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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.

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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.

Preview: Notre Dame Visits Amherst For Final Hockey East Games of 2014

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 6-8-2 (2-2-2) Hockey East T-6th


Massachusetts Minutemen 4-9-0 (1-7-0) Hockey East T-11th

The first part of the year probably hasn’t gone exactly how the Massachusetts hockey team and their fans would have wanted, gaining just one conference win through 8 games so far.  Though UMass will play Northeastern mid-month, that game against the Huskies will technically be a non-conference match.  That means this weekend’s visit by Notre Dame is the last chance to grab some Hockey East points before the holiday break.  The season to date has had its challenges, but there are a lot of factors that the Minutemen should find in their favor this weekend and it ends up being a significant opportunity to try to climb out of the Hockey East cellar.

First and foremost in UMass’ favor is that this Irish team is struggling mightily lately.  After dropping two games in the Icebreaker tournament to start the season the Domers seemed to get on track by pulling off five straight wins in October.  Once the calendar turned to November though things have gotten pretty bad for the Irish.  They come into the Mullins with a 1-6-1 record in their last eight.  They just finished in last place of their own Shillelagh Tournament last weekend.  In those eight games they’ve been outscored 3.50 goals to 1.50.  They’ve converted just one power play in their last 27 attempts for a 3.7% rate.  Their opponents meanwhile have converted 19.4% of their power plays in that time.  The team that UMass faces this weekend is flat out reeling.

Junior Mario Lucia is the leading goal scorer among all Hockey East forwards with 9 total.  However he’s a big reason why the Irish have struggled, scoring just once in the last eight games.  Junior Sam Herr has been their best scorer of late, netting 3 of his 6 total goals during recent games.  When looking at the season as a whole, not just the last 8 when they’ve struggled, Notre Dame has some similar numbers as UMass.  The Irish have scored 2.62 goals per game versus 2.69 for the Minutemen.  They’re generating 28.2 shots per game while the Minutemen have been averaging 26.5.  The power play is one key spot where the teams differ on offense.  While UMass has a relatively average power play at 13.5%, the 6.6% conversion rate for the Irish is second to last in the country.

Notre Dame has used two goaltenders regularly this season; sophomore Chad Katunar and freshman Cal Petersen, a 5th round draft pick by the Buffalo Sabres.  On the season they both have identical 3-5-1 records and relatively close save percentages; .916 for Katunar and .906 for Petersen.  However in this recent slide the Irish have found that Katunar has been the better goaltender with a .928 save percentage and 2.29 GAA versus .838 and 5.11 respectively for Petersen.  In front of those two UMass will have to keep an eye on blueline senior Robbie Russo, a solid two way defenseman drafted by the Islanders who is second on the team in points with 12 (5G, 7A).

The Minutemen have had a lot of different challenges which have seemed to hindered their ability to win this season.  Early on it was the amount of freshman on the roster and their inexperience that led to some inconsistent play and slow starts.  Then we had the annoying three state, three weekend road trip that some cited as resulting in fatigue that kept the team from gaining any points in Orono.  Then there was having to play five games in nine days which slowed them down in November.  But the reasons for UMass’ losing should be coming to an end.  The freshman should be well acclimated after two months in Hockey East and are already contributing regularly to the team’s fortunes.  The team will get to play at the Mullins Center two nights in a row with the only recent trip being a short drive down to Connecticut for the game against Quinnipiac last Friday, so road weariness isn’t a factor.  UMass’ defense and goaltending, which has been a liability off and on during the season, is coming off of two solid efforts in a row against a pretty good offensive team in the Bobcats.

When you consider all the above and add in a team that has struggled mightily and has won just one game on the road (a road that will require a plane flight for this weekend) and UMass has a lot of reason to be optimistic this weekend.  There’s a lot in their favor to think this can be a successful weekend for the Minutemen. Is three points an unreasonable expectation?  I don’t think so.  To do so we’ll have to see a lot of the same good things carry over from last weekend.  We saw a defense (defensemen and forwards)that suddenly was blocking shots left and right with Oleg Yevenko, Mike Busillo, and Steven Iacobellis all having season highs in that metric.  Henry Dill looked very solid in net, posting a .928 save percentage in the two games, and doing a great job of limiting second chance opportunities for the opponents.  On Friday we saw an offensive that was aggressive and attacking, forcing and capitalizing upon Quinnipiac miscues, and turning them into quality chances and goals.  We didn’t see that style nearly as much on Saturday unfortunately.  That attacking style has to be able to transfer over to the big home ice.  One consistent bright spot is that when this team gets on a rush, they’ve seemed to find the back of the net at a better rate than other recent UMass teams.  It’s imperative that the team continues to maintain puck possession while forcing turnovers on the other end to create those high probablility shots.  If they do so for both nights the team may find the Hockey East standings look noticeably different come Sunday.

Beer The Triangle
I’m overdue a trip to ABC.  A look at their beerlist shows they have a whole series of “Flack Briday” Russian Imperial Stouts on, including Barrel-aged, Vanilla, and Coffee & Bacon variations.  Yeah, that sounds pretty good.

Weekend Preview from UMass Athletics.  One interesting note is that Notre Dame last played in the Mullins Center on New Year’s Eve in 1994.  That game was the first win over a DI opponent for the triangle-clad Minutemen program that had been resurrected the year before.

Preview from Notre Dame Fighting Irish Athletics.

The Collegian has their preview of this weekend’s action as well as a feature on Frank Vatrano’s emergence as an offensive threat.

Weekend preview from the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Mike McMahon has his most recent Hockey East Stat Pack on The Mack Report.

With high school hockey about to start up in the commonwealth UMass commit and Springfield Cathedral player John Leonard is one of SBN College Hockey’s Preseason MIAA All-State Team members.

Recruit Update: Plevy Named AJHL Player of the Month, Keats And Bear Invited To Team Canada West Camp

Brandon Montour – D – Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) – T-Minus 14 Days
17 GP /6 G / 15 A / 21 Pts / 30 PIM /-11
I’m happy to report this is the last recruit update for Montour. He returned from suspension and had a good weekend, scoring two goals and grabbing an assist.  He had this to say on Twitter following the games:

Montour is expected to be in uniform two weeks from tonight when the Minutemen take on Northeastern.

Brandon Egli – D – Vernon Vipers (BCHL) – 2015
18 GP / 0 G /5 A / 5 Pts / 17 PIM
Egli had his best offensive week of the season with three assists in three games.

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
26 GP / 22 G / 15 A / 37 Pts / 43PIM
Keats had a goal and two assists in a couple games this week.  Keats is 2nd in the BCHL in goals, 5th in points, and 3rd in PPG.  Keats was invited to participate in the Team Canada West Selection Camp to participate in the World Junior A Challenge.  The camp will take place this weekend with the tournament taking place mid-month.  Keats was captain of the Team Canada West squad last year.  Future teammate Shane Bear was also invited.

Austin Plevy – C – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2015
28 GP / 20 G /29 A / 49 Pts / 48 PIM
When you have a four goal game followed by a three assist game, good things happen.  Like Plevy being named the AJHL Player of the Week and Player of the Month.  Plevy leads the AJHL in Points per game, goals, points, is second in assists and game winning goals.

Shane Bear – D – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
29 GP / 1 G / 15 A / 16 Pts / 37 PIM
Bear had a good offensive week for Brooks as well, scoring his first goal of the season to go with three assists in three games.  As mentioned, Bear will also be participating in the Canada Team West Selection Camp.

Troy Conzo – RW – Wenatchee Wild (NAHL) – 2016 or 2017
3 GP / 0 G / 0 A /0 Pts / 0 PIM / –2  Des Moines (USHL)
10 GP/ 2 G/ 1 A / 3 Pts / 2 PIM / +3 Wenatchee (NAHL)
Conzo was held pointless this past week.

Kyler Nachtigall – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
30 GP / 6 G / 7 A / 13 Pts / 39 PIM
Nachtigall had an assist this past week.

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
2 GP / 3 G / 1 A / 4 Pts  Madison Memorial
Madison Memorial’s season kicked off this past week.  Pelton-Byce already has three goals in two games.  His Spartans are listed as an honorable mention in the Wisconsin High School Hockey polls.

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.

Frank Vatrano’s goal from Friday, coming off a nice feed from Ray Pigozzi, was one of the top 5 Plays of the Week on NCAA.com.

Troy Power’s latest blog chronicles the last week of games and how the players spent their holiday.

Despite the split with Quinnipiac UMass is still last in the SBN College Hockey Hockey East Power Rankings.

Around Hockey East, Polls, & Awards

You’ll notice I keep tweaking the weekly Monday post and what it covers.  As readers if there’s something you’d find interesting or informative coming off a weekend of hockey, I’m always open to suggestions.

Last week at this time Boston University found itself atop the national USCHO rankings for the first time this season.  They went out the next night and dropped a 3-2 decision to Harvard.  After bouncing back with a home win over Colgate, they travelled to Dartmouth yesterday where they lost 2-0.  Needless to say, they will not be #1 when rankings are covered later in this post.  BU wasn’t the only victim of the suddenly resurgent Harvard squad.  The Crimson also took down the River Hawks 4-2 in Lowell on Saturday.  After outscoring UMass 14-2 in two games last week Vermont travelled up to Maine and swept the Black Bears by a combined score of 10-4.  The Catamounts now have the 7th best offense in the country.

Providence didn’t allow a goal this past week, shutting out Army 3-0 on Tuesday and then Boston College 1-0 on Saturday.  Merrimack swept Clarkson at home during the weekend.  This coming weekend’s opponent for UMass, Notre Dame, continues to struggle, losing 3-2 in overtime to Union on Friday and then getting shellacked at home by Ohio State, 5-1.  In addition to getting shutout by Providence, Boston College dropped a 6-2 decision to Minnesota on Friday.  The then #3 Gophers travelled to Northeastern the next night, losing a shocker 3-2.  UConn dropped a 1-0 decision at Brown in their only game on the weekend.  New Hampshire played only once this past week, a 2-1 loss last Tuesday to RPI.

With all that, here’s how the Hockey East standings look currently.  Vermont continues to lead, though they’ve played four more games than any other team.  Boston College now has a losing conference record and find themselves tied with Notre Dame for 6th.  Despite going winless in their first ten games, Northeastern has now won three of their last four with two of the victories coming in conference and are tied with UConn for 8th.  UMass is tied for last with New Hampshire, who has three games in hand on the Minutemen.

Conference     Overall
    GP W-L-T   PTS GF-GA     GP W-L-T GF-GA
1 Vermont 12 8-3-1   17 43-23     15 11-3-1 52-25
2 Boston University 8 6-1-1   13 33-16     13 9-3-1 44-25
3 Mass.-Lowell 7 5-0-2   12 28-10     14 8-3-3 51-36
4 Providence 8 5-3-0   10 12-10     13 7-5-1 24-24
5 Merrimack 7 4-3-0   8 16-13     15 10-4-1 41-27
6 Notre Dame 6 2-2-2   6 12-15     16 6-8-2 42-45
  Boston College 7 3-4-0   6 18-17     14 7-7-0 41-38
8 Northeastern 8 2-5-1   5 17-28     13 3-9-1 25-43
  Connecticut 6 2-3-1   5 11-14     14 3-7-4 22-32
10 Maine 8 2-6-0   4 20-31     15 3-11-1 32-55
11 New Hampshire 5 1-4-0   2 8-16     12 4-8-0 30-32
  Massachusetts 8 1-7-0   2 17-42     13 4-9-0 35-56

With BU losing two of three this past week we were likely going to get a top team in this week’s rankings.  That team is North Dakota.  Interesting to see that seven different teams are getting first-place votes currently, including #3 BU and #7 Lowell.  Vermont moved up two spots to #11.  Quinnipiac’s split with the Minutemen dropped them one spot to #15.  Providence’s two shutouts gained them four spots to #16.  Boston College at #17 is on the verge of dropping out of the rankings entirely, which would be very unfamiliar territory for them.  Merrimack on the other hand breaks into the polls this week at #18.

USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll

December 01, 2014

Team (First Place Votes) Record Points Last Poll
1 North Dakota (29) 10- 3-2 957 2
2 Minnesota State ( 5) 11- 3-0 830 7
3 Boston University ( 4) 9- 3-1 826 1
4 Miami 10- 4-0 789 5
5 Michigan Tech 12- 2-0 781 6
6 Minnesota ( 2) 8- 4-0 758 3
7 Massachusetts-Lowell ( 1) 8- 3-3 667 4
8 Minnesota-Duluth ( 3) 9- 5-0 652 8
9 Harvard ( 6) 7- 1-2 587 18
10 Denver 8- 3-0 564 10
11 Vermont 11- 3-1 562 13
12 Nebraska-Omaha 7- 3-2 456 11
13 Colgate 9- 5-1 397 9
14 Bowling Green 10- 3-1 366 15
15 Quinnipiac 9- 4-1 286 14
16 Providence 7- 5-1 221 20
17 Boston College 7- 7-0 159 12
18 Merrimack 10- 4-1 128 NR
19 Northern Michigan 8- 3-1 109 19
20 Robert Morris 8- 1-3 107 NR
Others receiving votes: St. Cloud State 104, Union 67, Yale 61, St. Lawrence 39, Michigan 9, Ferris State 7, Dartmouth 5, Penn State 4, Alaska 2.


When you don’t give up any goals on the weekend you get named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week, which is exactly what happened to Providence’s Jon Gilles.  Gilles has a league best .940 save percentage this season.

Northeastern’s Kevin Roy was named Player of the Week after scoring the game-winner against the Gophers.  Jarrid Privitera of Vermont was the Rookie of the Week after scoring three goals this past week, including the game winner against the Minutemen last Tuesday.

(Jr. F; Lac-Beauport, Que.)
Junior forward Kevin Roy fired home the game-winning goal against No. 3 Minnesota with 2:36 remaining in the third period to help Northeastern complete the 3-2 win Saturday night. The victory marked the Huskies’ 500th win at Matthews Arena. Warrior
(Fr. F; Old Tappan, N.J.)
Vermont was a perfect 3-0-0 last week thanks in part to the offense provided by rookie Jarrid Privitera. The forward from Old Tappan, New Jersey scored a goal in all three games, including the game-winner against Massachusetts on Tuesday and crucial insurance goals for the Catamounts in two non-league tilts at Maine. Pro Ambitions
(Jr. G; South Portland, Maine)
Gillies earns Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week accolades for the second time this season after going 2-0-0 on the week, shutting out both Army and No. 11 Boston College. The junior netminder made 65 saves over the weekend, including 43 in the Friars’ win over the Eagles for his third shutout of the season and the 12th of his career. Hockey East

- See more at: http://www.hockeyeastonline.com/men/pres1415/201412/dec1wr.php#sthash.7tKpHOlK.dpuf

Recap: UMass’ Offense Sputters As They Drop 3-1 Decision To #14 Quinnipiac

Whereas on Saturday the team played well in nearly all aspects of the their game on their way to a 3-2 win, that was definitely not the case last night.  While they got enough from their defense and goaltending to have a chance for victory, poor special teams and a complete inability to generate any offense against Quinnipiac resulted in a 3-1 loss that was not really as close as the score indicates.  The result drops to UMass to 4-9-0 on the season.  Probably more concerning is the Minutemen are now just 1-4-0 at home, with the lone win coming over AIC.

The story of this one is that UMass simply did not get enough shots on net.  They compiled just 18 shots on goal on the night, with a high of just 7 in the second period.  Even when adding back in the 8 blocked shots by Quinnipiac, the attacking, creative offense we saw the night before in Hamden just wasn’t there.  The lack of shots was despite 7 power play chances on the night.  They did convert on one of those opportunities, but even that was a bit of a flukey goal when the puck bounced strangely off the back boards to Frank Vatrano who was rushing in to put it in the back of the net.  Overall, Quinnipiac’s defense, one of the best in the country, completely stifled any and every UMass scoring chance.

Special teams was the other area that hurt the Minutemen greatly last night.  Already mentioned was the converting on just one of 7 power play chances.  The Bobcats got the go ahead and eventual game winning goal on a short-handed goal early in the third.  After keeping Quinnipiac’s power play off the board entirely the night before the Bobcats went 2 for 6 with the extra man on the night, accounting for their two other goals.

Defensively, outside of the penalty kill, the Minutemen looked OK.  Henry Dill put in another solid performance, making 27 saves a night after making 37 in the first game of the home and home.  He had a couple highlight saves, the most memorable for me being a stop where he quickly flashed his blocker to rob a Bobcat forward who had nearly the whole net open to him.  The defensemen and forwards in front of Dill did another solid job, blocking a season high 25 shots on the night.  The 30 shots registered plus the 25 additional that were blocked shows the dominance in terms of puck possession in favor of the Bobcats.

Overall, a split with a ranked team is a positive at this point in the season.  It’s too bad that they couldn’t put in a better performance at home yesterday to try to build off Friday’s big win.  With their poor record at the Mullins Center so far this season it makes you wonder if the big ice is actually working against the skill and strategy of the team.  It probably also doesn’t help that crowds are dwindling and there’s very little energy to spur the players when they play in Amherst.  Crowds will obviously be less when the students are home for break, but the 1900 fans at the games yesterday is less than the 2200 that this Saturday after Thanksgiving game has typically drawn in recent years.  And frankly, I thought that 1900 figure was pretty generous.  Since the athletic department seems reluctant to market or discount single game tickets, something that was very evident when many other Hockey East teams had Black Friday ticket promotions, it’ll fall on the players to create their own energy at home if the crowds stay away.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Henry Dill
Dill did what he could to keep the Minutemen in this game, at least until the miscue in front of him led to the shorthanded goal that ended up being the difference.

Recap and Box Score from UMass Athletics.

Game recap from the Collegian.

Conor Sheary is mentioned in this piece on Penguins prospects.

Recap: Minutemen Knock Off #14 Quinnipiac On The Road

The Massachusetts Minutemen got their biggest win of the season last night, erasing an early deficit to beat the #14 Quinnipiac Bobcats in Hamden, CT.  It’d be easy to just look at the box score and chalk this one up to Henry Dill “stealing” a game as the freshman goaltender racked up 37 saves on the night.  But that would overlook the contributions that came from all over the roster.  Last night’s big win was a total team effort.

Dill did his part of course, being in good position all night and minimizing rebounds, something that has hurt him recently.  The win now brings him to .500 on the season at 4-4-0.  I think the key to the game was the job that Dill and the guys in front of him did on the penalty kill.  The Bobcats came into the game with the 6th best power play in the country at 25.5%.  Sam Anas led the nation in power play goals and power play points.  Dill and UMass ended up shutting down the vaunted Anas and his team’s power play, with the Bobcats going 0 for 6 with the extra man.  QU got 11 shots on goal during the power play, including 5 down the stretch in the third period, and all were turned away.  As for Anas, he was held without a point all night and only managed two shots on goal.  Oleg Yevenko was a force on defense, accumulating a season high 7 blocked shots on the night.

Offensively we also saw contributions from all over the scoresheet.  After the Bobcats grabbed a 1-0 lead late in the 1st period UMass answered immediately with a power play goal from Steven Iacobellis, as Patrick Lee fed him streaking down the slot with a nice heads up pass from behind the goal line.  Not only was it important for UMass to respond to the Bobcat goal, but it was good to see the matching goal come from the power play which had struggled recently.  Ray Pigozzi got the second assist on the goal and would pick up another assist on UMass’ second goal which was a great cross ice feed to Frank Vatrano as the duo rushed in on Bobcat goaltender Michael Garteig.  UMass’ last goal came at a key spot, just seconds into the third period.  It all started with Lee taking away the puck from a Bobcat looking to exit his own zone and finished with Dennis Kravchenko making a great pass from the boards onto the stick of Troy Power in the slot to help seal the win for UMass.

This was probably UMass’ most complete game this season, executing well in nearly all facets of play.  The only negative would probably be faceoffs where they went 24 for 68.  But they went 1 for 4 on the power play, kept the highly rated Quinnipiac power play off the board entirely, played solid team defense, got stellar play in net, and successfully challenged the opposing netminder, with all three goals coming from nice heads up passing.  If UMass is going to get back on track, last night’s game is a good example of how to do it, by executing well in all aspects of their game.  Tonight they’ll get the chance to see if they can play that well consistently when the Bobcats come north for the back half of the home and home.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Henry Dill
It really was a team effort on defense and the penalty kill last night, but Dill deserves credit for his 37 saves against a quality offensive team.  He did a good job controlling his rebounds and squaring up to the shooter, minimizing the good looks available.

Quinnipiac didn’t post highlights of the game, but you can watch the entire replay here.

Recap and Box Score from UMass Athletics.

Here’s the game story from the Quinnipiac Chronicle.

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