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Exhibition Preview

Usually game previews will consist of an overview of the opposing team, who’s hot, how they’ve fared against their schedule, and what Massachusetts will have to do to get the win.  But I’ll be perfectly honest, I couldn’t care less about Dalhousie University and my eyes will be entirely on the Minutemen during the game.  The only consistent observation I take away from watching these CIS teams year after year is that they tend to be goonish.  Which brings me to the #1 thing to watch for in Saturday’s exhibition.  No injuries!

So instead of talking about the Dalhousie Tigers, here’s what fans can watch for on Saturday; the newish go to goalscorer, new guys at forward, new guys at defense, new guy in goal, and Alex Wakaluk.  There are always questions going in to a new season but mostly this season there is one overriding question, “What’s the deal with all these new guys?”  I was thinking of doing a post to acquaint fans with the freshman class so let’s just do that now and talk about the new guys ahead of their first game in the maroon and white so you can keep an eye out for them on Saturday.

Even though he’s been practicing with the team for seemingly forever, has played well in two exhibitions and has playoff experience, Frank Vatrano is still a new guy in my book.  He looked solid in UMass’ playoff loss last March despite going scoreless but Vatrano is already being talked about as being the key to the offense this coming season.  That’s a lot of pressure for someone who has only played in one competitive game in the last 21 months.  I won’t so much be looking for his skills on Saturday, we already know he has those in abundance.  I’m more interested to see how he holds himself on the ice, how he interacts with his teammates, and if he’s emerging as a leader on the team.  Being the go to guy is more than just putting the puck in the net.  It’s about having the respect and confidence of your teammates.  I’ll be interested to see if that comes across on Saturday.

Six of the nine (ten when Montour arrives) Minutemen freshmen are forwards and if UMass is going to be successful they’ll have to contribute to the scoring from game one.  The one I’m most interested in seeing is Anthony Petrella.  Petrella scored 34 goals in 45 games last season for Shattuck-St Mary’s, one of the elite prep schools in the country (some guy named Sidney Crosby played there once upon a time).  Coach Micheletto saw enough in Petrella to bring him in as an 18 year old freshman, a rarity in college hockey nowadays.  Like the entire freshman class he’s small, listed at 5’9”, but supposed to be incredibly skilled.

Riley McDougall is another to keep an eye on.  He comes to Amherst after playing for Calgary in the AJHL.  The 30 goals he put up in the Alberta Junior league isn’t too far off from the 38 that Branden Gracel had in his last year in the AJHL before coming to Amherst.  So I’ll be looking to see if he could make similar contributions for UMass.  It was unknown if Dennis Kravchenko would ever make it to Amherst.  After switching his commitment from Vermont to UMass when Mick came down from Burlington he got pushed back a year to this fall to enter UMass and then there were conflicting reports that he’d even make it.  But here he is.  While he’s a freshman he is experienced, spending three seasons in the USHL where he had 109 points in the last two seasons there.  Kravchenko is joined on the squad by his Sioux Falls teammate Keith Burchett who originally had signed up to play for Bowling Green but switched to UMass last fall.

Patrick Lee played the last few seasons for Brooks Bandits, a team that absolutely dominated the AJHL and the rest of Canadian Junior A hockey in recent years.  In 2012-13 he was one of the stars of the team but last season got injured early in the year and only played 22 games.  Dominic Trento led the USPHL (nee EJHL) in points last season with 69 while playing for the New Jersey Hitmen, gaining league Offensive Player of the Year honors.  Previous players who have won that award have make sold contributions to college hockey, like Vermont’s Brendan Bradley, Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey, and Quinnipiac’s Jeremy Langlois.

UMass also adds two defensemen with this class.  Maddison Smiley was teammates with Patrick Lee on the Brooks Bandits.  Obviously a lot of the attention has been on NHL draft pick Brandon Montour, but Smiley has a very similar offensive style of play.  He was named the 2012-23 AJHL playoff MVP as the Bandits took the league championship.  Smiley had 36 goals and 41 assists in the last two seasons (85 games) for Brooks.  This is the type of small, quick, offensively-minded defenseman Mick has been wanting to run the point in his system.  Jake Horton is similarly styled, scoring 21 goals to go with 25 assists while playing 60 games in the NAHL last season.  Horton served as team captain for the Aberdeen Wings.

In net for those Wings was our new guy in goal, Henry Dill.  Dill actually split time in net last season, but still put up solid numbers going 20-7-1 with 2.26 goals against and a .926 save percentage.  Barring injury it’s pretty certain we’ll see Dill for some of Saturday’s game.  We’ll also likely see Alex Wakaluk who will be looking to avoid repeating his performance from his first fall with the Minutemen.  His first couple games were nightmarish as he gave up 11 goals in just over 60 minutes of playing time.  He did look much better when he got another chance in February in Lowell.  Certainly how Wakaluk performs will be very interesting to see in the exhibition.

Those are the players I’ll be keying in on Saturday.  I certainly encourage other UMass fans to head to the game and see for themselves.  Having the exhibition game in the Mullins Center itself instead of the practice rink is very encouraging.  In previous years the Mullins ice was put down at the last possible minute, not giving the team enough time to get used to their home ice.  It’s great to see that Mick was able to change that for this game.  The team is having a “Pick A Seat” promotion if you don’t already have season tickets.  Saturday is a good opportunity to view the game from all the different vantage points the Mullins offers.  Like the high corners of the double letter sections.  Somewhere along the glass on the blue line in Section W.  Directly behind the nets where the goal judges used to sit.  And of course center ice in good ole Section U.  Come check it out!

Beer The Triangle
For those new readers or perhaps the ones who have forgotten, the Beer The Triangle feature is where I tell you what beer bars to hit and/or what beers to drink before or after the game.  Based on Untappd check-ins it appears that the Hangar has Firestone Walker 17th Anniversary Ale on draft.  I haven’t had it, but I hope to.

Jillian in the hockey office put together this season preview of the team that’s worth reading.

She’s also been doing profiles of the new guys.  Today is defenseman Jake Horton.

 

 

 

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Hockey East Preview

 

In the past I know I’ve made some pretty detailed Hockey East previews, dedicating an entire post to each team, etc..  Honestly, I didn’t pay as close attention to the rest of ,the league last year as I usually do, so I don’t feel comfortable trying to replicate past efforts.  However I will come up with a ranking based on statistical analysis, gut feeling, and whatever my glass of Rock Art Vermonster barleywine tells me (surprisingly, its telling me to put the Catamounts lower than you’d expect despite its namesake).  I will have a detailed Massachusetts season preview next week, where I’ll get into quite a bit of detail on the team.  Since the Minutemen have SO many newcomers I’d like to see how they look in the exhibition Saturday before trying to talk about their potential contributions this season.  I will make a pick of where UMass will finish the season for this exercise, but I reserve the right to change my mind if I’m blown away on Saturday.

With all that said, here are my picks:

1.  Providence Friars
2.  Boston College Eagles
3.  Northeastern Huskies
4.  Boston University Terriers
5.  Maine Black Bears
6.  Lowell River Hawks
7.  Vermont Catamounts
8.  Notre Dame Fighting Irish
9.  New Hampshire Wildcats
10. Merrimack Warriors (yes, I know the color burns the eyes, but so do their jerseys)
11.  Massachusetts Minutemen
12.  Connecticut Huskies

Last year Providence returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001 thanks to solid defense and the goaltender of Jon Gilles.  Gilles’ game seemed a little disrupted by the World Juniors in the middle of the season.  I think he’ll be more consistent throughout this year while their scoring should improve from middle of the pack as they return the majority of their goal scorers, including senior Ross Mauermann.

Boston College doesn’t rebuild.  They just reload.  I desperately want to pick the reigning Hockey East regular season champs lower since they lost over half of their scoring from last year and top recruit Sonny Milano shunned Chestnut Hill for the bright lights of Columbus, Ohio.  But I can’t.  Jerry York wins.  They’ve won 20 or more games in 11 out of the last 12 seasons.  I can’t imagine this year will be that much different.

Third place was a struggle to pick.  Boston University returns nearly their entire team from last year and have arguably the best recruiting class in the country, highlighted by Jack Eichel.  But I think they may a bit too young this year.  Maybe there has been too much roster turnover to be considered an elite team in the conference just yet.  Maybe they’re not seasoned enough.  So I have them at fourth.  At third I have the Northeastern Huskies who surprised many last year by finishing tied for fourth in the league.  They return most of the key pieces from that squad, including Kevin Roy, one of the most exciting players in the league.  But for them it’ll come down to how consistent Clay Witt is in net.

Old friend Red Gendron is having an immediate impact on the Black Bears, a squad that returns nearly all their scorers from last year.  The big question will be what happens in net with Martin Ouellette gone.  Veterans like Devin Shore and Ben Hutton up ice will help whoever takes over in the crease.

Lowell has a lot of slots to fill from the last two years that saw them make deep runs into the NCAA tournament.  They weren’t flashy but guys like Joseph Pendenza and Christian Folin are tough to replace.  They also have a big question mark in net with Connor Hellebuyck leaving school.  Former Minuteman Kevin Boyle is one of those competing for the starting job.  Maybe Lowell falls lower my predicted 6th, but if so it’ll probably be only a temporary setback.

Vermont was the other big surprise last year, winning 20 games and making the NCAA tournament, mostly through the strength of their non-conference play.  They return Mario Puskarich who led all league freshmen with 19 goals last year and veteran goaltender Brody Hoffman who had the league’s third best goals against.  But they did lose some other key scorers and could finish anywhere from 4th to 9th.

Notre Dame struggled in their first year in Hockey East and I expect that will continue in their second year as well.  Notre Dame loses most of their key scorers, including the dominant T.J. Tynan.  Things aren’t much better in net after graduating two seniors.  I don’t see the Irish as an NCAA team this season, even if the coaches did pick them third.

New Hampshire graduated the most point scoring out of any of the Hockey East schools over the summer.  Combine that with goaltender Casey DeSmith’s legal issues, which continue to keep him suspended, and you’ve got the makings for a very tough season up in Durham.  The last two recruiting classes at UNH haven’t packed the same scoring punch we’re used to from the Wildcats.  It’ll be interesting to see if that rights itself this year.

The good news for Merrimack is they return about 2/3rds of their points from last year.  The bad news is last year’s squad was completely anemic on offense, scoring just 1.88 goals per game.  Something will have to change dramatically for Merrimack to do much better than 10th in the league.

Yes, I picked UMass to finish 11th.  Same as the Hockey East coaches.  Same as the Hockey East media.  Why?  Keep checking FTT to find out.

Just because I picked UConn last doesn’t mean they can’t do some damage or potentially finish above Merrimack or UMass.  Mike Cavanaugh is bringing some really good players to…um, Storrs?  Hartford?  Bridgeport?…..where is their home arena again??  With their wins over the Minutemen and Friars and a tie against national champion Union last season they showed that they’re gearing up for their inaugural season in the league and likely will not be an easy two points.

Player of the Year:  Kevin Roy – Northeastern
Newcomer of the Year:  Jack Eichel – Boston University
Coach of the Year:  Nate Leaman – Providence
Goaltender of the Year:  Jon Gilles – Providence
Defenseman of the Year:  Michael Matheson – Boston College

Everyone thank the Big Ten for bringing the annoying power conference autonomy issues to college hockey.  Yay.

Recruit Update

Getting back in the swing of things, it’s time to take a look at the future Minutemen.

Brandon Montour – D – Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) – Dec 2014
1 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM / 0
Of course the big news recently was that the 2nd Round draft pick did not make it through the NCAA Clearinghouse and would not be eligible to join the Minutemen until 2nd Semester.  The reigning USHL Player of the Year was held scoreless in his season debut.

Brandon Egli – D – Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) – 2015
2 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Egli was originally supposed to be playing in the USHL, in Waterloo specifically where he could’ve been skating alongside Montour, but it appears he ended up back in the BCHL where he had 11 goals and 24 assists in 53 games last season.

Jake McCarthy – D – South Shore Kings (USPHL) – 2015 or 2016
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
McCarthy was supposed to play in the BCHL this year, but was cut by Prince George after he hurt his shoulder in training camp.  Mark Divver of the Providence Journal reported that he has since signed on to play with the South Shore Kings of the USPHL, but has yet to suit up.

Kurt Keats – C – Powell River Kings (BCHL) – 2015
5 GP / 4 G /2 A / 6 Pts / 2 PIM
Keats is off to a hot start with four goals in five games played.  Last year with Powell River he had 19 goals and 36 assists in 51 games.

Troy Conzo – RW – Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL) – 2016 or 2017
1 GP / 0 G /0 A /0 Pts / 0 PIM
Conzo went scoreless in his USHL debut.  Last year he scored 22 goals and had 22 assists for the New Jersey Rockets of the Empire League.  Over the Summer he participated in the USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp.

Kyler Nachtigall – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
7 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 4 PIM
Last season Nachtigall had 12 goals and 18 assists in 50 games while playing along side current freshmen Patrick Lee and Maddison Smiley.

Shane Bear – D – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
7 GP / 0 G / 19 A / 4 Pts / 8 PIM
Yet another Brooks Bandit.  Last season he had 4 goals, 19 assists, and 63 PIM in 52 games for Brooks.

Ty Pelton-Byce – C – Madison Memorial (WI HS) – 2016
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
It doesn’t appear high school hockey has started yet in Wisconsin.  At least that’s where I think he’s playing.  Last year Pelton-Byce had 36 goals and 46 assists (82 points) in 24 games for Madison.  His father played for Wisconsin, scoring a hat trick in the 1990 NCAA Championship.   Pelton-Byce also participated in the USA Hockey Select 17 Development Camp over the Summer.

John Leonard – F – Springfield Cathedral (MA HS) – 2017
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
High school hockey won’t start for a while.  The Amherst native had 29 goals and 23 assists in 25 games for Cathedral.  He attended the USA Hockey Select 16 Development Camp over the Summer and the Republican had this write-up on his time there.

Captain Troy Power is writing a blog during the current season.  The latest entry is pretty interesting as he walks fans through a typical week of practice.

No UMass mentions but Over The Boards ranked the Top 15 recruiting classes for this fall while College Hockey News take a look at the biggest news stories recently in the sport.

CHN also has this story URI alumni pushing for a DI hockey team.  Rhody AD and former UMass football player and Associate AD Thorr Bjorn must make this happen.  Surely someone who once donned the Mr. Slice costume for UMass hockey games understands the benefits of college hockey.

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.

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot, Massachusetts Yours And Mine

I’ve written my thoughts on the 2012-13 season. I’ve opined about the current state of the Massachusetts hockey program. Now there’s nothing left to say but goodbye and thanks. As I first warned back in December, this season is my last writing about the UMass hockey program and with nothing left to write about, then this is the last post. Hanging up the blog is bittersweet. I am looking forward to what awaits; a baby girl due in June, a house on the horizon, the ability to watch TV from October through April, not scrambling to fix typos on my iPhone at Mass Pike rest stops, and losing the distraction of crunching Hockey East power play statistics while at work. But I’ll still miss this. I’m amazed at what a big part of my life Fear The Triangle has become. I’ve somehow trained myself to answer while being addressed as “Fear” or “Mr. Triangle”. I’m even more amazed that Fear The Triangle has become a regular part of the lives of so many others.

I started the blog for therapeutic reasons really. Just a distraction from an unfulfilling, stressful job and a chance to do something creative. As I wrote in my very first post, my hope was that this place would become the spot where UMass hockey fans go for news, insight, and opinion related to the team. Did it ever. Just a couple weeks in I was already averaging about 100 views per day to the blog. I was ecstatic. Who knew so many people wanted to read what I had to say about hockey, a game I’ve never even played. I had no idea just how many people would ultimately look to FTT for everything related to UMass hockey. At its in-season height the blog was averaging 550 views per day from all over the world. Last July, when the fandom was whipped up to a furor over the coaching search, the blog reached an astounding 1,100 views a day. To say this is beyond the expectations I had would be an understatement.

I loved the fact that FTT became a place where fans went to find out what was going on with their team. After all, that’s what I billed this place as. A UMass hockey blog for the fans, by a fan. And I had plenty of fans of all ages, some with season tickets going back to the early triangle jersey era to freshmen just hitting the campus, reach out to me and let me know how much they visited the blog. UMass aficionados of all ages enjoyed the blog to keep up with UMass hockey. But a funny thing happened that I really didn’t anticipate. People other than fans were reading too.

Somewhere along the way I realized that my hardcore readers were split between the loyal fans like myself and the parents of the players. Honestly, initially I never thought parents would enjoy FTT. Everything I wrote was intended for the fan. I wanted to be open and honest about how I felt the team was performing. That definitely included criticisms of players when I thought they weren’t playing well enough. I figured this would turn off parents and they’d ignore the place. But they didn’t, they embraced it and even embraced me. The number of interactions I had with a hockey parent truly angry at something I wrote was probably no more than three times max. At the same time numerous times parents have said they’ve appreciated my honesty and thanked me for keeping them informed on the team. I never anticipated FTT would be a lifeline for parents to follow their sons’ hockey careers. But it was, especially for those from afar who can’t regularly attend games. I was humbled during a midwest road trip in my second year of writing when one of the parents told me FTT was the first website they looked at each morning.

Building off that idea, and not as surprising, is that the players read this blog too. If I thought the parents would hate the blog because of what I was writing then surely the players would detest me. But they didn’t. At least none have mentioned such so far. The players I’ve had the chance to interact with have been appreciative and, well, have shown exactly the type of character we’ve grown accustomed to as UMass fan. In the last week I’ve gotten a number of touching messages of thanks from some of the current players. I’ll also always remember Paul Dainton giving me a wave of thanks as he walked out of his senior night post-game press conference.

The other group that ended up being regular readers that I didn’t expect were others around Hockey East. Opposing fans, other bloggers, and even (legitimate) media were readers of Fear The Triangle. And that has meant a ton to me. Again, this was meant to be a UMass hockey blog, for UMass hockey fans, from the viewpoint of a UMass hockey fan. Was my writing biased towards UMass hockey? I sure as hell hope so. Otherwise I was doing it wrong. Yet opposing fans and fan blogs enjoyed it. And as I wrote more and explored Hockey East on the web more I grew to respect and get to know the other fanbases better than I ever thought I would. I actually like following the Boston College hockey fans on Twitter, have met a few of them, and can say they’re very good people. Just a few short years ago I didn’t think such a thing was possible. As for the media members that read and enjoyed FTT, that is the ultimate compliment that can be bestowed upon me and the site. If the people that are trained to write about sports, who actually know what they’re doing enjoy this place then I must be doing something right.

So those are the different readers that I am so thankful for FTT started for selfish reasons, something I wanted to do for myself. But as the readership grew and grew it helped motivate me to do a better job so I wouldn’t let down the readers. I did what I could to help build an informed UMass hockey fanbase. There were lots of times when I’d come home from a long day of work or wake up on a Sunday morning after pulling into my South Shore home at 2am following the trip back from Amherst and just not want to write about hockey. Especially after a loss. But I did. Because I felt that you, the readers, were depending on me. It bothered me to think of a dedicated UMass fan who was logging onto the site to see what the latest news was surrounding the hockey program only to find it hadn’t been updated in two days. So I kept writing more and more. And people kept reading more and more. And I really started to enjoy it at that point. But a strange thing happened along the way. This blog brought me to places and into situations I never thought I’d experience.

Fear The Triangle allowed me to attend a Hockey East media day at the Legends in TD Bank Garden where I got to witness the organized chaos of the event first hand. For a couple seasons I was able to attend post game press conferences in the Mullins Center, rubbing shoulders with other college hockey writers who I have tremendous respect for. In something I never ever thought in my life I’d do, I actually attended a press conference at Fenway Park as a member of the media. What an amazing thrill that was, despite the fact that it was in the 90s that day they announced the Frozen Fenway games. I at least fared better than Bananas, the Maine mascot, who was overtaken by the heat. Lastly for a season FTT allowed me to be a NESN Correspondent, calling in my report from the Mullins Center to the weekly Hockey East Live show that preceded their game broadcasts. I am not comfortable with public speaking and every reasonable part of me screamed not to do it. But I did it anyway because when else is a boring financial analyst going to get the chance to talk about the sport he loves on NESN on a regular basis? It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but worth every ounce of adrenaline it ultimately burned.

Yep, this place allowed me to do things I never though possible. But it wasn’t without some help along the way. I have a lot of people to thank. I’ll start off with the people who have to deal with me all the time. My friends in Section U. Thanks for your insight and your support. For those who credit me for my devotion to UMass hockey, the others in Section U are just as knowledgeable, just as loyal, they just don’t happen to write a blog about it. Thanks to the other fans I’ve gotten to know along the way. I’ve slowly worn the triangle less and less over the years but that hasn’t stopped people from stopping me in the concourse or from coming over to Section U in between periods to talk. It’s been great to get to know so many of you and quite honestly great to talk UMass hockey with so many devoted fans.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many student fans as well. It’s been good becoming friends with the boys from Fight Mass. They’re loud. They’re obnoxious. But they’re our loud, obnoxious fans. And their deep love to UMass and its teams cannot be questioned. The fact that they enjoy good beer didn’t hurt forming a bond either. Thanks to the two flag guys, Ben and Adam, for their support and friendship as well. Those two have been in some pretty uncomfortable situations trying to get the UMass flag into opposing arenas. But they’ve remained faithful to the flag no matter how many cavity searches they’ve had to endure. For that work they’ve created a true tradition for UMass hockey, one that next year will be handed down to Greg, another regular FTT reader. The last student group I want to recognize is the Bench Crew, a group of avid female fans who sit (you guessed it) behind the bench every game. These aren’t some flighty girls watching the games just to check out how hot the players are though (though I assume they probably do that too), these girls know their hockey. And they are the ones you can thank for the whole Free Moore campaign to get Kevin Moore to play in last year’s senior night. Not only were they successful, they got the #freemoore hashtag trending on Twitter and mentioned by NHL stars. That was damn impressive.

I want to thank people affiliated with the hockey program. UMass Sports Information Director John Sinnett was extremely gracious towards me, treating me much as if I was a media member and allowing me access to the postgame press conferences and practices. As a blogger that wasn’t something I expected but he was very accommodating and I appreciate that. When he moved up to his current job last year, Jillian Jakuba took his place covering hockey and has been equally friendly and accommodating and I’ve enjoyed watching her put her fingerprint on UMass media relations. There are other people affiliated with the department like Todd MacDonald and Matty G who I’ve enjoyed getting to know. I’d also like to thank Associate Athletic Director Rocko DeLuca who has always been open and friendly with me, even when I’ve been writing posts directly challenging the athletic department. Of course I want to thank coach Micheletto for the few times I’ve been been able to speak with him. The first time I met him was shortly after he was hired, when I had just been pretty critical of the coaching search process and my friends nearby joked that I probably was now seen as an enemy of the athletic department. I’ll never forget that Mick told me that “Sometimes you have to wear the black hat”. It was a great observations that I think of regularly. Maybe too much? Lastly I have to thank former coach Toot Cahoon for all his support. After my first season of writing FTT I honestly didn’t even know if he was aware that the blog existed. And then surprisingly at the post season golf tournament that June he recognized me for my hard work in front of everyone. He was always so friendly and so supportive no matter what I wrote. I think he was just happy that someone was putting a deserved spotlight on the program and it didn’t bother him in the least if at the same time I was sometimes critical of how he was doing. You can question Toot’s coaching, but you cannot question his character. There are very few better people that I’ve met in my life and though he started a Terrier, he’ll always be a Minuteman in my eyes.

Thanks to all the fellow bloggers and media people I’ve had the opportunity to get to know over the years. It starts with Matt Vautour and Dick Baker who have done a great job covering the team since pretty much forever. I used to read Matty’s work in the Collegian when I myself was a student and it’s been great to get to know him over the years. I’ve seen him get criticized for not covering hockey enough, but that’s really unfair. Not only is he very knowledgeable about the sport, but please realize that he’s busy covering ALL of the UMass sports. All of them. And he covers them all well. Dick Baker on the other hand is all hockey. But he’s been covering the sport forever and knows more about the history of hockey in Western Mass than anyone I’ve met, from Eddie Shore to Thomas Pöck. Thanks to both of those guys and while I haven’t met him, Harry Plumer has also done a good job covering the team since he jumped into the role. So many others I want to recognize. The Collegian has had some excellent people covering hockey, including the guys doing it now. But my recent favorites were Jeff Howe, now the Patriots reporter for the Herald, and Joe Meloni. Joe’s a great hockey writer and someone who has been very supportive of the blog. And I’m pretty sure that’s not just because I once gave him a ride to Yale. Mike McMahon in my opinion is probably the best writer in Hockey East and I read his Mack Report blog a few times a day. If something is going on in the conference, he knows about it. And he also has been a big supporter of FTT. Thanks to all the other media guys out there. Josh Seguin and (another former Collegian writer) Michael King at College Hockey News. Scott McLaughlin is someone I’ve never met but whose work I respect a lot. Joshua Kummins is a writer in training, just a high schooler who does great work and will be covering sports soon enough for his college paper. Thanks to all the other bloggers I’ve interacted with. There’s a lot of good ones out there like the folks at BC Interruption, Husky Hockey News, BC Hockey Blog, BU Hockey Blog, Ice is Life. There’s a lot out there to read if you’re into Hockey East and a lot of them are just as dedicated as what you’re accustomed to here. Thanks to Bob McGovern and Marc Bertrand. They’ve previously mentioned that FTT helped inspire them to create the spectacular UMass football blog Maroon Musket, which in my opinion is superior to Fear The Triangle in every way shape or form. But if what I did helped create that, I’m happy. Selfishly happy since I love reading their coverage of the football team which is entirely top notch. Lastly I want to thank my good friend Jim Clark, High School Sports Editor for the Herald. As a member of the legitimate media he relayed a lot of good pointers for the blog, even when he probably didn’t realize when he was actually relaying them. And he was my de facto, and much needed, copy editor, catching the stupidest of mistakes before the general public had ever clicked on the story.

I have to separately thank the UMass hockey broadcast media. Donnie Moorhouse is who I remember providing the play by play of some of the best moments of UMass hockey. He’s been a great supporter of FTT and has a tremendous knowledge of the sport. I enjoyed getting to know John Hennessey when he was working for UMass hockey, especially some of his stories. I always get complimented for my dedication to UMass hockey for driving from the South Shore to Amherst for games. John drove from New Jersey to Amherst for every game and if it was an away game he’d then climb on a bus for another however many hours. That’s dedication. I’ve really enjoyed Adam Frenier’s addition to the broadcast team and think he’s done great on color this season. A few weeks ago, after I announced FTT was shutting down, he said he was “sorry to hear we’re losing you”. I replied, “Losing me? You’re gaining me. I’m going to depend on you guys to follow the team”. Just as FTT was a written lifeline for fans to follow the team, the radio broadcasts are a godsend for those trying to follow the games. But they’re only as good as the broadcasters and I think we as UMass fans have been blessed with some damn good ones. Which leads me to Brock Hines. Because I write this blog and have been following this team since 1993 I’ve gotten this reputation as the UMass hockey expert. Wrong. When I want to know something about UMass hockey, I go to Brock. He has only missed a handful of games in the last twenty seasons. Players come and go, coaches come and go, his broadcast partners come and go, but Brock is still there every weekend during the winter talking UMass hockey. There are few people who have been more supportive of FTT than Brock and for that I am extremely thankful. I’m also glad that the Hockey East media day I attended in 2010 was the one where he won the Joe Concannon Media Award for the league and I got to witness it firsthand. Honestly, what took them so long?

With the blog becoming popular with the hockey parents as a result I got to know them. And honestly, I have a lot of respect for the life of a DI college hockey parent. They live and die with their kids’ performance. I thought I take losses hard? Try talking to a goaltender’s mom just after they let up an overtime goal. They drive unimaginable distances just to find their son is a healthy scratch. Honestly I’m glad that FTT served a purpose for them to follow the team and their sons. And, on a selfish level, I’m glad I got to know so many of them. They are hardcore fans. Sometimes their priorities are a little different than the typical fan, but they are all in for UMass. And they’re fun. In the four years I wrote FTT I had the pleasure of ringing in the New Year with UMass hockey parents twice. Once in a hotel bar in Madison, Wisconsin and the other in a Hanover, New Hampshire hotel room turned bar. Hockey parents are great to be arounde and I thank them for including me in their circle and for their support, even if I may have said their son sucked at some point in time.

The last thank you is to you, the Fear The Triangle readers. If I didn’t have any readers, I wouldn’t have had any motivation to make this place better. You folks drove extended recruiting coverage, the View From Section U columns, better previews, more in depth recaps. I put out a product, people started reading, I responded by improving it, and even more people started reading. I kept working hard for the blog and the readers responded. And it motivated me. And I thank you for that. I also thank those of you who regularly interacted on FTT. I am by no means an expert on hockey or UMass hockey. My opinions on how the team was performing or where the program stood are just that, opinions. I hope I never came across like an expert, because I’m not. And because of that I was always eager to know what others thought. Thanks to those who shared their thoughts through the comments. There were a lot of you. A lot commented anonymously, but there were some, like George, Will, my good friend Angry Mel, the next Red Berenson Justin, Carson, and Gregg, who regularly put their names to their comments who I would like to recognized. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This was a UMass hockey fan blog for the fans, by the fans and your interaction, as fans, was a great part of it.

Lastly, I have to thank my wife. She has always been extremely supportive of not only the blog, but my obsession with UMass hockey. How long has it been since UMass missed the playoffs? I realized the other day the last time UMass had a senior night without a playoff game to follow was a game against Merrimack in 2002. That was the third date for my now wife and I. I talked her into going to UMass hockey for a date. Since the team was bad, we sat in a nearly empty Section W where she nearly got concussed by a puck flying into the stands. As the puck was heading for her forehead I was just able to reach out and deflect it away with my fingertip. The rest is history. We went to almost all the games the next year as we continued our relationship and have had season tickets ever since. UMass hockey has been a big part of our relationship and despite all the time I’ve spent in recent years in front of the computer she’s always encouraged me with my hobby in addition to being a loyal reader.

That’s about it. I’ve said what I wanted to say. Recognized who I wanted to recognize. And thanked who I’ve wanted to thank (although there are some I likely missed). For me it’s time to move on to a new part of my life. Gone are the long nights writing, crunching stats, or figuring out who the third leading scorer on Northeastern is. Those nights will be replaced with changing diapers, mowing lawns, and dedicating myself to raising the Commonwealth’s newest Minuteman fan properly (odds on the baby’s first words being “BC sucks” are 50/50). I’ll still get to games when I can. I’ll be sure to watch or listen to every game, that’s for sure. And if you still want to know what I have to say on the team (and beer snob beers), then follow the Fear The Triangle Twitter account, because I plan to keep that going strong. In a few years down the road you’ll see me in he Mullins Center with a maroon clad toddler in tow. But FTT is going away. Could I find some unforeseen time in the future to bring it back? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t count on it.

So I hope you have enjoyed the last four years. I did. Sorry I couldn’t write about more jovial times for UMass hockey. The four years I decide to devote my free time to the UMass hockey team they end up going 40-78-14. Damn, what can you do. But it’s taken me even closer to the team. I probably know these senior and junior classes as well as I know the successful 2007, 2004, and 2003 teams. I feel I have a much better understanding of the peaks and deep, deep valleys of the program recently. So while the Thomas Pöcks and Jon Quicks should be honored, let’s not forget all the others who pull on the UMass sweater, adorned in triangle or not. For every Greg Mauldin there’s a T.J. Syner. For a Matt Anderson there’s an Eddie Olczyk.

If you ever decided to start a blog, write about something you love and spending time on it will rarely seem like a chore. Even if you’re writing about a team with a losing record. I love UMass hockey so that’s why you got Fear The Triangle. I hope I helped you follow the team. I hope I provided insight to what was going on with the program. I hope I enlightened you. I hope you disagreed with me. I hope you thought I was supportive of the team when they deserved praise. I hope you feel I demanded better of the team when they were under performing. I hope I’ve brought attention to the program externally and internally and I hope those in positions of power at the University of Massachusetts will realize the potential of the program and help it reach the pinnacle of college hockey. I hope I’ve upset some people and made their lives harder if it ends up benefitting the program. I hope I’ve done a good job recognizing and honoring the tremendous sacrifice that is made by every student-athlete who pulls on the maroon and white sweater each season. Getting through college is tough. Doing it with the demands that are required to be a NCAA hockey player should be applauded. Regularly. I hope the blog helped develop some hardcore UMass hockey fans. Honestly if I had a hand in creating just one or two more loyal Massachusetts Minuteman hockey fans it’ll all have been worth it.

With fierce loyalty, Massachusetts we cheer for thee. Go UMass!

Mark F. Coogan ‘98 ‘06MBA
Section U ▲

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View From Section U: State of UMass Hockey

Yesterday in my Season Recap post I talked about how I thought the season that just was ended in disappointment versus the reasonable expectations going into the year.  I expressed that the talent level of the team was too good to be missing the Hockey East playoffs entirely, something that had not happened in over a decade.  I think the players can take some of the blame for that for not getting the job done and not playing as well as they needed to.  But as I wrote, I thought the coaching could’ve been much better as well.  And I stand by that opinion and think it’s a fair assessment.  But I want to point out that a disappointing first year for a rookie head coach at a new school is not a reason to panic.

I am not going to try to conclude whether last summer’s decision to hire coach Micheletto to lead the Massachusetts hockey program was a good or bad one because it’s way, way too early to know.  Next year at this time will still be too early to know.  By the end of Year 3 we should have a gauge of whether the program is at least heading in the right direction.  And by the end of Year 4 the team should be successful or it’s time to start thinking about the next person to lead UMass hockey.  But Year 1 does not make or break a new coach, no matter the result.

Sometimes coaches can jump into a program, take the talent that’s already there, tweak it, motivate the players, and win right away.  Obviously we saw this last year with Norm Bazin at Lowell and, especially when you add in this year, Nate Leaman at Providence.  Andy Murray out at Western Michigan did the same thing last year, though in that case I credit the magical elixir found in Kalamazoo that is Bells beer.  I think we all hoped that Micheletto would be able to do the same to a UMass team that was returning 7 of its top 10 scorers, a solid core of defenseman, and two somewhat experienced goaltenders.  But, it didn’t happen.  And it doesn’t always happen.  Plenty of successful coaches have needed a few years to get their program in order.  A bit of an extreme example but Mark Dennehy didn’t get Merrimack to a winning record until Year 6.

So now we have to start thinking more long term.  Micheletto seems focused on getting his type of players into Amherst so he can work to his style.  I think that’s what’s driving all the Toot Cahoon recruits getting pushed potentially to 2014 and 2015 and Mick’s recruits coming in in the next couple years.  He wants his players so he can play his style.  That’s fine, it’s his program and he’ll try to make it successful as he sees fit.  It’s not easy, especially given so many recent years without a winning season, but UMass fans will have to be patient for the next year or two while he remolds UMass hockey to his vision.  I think it’s natural to get frustrated and critical from game to game when the team isn’t playing as well as you’d like them to.  But at the same time it is important to let this staff get the chance to put their fingerprint on the program.  If the team is still in 9th at the end of the 2014-2015 season then we can start to wonder if Micheletto is right for the program.

Now, having a successful hockey program isn’t all about Xs and Os.  To win you need top recruits.  To get top recruits you need quality facilities and the backing of your athletic department.  Support of UMass hockey within the athletic department is a topic that’s been talked about quite a bit recently, going back to last summer when it was reported to be the source of disagreement that led Toot Cahoon and the school to part ways.  UMass fans travelling to watch their team play have seen lots of new construction and upgrades at the other arenas in Hockey East in recent years.  At the same time Athletic Director John McCutcheon continues to be conspicuously absent from any and all activities having to do with the hockey team.  Whether that be games, meet and greets, fundraising events, or even senior ceremonies.

Now I was lucky enough recently to get to speak to both coach Micheletto and Associate Athletic Director Rocko DeLuca about the program recently.  The subject of support of the program and UMass hockey facilities came up in the conversation.  Unequivocally Micheletto told me that he thinks the facilities at UMass, from the arena to locker rooms to video equipment to training and weight room, are on par with the rest of the conference and he has everything he needs to be successful in Hockey East in due time.  Now I’ll be honest, this is not an opinion necessarily shared by others I’ve spoken to around UMass and the rest of Hockey East.  However if the coach says he has all the tools in place needed to attract recruits and win in this conference, I have to take him at his word.  He knows how to build a program better than me and I don’t see how it would serve his interests to tell supporters/boosters he has what he needs when he really doesn’t.

So ultimately, if the coaching staff has what they need to land skilled recruits and aren’t worried about upgrades happening in Lowell, Providence, and Merrimack, then it will come down to coaching.  So far on the recruiting front I think there’s a lot to be encouraged about, but at the same time I’ve been following college hockey enough to know not to get too excited until the recruits are actually on campus and skating.  Whether Micheletto’s grand plans to get UMass hockey back to winning and hopefully competing for a Hockey East championship will come to fruition, we don’t know.  Honestly, with the season that just transpired I don’t think we know any more if he’s the right man to do the job today than when he was hired last July.  But that’s ok, he needs some time and I think fans should give it to him.

So those are my thoughts on coaching.  I will say this however, if Micheletto ends up being successful and brings the program up the ranks of Hockey East, I still think there’s an artificial ceiling as to how high he’ll be able to elevate it.  He could be excellent at the Xs and Os and a shrewd recruiter, but I still believe the program will never reach its full potential as its currently positioned.  That has nothing to do with Mick’s coaching abilities or facilities for the players.  It has everything to do with an Athletic Director who continues to show little interest in the program on campus that is most popular with the students, has regularly been the best attended, and has a much better shot at winning a national championship than men’s basketball or football ever will.  I don’t say that to knock either one of those two programs, which I support fully and think both are heading in positive directions.  It’s just the truth of the matter.  Hockey East is THE best league in all of NCAA hockey and UMass is lucky enough to be a member of it.  You can’t say that about any other sports on campus.

I’m always amazed that McCutcheon cut his teeth at places like Boston College and Maine and then becomes the head of the UMass athletic program mere days before the hockey program makes its debut in the Hockey East Championship game and then proceeds to ignore said program.  But that is exactly what he’s done.  And I honestly have no idea why.  But it’s blatant.  I’m not going to say he’s actively working against the program, but he doesn’t have to.  He’s just no where to be found.  I’ve been a Pond Club member for six or seven years and I’ve not once seen him in the Massachusetts Room in between periods.  He has only intermittently attended the Reverse Raffle during that same time.  At last year’s Pond Club Golf Outing, with the program’s most hardcore supporters in attendance, he spent all of five minutes there to say a few words and then was whisked off.  In December Mick had a meet and greet at ABC which was surprisingly well attended by loyal fans despite coming minutes after a weekend sweep at the hands of Colgate.  Despite the fact that it was probably the last thing he wanted to do given how the weekend turned out, Mick did his thing and made his way around to talk to all those who showed up.  Was McCutcheon there to support his rookie head coach?  Of course not.  Was he at ABC days later for a basketball event?  You betcha.  If you’re a big time supporter of basketball and football, especially the ones with big time pockets, McCutcheon probably already knows who you are.  If you’re reading this blog because you love UMass hockey, McCutcheon doesn’t care about you.  When pressed he’ll give lip service to his commitment to hockey blah blah blah, but actions are louder than words and he has a long established history of inaction.  I wish I could share the many other examples of his disregard for the program that I’ve witnessed or others have told me, but I frankly do not have the time nor do I want to betray the trust of other program supporters.

The last thing I wanted to do was to make one of my last posts on FTT be so negative in tone but the program is in a major state of uncertainty right now and I can’t change that.   Personally I’m willing to give coach Micheletto the benefit of the doubt for this past season and support him during the coming years, he deserves that.  And I hope UMass fans will do the same.  But at the same time, feel free to do what you can to pressure McCutcheon.  Now whether you want to pressure him to recognize the tremendous potential of the hockey program and that he should adequately support it or if you want to just pressure him to get the hell off campus and into a job where he doesn’t have to worry about frozen water, that’s your decision.  Personally, I feel like I’ve already done what I can in regards to the first option, leveraging the little influence I may have with this blog (as I am sadly lacking of the big time pockets I mentioned earlier).  I personally haven’t seen any progress.  So I’m ready to do what I can to send John McCutcheon away from the harsh winters of Western Massachusetts where the cold temperatures freeze the water and people sometimes decide to play sports on the resulting ice that is formed.  As far as I can tell, those below freezing conditions do not suit him.  So maybe there’s a better place for him to be.  Maybe somewhere a little warmer where the pond in the middle of campus doesn’t ice over every winter, bringing back memories of a time when the varsity hockey team once played their games upon it.  Someplace where there’s not an underrated hockey hotbed of Springfield down the road filled with kids playing peewee whose parents drive them up to games at Your State U, dreaming of maybe coming through the smoke onto the ice at the Mullins Center one day.  Maybe he’d rather spend his time making sure the varsity sailing team has adequate rigging or that the sand on the beach volleyball court is properly raked.  Wherever it is, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for the good of all involved, John McCutcheon should be somewhere other than Amherst, home of the Massachusetts Minutemen hockey team.

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