappointing second to last finishes in Hockey East.  But like Mark McGuire I’m not here to talk about the past.  And as Bill Belichick would say, “We’re onto Boston University.”  This season represents a bit of a reset for Mick and the coaching staff.  Being hired so late in the Summer initially, they had no chance to affect the first recruiting class that came to Amherst under their watch.  Last year they were able to land guys like Ray Pigozzi and and Steven Iacobellis who clearly were well suited for the style of play the staff is implementing and contributed from the very start.  This season we’ll truly get an idea for what Mick is trying to do in Amherst as he’ll have 10 freshmen that he has recruited coming in.  While the returning veterans will still have a major role on the team, it is the freshmen and the other recruits from the current staff that will determine just how well the team performs this year.

Offense

The Minutemen lose a lot of their scoring from last year, when they were 10th in the league in scoring with 2.24 goals per game.  The team returns just 43% of their goals and an even less percentage of their total points.  Multiple players are going to have to make up for the goals lost for Branden Gracel, Conor Sheary, and Mike Pereira graduating.  Iacobellis (11 G, 10 A) and Pigozzi (5 G, 13 A) will have to avoid the sophomore slump and build on their strong freshman campaigns.  It’ll be interesting to see what senior captain Troy Power does after his breakout season last year, scoring 10 goals after netting no more than two in any of his prior seasons.  It seems odd to include Frank Vatrano as one of the returners but he did play that ONE game I guess.  But he has the reputation as a scorer after his time with the US National Development team and by practicing with the team for the last one and a half seasons he should be well versed in the system.  After those four, it’ll likely fall on the freshmen to generate scoring at the forward position.

The exhibition game gave fans a little taste of what the freshmen are capable of.  Dennis Kravchenko grabbed the headlines with his two goal performance.  He’s shown  he’s capable of putting up numbers over an entire season, scoring 63 points in 56 games in the USHL a couple years ago.  Despite not getting on the stat sheet Mick praised the play of Patrick Lee after Saturday’s exhibition and for good reason.  He consistently moved the puck well and seemed to know where he needed to be in the play.  It’ll be interesting to what he’ll do with a full season in front of him after being injured for most of last year.  In his last full season of juniors he had 23 goals and 32 assists in 58 games. Dominic Trento put up a ton of points last season in the USPHL.  67 to be exact.  Being the youngest of the freshmen, it may take Anthony Petrella a little longer to adjust to the college game, but he has the reputation to be a potentially prolific goalscorer.  The word on him is that his size, not his skill, is what kept higher profile programs from bringing him in.  UMass has had much success in the past with undersized forwards as James Marcou and T.J. Syner can attest.

With Mick’s style of play it’s not just the forwards who can be counted upon to bear the scoring load.  Jake Horton showed as much in Saturday’s exhibition with his goal and 12 shots.  Though fans did not get to see him on Saturday, Maddison Smiley has also shown to be a force offensively, scoring 36 goals over the last two seasons in juniors.  It will be interesting to see how Ben Gallacher does in his second season at UMass.  His 10 assists were valuable last year but it seems as though we still haven’t seen his ceiling yet.  And in December UMass fans should get their first look at Brandon Montour, the reigning USHL Player of the Year whose skills are good enough that the Anaheim Ducks took him in the second round of this past June’s draft.  Last season with Waterloo Montour had 14 goals and 48 assists in 60 games.

Defense

There are probably three equally weighted question marks about this team; their youth, the amount of scoring they must replace, and lastly their defense.  Last year the team was second to last in Hockey East in scoring defense, giving up 3.12 goals per game.  Lost from last year’s squad is Colin Shea, Joel Hanley, and Anthony Raiola.  That puts a lot of pressure on the returners and the freshmen alike.  Seniors Oleg Yevenko and Mike Busillo will be relied upon to lead the young defensive squad that will start at least three underclassmen.  Yevenko kept himself very busy over the summer, first playing for his native Belarus in the IIHF World Championships, then gaining an invite to the Boston Bruins development camp.  He’ll be key to UMass’ defense this year, needing to break up plays with his size and long reach all while staying out of the penalty box.  Busillo has found himself in the stands off and on during his career at UMass despite having one of the better plus/minus stats on the team.  There’s a good chance that changes this year if he can consistently bring the dependable though not overly flashy play that has marked his better games in the past.

Yevenko and Busillo are the only two UMass blueliners who have spent multiple years at UMass. Already mentioned was Gallacher’s contributions on offense, but he absolutely will have to improve on defense in his second year since transferring from Ohio State.  His –22 rating was dead last in all of Hockey East.  Whether that’s due to being a little too aggressive on offense or still adjusting to the speed of Hockey East after spending a year in juniors, I don’t know.  The depth at defense last year meant that current sophomores Brennan Baxandall and Marc Hetnik only dressed for about 2/3rds of the games.  Hetnik in fact played a number of games at forward, though Micheletto said on this week’s radio show that he expects him to slide back to defense this season.  I found Baxandall to be a very reliable blueliner in the games in which he played.  Beyond that on the blue line it will come down to the defensive abilities of Smiley, Horton, and Montour, all very offensive minded defenseman.  They’ll have to be careful not to pinch in too much and risk breakaways going the other direction.  Grinders like Shane Walsh and Zack LaRue will be relied on to shift back to defense in those cases in addition to getting gritty in the corners.

Goaltending

With all the youth on the team it’ll be a huge benefit to have a senior goaltender coming back.  The word around the team is that Steve Mastalerz is not only in the best health in his time in Amherst, shaking off the nagging injuries that has limited his play in his career, but is also in the best physical shape as well in terms of conditioning.  It didn’t hurt that he spent part of his summer at Pittsburgh Penguins training camp stopping shots of future NHLers and getting top notch instruction.  Mastalerz has shown he can play big in big games, such as his shutout against Boston College as a freshman and topping BC again as a sophomore when they were ranked #2 in the country and playing at home.  I think we’ll see those type of performances more consistently this year and hopefully he’ll be able to minimize the impact of all the inexperience in front of him.

Backing up Mastalerz will be returner Alex Wakaluk and freshman Henry Dill.  There was hope Wakaluk was coming to Amherst as a goaltending diamond in the rough after being the top player in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.  But his struggles in adjusting to Hockey East play were immediate and overwhelming and he ended up falling to third on the depth chart behind Mac Haight, who has since left the program.  But Wakaluk kept battling in practice and when he got another chance later in the season, coming into a disaster of a game at Lowell, he put in a pretty good performance.  In the end he was named Most Improved Player at the team banquet for fighting through adversity.  Dill is a bit of a question mark.  He rotated in net last year while playing in the NAHL with both of the goaltending pair putting up solid numbers all year.  He had the highlight save in the exhibition with a lightning fast glove on a breakaway.  But it remains to be seen whether he ultimately has the skills to be a starter in Hockey East.

Coaching

Coach Micheletto came to Amherst wanting to put in place a very aggressive, offensive style of play that extended all the way back to the defensemen.  That was very different from how previous coach Toot Cahoon approached the game and often the style of play seemed a total mismatch for the skill set of the players that Cahoon had assembled on the team.  Still, Micheletto stuck with his system, seeming to sacrifice potential wins in his first couple years to teach the players his style and build for the future over short term success.  Well, the future starts this year.  2/3rds of the roster were recruited by Mick and his staff.  And even some of the holdovers from the previous staff have flourished under his style of play, such as Troy Power.  What you’ll see is the roster is full of small, quick, offensively minded, puck handlers.  Interesting to note that out of the nine freshman only one is six foot or taller; goaltender Henry Dill.  Mick’s style of play started to pay dividends last year, as seen by the Minutemen’s power play results, second best in Hockey East behind Boston College.  With more of his type of weapons at his disposal UMass will have to migrate that extra man success to five on five situations, where the Minutemen struggled mightily last season.  It’ll also be key for the squad to make sure to support Mastalerz and the other goaltenders enough so they can gain the 3-2 wins instead of dropping the 4-3 losses.

Schedule

The Minutemen have a relatively favorable schedule.  It’ll have a lot of familiarity to it since they play five non-conference games against Hockey East foes due to the ridiculousness that has become the league schedule.  The team only takes one trip outside of New England and that will be next weekend to take on a Michigan State team that continues to struggle under coach Tom Anastos.  UMass will play AIC at the Mullins, hopefully to avenge last year’s embarrassing loss.  They’ll also expand their annual game against Quinnipiac to a home and home series occurring over Thanksgiving weekend.  After Christmas they’ll head up to Burlington to take part in the Catamount Cup, playing Providence and Air Force.  UConn is on this year’s slate again, but this time as a league opponent.  Originally the schedule had the teams playing a home and home in the final weekend of the regular season but the opportunity for a televised basketball game at the Mullins necessitated UMass to move the home game to early January.  One game to keep an eye on will be a Tuesday night game against Northeastern in December.  On paper that doesn’t sound all that exciting but media reports continue to say Montour will be eligible on December 16th, the day UMass takes on the Huskies.  Will he suit up the very first day he’s eligible?  I guess we’ll have to see.

Outlook

So when I picked Massachusetts to finish 11th in my Hockey East preview last week I said I reserved the right to change my prediction after I saw the team play last weekend.  Maybe I’m putting too much credence in an exhibition game.  Maybe I’m desperate to  have something, anything to be optimistic about.  Maybe it’s the Heady Topper I’m currently drinking.  But I’m going to say that UMass finishes 10th ahead of Merrimack and UConn.  Granted, 10th still doesn’t sound super exciting but given all the question marks around this team (specifically youth, roster turnover, and defensive depth) I think it’s fair.  However I think the team is very capable of overachieving, or underachieving, against those expectations.  I’ve said since early Summer that I think this team can win anywhere between 5 and 15 games and I’m sticking by that projection.  That means roughly that they could finish anywhere from 7th to 12th in Hockey East.

On paper this team reminds me A LOT of the 2010-2011 team.  That team featured a large and talented freshman class, highlighted by the likes of Mike Pereira, Joel Hanley, and Conor Sheary.  In goal was a sturdy and dependable netminder in Paul Dainton.  And the defense was very thin in terms of upperclassmen.  In fact Doug Kublin was the only upperclassmen blueliner on the roster that year.  Now that team played a lot of exciting games and the freshmen made huge contributions in terms of scoring and defense.  That team battled nearly every night and performed well even against power opponents.  But they did not win may games.  Just six to be exact.  6-23-6, finishing second to last in Hockey East.  But they battled.  In addition to the six ties they had there were 14 games where they either lost by a single goal or by a two goal margin aided by an empty net goal.  So in 20 of their games they had a legitimate chance to win.  I think this year’s squad could be a lot like that one.

They key to how successful the team can be this year clearly comes down to the freshman.  You’re not going to see this class get listed among the top in the country, but it is a talented class.  When you add in the offensive prowess of the defensemen, this class has scored a lot of goals in their young careers.  And remember, Frankie Vatrano might as well be included in any talk of newcomers to the team.  What I think is equally important is this class has won.  Won championships.  Smiley and Lee’s Bandits had an regular season record of 53-4-3 in 2012-13.  That’s not a typo. 53-4-3.  After Smiley led them to the AJHL championship as playoff MVP they then went on to play the best of the other Canadian junior leagues and beat them too.  Trento led his Hitmen to a EJHL championship as playoff MVP as well.  Petrella was the leading goal scorer for a prep school powerhouse that won a USA Hockey national championship.  Keith Burchett won an Illinois state championship.  Dennis Kravchenko not only captured a New England prep title with Steve Mastalerz in net, he captained Team USA to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships last fall.  The coaching staff has assembled a class of hockey players who know how and expect to win.  They’ll now work to turn the Minutemen program into a winning program.  Hopefully that starts this year.

Evan Stack was not mentioned in the above preview.  It was announced over the weekend that Stack has retired from hockey due to continued issues with concussions.  It must be unbelievably tough to hang up the skates while still in the prime of your career, but I have tremendous respect for Stack to come to that difficult decision.  Concussions are nothing to mess around with and better he assure that he make sacrifices now to assure he can live a fulfilling life down the road.  I admired his grit in his time playing for UMass and he’ll be missed.

This is also a good opportunity to inform readers of The Knockout Project, the work of a UMass fan and friend of mine to raise awareness of the dangers of concussions in sport.  Again, nothing to mess around with.  I welcome athletes, parents, and anyone else to click on the link and become better informed on a subject that is on the forefront of sports today.

Yesterday I wrote about Austin Plevy’s commitment to UMass for next fall.  Good news today as Over The Board, a great website covering junior players and commitments, reported that Plevy will be eligible to play immediately for UMass due to his NLI never being processed by Merrimack.  He’ll have a full four years of eligibility.

In other recruit news Brandon Egli was traded from Victoria to Vernon in the BCHL.

Mike McMahon ranked the Hockey East recruiting classes with UMass’ coming in at 8th.  I was thinking/hoping around 6th personally but he’s put a lot more research into it so I won’t argue.  He has Montour as one of his Fab Five.

Plevy Commits To UMass; Recruit Update

The Massachusetts hockey program picked up a commitment for next fall from Austin Plevy.  Plevy currently plays for the….wait for it….Brooks Bandits.  The Bandits are of course also the team where future Minutemen Shane Bear and Kylie Nachtigall are playing and where current freshmen Patrick Lee and Maddison Smiley had much success.  Plevy has five goals and 10 assists in 10 games for a team leading 15 points for Brooks.  He was just named AJHL Player of the Week.  Plevy has been playing junior hockey north of the border since 2009 with his best statistical season a 30 goal, 43 assist effort while appearing in 54 games with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL in 2012-13.

Plevy started the year at Merrimack where he was their top offensive recruit.  However, for unreported reasons Plevy left North Andover just days into the semester and returned to Canada.  Because Plevy signed a NLI with Merrimack and was enrolled in the school, it could complicate exactly when he’d be eligible to play for the Minutemen.  Mike McMahon has reported that Warrior coach Mark Dennehy plans on holding Plevy to his NLI and will not grant him a waiver.  Though these rules are never simple, McMahon contends that Plevy would have to sit a year at his new school and would only have three years of eligibility starting in fall of 2016.  That is my understanding of the rules as well.  However, there are always appeals to be heard, forms to be filled out, and red tape to unwind.  The UMass staff will certainly do what they can do to have Plevy in uniform next year so it should not be ruled out.

Let’s add Plevy to the recruit list and see how next year shapes up with his addition.

Brandon Montour – D – Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) – Dec 2014
3 GP / 0 G / 4 A / 4 Pts / 2 PIM / +1
Montour had a couple two assist games last week.

Brandon Egli – D – Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) – 2015
2 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Egli did not play this past week so he may be battling an injury.

Jake McCarthy – D – South Shore Kings (USPHL) – 2015 or 2016
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
McCarthy was reported to have joined the Kings for the season but it doesn’t appear that he’s played any games yet.

Kurt Keats – C – Powell River Kings (BCHL) – 2015
6 GP / 4 G /4 A / 8 Pts / 2 PIM
Keats had a two assist game this past week.

Austin Plevy – C – Powell River Kings (BCHL) – 2015
10 GP / 5 G /10 A / 15 Pts / 18 PIM
Aside from the offensive production mentioned earlier, 18 PIM in 10 games is certainly eye catching.

Troy Conzo – RW – Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL) – 2016 or 2017
1 GP / 0 G /0 A /0 Pts / 0 PIM
Conzo did not play last week

Kyler Nachtigall – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
10 GP / 1 G / 2 A / 3 Pts / 23 PIM
Nachtigall had a game misconduct in the one game he played in this past week.

Shane Bear – D – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
10 GP / 0 G / 5 A / 5 Pts / 10 PIM
Bear had an assist the past week.

Ty Pelton-Byce – C – Team Wisconsin U18 (Elite)/Madison Memorial (WI HS) – 2016
12 GP / 9 G / 9 A / 18 Pts / 8 PIM  Team Wisconsin U18
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts  Madison Memorial
A couple readers were nice enough to pass along that Pelton-Byce plays for Team Wisconsin U18 before the HS hockey season.  Last year he helped Team Wisconsin U16 to a national championship.  He’s currently the leading scorer for the U18 team.

John Leonard – F – Springfield Cathedral (MA HS) – 2017
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Leonard might be playing junior hockey until HS hockey starts as well like Pelton-Byce.  But if that’s the case I haven’t been able to track down where.

Captain Troy Power’s latest installment of his blog covers last week’s exhibition game and the typical game day routine.

Speaking of commitments, decommitments, and NLIs, Mike McMahon wrote a must read piece on the “gentleman’s agreement” in college hockey.  The gentleman’s agreement is was the promise that coaches would stop recruiting a player once he had verbally committed to another school.  I say was because some schools have chosen to abandon the agreement and will pursue other players right up until they sign their NLI.  Now if those schools were UAH and Robert Morris it would be a huge issue.   But the coaches who have publicly said they’re no longer honoring the agreement are Jerry York of Boston College, Don Lucia of Minnesota, and Mike Eaves of Wisconsin.  Obviously if those elite schools are recruiting kids beyond their commitment to another school there’s a good chance they’ll be successful.

Coach Micheletto is quoted in the article, saying the agreement “has become difficult”.  I agree.  I think the agreement is a positive for all schools in the small community that is college hockey.  However it needs 100% adherence to be effective.  And to have the top teams in DI not abiding by it, the rest of the schools who are are artificially handcuffing themselves in the process.  Teams like BC and Minnesota have enough ingrained advantages in college hockey as it is.  They don’t need to poach the recruits of schools who have agreed not to reciprocate.  So in my opinion if York and Lucia are going to play by a different set of rules, I say hell with the agreement.

Winter Is Coming…

Yes, Fear The Triangle is back in business and you can thank Game of Thrones for that.  Really.  First, let’s back up a bit to about 21 months ago when I first announced the blog going on permanent hiatus.  With impending fatherhood and homeownership on the horizon I figured I would have a tough time just following the team much less watching games and then trying to keep other fans up to date.  I was partly right.

In April I bought a house on the South Shore and a couple months later my beautiful daughter arrived, punctually arriving on her due date to the overwhelming joy of myself and my wife.  I thought the baby and the house would encompass every last minute of my life, and they kind of do, but at the same time you still can juggle stuff around for some free time or just incorporate them into the rest of your life as best you can.  So there were many times last season when I sat with my infant daughter on my lap while watching UMass hockey streaming on my computer.  But other times I was able to sneak away for a few hours and make the trip out to Amherst to see the team in person.  And a couple times my wife and I took the baby to the game where she saw a win in her very first game and didn’t even cry when she met creepy gray Sam.  Not surprisingly, my 15 month old daughter already recognizes and points out the UMass logo wherever she finds it.  As for the house I quickly learned that I’m incapable of doing even basic maintenance so mostly I keep myself busy as a homeowner by complaining and waiting for the next bill to come in for all the stuff that goes wrong.

So while I was able to keep up with the team and how the season fared last year there’s still no way I would’ve been able to keep up with the blog.   In retrospect, I’m very glad I shut it down, even if only for just one year.  There were just too many midnight wake ups, constant feedings, crying (sometimes by me, sometimes by the baby), soothing, rocking, and a hundred other things going on to prevent me from logging on and spending hours writing about hockey.  But, things got better.  Soon the baby realized how to use her fingers and was able to start feeding herself.  Sleeping through the nights luckily started early on and regular naptimes soon followed.  Towards the very end of the hockey season I was soon finding I had some free time each night after the girl’s bedtime.

That newfound spare time was filled in the Spring when my wife and I squashed all four seasons of Game of Thrones into a month’s worth of binge watching.  Once that was completed I was hooked on the series and the characters and moved right on to reading the Song of Ice and Fire book series the show was based on.  That kept me busy all summer.  A couple weeks ago with only a few chapters left I started to wonder what I’d do to keep myself busy going forward.  I’ve never been one to spend my nights in front of the TV watching NCIS:Cleveland or whatever so it led me back here. So yes, Game of Thrones helped me realize that I had enough time to do this blog again.

I’m looking forward to writing about UMass hockey again and doing what I can to help other fans follow the team.  I’ll actually start writing about the team itself in the coming days, but it should be an interesting season to follow.  There are a ton of new players to get to know.  With those new players Coach Micheletto has a roster made up of players better suited to play his style of hockey.  UMass has a new Hockey East“rival” in UConn.  And there are a lot of interesting storylines within the conference itself, as evidenced by the fact that Providence is the team to beat.

One thing to keep in mind is that sequels, even the good ones, are rarely as good as the original.  That’s likely going to be the case with FTT 2.0.  While I do have some free time, I definitely won’t be able to put as much into this as I did during the first few years.  I wouldn’t get back into this if I didn’t think I’d be able to put enough into it to keep everyone informed and offer some insight.  But I still won’t be able to get to all the games, home and away, like I used to.  The previews and recaps may not be quite as long.  I might not have a weekly column every week.  But, I still think this will be the place for UMass hockey fans to come to know what’s going on with their team.  Especially since no other UMass hockey fan sites popped up in the last year and a half to fill the void anyway (looking at you Fight Mass boys).

I plan on keeping the format roughly the same:

  • Mondays:  Polls & Awards
  • Tuesdays:  Recruit Updates
  • Wednesday:  View From Section U Semi-Regular Column
  • Thursday/Friday:  Weekend Preview
  • Saturday/Sunday:  Weekend Recap

In the immediate future I plan to do a Hockey East preview, write a “what to watch for” ahead of this Saturday’s exhibition, write about the newcomers to the team, and of course write a season preview for the team itself.

So I guess that’s it.  I want to thank all the Minuteman fans out there who continued to tell me how much they enjoyed, and then missed, the blog.  You kept FTT at the forefront of my mind and helped me realize the tremendous reach this blog.  Hopefully FTT continues to be a place for the diehard fans to keep up with the team.  What I would really love is for the program to start to ascend in the Hockey East standings and FTT ends up being where all the bandwagon UMass fans come to learn the details and history of their newest favorite team.  Let’s hope the wheels on that bandwagon start rolling next Friday against Boston University.

Go UMass!

It was a bit surprising to find UMass in the Also Receiving Votes list of the first USCHO poll of the season, but that’s great recognition going into the season.

That wasn’t the case with the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll however.

Here are the details of this Saturday’s exhibition against Dalhousie from the CIS.  To my knowledge this will be the first time the exhibition game will be held in the Mullins Center.  Also, if you’re unable to make it the game will be broadcast on WHMP as well.

Weekend Games Postponed

For those who may have missed it, both of this weekend’s Massachusetts hockey games have been rescheduled due to the impending snowstorm.  Tomorrow night’s game against Northeastern has been postponed until Tuesday, February 19th at 7pm.  This gives those of us who travel from out of town the excuse to take the entire day off and enjoy a four day weekend. Saturday afternoon’s game at Merrimack has been pushed back to Sunday at 4pm.  The game was originally scheduled to be broadcast on NESN but that will no longer be the case, thereby robbing UMass of their one chance to be shown on regional/national TV this year.  Maybe next year Hockey East will be nice enough to give UMass a rare televised home game.

I hope everyone stays safe and has plenty of beer in stock in preparation of the incoming blizzard.

In some alumni news, Kevin Moore who dressed for an ECHL game in an emergency situation last month has been signed for the league’s Evansville Icemen.  There he’ll be in the familiar position of playing alongside Paul Dainton, who was assigned there recently from the Springfield Falcons.

Mike Marcou has been promoted to San Antonio of the AHL after a strong season at the ECHL that saw him make the All-Star squad.

Doherty Leaves Team

Freshman defenseman Connor Doherty has left the Massachusetts hockey team and has already joined up with his former junior team, the Junior Bruins.  Indeed, Doherty’s name no longer appears on the official roster.  He had not appeared in any games this season and was a late addition to this year’s freshman class, committing just weeks before former coach Toot Cahoon parted ways with the school.  He’ll play the rest of the season with the Junior Bruins, where he was an EJHL All-Star last season.  Good luck to him wherever he ends up continuing his hockey career.

This weekend’s opponent, Boston College, moved up a spot to #2 in the rankings despite splitting their series with New Hampshire this past weekend.  BC did announce that that the celebration of Jerry York’s historic win recently that was due to take place during Friday’s game has been postponed until he recovers from recent eye surgery.

No Minutemen were named Top Performers by the conference this past week, not even Darren Rowe after his three point night on Friday.

February 9th’s game at Merrimack, which will be televised on NESN, has been moved to 4pm to accommodate the Bruins broadcast that day.  I missed the fact that the game was ever moved from 7pm to 3:30 in the first place.

Yale Preview; Gillespie Decommits

Massachusetts Minutemen 5-8-2 (4-6-1)  T-5th Hockey East

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#15 Yale Bulldogs 6-3-2 (3-3-1)  T-5th ECAC

Massachusetts will look for a quick rebound from what was a completely wasted weekend with a rare non-Thanksgiving week Tuesday affair against #18 Yale.  The Minutemen are not the only team motivated to show they’re better than their most recent games however.  The Bulldogs surprisingly maintained their #15 ranking despite only gaining one point in this past weekend’s play as they got pounded by RPI 6-1 on Friday and tied Union 2-2 the next night.  Both teams will be looking to go into the winter break on a high note.

Prior to this last weekend’s struggles the Bulldogs were rolling on the season, with the highlight being a couple overtime wins out in the Centennial State against Denver and Colorado College.  They’ve been pretty balanced between offense and defense so far this year.  The Minuteman defense will have to look much better tomorrow if they want to shut down the likes Antoine Laganiere.  The senior forward has eight goals and six assists in just 11 games so far on the season, finding himself fourth in the country in goals per game.  UMass will also have to limit the chances of Kenny Agostino who has added six goals and seven assists on the  year.  The Yale power play has been converting at a rate of 17.5%.

Jeff Malcolm has been the better Bulldog goaltender so far this season, starting eight of 11 games and compiling a 2.45 GAA and .922 save percentage.  He did play both nights this past weekend so it’s unknown if he’d play again tomorrow.  Though he did not play the entire game on Friday as he was pulled after giving up five goals.  Yale may look to fellow senior Nick Maricic who has had a GAA of 3.91 and saved .855 percent of shots against in four games instead.  Yale does have a young defensive squad with only a single senior and junior among their regular defensemen.  Their penalty kill has been respectable, stopping 84% of their opponents extra man chances.

For UMass they’ll have to play much better in every aspect of the game if they want to pull off the upset.  And even that may not guarantee a win against a ranked team playing in their home barn.  I honestly don’t know what to say beyond that.  There’s way to much to address based on this past weekend’s performance to go into specifics.  This team absolutely needs to go into the break with a win.  Long term aspirations for this team get dimmer with each loss.  The third defeat in five days will make for a less than merry holidays for UMass players and fans alike.

Beer The Triangle
I had originally planned to make the trek down 95 to watch the team tomorrow, but sadly I’ll admit that their recent performances has made it tough to climb into the car mid-week to spend half a day on the road with a good chance of disappointment at the end.  However, for those who are making the trip, here are a couple places sure to add cheer to the visit to New Haven.  There are basically two beer bars I recommend around Yale.  Delaney’s Taproom is located on the northwest outskirts of New Haven.  I recommend trying some local City Steam if you haven’t before.  What I would consider the better of the two options is Prime 16, located right downtown and not too far from the Whale.  Get the Allagash Yakuza, you won’t be disappointed, and make sure to wash it down with one of their burgers.

So I recently learned that Kenny Gillespie, who first committed to UMass over two years ago, will not be coming to Amherst as planned next fall.  I don’t have any details to relay, however Chris Heisenberg’s recruiting site does confirm this information.  I wish Kenny luck wherever he ends up.

With Gillespie’s news UMass has now lost a player and a recruit within a week.  Honestly, I’m not too shocked by this as any coaching change will bring about attrition when it comes to the roster.  I’m honestly a little surprised it’s taken this long however.

The Republican has their preview of tomorrow’s game.  Interesting to note how rare this past weekend’s sweep was.  Maine was the last team to come in and take two from the Minutemen back in 2001.  Including that instance, UMass has only dropped two games at home in a single weekend four times since 2000.

Boston College has regained the top spot in this week’s USCHO poll, which has four different teams receiving first place votes.

No Minutemen were honored in this week’s Hockey East release, but you probably already guessed that.

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