Preview ▲ UMass Begins Homestand With Games Against #4 Boston College, Vermont

Boston College Eagles 15-4-3 (8-1-3) Hockey East 2nd

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Massachusetts Minutemen 7-12-4 (2-7-4) Hockey East T-8th

If the Massachusetts hockey team is going to make a run in the second half of the season it has to start now.  The Minutemen will not have to play a game outside of Western Mass until February 13th against Northeastern.  Friday’s game against 4th ranked Boston College kicks off a five game homestand, followed by a game against AIC at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, and then capped off with a return to the Mullins Center to face Northeastern.  We heard a lot earlier on in the season that the team was in need of a good homestretch to reverse their fortunes.  That hasn’t really happened as the team is just 2-5-1 at the Mullins Center.  But considering that the team plays three of its final four regular season games on the road, they desperately need to do well now if they’re to stay out of the bottom portion of the league standings.

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Weekend Wrap-Around ▲ Lagesson Named To Sweden’s Preliminary World Junior Roster

Before jumping into the usual recap of the weekend that was, the big news today was that UMass defenseman William Lagesson was named to the preliminary World Junior Championship roster for his native Sweden.  This isn’t a big surprise since he played for the Swedish junior team last winter.  The last Minuteman to play in the World Junior Championships was Stephen Werner in 2004.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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