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Polls & Awards

Not unexpectedly UMass is no longer receiving any votes in this week’s USCHO poll.  Providence dropped from third place to #5 with their opening weekend split at Ohio State.  Boston College dropped three spots to #7 after losing to Lowell, who was the big winner in the polls this week, jumping from #17 to #9.  With their decisive win over the Minutemen Boston University improved 6 spots to #14.  All in all 10 difference Hockey East teams are receiving votes in the polls, only UMass and UConn are not.

And here’s the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll.

No mentions for UMass in this week’s Hockey East awards.

I missed this last week, but College Hockey News had their Hockey East Preview.

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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.

2013 FTT Awards

Time to hand out some hardware (if I actually had real hardware and it wouldn’t be considered some kind of booster violation by the NCAA to hand it out).

▲ Fear The Triangle Player of the Year

I try to make this one simple.  Win or lose I pick a player of the game when I write my recaps.  Sometime it’s an obvious choice, sometimes not so much.  Sometimes it’s dictated by stats, sometimes it could be something intangible I saw.  Sometimes it’s for a specific play or sometimes it’s for the entire effort.  For my Player of the Year Award I add up each of those individual Player of the Game awards and that’s the winner.  Luckily in the four years I’ve been doing this I’ve never had to break a tie.  And that’s the case this year as senior co-captain Rocco Carzo led all other players with five POTG honors.

As I mentioned in my post for the seniors, Carzo’s career at UMass has come full circle.  This season he was able to make huge contributions on offense while also playing the same solid defense that we saw the last two years.  His nine goals were 4th best on the team and also tied for 4th in terms of total points.  Those nine goals also matched the amount he had scored in his previous three years combined.  But it was his consistent two way play that really helped the Minutemen this year, regularly having to go up against the best opposing players.

Here was the final count of the 2012-13 Player of the Game selections:

Carzo 5
Pereira 4
Gracel 4
Mastalerz 4
Allen 3
Guzzo 2
Rowe 2
Boyle 2
Hanley 2
LaRue 2
Walsh 1
Power 1
Czepiel 1
Sheary 1

 

▲ Fear The Triangle Newcomer of the Year

My preseason pick for this award was K.J. Tiefenwerth given his production in the EJHL.  But junior league performance isn’t always the best judge of how a player will do in college and the fact that I’m choosing Shane Walsh for this award shows that.  It was unknown just what kind of impact Walsh would have when he got to UMass.  He didn’t put up a ton of points in the USHL (28 in 72 games) and it appeared that guys like Tiefenwerth and Evan Stack would be more likely to contribute right away.  But that wasn’t the case.  When Walsh hit the ice in the Fall he immediately looked like he belonged out there.  He got his first goal against Boston University in just his third game and the next time out assisted on Darren Rowe’s game winning goal versus New Hampshire.  He missed most of the games in November due to injury and even at that early point in his career his presence in the lineup was missed.  By the end of the year he was a key part of the power play and noticeably improved along the way.  All in all Walsh ended the year with three goals and eight assists, numbers he’ll be expected to build upon during his sophomore year.

▲ Fear The Triangle Breakout Player of the Year

Branden Gracel had already been an integral part of the UMass offense through his first two years, totaling 11 goals and 23 assists.  However I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted the type of season he was going to have this past year.  He led the team in goals (14), assists (20), plus/minus (+7), game winning goals (3), and shots (104).  His total points were 6th best among Hockey East players and he was 9th in goal scoring.  And then we get to probably his best skill; faceoffs.  While his 59.5% faceoff winning percentage was technically second in the conference behind UNH’s John Henrion, Gracel was at the dot 682 times compared to Henrion’s 153.  Gracel’s 406 faceoff wins was 10th best in the country.  Gracel’s season was nothing short of spectacular and is the favorite to be named MVP when team awards are handed out next month.

I won’t be doing any more recruit updates as I want to concentrate on my season recap posts.  However I did want to point out something I noticed on Chris Heisenberg’s recruiting site.  All four of the recruits who committed to former coach Toot Cahoon are now designated to come to Amherst in 2014 or 2015.  Mark Hamilton and Mike Iovanna were previously designated on the site to arrive next fall while Willy Smith and Casey Miller were designated for 2014.  Obviously when a coaching change takes place the status of the recruits is put into flux.  I have heard that one recruit had his scholarship offer withdrawn and was invited to walk-on.  I’m not sure if that’s what is happening here with everyone and the players are being given time to decide if they want to take that option or go elsewhere.  Or they could be asked to play a year of juniors to prove themselves before the scholarship is confirmed.  We’ll see.  Also changing on the site is Dennis Kravchenko is now due in Amherst this fall.  Previously it said 2013 or 2014.

Dick Baker had this feature in the Republican on Holyoke’s Kevin Czepiel ending his UMass career.

Merrimack Recap

Personally I thought the effort was there for the Massachusetts Minutemen in their game against Merrimack yesterday.  But the execution was, frankly, very poor and as a result UMass lost 4-2.  The loss is their 7th straight at Lawler Arena.  The team didn’t look good offensively, generating a season low 18 shots on the night, or defensively as a number of key mistakes led to easy Warrior goals.  The only aspects of the game that UMass excelled in were goaltending and the penalty kill.

The most glaring issue yesterday was the lack of offense.  UMass managed just three shots on net in the first period.  Some of that was due to the fact that they were on the penalty kill for over seven minutes, no thanks to a terrible major and game misconduct called on Conor Allen. But in the second when UMass had three power plays to Merrimack’s one they still only accumulated five shots, just one in six minutes of having the extra man.  Desperation in the third forced them to be more aggressive and put 10 shots on net, but goaltender Sam Marotta would save them all.  In the end only Branden Gracel (4), Kevin Czepiel (3), and Steven Guzzo (2) had more than one shot on net.

Defensively, a number of key mistakes did in UMass on the night.  Losing Allen to a bad contact to the head call in the first period did not help.  That left just five defenseman for the team for much of the game, one of which being Peter DeAngelo who was playing just his second game on the blueline.  DeAngelo made some mistakes, but luckily they did not lead to any goals.  However, you have to wonder if Mike Busillo should’ve been out there and dressed.  Busillo has a team leading +7 rating currently and the team’s record is 9-6-1 when he plays and 1-7-1 when he doesn’t.  Perhaps coach Micheletto is unaware of those stats, which would be disappointing.  Or perhaps he doesn’t care and will fill out his lineup as he sees fit.  If that’s the case, I don’t think he’s putting the players on the ice who give the team the best chance to win.  And the stats support that.

Busillo likely would’ve been a defensive upgrade from DeAngelo, who has not played terrible at the position but is still noticeably learning how to play the new role, or Darren Rowe, who had a game he’d like to forget.  Rowe was on the ice for all four of Merrimack’s goals, three of which came directly as a result of his being out of position or a misplay of his.  It’s known that Rowe is not the strongest defenseman on the squad, but when he’s contributing offensively and playing adequate defense he’s able to negate that potential defensive liability.  Yesterday was one of the games when that wasn’t the case.

There were only a few positives yesterday.  Kevin Boyle was certainly one of them, making a season-high 37 saves on the night and keeping the game close throughout.  Branden Gracel got the ultimate revenge on referees Kevin Shea and Chris Federico for the piss-poor misconduct call on Allen by scoring probably the prettiest goal of the season.  I won’t try to describe it, just check out the highlights (and lowlights) at the bottom of the post.  Eddie Olczyk scored his second goal of the season, a nice wrister thanks to a great feed from Zack LaRue.

Not getting any points this past weekend hurts because UMass now has Maine and Vermont breathing down their neck.  In 8th place, Vermont is just one point behind and Maine is two points back.  The Minutemen do have a game in hand on those two, but the prospect of missing the Hockey East playoffs is still very possible with just four weekends of hockey left.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Kevin Boyle
Gracel had the play of the game but Boyle was the only reason UMass even had a chance to win this game.

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Recap from the Republican.

Here’s the game story from the Eagle-Tribune.

Boyle’s 37 saves were unfortunately not enough to get him recognized as a Top Performer by Hockey East.

Lowell, this weekend’s opponent, is ranked 14th in this week’s polls.

Pereira Named Hockey East Co-Player of the Week

For his dominating performance against Boston University this past weekend Mike Pereira was named Hockey East Co-Player of the Week.  Pereira had a couple goals to go with a couple assists in the 5-1 win on Friday.  Pereira shared the honor with fan favorite Joey Diamond of Maine.  Branden Gracel and K.J. Tiefenwerth were named Top Performers.

Hockey East has five teams ranked this week as Saturday’s opponent, Merrimack, has broken into the USCHO top 20.

Northeastern will be coming into the Mullins Center on Friday feeling good about themselves after they beat BU earlier tonight to advance to the Beanpot Final next week.

Recruit Update; Anderson Makes NHL Debut

Ben Gallacher – D – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) – 2013 (transfer)
17 GP / 2 G / 6 A / 8 Pts / 34 PIM / +8
Gallacher didn’t play last weekend.

Mark Hamilton – D – Salisbury School Crimson Knights (NE Prep) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Hamilton is back playing with the Knights. I hope to have some updated stats soon.

Marc Hetnik – D – Vernon Vipers (BCHL) – 2013
39 GP / 1 G /7 A / 8 Pts / 34 PIM
Hetnik had an assist in his most recent game played.

Mike Iovanna – RW/C – Malden Catholic Lancers (MA High School) – 2013
14 GP / 6 G /9 A /15 Pts
Iovanna continues to average over a point a game.

Dennis Kravchenko – LW – Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) – 2013 or 2014
33 GP / 14 / 21 A / 35 Pts / 74 PIM / +11
Kravchenko had four assists in two games this past weekend.

Patrick Lee – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2014
46 GP / 18 G / 24 A / 42 Pts / 20 PIM
Lee had a a couple assists last weekend.

Casey Miller – C – Kimball Union (NE Prep) – 2014
15 GP / 4 G / 12 A / 16 Pts
Will update the prep players when I can get my hands on up to date stats.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
26 GP / 3 G / 5 A / 6 Pts / 12 PIM
Smith had two goals in his last three games, including a shorthander.

Frank Vatrano– LW/C – Junior Bruins (EJHL) – 2013
19 GP / 13 G / 9 A / 22 Pts / 22 PIM
Vatrano will be on campus for Spring semester.

Matt Anderson made his NHL debut tonight as the Devils took on the Bruins and played well in his 6+ minutes of action.  Anderson was the captain of the 2007 Massachusetts team that upset Clarkson in the NCAA tournament.  He’s the third Minuteman to make his NHL debut this season, joining Mike Kostka, a teammate from that 2007 team, and Matt Irwin.  It’s been a long road for Anderson to the NHL, as he makes his first NHL roster at 30 years old.  But it was a tough road for him at UMass where he lost a season and a half to injury.  But all that hard work paid off when he took to the Garden ice tonight.

College Hockey News has UMass at #7 in their Hockey East power rankings.

No UMass players were recognized in this week’s Hockey East release.

Boston University comes into Friday’s game ranked #11 in the country.

Gracel Named Co-Player of the Week, UMass Named Team of the Week

Branden Gracel was named Hockey East Co-Player of the Week for his two goal, one assist effort against #2 Boston College on Friday.  This is the second time Gracel has been named POTW.  He has already matched his last year point total with 21 and his 10 goals is well above the 7 scored last season.

The Minutemen as a whole were named the conference’s Team of the Week for their performance this weekend.  Steve Mastalerz and K.J. Tiefenwerth were both named Top Performers.

Despite falling to unranked UMass BC only dropped a spot in this week’s polls, thanks in part to the 9-3 drubbing they put on Northeastern on Saturday.

Mike Kostka made his NHL debut on Saturday, gaining an assist in the game.  I watched a good part of the game and he looked solid, playing on a pairing with Dion Phaneuf.  The Toronto Sun has this article on his journey to his first NHL game.

Matt Irwin made his NHL debut yesterday for the Sharks, finishing a +1.

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