Massachusetts Minutemen 1-3-2 (0-3-2) Hockey East T-7th
New Hampshire Wildcats 2-4-1 (1-3-0) Hockey East T-7th
Friday in Durham will feature a matchup of two teams who have not gotten out to the starts they wanted on the season. That’s one thing when you’re a UMass team still seen as young but it’s entirely different when you’re the New Hampshire Wildcats and have annual expectations of success. So tomorrow the Wildcats will seek to build off a little momentum built last week while UMass goes for a couple points against what could be a vulnerable UNH team.
It’s unlikely any Wildcat fan expected their team to start off the year 0-3. I’m certain that none of them could’ve imagined they’d be outscored 14 to 1 in that time. Add in another loss to St Cloud in their 4th game and the ‘Cats found themselves 0-4 and outscored 21 to 6. But they were able to tie the Huskies in the second game of that weekend and have swung momentum to their side just a little bit in the last three games, picking up wins over Union and Northeastern last weekend. Still, UNH comes into Friday’s game sporting the second worst offense and defense among Hockey East teams.
Coming into the season it was thought guys like Stevie Moses, Kevin Goumas and John Henrion would help fill the void left by their graduating seniors. Moses has done well so far, picking up a couple goals and 5 points total, but the other two have only combined for 3 goals between the two of them. Nick Sorkin has actually been the offensive leader for the Wildcats with four goals and three assists.
Next to the lack of scoring the big surprise for UNH early has been the play of goaltender Matt DiGirolamo, who finds himself near the bottom for Hockey East goaltender statistics. A goals against average of 3.84 and save percentage of .846 is not what anyone expected at this point. What’s amazing is those are his stats after a strong weekend that saw him win the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week this week. They were even worse before. He’s likely not helped by a young defense that’s without any seniors.
For UMass it’s all about regaining confidence and mental toughness. They’ll need mental toughness to be able to come back from a wasted weekend against Boston University. And they’ll need confidence to be able to go into a tough environment like the Whittemore Center and believe they can come away with a win. Despite having similar records, the Minutemen should feel confident about the matchup. The Minutemen have avearged over a goal more than the Wildcats on the season and their power play is better than UNH’s and still 4th in the league at 18.4%. Defensively UMass has put up slightly better numbers than UNH in terms of opponent scoring and penalty kill. And they’ve done all this against a tougher schedule.
It would be nice to see UMass redeem themselves for a lost opportunity last year. In the middle of November last season UMass had a chance to steal two points from a strong UNH team on their ice. With just over a minute left Mike Pereira broke a 2-2 with his 5th goal of the season and UMass seemed destined to take the game at Lake Whitt. But Pereira let his emotions get the best of him and did a celebration dive in front of the Wildcat bench. Forty seconds later, motivated by what they saw as a classless move by Pereira, the Cats scored and ended up gaining a tie. As the season played out and into the offseason I found myself wondering if the season would have turned out any differently if the team had gotten that game at the Whitt last November and built off of it. Maybe tomorrow can be used to change momentum in this season currently.
#1 Boston College 7-1-0 (5-0-0) Hockey East 1st
Massachusetts Minutemen 1-3-2 (0-3-2) Hockey East T-7th
A couple weeks ago these teams met and, in a game where the score was closer than it looked, the then #2 Boston College Eagles dominated on the way to a 4-2 win. Jeff Teglia was the only reason it was that close, stopping 31 BC shots. Before that game I said that the Eagles likely had the best defense in the league. I take that back. They likely have the best defense in the country. And that defense completely shutdown UMass’ offense. T.J. Syner, Danny Hobbs, and Mike Pereira all were kept pointless. Hobbs only managed one shot in the game. The UMass power play went 0 for 7. The only Minuteman goals were scored by freshman Andrew Tegeler making his college debut and another by Mike Marcou during garbage time late.
Obviously UMass will have to improve offensively, both at even strength and with the extra man. UMass was held to just 20 total shots in that game and managed a meager 2 for the entire second period. The players absolutely have to work hard to put pressure on Eagle goaltender Parker Milner. At the same time it’s up to Toot Cahoon and the coaching staff to come up with the necessary lines and offensive schemes to try to overcome the defensive ability of the Eagles. The prior game featured penalties. A ton of them. 20 to be exact. With some added discipline and improved officiating, it’ll be key for UMass to develop a rhythm they never quite found at Chestnut Hill.
Since that game a couple weeks ago the Eagles have only played better. They beat Northeastern in a close one the next night but easily swept Lowell in a home and home last weekend. The Eagles come into the weekend with the top offense among Hockey East teams and 3rd best in the country. They also have the top penalty kill in the league and are second best when it comes to power play and opponent scoring. They’re led offensively by Billy Arnold, Chris Kreider, and Johnny Gaudreau, all of whom have at least 5 goals on the season. The only thing not to go the Eagles’ way this season is the fact that talented defenseman Patrick Wey is on the shelf for a couple months with injury.
Let’s face it, the prospect for a win on Saturday is slim. This is a really skilled BC team with young players who are performing much better than could be expected at this point in time. But UMass will have the home ice (slush) advantage and what hopefully will be an energized Homecoming crowd due to file in following football. If the Minutemen get another strong game from Teglia and are able to figure out a way through that defense maybe the upset can be made. At the very least a strong showing would be a good way to close off what has been a challenging and frustrating gauntlet of games against some of the top teams in the league.
Beer The Triangle
Despite the fact that I’m overdue for a trip to Portsmouth Brewery, I won’t be heading up to Durham tomorrow. Instead I’ll be driving out to Amherst to get a good night’s sleep before what hopefully is an epic homecoming weekend. The wife is calling for a visit to Dirty Truth in Northampton. Oh ok, guess I shouldn’t disappoint her. Looks like they still have a number of Octoberfests on tap, domestic and European, that I’ll be happy to partake in. Saturday’s pregaming will actually be pre-football and I’m already looking forward to the beer and grilling of Yellow Lot already.
UMass has picked up a commitment from 5’11”, 160lb left wing Willy Smith who is currently playing for the Springfield Pics in the EJHL. Smith started the year a level down in the Empire league but was called up to the EJHL team after putting up 14 points in 9 games. His coach for his Empire League team was none other than Rob Bonneau, UMass’ 2nd leading scorer. Smith was an Empire League All-Star last year when he put up 13 goals and 17 assists in 26 games. Since he’s so young (only a ‘96) there’s not a ton out there on him, but I’ll be sure to post more as I find it.
USCHO examines the frustration both teams felt from last weekend’s UMass-BU series.
Lastly, I’m very happy to announce that Fear The Triangle has partnered the Springfield Falcons to offer the loyal FTT readers discounted tickets for the upcoming game against the Worcester Sharks at the MassMutual Center. This offer was initiated by former UMass hockey play-by-play announcer Donnie Moorhouse who now is the Director of Strategic Sales for Western Mass’ pro hockey team. I’ll do my best to make the game myself, though it could be tough since it’s a weekday. But the hope is that this is an offer that will be repeated later in the season as well. Here’s the info:
Fear the Triangle readers have an opportunity to catch a rare mid-week Falcon’s game at a discounted rate of $11 on Nov. 16 as the Falcons take on the Worcester Sharks at 7 PM. The Sharks have a distinct UMass flavor with a roster that has featured Matt Irwin, Justin Braun, and James Marcou and includes other Hockey East alums like Nick Petrecki (BC), Sean Sullivan and John McCarthy (BU), and Ben Guite (Maine). The Falcons have Cam Atkinson (BC) and Wade MacLeod (Northeastern) as active players on their roster. FTT readers can get the discount rate the Falcons’ Paypal site by clicking on the button below and purchasing before Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 5 PM. Tickets can also be purchased by calling Don Moorhouse at the Falcons’ office at (413) 739-4625, ext. 102
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS
Of course when this idea was first conceived Paul Dainton was in Springfield still, Justin Braun and Matt Irwin were on the blueline in Worcester, and it was hoped that James Marcou would be skating soon. As it turns out Dainton is in the ECHL, Braun is in the NHL, and Marcou will not join the Sharks until January at the very earliest. Still, the game is two weeks away and in the ever shifting world of sports, who knows who will join Matt Irwin on the ice that night. I hope to be able to join you all to cheer on the former Minutemen and Falcons!