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Recruit Update

Because of last week’s mid-week game it’s been a while since we checked in on the recruits.  Let’s see how they’re doing.

Ben Gallacher – D – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) – 2013 (transfer)
26 GP / 2 G / 12 A / 14 Pts / 52 PIM / +3
Gallacher has three assists in his last three games.

Mark Hamilton – D – Salisbury School Crimson Knights (NE Prep) – 2013
14 GP / 0 G / 2 A / 2 Pts
Stats as of 2/20.  Prep playoffs for Hamilton and Salisbury start tomorrow.

Marc Hetnik – D – Vernon Vipers (BCHL) – 2013
48 GP / 3 G /7 A / 10 Pts / 34 PIM
No points for Hetnik recently.

Mike Iovanna – RW/C – Malden Catholic Lancers (MA High School) – 2013
21 GP / 12 G /18 A /30 Pts
The Super 8 defending champions didn’t seem too happy about being relegated to a play-in game last night for this year’s tournament as they pounded Archbishop Williams 9-1.  Iovanna had a goal and an assist.

Dennis Kravchenko – LW – Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) – 2013 or 2014
43 GP / 16 G / 27 A / 43 Pts / 80 PIM / +9
Kravchenko had a goal and an assists in three games this past weekend and has six points in his last six games.

Patrick Lee – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2014
57 GP / 23 G / 32 A / 55 Pts / 32 PIM
Lee has a goal and three assists over his last four games.

Casey Miller – C – Kimball Union (NE Prep) – 2014
26 GP / 6 G / 25 A / 31 Pts
Stats as of 2/20.  Prep playoffs start tomorrow, KUA is the #1 seed.

Maddison Smiley – D – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2014
38 GP / 16 G / 19 A / 35 Pts / 72 PIM
Smiley didn’t have any points in his most recent games.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
33 GP / 4 G / 6 A / 10 Pts / 18 PIM
Smith is featured in this story on the Pics that ran this week in the Republican.  The Pics head coach projects him to eventually be an NHL draft pick.

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

Brandon Wahlin– F – Austin Bruins (NAHL) – 2013
49 GP / 20 G / 42 A / 62 Pts / 68 PIM
Brandon had two goals and two assists in his past three games and continues to lead the NAHL in points.

Jake Wahlin– F – White Bear Lake Bears (MN HS) – 2015
25 GP / 31 G / 31 A / 62 Pts / 26 PIM
Wahlin and the Bears won 3-2 in the 4AA Semifinals tonight.  Wahlin has a goal for his team.

College Hockey News’ Hockey East Power Rankings.

UMass’ defensive play is mentioned in this piece from CHN.

Here’s a good article on former Minuteman captain Mike Kostka.

And then there’s this:

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Saturday Recap

With their backs against the wall and missing the playoffs a distinct possibility, the Massachusetts hockey team came together and put in a very solid game on the way to a 5-2 win over Maine.  It was an interesting game as the teams sort of traded periods.  Luckily for the Minutemen they owned the first and third and got the much needed win.

UMass came out skating hard and taking the puck immediately to Martin Ouellette who had completely stymied them the night before.  They were rewarded for their efforts with a 2-0 lead just eight minutes into the game on goals by Adam Phillips and Branden Gracel.  Gracel’s goal was particular exciting as he let go a perfectly placed slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle to find the back of the net.  Gracel returned to form in the faceoff circle last night as well, winning 14 of the 16 opportunities he had.

The Black Bears would make the most of the opportunities in the second however scoring a couple goals under two minutes apart early on in the period, one coming on the power play.  But UMass would own the third.  Zack LaRue scored a huge goal early on in the period to break the tie.  Conor Sheary would go far side on a sliding Ouellette to make it 4-2, setup by a nice cross-ice pass from Joel Hanley who had three assists last night.  Finally captain Kevin Czepiel would seal the game with an empty net goal late.

The team played well.  It wasn’t quite as easy as the final score might suggest.  Maine continued to play them tough, taking advantage of the extra man opportunities they got for the second straight night.  But what was the difference for UMass was a consistent effort all night long.  They played with energy and determination all game.  They did the little things like crashing the net which is how Phillips and LaRue got their goals.  They’ll need to keep that kind of effort and attitude over the course of the next two weeks.  Although they moved back into the 8th place spot with the win, Maine is still just one point behind and has an easier schedule with two home games against last place Northeastern left.  UMass on the other hand will have to find away to claw some points away from New Hampshire and Merrimack to make sure their season extends beyond March 9th.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Zack LaRue
LaRue hasn’t scored a lot of goals in his UMass career.  In fact last night’s was only his second.  But it was a big one in that it broke the tie, but also that it set the tone for the third period that UMass dominated.

Here’s the Republican game story.

College Hockey News has their takeaways.

Ouellette tells the Bangor Daily News that the whistle should’ve blown before LaRue’s gamewinner.

Friday Recap

Let’s face it, when it comes to Maine there are really only two players you have to worry about this season; Martin Ouellette and Joey Diamond.  So when news came out just before the game that Diamond did not make the trip from Orono due to a back injury, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that UMass would pick up the win last night.  After all, Diamond had accounted for over 1/5th of all goals for Maine this season and is really their only threat on offense.  Also missing would be his agitating style of play, allowing the Minutemen to remain focused on the task at hand and keep their heads.  Well Ouellette and the Minutemen’s own subpar play negated Diamond’s absence and the Black Bears were the victors by the score of 2-0.  The loss knocks the Minutemen into 9th place in Hockey East.  If the league playoffs started today UMass would not be participating in it for the first time since 2002.

Ouellette deserves all the accolades from last night’s win.  Not only did he pick up the win but he made some spectacular plays while doing so.  Coming halfway across the net in the second period to rob K.J. Tiefenwerth with his glove may be the best save I’ve seen all year.  His play does not excuse the Minutemen for last night’s loss however.  There was a glaring lack of energy and a lack of focus on the team’s part.  Aspects of the game that were huge strengths just a month ago are now obvious deficiencies, such as faceoffs and the penalty kill.  The power play last night was abysmal, generating just four shots in three full opportunities.

Has the team packed it in for the season?  It sure as hell looks like it.  A loss tonight would sink the Minutemen to three points behind Maine and out of the playoffs while also giving the Black Bears the tie breaker.  Right now it seems extremely unlikely that UMass would gain much in terms of points in the following two weekends against New Hampshire and Merrimack, the leagues two hottest teams.  Maine on the other hand has an easier schedule with two games left against last place Northeastern.  That pretty much adds up to the prospect of playoffs for the Minutemen coming down to the 60 minutes on the ice tonight.  Let’s see if the team can play like the season is on the line.  Because it is.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steve Mastalerz
It’s never easy to be cold on the bench and have to come into the game midway through a period.  But that’s what Mastalerz was called to do last night when Coach Micheletto, looking to send a message to the team, pulled Kevin Boyle in the second.  Mastalerz was up to the task and turned away all eight shots faced.

Mick will continue to press buttons to try to get the team back winning again per the Republican game story.

The Collegian points out that just three weeks ago UMass was looking to move into 5th place in the standings.

Michael King has the game story for College Hockey News.

Here’s how things looked for the Bangor Daily News.

Maine Preview; Triangle Time

Maine Black Bears 8-16-6 (4-11-6) Hockey East 14pts 9th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 10-16-2 (7-13-1) Hockey East 15pts 8th

I think we can all agree that the Massachusetts hockey team is not exactly where Minuteman fans hoped they’d be at this point of the season.  However, on the bright side it should be a pretty exciting last three weeks of the season with a lot at stake every game, every period, every shift.  The final stretch starts tomorrow with the first of two games against Maine, just one point behind the Minutemen who sit in 8th and the final playoff spot currently.

In a strange reversal, it might actually be in UMass’ favor if these games were being playing in Orono rather than the friendly confines of the Mullins Center.  That’s because while the Black Bears are only 8-16-6 overall their results are much better away from Alfond Arena, posting a 6-7-1 record in those games.  Those victories include one over the River Hawks in Lowell and a shocking two game sweep at Boston College at the end of January.  Of course these two teams did meet once in Orono this season, a come from behind 2-2 tie with Conor Allen scoring an extra man goal with just over a minute left.

Maine’s strength this year has been their defense and the goaltending they’ve gotten from Martin Ouellette.  On the season he has a goals against average of 2.32 and a save percentage of .918.  During the stretch of games in January that helped put Maine back in the race for the playoffs Ouellette did quite well, putting up a GAA of 1.94 during that time.  He’s had a little tougher time recently though, giving up 11 goals in his last three games including five last time out to Boston University.  The Black Bears have been without key defenseman Nick Pryor since early January with injury.

The Maine offense has been anemic this season.  The 1.83 goals scored per game is by far the worst among Hockey East teams and second worst in the country next to Alabama-Huntsville.  On the power play they’ve converted just 11.6% of their chances.  Joey Diamond is the player to keep an eye out for as he’s scored greater than one out of every five Black Bear goals.  Of course it’s also important to keep an eye out for him since he has racked up 35 penalties this season.  A couple of young players have contributed to the scoring effort as sophomore Connor Leen has seven goals and Ryan Lomberg has six.  Freshman defenseman Devin Shore has racked up 18 points so far this season and leads the team with 15 assists.

I honestly have no idea what to expect out of UMass at this point.  You hope that some kind of recognition that they are soon to have a premature end to their season will kick in and they’ll return to the type of play we saw in January.  That will mean improved play at goaltender, no matter who is in net.  It means they have to play significantly better at defense where it has seemed like every mistake has led to an opposing goal.  And, the offense needs to get on the same page.  They’ve still been scoring recently, but it doesn’t feel like they’re maximizing opportunities out there.  Plus, most of the scoring of late has come from Mike Pereira who has accounted for 7 of their last 18 goals.  He can’t be asked to carry the load himself like that.

I don’t know what is going on in the players’ heads right now.  Are the recent struggles continued growing pains from the transition to a new coach?  I would hope not.  I would hope the new staff would be able to get the team to a point where they’d be improving with over 25 games together.  Have the players decided to tune out a new coach who’s not the one they came to play for?  Perhaps.  Whatever it is, they need to be ready to play.  Maine can smell the blood in the water.  This is one of the worse Black Bears teams we’ve seen in years, but they can’t be taken lightly.  They swept BC a few weeks back and were a bounce or two away from taking four points from BU last weekend.  The Black Bears decided a few weeks ago that they were not going down this season without fight.  Will the Minutemen do the same?

I don’t know what’s going on with the team, but I do know what’s going on with the team karma.  Going 1-5-0 in their last six and now having to battle the 9th place team just to make the playoffs three weeks before the season ends means it’s time to break out the triangles.

Speaking of my favorite jersey, it’s good to know that INCH still considers them one of the ugliest ever.  Long live the triangle!

Beer The Triangle
Not only does hockey tomorrow, hoops Saturday afternoon, and hockey Saturday night mean potential bad Mullins ice (tonight’s concert likely won’t help) but it probably means the chance to hit a plethora of places this weekend.  ABC, Moan & Dove, Dirty Truth, High Horse, People’s Pint?  All solid choices.  But at some point I’ll have to make it to the Hangar to grab some Bear Republic Café Racer 15 which just came back on tap.

Unfortunately it doesn’t look like any weekend previews have been posted anywhere as of this time.

Northeastern Recap

I’m getting straight to the point on this one.  Here are my key observations to last night’s 5-4 overtime loss to 10th place Northeastern.  With the loss the Huskies took the season series.  They now are just two points behind the Minutemen in the standings and hold the tie-breaker.  The overtime gamewinner was the first career goal by Josh Manson.  Bryan Mountain got the win after replacing Chris Rawlings in the 2nd.  Mountain was 0-6-2 coming into the game and had just one previous career win.  UMass gave up leads of 3-1 and 4-3 to end the 2nd.  Adam Frenier had the most unbelievable stats in the postgame broadcast.  Going into the game Northeastern was 0-11-0 this season when trailing after 2 periods, 0-21-2 going back to last season, and an astounding 1-40-6 looking back to the 2009-10 season.  That’s a less than 2% chance that the Huskies have come back in similar situations over the last four years.  But they did it last night.

I am extremely worried that this team looks worse now than it did in October or November.  Have I mentioned that I absolutely hate the month of February?  Granted, my father and grandfather were both born this month as well as a couple of our greatest presidents.  But I still would have no problem going straight from January to March.  Hallmark can invent another holiday to replace Valentine’s Day.  For whatever reason the shortest month of the year absolutely dooms Massachusetts hockey every goddamn year.  Right when a Boston College or, this year, a Merrimack gets better and their teams gel and they make a run into the postseason, the wheels fall off the UMass season.

Last night was some of the worst hockey the team has played all season.  The defense struggled all night, pretty blatant considering they gave up 45 shots to one of the weaker offenses in the league.  The goaltending of Steve Mastalerz was unfortunately inconsistent.  While the offense put up four goals, they still seemed disorganized.  And while I’m happy for the special team improvements from last year, there’s a point where this team has to score more 5 on 5 goals.  UMass has a +7 goal advantage on special teams but is –15 at even strength.

Outside of the ice conditions, which delayed the start of the game thirty minutes, everything was in UMass’ favor last night.  They led throughout.  They were at home.  They were playing the last place team who had just gotten swept at home.  And yet they blew it all and took the loss.  Now Maine comes into the Mullins Center this weekend with the chance to take over 8th place.  It makes you wonder how it’s come to this point where UMass is fighting just to barely make the playoffs.  But then again, this is February and we’ve now grown accustomed to exactly that at this time of year.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Mike Pereira
It’s unfortunate that Pereira has elevated his game right when the rest of the team is flat.  Last night he had a couple goals and an assist.  In the last six games he has seven goals and five assists.

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Republican Recap

Collegian Recap

College Hockey News Recap

Northeastern Preview

Northeastern Huskies 8-16-3 (4-13-3) Hockey East 10th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 10-15-2 (7-12-1) Hockey East 8th

Two struggling teams will be meeting tomorrow in a makeup game from the blizzard that hit a couple weekends ago.  Massachusetts and Northeastern both come into the rare mid-week game after getting swept this past weekend.  UMass lost a home and home to Lowell while the Huskies just dropped a pair of games to Vermont at home.  Earlier in the month it appeared as if Northeastern may be on the upswing after they beat Boston University in the Beanpot opener and then played Boston College tough in the championship before ultimately falling.  But last week the Huskies managed just two goals total against the Catamounts and will have to run off a streak of wins if they want to make the Hockey East playoffs this season.

These teams split a weekend series at the end of November with the Huskies grabbing a 1-0 win at the Mullins on the Friday and UMass bouncing back 6-3 the next night. Chris Rawlings, who has played well against the Minutemen in his career, grabbed the shutout in the NU win and turned away 31 shots. But the next night UMass poured 46 shots on him and got the win.

It’s no secret that the Minutemen will have to try to contain freashman Kevin Roy tomorrow. Despite his team losing Roy was named the MVP of the Beanpot after he scored five goals in the two games.  His 17 goals this season are second best among Hockey East players. The Huskies have just one win this season when Roy doesn’t register a point, the 1-0 shutout of UMass. There’s a big gap between him and Cody Ferriero who has the second most goals for NU with nine.

Roy has helped the Huskies to respectable numbers offensively, but they’ve struggled on the defensive end all season. The 3.30 goals given up per game is dead last among Hockey East games. It’s likely that UMass will see Rawlings tomorrow since he was given Saturday off.  He has played inconsistently all season, being chased in three games to date. But when taken as a whole his numbers are pretty good, compiling a 2.90 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. He’s definitely a better option in net than Bryan Mountain who is 0-6-2 on the season.

Coach Micheletto said after the Lowell loss on Saturday that the team is not hitting the panic button yet.  And that’s fair, it’s not time to panic regarding the team being able to make the playoffs.  But is that really what the team should be striving for?  Just barely making the playoffs (again)?  There’s still time to move up the standings, back to 7th, and perhaps further.  But to do so they’ll have to play a lot better in every aspect of the game.  They’ll get a tune-up versus the last place Huskies before the final stretch of games begins this weekend against Maine.  A loss tomorrow would simply be devastating for the team and its fans.

Beer The Triangle
Warning to pregamers!  The Hangar does not open until 4pm on Tuesdays (because no one wants the best damn wings in the world for an early week lunch?), so if you plan to get there mid-afternoon, seek other libations.  Luckily Amherst offers other locales as a stopgap before that time.  There’s always the venerable ABC, where last week I enjoyed an ABC/Northampton/Wormtown collaboration Third Degree IPA.  However tomorrow I might give the High Horse Brewpub another chance.  I’m not sure why since on my first visit they had mediocre beer and on the second they had improved beer served up by rude bartenders.  We’ll see what happens.  However I do have the entire day off and perhaps I’ll take the northern route into Amherst and check out the Blind Pig in Athol that I’ve been hearing so many good things about.

Conor Allen will be back in the line, per the Republican preview.

College Hockey News has their Hockey East power rankings and makes the case that the league should continue to limit playoff participation in order to add meaning to the regular season, especially the final few weeks.  I agree.

Saturday Recap

This recap will be brief due to a couple of reasons.  First, I didn’t make it to the game so I don’t have any first hand observations to share, only what was relayed from Brock Hines and Adam Frenier through the radio broadcast.  Secondly, there’s not really much to say.  UMass went into the weekend with a chance to move into 6th place.  Instead they’ve dropped a place in the standings to 8th and are just barely holding onto that as Maine is just one point behind.  In fact there was a point last night where the scores at the time would’ve resulted in UMass in 9th place.

I don’t know if it was effort or execution that did the Minutemen in last night.  I do know that after a scoreless first a shorthanded goal, the 7th given up this season, gave Lowell a 1-0 lead just six and a half minutes into the period.  That would open up the floodgates for scoring as Lowell would score just a few minutes later on the power play and then the teams would trade goals after that for the next few minutes.  But in the end Lowell finished the second period up 3-2 and that’s the score that would hold until the end.  Lowell would outshoot UMass in the final two periods 26-18.  The Minutemen were not helped by six penalties taken in the last two periods either.

There were a number of lineup changes in last night’s game.  The most suprising was the healthy scratch of Conor Allen, probably UMass’ best performing defenseman on the season.  It’s likely Coach Micheletto was sending a message to Allen for grabbing two game misconducts in two games.  Personally I’m not sure if that was a fair decision.  The misconduct last Sunday against Merrimack for contact to the head was thought to be a horrible call by the fans and even press members in attendance.  The misconduct on Friday was out of frustration in the waning minutes of a blowout and hardly factored into the result.  With Allen out Anthony Raiola made the lineup for his 9th game this season.  Mike Busillo was sat again in favor of Peter DeAngelo.  Steve Mastalerz was in net for the game and sounded like he played well.

Whether the lineup changes made the difference last night, I don’t know.  I do know that this team is now fighting for their playoff lives and is probably playing its worst hockey of the season.  The team is 1-4-0 in their last five and have only three wins in the nine games played since the beginning of January.  For the second year in a row Lowell has not only won the season series with UMass, but swept them.  A new coach but the same February struggles and again the Minutemen will have to battle just to stay in the playoff race.  The next six days will be key as they’ll have to rebound to face Northeastern in a rare Tuesday game and then take on Maine who will look to overtake the Minutemen in the standings.  The season started with a lot of hope given a new coaching staff and the quality of players returning.  However through 27 games the team is again near the bottom of the standings and has a worse record than last year.  Maybe this season is just a temporary set back before future success.  But UMass fans have been waiting long enough for a winning team and it’d be nice to head into the offseason at least feeling good about the program’s future.  Micheletto and the players have just seven more games to do so.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Mike Pereira
Pereira had a goal and an assist on the night.  He now has nine points in his last five games, including five goals.

Here’s the Republican recap.

College Hockey News has their takeaways.

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