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Saturday Recap

There’s honestly not too much to post about regarding last night’s game at Providence.  The Massachusetts defense looked much better than the night before, when they gave up five goals.  Perhaps some of that was due to an increased focus with Steve Mastalerz getting the start.  He played very well and it was good to see him back healthy and performing well.  But I think after Friday some kind of message had to be sent to the defense and changing from Kevin Boyle, who hadn’t really played poorly, was the way to do it.

However, even with the defense having aa better than average game, it didn’t matter.  UMass generated 44 shots on the night and yet could not get any of them past Friar goaltender John Gillies.  The popular opinion will be that the Minutemen did the best they could and just “ran into a hot goalie”.  From someone who was there I would say their shot selection wasn’t the best it could be, but in the end Gillies did play extremely well and led his team to a win.  UMass got four behind him on Friday but couldn’t get any in the net on Saturday.

I was happy that defensively UMass played much, much better last night.  After allowing Providence to skate in the offensive zone at will, the Minutemen did a great job shutting down the Friars, limiting them to just 12 shots through the first two periods and 24 overall.  But, UMass lost the game and got swept on the weekend.  The two losses are going to hurt very much in the long run.  They needed to play with desperation last night and they didn’t.  The Minutemen could not build off the momentum of winning the Ledyard Classic and kicked off the second half of the Hockey East season by losing two games a team they could’ve been battling for home ice.  Now they’re all alone in 8th place, just one point ahead of Northeastern in 9th, and home ice is nothing but a dream, seven points ahead of them in the standings.  If they’re unable to gain any points from a home and home with Providence it’s tough to imagine they’ll be successful against Boston College next weekend or two games at 7th place Vermont the week after.  This weekend was, quite frankly, a disaster.  We’ll see if they can pick up wins during the balance of the season to make up for it.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Conor Allen
As said the defense looked much improve this game.  On the blueline Allen looked in good shape, playing good D, blocking a couple shots, and even getting five shots on net.

Coach Micheletto says the team could not have played better according to the Republican’s recap.

Similar comments in the Collegian game story.

Here’s how the game looked for the Herald.

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Friday Recap

Things looked dire for the Minutemen on their trip to Orono last night but luckily a late goal by Conor Allen allowed UMass to come back from an early two goal deficit and grab a 2-2 tie.  Since I didn’t watch the game I won’t comment on it too extensively, but just from the radio broadcast and box score I think there are some positives and negatives we can take from the result.

First off, it was great to see the team battle hard to tie the game up at the end.  Allen’s goal came with just 1:08 left and Kevin Boyle pulled from the net.  A loss against last place Maine could’ve had long term repercussions for the Minutemen.  Especially when you start to think about tiebreakers later in the year.  Getting out of Alfond with a point makes for an easier bus ride home for the team.  The other UMass goal came on the power play from Steven Guzzo, his third on the season.  The Minutemen have now scored a power play goal in all eight of their games this season.  Boyle had another strong game as starter.

While it’s good to get out of Maine with the point, it was disappointing that the team gave up an early 2-0 lead to a last place team that was only scoring 1.36 goals per game going into yesterday.  The second goal came on a Black Bear power play, something they had plenty of last night.  Maine ended up having five extra man advantages in total, and while UMass killed four of the chances it was tough to get any momentum on their side with the constant interruptions.  Another negative was who wasn’t in the lineup.  Eric Filiou and Evan Stack were both out with injuries suffered against Providence.  Shane Walsh, who has made solid contributions as a freshman, was also out with an undisclosed injury.  With those guys missing Coach Micheletto had Adam Phillips dressed as a forward tonight, but he ended the night with no shots on net and a –1 rating.

UMass may look back upon this game as a missed opportunity or maybe as a hard fought point.  I think a lot of that depends on what happens Sunday against Lowell.  If they can beat the struggling River Hawks at home the Minutemen will have grabbed 3 points on weekend, which is always a good thing.  If they drop the game against Lowell then they’ll have managed just one point against the two teams at the bottom of the Hockey East standings.  That would be very disappointing considering how well the team has played recently

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Conor Allen
Allen gets the honor for his game tying goal with just over a minute left.  He finished the game with three shots total and an even rating.  It’s a little troubling to see him take three penalties in a game, since he’s been so disciplined to date.  However, if there’s a bright spot it’s that only one of those led to a Maine power play.  Allen remains the anchor on the defense and a legitimate threat on offense.

Here’s the game story from the Republican.

Here’s a recap from the same writer as above, but for the Bangor paper.

Providence Recap

I mentioned in my preview that yesterday’s game against the Friars could end up telling us a lot about this team as they moved on from the grueling conference schedule that started the season to a period where they’ll be facing teams they’ll likely be challenging for slots in the Hockey East standings.  If last night is any indication, this team is very capable of beating those middle of the pack teams as the Minutemen absolutely dominated Providence, shutting them out by a 4-0 score.

I’m sure Coach Micheletto would say otherwise, but from my standpoint there is literally nothing about last night’s game that I can point to as an area that needs improvement.  It was probably the most complete game the team has played in quite some time.  UMass scored goals on the power play, at even strength, and shorthanded.  Junior Mike Pereira broke out of his early season slump by scoring a goal and registering two assists.  UMass almost doubled up the Friars on faceoffs, 42-24.  The power play converted on one of their four chances and generated 11 total shots on the advantage.  Despite some cheap hits by the Friars the Minutemen kept their cool and were not goaded into taking additional penalties.  The Friars went 0 for four on their power play chances.  Kevin Boyle got his first career shutout.  Though Boyle deserves credit for keeping the puck out of the net, the defense was spectacular, holding the Friars to just 17 total shots, including just nine total in the first and third periods.

The defense really was the star in this game.  He made all the saves he needed to, but Boyle had one of the easier shutouts you’ll see because very few shots ever made it through to him and the ones that did were from bad angles or had very little to shoot at.  The UMass defensemen were on top of the Friar skaters as soon as they crossed into the offensive zone, attacking the forwards and shutting down passing lanes.  I’ve thought the defense as a whole has looked much improved so far this season, but the mistakes they’ve made have usually led to opponent goals.  Last night they were mistake free.

Offensively the team looked good too.  The first period was was a lot like the game against UNH where it looked like the teams were just feeling each other out.  In the second period UMass poured it on the Providence defense and freshman goaltender John Gillies.  Pereira picked up his first goal of the season by grabbing a Shane Walsh pass and attacking the the net.  Colin Shea would make it 2-0 by joining Troy Power on a shorthanded rush and sniping a goal high past Gillies.  Branden Gracel scored the third by making a nice pass to Pereira in the slot from behind the net and then putting home the resulting rebound.  Troy Power would cap off his second multi-point game in a row with a goal late in the third.

Though last night was filled with a lot for UMass fans to cheer about, there were a couple scary moments.  Eric Filiou left the game in the third with an upper body injury after what I thought was a cheap hit by a Providence player.  Filiou went to touch up the puck on a delay penalty call for the Minutemen and as soon as he made contact with the puck was needlessly blindsided by a Friar into the boards.  No penalty was called.  Later in the third Mike Busillo was hit into the stanchion at the Providence bench by Tim Schaller, who received a misconduct for the hit.  Luckily Busillo, who is giving the Minutemen quality minutes on defense, popped right back up.

I wish all games could be like last night (minus the injury to Filiou).  It seems like pieces are falling into place for the Minutemen.  The top two lines are really starting to mesh well, with Conor Sheary and Pereira both starting to produce points recently.  The team appears to have found their #1 goaltender in Boyle, who is currently second in the league with a 1.59 goals against average.  And the defense has played excellent against some of the best offensive teams in the conference.  The Minutemen will now take on the three teams around them in the Hockey East standings with a chance to grab some points and climb up some spots in the conference.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Conor Allen
Obviously Boyle and Pereira both had excellent games, but as I said the defense was the real star last night and Allen has played the best among all the team’s defense this season.  Allen has been blocking shots, disrupting offensive rushes and playing his usual hard hitting style, all while playing smart and staying out of the penalty box.  The Friars were averaging 34 shots on goal going into last night.  Allen and the UMass defense held them to exactly half that.

Last night’s highlights from UMassAthletics.com

In the Republican’s recap Pereira credits a pep talk from his brother and former Boston University captain Joe for his breakout game.

Here’s the game story from the Gazette.

College Hockey News has their takeaways.

Projecting The Lines

The roster is out and updated. I’ve done my best to quantify the potential impact of this year’s freshmen. So I figure it’s time to speculate on potential lines we’ll see this coming season. To be honest, it’s incredibly hard to guess what the lines will be. First, I have no idea what sort of combinations Coach Micheletto will want to use. When I projected lines last Spring I projected them to what I thought we would see based on Coach Cahoon’s history and tendencies. I have no idea what Coach Mick’s tendencies are. Does he like to split up his stars like Cahoon did or make one top power line? Does he always like to put right-handed shots on the left wing and vice versa or does he just put the best players together? I have no idea. We’ll find out. The second thing that makes it so hard is the fast that the roster is so large. There will be 17 forwards trying to be one of 12 that dress, nine defensemen for six slots on the blueline, and three contenders to start in net. Third, not only are the freshmen a big question mark, due to lack of playing time last year, a lot of the sophomore forwards are as well. Can an Andrew Telgeler or Zack LaRue come in and have a break out season? Definitely. I just can’t predict if it happens or who it may be. So with all that said here we go:

Pereira-Guzzo-Sheary
Carzo-Gracel-Tiefenwerth
Kiley-Filiou-Power
Olczyk-Czepiel-Tegeler

Hanley-Phillips
Allen-Yevenko
Shea-Raiola

Boyle/Mastalerz

When I was playing around with potential lines last Spring I had Rocco Carzo and Branden Gracel on the top line with Conor Sheary. This was driven by the fact that I thought Cahoon would continue to want two equally deep lines and therefore would split Sheary and Pereira, as he did in the second half of last season However, no longer having to project to the thoughts of Cahoon, I’m putting together the lines as I would. And I like the idea of those two together. I have Guzzo at center because I thought he was on the same page as Pereira quite a bit last year. This allows me to move Gracel down and pair him up with the senior Carzo where the two of them will help provide some experience to a line that also features freshman K.J. Tiefenwerth. This line will be successful only if Carzo evolves his game a little more offensively, going back somewhat to what we saw earlier in his career after having a solid season on the third line last year. Overall the first line above scored 39 of UMass’ 114 goals last year while Gracel and Carzo contributed 9 and Tiefenwerth netting 30 in juniors.

Pat Kiley and Troy Power stay on the third line with Eric Filiou replacing Carzo at center. However, given how he improved during the year, we could see Power on the second line this coming season as well. This line had 8 goals last year. For the fourth line I have Eddie Olczyk returning to an everyday role, never fully understanding why he went from 21 games his freshman year to just 16 last year, Kevin “Holyoke” Czepiel returns to center, while Andrew Tegeler will get the last wing spot. I think Tegeler has tremendous upside between his size and the skills he showed at times, but the fact is all these players, especially those on the bottom lines, will have to practice hard to get in the lineup. In no particular order Zack LaRue, Evan Stack, Shane Walsh, Peter DeAngelo, and Emerson Auvenshine will all be gunning to dress everyday as well. The fourth line of Olczyk-Czepiel-Tegeler had four goals last year. The returning players I have on the bench scored three goals, all by DeAngelo.

For defensemen I believe getting three solid pairings with players who compliment each other is the best methodology. Joel Hanley and Adam Phillips should be able to play decent defense, but at the same time both move the puck well and would be a significant scoring threat. Now befing on the first pairing would require Phillips to bounce back from a tough sophomore season that saw him miss a number of games as a healthy scratch. This pairing was a combined +10 last year. The second pairing of Conor Allen and Oleg Yevenko would be a bruising one and I think this would be a beneficial matchup of Allen, who at times was the anchor of the UMass defense last season, with the still developing potential of Yevenko. These two combined for a –2 last season. Lastly I have Colin Shea and Anthony Raiola in the last pairing, finished even combined last year, however truth be told it could also be Mike Busillo, freshman Connor Doherty, or Darren Rowe here. No matter who it is next to him, Shea’s consistency should help solidify the third pairing.

Just as last year, UMass fans have no idea who will be in net on opening night. Kevin Boyle had the best season statistically and ended up starting both playoff games against Boston College, doing fairly well both nights. Steve Mastalerz had a number of good games as well, including a shutout of #1 BC in January. I think the goaltending job will come down to one of these two and frankly I have no idea what the new coach’s thoughts are on goaltender rotations so it may be both. However, don’t be surprised if junior Jeff Teglia is in the mix again as well. It probably doesn’t hurt that he had his best games last season against Vermont and his now coaching staff.

That’s my guess for lines, feel free to share how you’d put them all together in the comment section.

The coaching staff is now complete as Dan Lupi will serve as Goaltending Coach this coming season. Lupi works with former goalie coach Mike Buckley at Buckley’s GDS Goaltender school. Lupi played in net for Assumption College, holding school records in a number of categories.

The Athletic Department posted this video with Mike Pereira and Conor Allen on their pre-season activities as they prepare for the season. The more I see of Allen the more I think he may become a candidate to be a captain or assistant this coming season:

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There are a couple jersey number changes reflected on the roster. Andrew Tegeler will go from #23 last year to #14 with T.J. Syner graduating while Troy Power takes #22 instead of #20. As for the freshmen, Shane Walsh will be #15, Evan Stack #20, Connor Doherty is #23, and K.J. Tiefenwerth goes with #28.

Not a big surprise but Danny Hobbs did officially sign with the Connecticut Whale, AHL team to the Rangers who held his draft rights. Hobbs’ hand injury suffered in the playoffs last year prevented him from joining the Whale after the season ended.

More details came out late last week surrounding the report on Boston University’s hockey program. I understand that there are similar problems like this that occur on campuses all across the country, but some of the quotes in that article are appalling. One of the players saying, “you don’t ask [permission for sex] when you are drunk” and a female student describing being groped without permission as “that’s just what [BU hockey players] do,” is, frankly, disgusting. I really hope this sort of stuff doesn’t go on with the UMass hockey team. While I totally realize at the end of the day these guys are college students and will do a lot of the same stuff we all did as college students, a lot of what is described in the BU report goes above and beyond the usual campus craziness. Say what you will about Toot Cahoon’s time here, but for the most part UMass has avoided this kind of negative press because he recruited character in addition to skill.

As most thought, Hockey East will be moving to a playoff format in the future that will have all conference teams making the playoffs. This will start next season when Notre Dame joins the league. I’m pretty neutral about this. I personally thought the current format makes the regular season that much more important and made for some excitement at the bottom of the standings down the stretch. But at the same time there’s nothing wrong with more hockey on more campuses come March.

Lastly, when I’m not trying to plan my next FTT post during the fall I’m usually planning tailgates. Some fellow loyal UMass fans and I have being doing our best to have the best tailgate at the football games. Or, at the very least, the tailgate with the best beer selection. So it was very cool to have our tailgate (and my homebrew) featured with others by Matt Vautour on Saturday when the Minutemen made their FBS debut. The Republican even gave us some pictorial love. Understandably, it will take a few years for the product on the field to reach the FBS level, but the action in the parking lots outside the stadium is already well on its way. I highly recommend catching a game or two this season if you aren’t already planning to.

Red’s Departure From UMass Official

Some UMass related links to pass along.

The New Haven Register is now reporting that assistant Red Gendron is heading to Yale.  The announcement will likely come later this week.  And everything I’ve heard points to his replacement at UMass being former Lowell coach Blaise McDonald.  I’ll likely have more on Red later in the week.  USCHO is also reporting the move.

Checking around the NHL camps, here is a feature on Mike Marcou and his time at Islanders camp.  Conor Allen is featured on a video from the Capitals website.  He does a great job of making the case for college hockey.

Casey Wellman has signed a one year, two way contract with the Wild.

Of course the big college hockey news of the week was the official unveiling of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.  That’s the last time I’m ever typing that out.  And no, I refuse to call it “The National”.  Although I may call it “Natty”.  The forming of the NCHC led to Northern Michigan jumping to the WCHA.  Of course everyone is still waiting for Notre Dame to make up their mind in this conference realignment.

Meanwhile, Minnesota State Moorhead is working towards upgrading their program to DI.

Syner & Allen Off To Camp

I believe I said last week that the coverage of the development camps coming from the NHL teams themselves has frankly sucked.  Sure enough, despite the fact that they’re not on the official Washington Capitals Development Camp Roster, it turns out both T.J. Syner and Conor Allen are attending the camp.  Thankfully the Washington Post appears to be on top of things.

Sounds like Adam Phillips was on the receiving end of a cheap shot at Flyers camp.  (Flyers?!  Cheap shots?!?)  I’ve seen a few other recaps of his performance at camp but they all say the same thing:  “Plays well, needs to add weight”.  Nothing we didn’t already know.

I suspect a number of former Minutemen will be at the San Jose Sharks camp later this month, but for some reason in the past they’ve kept the goings on there, including the roster, from the general public.

Here’s a video found of 2012 recruit Kenny Gillespie (#19) scoring a goal for Shattuck St. Mary’s from this past February.  Nice to see him use his 6’2” frame to get in front of the net and then put the loose puck in the net off the backhand.

The Iron Mountain Daily News out of Michigan reports that Boston University and Boston College were both invited to the new hockey conference being formed out west, but said no.  I can’t imagine either school would seriously consider leaving the already strong Hockey East, with its natural rivalries and easier logistics, to be with a group of Midwest and Rocky Mountain schools they have little in common with.  The report also states that Notre Dame is looking for a league smaller than Hockey East’s 10 team league.  I wonder if Western Michigan coach Jeff Blashill, who turned the Broncos into an NCAA team this year, jumping to the Red Wings will hurt WMU’s chances of gaining an invite to the new league.

Red Leaving For Ivy Green?

Back from vacation means back to writing about UMass hockey.  I had a great trip down to the  mid-Atlantic area.  I got to visit three breweries (Dogfish Head, Ram’s Head/Fordham, Victory), see countless national treasures like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and hung out with a few of the original Section U inhabitants dating back to the triangle days.

So did anything happen hockey-wise in this area while I was gone?  Oh yeah, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup!!  What a run.  I’m definitely a college hockey fan first, as that’s how I first got into the game, but seeing the black and gold as the owners of Lord Stanley’s chalice is beyond thrilling.  New England is now the center of the hockey world, let’s hope that continues next fall when UMass and the rest of Hockey East return to the ice.

Of course there was some UMass news during last week as well.  USHR reported that Red Gendron will be leaving Amherst to take an assistant coaching position at Yale under Keith Allain.  Gendron does have a relationship already with Allain from when they previously coached for the US program.  From everything I’ve heard, this report appears to be true even though it’s not official yet.  I’ll be sorry to see Red go.  He’s done a lot for the program from recruiting many of the talented players on the ice to all the hard work he does for things like the annual golf outing.  He’s also been very friendly to fans and supporters of the program.  Whatever the future holds for him, I’ll be rooting for him (except of course when Yale comes to town this fall).

Also in the USHR report was the statement that they’re “hearing” that Red will be replaced by former Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald.  Besides being colleagues in the Hockey East coaching ranks, MacDonald and Toot Cahoon were also assistants together at BU.  First off, I have not been able to confirm that the report that MacDonald is about to be hired is true, but makes sense that he’d be in the mix.  Secondly, I’m not sure I like this news.  I have a lot of respect for the job that Blaise did at Lowell.  Against all of the challenges that surrounded that program, even when it was on the verge of getting mothballed by the Board of Trustees, he was able to consistently recruit some top talent in the league.  However, he was just fired from that job because he was never able to get that talent to its full potential.  At Lowell he had a history of his very best teams underperforming regularly and sometimes dramatically.  Problem is, in recent years UMass has also suffered from that same charge of underperforming compared to its potential.  If Toot is going to bring in someone new to the staff, I would rather the person have a record of addressing some of the team’s recent deficiencies.

My ideal replacement for Red?  Hire alum and current ECHL coach Dean Stork and groom him to replace Toot in a couple years when he likely retires.

In other Hockey East coaching news, remember how friend of FTT Ryan S. Clark reported a couple months ago that Greg Cronin was leaving Northeastern for the NHL and Cronin vehemently denied the report?  Well Cronin was hired today as an assistant coach for Toronto.  Maple Leafs or Northeastern?  Hmm…lateral move at best.  It should be interesting to see if any recruits or current Husky players look to leave with their coach on the move.

UMass has lost out to Providence for the services of South Kent defenseman Anthony Florentino.  Florentino is a talented defenseman who has participated in past US national development camps previously.  This one hurts a little because he has some close ties to the Minuteman program and from what I’ve read is highly regarded.

Congratulations to Conor Allen, Mike Lecomte, Kevin Moore, Colin Shea, and Jeff Teglia who were named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team for this past season.  Lecomte was named to the team for all four of his years at UMass.

Stuff the ballot box!  Vote for Paul Dainton for UMass Play of the Year!

Speaking of voting, don’t forget to take the survey for which UMass license plate you like best.

With the Cup awarded, that means the NHL Draft is just around the corner.  Hockey’s Future has Mike Pereira as one of the top 10 draft eligible players in the NCAA.  Pereira will also be featured in a pre-draft article in the New England Hockey Journal that I’ll be sure to pass along when it’s published.

Dick Baker of the Republican caught up with Greg Mauldin and Justin Braun at last week’s Golf Outing.

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