Weekend Wrap-Around ▲ Hockey East Claims Three Of Top Four Spots In Rankings

Hockey East continues to show it’s the best conference in college hockey, boasting three of the top four teams in the country.  The latest USCHO polls has Providence continuing its reign as the #1 team in the country with Boston College just behind them at #2.  Lowell moved up to #4 after taking three points from Notre Dame.  Staying at #3 is UMass’ next opponent, 11-0-2 Quinnpiac.


Recap ▲ Boston College Blitzes UMass 7-0

Boston College 7.  Massachusetts 0.

These blowouts were supposed to be a thing of the past.  Over the summer Massachusetts hockey coach John Micheletto re-tooled his defense, bringing in four players who are either already drafted, attended an NHL prospect camp this summer, or are projected to be drafted next June.  Or some combination of all three.  In net, Micheletto finally landed the high profile goaltender he’s been coveting, with the top Junior A player in all of Canada landing in Amherst during the offseason.  Yet, here we are a month into the season and UMass finds itself 56th in the country in goals against after giving up 23 goals in the last 4 games.  They are also 56th in penalty kill with opponents scoring a third of the time on the power play.  Players leave.  New players come in.  But the program continues to be dogged by major defensive deficiencies.


Preview ▲ Minutemen Travel To #3 Boston College For Tuesday Tilt

Massachusetts Minutemen 4-1-1 (0-0-1) Hockey East T-8th


Boston College Eagles 5-1-0 (0-0-0) Hockey East T-10th

The Massachusetts hockey team is looking to get back on track after picking up their first loss of the season to #13 Yale over the weekend at the Capital City Classic.  But the specific challenges they faced against the Bulldogs could prove to be even tougher against the #3 Boston College Eagles on Tuesday.  Yale came into their game with UMass carrying over a strong defensive team from last season, but playing in their first game of the year.  BC through six games this season has already proven that they’re just as good defensively as Yale and maybe even better.


Weekend Wrap-around ▲ Plevy Named Hockey East Co-Rookie Of The Week

For his role in helping the Massachusetts hockey program gain an opening weekend sweep in Colorado Springs Minuteman freshman Austin Plevy was named Hockey East Co-Rookie of the Week today.  He shares the honor with UConn’s Max Letunov who, like Plevy, also had a hat trick in his collegiate debut.  In addition to the 3 goals and one assist in Friday night’s 6-3 win Plevy also scored the game-winner on Saturday.  Plevy and Mercyhurt’s Taylor Best, who has played one more game than Plevy, are tied for the national lead in goals.  Shane Walsh (3G, 2A) and Nic Renyard (45 saves) were named Top Performers by the league this week for their efforts this weekend.

graphic by Hockey East


Weekend Wrap-around ▲ New Brunswick Splits Against Top Hockey East Teams

Time for the first Weekend Wrap-around of the season taking a look at what’s going on around the rest of Hockey East and in college hockey in general, as well as catch up on any other UMass news coming out of the weekend.


Recap ▲ UMass Goaltenders Combine For 4-0 Shutout In Exhibition

The Massachusetts hockey team got much of what it wanted from its warm-up to the 2015-16 season with a 4-0 victory over the Dalhousie Tigers from the CIS.  The shutout was a combined effort as each of the team’s goaltenders turned away all the Tigers shots while playing a period each.  The team’s freshman class made solid contributions in net, on defense, and in the game’s scoring.


Season Preview ▲ Hockey East Team-By-Team

A couple weeks ago I shared my ballot for the media preseason Hockey East poll where I picked Boston College to win it all and our beloved Minutemen to, unfortunately, finish last yet again.  But with the season nearly upon us it’s time to take a closer look at each team, see what each squad has going for it, and what challenges they may need to overcome between now and March (and for some, April).  This is Hockey East!


Boston College Recap

On October 19th UMass brought a 3-0 lead into the third period against Boston College.  After giving up a couple early goals in the final stanza Darren Rowe scored for the Minutemen to put them up 4-2 with just over 10 minutes left.  But a couple Eagle goals late sent the game into overtime where BC would eventually get the win.  A couple weeks later against the Eagles UMass had a 2-1 lead early in the third but again couldn’t hold on and fell 3-2.  Last night UMass went into the third with a 2-1 lead, looking for their first win at Conte Forum since 2007.  So when UMass brought another 2-1 lead into the final period last night many Minuteman fans were expecting to see BC come back to tie it up, which is exactly what happened just over four minutes in when Steve Whitney scored.  What wasn’t expected was with under seven minutes left UMass would score three goals in just over three minutes and shock the #2 Eagles by the score of 5-2.

At the beginning of the game you never would’ve thought it would end with UMass taking a three goal win.  In fact it looked like the Eagles could’ve been up three goals after the first few minutes alone.  The officiating crew of Tim Bennedetto and Kevin Keenan rewarded BC with 5 minutes of power play time in the first 9 minutes of the game, four straight penalties called against the Minutemen.  The Eagles used that opportunity to pepper Steve Mastalerz, making his second straight start, with nine shots on those early power plays and 11 overall during that time.  UMass only had two shots on goal in that crucial first nine minutes of the game but when that time period was over it was the Minutemen who had a 1-0 lead thanks to a shorthanded goal by Steven Guzzo after Rocco Carzo stole the puck in the BC zone.  Special teams would strike again at the very end of the period when Branden Gracel, clearly the star of the team this season, scored on the power play.

Mastalerz stood on his head to keep the Eagles off the board in the first, facing 14 shots total and turning them all away.  Many in spectacular fashion.  In the second and third periods the defense in front of him stepped up and were able to limit BC to just 9 shots total in those two periods.  But Parker Milner played well on the other end during that time and stopped all 12 UMass shots in that second period.  Things were tense after the game was tied in the third but when Mike Pereira scored the go ahead goal with seven minuets left it was all Minutemen thereafter.  K.J. Tiefenwerth would score shortly after, no doubt feeling pretty good about helping defeat the school who pulled his spot on their team.  Gracel’s second goal of the night finished things off.

Obviously there were of positives to talk about from last night’s game.  The defense and Mastalerz played well for the second straight game, withstanding the early power play barrage and limiting chances in the final two periods.  Colin Shea really struggled in that first game against Providence last weekend but looked noticeably better last night, even adding a couple of assists.  Conor Sheary assisted on both Gracel goals and now has six points in his last four games.  Gracel continues to be on fire lately, with five goals and eight assists in his last nine games.

Last night was great to witness as a fan but I am extremely happy for seniors Kevin Czepiel, Darren Rowe, Eddie Olczyk, and Rocco Carzo.  These four guys had been a part of many hard fought battles and heart breaking losses at Conte Forum but it took what could perhaps be their last visit to finally experience a win there.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steve Mastalerz
Obviously Gracel’s two goals and assist were huge for the Minutemen but the fact is if Mastalerz done not come up with those big saves and withstand the multiple BC power plays in those first nine minutes this game could’ve been a blowout by the end of the first.

Highlights from UMassAthletics.com

“Amazing Gracel” is the headline for the Herald’s recap.

Here’s the Republican’s game story.

The Collegian’s recap focuses in on the seniors.

College Hockey News’ recap highlights the line of Pereira, Gracel, and Sheary.

Here’s the Eagle point of view from BC Interruption.

A couple of former Minutemen will likely soon be making their NHL debuts.  Matt Irwin has made the opening roster for the Sharks.  And former UMass captain Mike Kostka will be dressed for the Maple Leafs in their first game.  The Toronto Globe and Mail has this great story about the 27 year old finally getting his shot in the NHL, with a few mentions of the alma mater.  Congrats to both!

Boston College Preview

Massachusetts Minutemen 7-11-2 (4-8-1) 8th Hockey East


#2 Boston College Eagles 13-4-2 (10-3-1) 1st Hockey East

The Massachusetts hockey team looked like they were going to turn over a new leaf at New Years as they won the Ledyard Classic against stiff competition.  But last week they got swept in a weekend series at the hands of Providence, a team they need to beat if they have any hopes of accomplishing something of significance this season.  Now, if they want to jumpstart their season they’ll have to face a wounded Boston College team in Chestnut Hill tomorrow night.

BC is struggling as of late.  Well, struggling for them.  Since the last day of November the Eagles are 3-3-2.  One of those losses came to rival Boston University.  One was an absolutely drubbing at the hands of Minnesota by the score of 8-1.  And then last weekend they ended up splitting a weekend series with New Hampshire.  Of course for the most recent games they were without coach Jerry York who is recovering from eye surgery, as he will be tomorrow.  As said, this is a wounded Eagle team.  They’re not playing up to the level they’re used to as they’re without their legendary coach and they’ve had to deal with some injuries (Patch Alber) and absence (Johnny Gaudreau).  However, BC struggling at this time of year is nothing new.  The scary part is this is usually right when they turn it all around and start a streak that carries them to the NCAA title.

Despite recent struggles the Eagles are still quite formidable on offense.  Their 3.42 goals per game is tops in the league, with Gaudreau the leader in both goals (12) and total points (26) despite missing a few games representing Team USA.  Not too far behind him in terms of goal scoring are seniors Pat Mullane and Steven Whitney, who has half of his 10 goals on the power play.  BC is far and away the best power play unit in the league at 25%.  UMass is second best converting 19.8% of their chances.

On defense the Eagles have been, well, mediocre.  Their 2.58 goals given up per game puts them in the middle of Hockey East.  Some of that is due to the youth of their defense.  Some has to do with losing guys like Alber to a soccer injury (no seriously).  Senior Parker Milner is still putting up solid numbers however with a 2.43 goals against and a .921 save percentage.  Though their blueliners can be young, Mike Matheson is certainly one to keep an eye on as he has four goals to go with 10 assists and is a +14 on the season.

UMass has already lost two games to BC this season but they did play the Eagles tough in both.  In fact they absolutely should have won the first, bringing a 3-0 lead into the third before ultimately falling 5-4 in overtime in just the second game of the season.  In early November at Chestnut Hill the Minutemen would again play well and again have a third period lead until losing when Patrick Brown scored with under four minutes left.  Between this season’s efforts and the fact that UMass took the regular season series from BC last season shows that the Minutemen are capable of playing with this team.  The question is if they can put it all together, play mistake fee, and play well on both sides of the puck to win.

Last weekend they did well offensively on Friday but played pretty horrible defense and ultimately could not complete a valiant effort at a comeback.  On Saturday they did well on defense, limiting Providence to minimal opportunities, but could not finish offensively despite over 40 shots on net.  The Eagles are young defensively but they’re not without talent.  With a veteran goaltender to back them up UMass will have to find a way to make the most of their offensive opportunities.  They’ll also have to play damn good defense.  If Gaudreau was jetlagged from the tip back from Russia he didn’t show it, scoring a goal to go with a couple assists in his first game back.  This team is extremely dangerous on offense but the Minutemen did find a way to hold this team to just three goals through five periods earlier this season.  They’ll need some of that tomorrow.

Beer The Triangle
I suspect that pre-game will find me at Cityside, which has a solid beer selection but probably is better known for their food and locale.  However no trip to BC is complete without a stop in at the Publick House.  Best beer bar in Boston?  Yeah, I’ll say so.  For some reason the Publick House has decided to give up on this crazy invention called the interwebs and no longer have a web page.  So I guess we’ll all be pleasantly surprised when we get there and find what they have on draft.

I want to send along some get well soon wishes to BC coach Jerry York.  I’m actually disappointed that I won’t be able to witness the celebration for his gaining of the win record.  There’s a lot to dislike about Boston College.  Jerry York is not one of those things.

The Republican preview centers on the on the fact that the senior Minutemen have never won at Chestnut Hill.

The boys over at BC Interruption are glad to start a soft spot of their schedule this weekend against the Minutemen.

Here’s the Hockey East weekend preview from College Hockey News.

I was ecstatic to hear the news tonight that the WCHA accepted Alabama-Huntsville to join their league next season.  UAH may be geographically challenged but they have a lot of tradition and certainly were worthy of a lifeline to keep their program going.  College hockey needs more teams not less and so glad that it appears the Chargers will be sticking around.

Lastly, I think it’s apparent that I have a soft spot for Minutemen players who hail from Western Mass.  I was neither born there nor live there currently but I consider Western Mass home and love to see the local hockey talent end up playing in the Mullins Center.  There have been a bunch to do so from Rob Bonneau to T.J. Syner.  But in the vein of celebrating the WMass players and WMass locales I somehow got into calling Kevin Czepiel “Holyoke” after his hometown during his freshman year.  I thought it was a fun way to celebrate the gritty, blue collar nature of the town with the gritty, blue collar nature of Czepiel’s play.  It has stuck, at least for me and the Section U crew, and so I wanted to make sure to share this video the athletic department put together of “Holyoke” showing UMass fans Holyoke:


Doherty Leaves Team

Freshman defenseman Connor Doherty has left the Massachusetts hockey team and has already joined up with his former junior team, the Junior Bruins.  Indeed, Doherty’s name no longer appears on the official roster.  He had not appeared in any games this season and was a late addition to this year’s freshman class, committing just weeks before former coach Toot Cahoon parted ways with the school.  He’ll play the rest of the season with the Junior Bruins, where he was an EJHL All-Star last season.  Good luck to him wherever he ends up continuing his hockey career.

This weekend’s opponent, Boston College, moved up a spot to #2 in the rankings despite splitting their series with New Hampshire this past weekend.  BC did announce that that the celebration of Jerry York’s historic win recently that was due to take place during Friday’s game has been postponed until he recovers from recent eye surgery.

No Minutemen were named Top Performers by the conference this past week, not even Darren Rowe after his three point night on Friday.

February 9th’s game at Merrimack, which will be televised on NESN, has been moved to 4pm to accommodate the Bruins broadcast that day.  I missed the fact that the game was ever moved from 7pm to 3:30 in the first place.


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