2014-15 FTT Awards

With the season over for the Massachusetts Minutemen it’s time to hand out some hardware.  Not actual hardware mind you as that would be a booster violation.  But I want to take the opportunity to recognize some of the players who made major impacts for the Minutemen this season. All awards are entirely my choice except the Player of the Year which is awarded to the player who has accumulated the most FTT Player of the Game recognitions through the season.

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UMass’ Season Ends With 7-0 Playoff Loss To Notre Dame

The Massachusetts and Notre Dame hockey teams played 14 periods of hockey this past weekend and Massachusetts was as good or better than the Irish in 9 of those periods.  But Notre Dame’s dominance in the final four periods played during the weekend ended up deciding the series.  After being the better team in final period of Saturday’s Game 2 to break a tie and even the series Notre Dame embarrassed the Minutemen by scoring seven in last night’s deciding game.  UMass’ season ended much as it began way back in October, with a seven goal loss.

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Three Goal Third Gives Notre Dame 5-3 Win Over UMass, Forces Game 3

The trend of one step forward, one step back has continued into the playoffs for the Massachusetts hockey team.  After dispatching Notre Dame in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday when Shane Walsh’s goal ended a record setting five overtime affair, the teams met again later that night as UMass looked to sweep the Irish and move onto the Hockey East quarterfinals.  But a lot of the problems that have plagued the Minutemen for much of the season, problems that were largely absent in the 150 minutes played the previous night, ultimately led to the Irish grabbing the 5-3 win and forcing the series deciding game later tonight.

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Heroics Abound As Minutemen Top Notre Dame In Longest NCAA Game Ever Played

This has been one of the most frustrating and disappointing seasons of UMass hockey in the 20 plus years that I’ve watched the program.  There have been blowouts.  There have an unthinkable amount of late game collapses.  There have been games, as recently as last Friday, where the team has looked unfocused and at times disinterested.  It’s been tough to understand why the team has played this way and know exactly what they were truly capable of.  Last night the Massachusetts hockey players showed that despite the up and down results of the season, they are in fact a team that can play inspired and amazing hockey.  They are a team that can execute at a high level on consistently through long stretches.  They can battle to get back into a game and continue to battle to get a win.  They are a team that will leave it all out on the ice for a victory. They are a team that has heart.  A lot of heart.   The prevailing problem this season has been that the team too often failed to put in a total 60 minute effort.  But they put in a 60 minute effort last night.  Twice in fact.  And then did it some more.  In the 152nd minute of last night’s five overtime marathon, the longest game in NCAA history, Shane Walsh’s game winner sent all the Minutemen back to the locker room as heroes.

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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)

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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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View From Section U: Hockey East Playoff Predictions

Time to make some picks!  Actually, before I take a shot at how the Hockey East playoffs will play out, let’s first see how I did with my regular season predictions.  Here’s how I picked the league way back on October 1st:

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Recruit Update: Plevy Wins AJHL Scoring Title

In case you missed it, I reported last week that recruit Brandon Egli, who was due to arrive in Amherst this fall, has been released from his commitment due to qualification issues.  There’s still plenty of others to keep track of.  Playoffs are in full swing for many of the future Minutemen.

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UMass Dominated By UConn In Finale; Will Travel to Notre Dame For Playoffs

The Massachusetts hockey team concluded its regular season much as it began way back in October.  By being utterly dominated.  In the season opener it was an 8-1 defeat at the hands of Boston University, who ultimately went on to win the Hockey East regular season title.  On Friday UMass travelled to Hartford to take on UConn and fell to the Huskies by the score of 4-0.

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Minutemen To Close Out Regular Season Against UConn

Massachusetts Minutemen 10-20-2 (5-15-1)  Hockey East 12th

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UConn Huskies 9-17-7 (6-11-4)  Hockey East 10th

It’s hard to believe but the end of the regular season is upon us.  The Massachusetts Minutemen will try to close things out on a high note by continuing their better play as of late when they take on UConn in Hartford on Friday night.  UMass must win this game if they have any chance to improve their spot in the final Hockey East standings.  But even a with a win they’ll still need New Hampshire to sweep Merrimack in order to grab the 11th seed in the conference tournament.

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View From Section U: UMass’ Turnaround By The Numbers

So as we know this has been a tale of two very different halves for the Massachusetts Minutemen this season.  During the first half the results were nothing short of dreadful, full of futility and blowout losses.  However, just after Christmas the team’s play has improved noticeably and as a result they’re just one game under .500 in their last 15 games.  So what changed?  Some have suggested it was the addition of Brandon Montour in mid-December that made the difference.  Others have said it’s been better and more consistent play from the goaltenders.  It’s likely a lot of different factors combined.  Let’s take a look at some of the numbers during those two time periods and see where the team has made strides.

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