View From Section U: Thank You Seniors!

Four Minutemen will be taking the Mullins ice for the last time on Saturday night.  I’m happy to take the chance to honor them.

▲ #3 Kevin Czepiel ▲

“Holyoke”.  Yep, somewhere in his freshman year I kind of gave him that nickname because I love to see Western Mass players on the Minutemen and thought having Czeips on the team should be recognized.  Usually having local kids on the team involves kids from the Springfield area.  But when Czepiel got to Amherst he was even more local, growing up not too far down I-91 and a former captain at Northfield-Mount Hermon.  Czepiel has had a very solid career at UMass, playing over 25 games in all four years.  A good puck handler he has been able to move around and fill different roles when needed.  At times in his career he played on the top two lines.  However he really excelled on the third and fourth lines where he was asked to shut down opposing scorers.  He did well doing that but opponents would also have to respect his ability to turn the puck around and make a nice pass to a linemate for a scoring chance.

Czeipiel went out and was a reliable forward no matter what line he ended up on.  He played hard.  He moved the puck well.  And stayed out of the box for the most part.  And he was a regular in the faceoff circle.  When the season started and the team needed someone to lead them, he and fellow senior Rocco Carzo stepped and ran the practices and were rewarded with the Cs on their chest.  The city of Holyoke, a former mill town, can be described as a hard-working, blue collar place.  And that’s probably a pretty way to describe Kevin Czepiel’s career at UMass.

▲ #12 Rocco Carzo ▲

Carzo has had an interesting time at UMass.  In his freshman year he played on a line with star forwards James Marcou and Casey Wellman and by all accounts did very well in the role.  He scored six goals that season, two of them game winners, to go with six assists.  His linemates were two of the most prolific scorers in Hockey East that season, with Marcou 4th best in the league with 51 total points and Casey Wellman accumulating the 3rd most goals with 23.  Carzo was deservedly named the team’s Rookie of the Year for his contributions.  Carzo had some big expectations going into that next season, but with Marcou and Wellman both gone to the pros, they proved tough to live up to.  In his sophomore and junior seasons he would end up scoring just three goals total.

Carzo’s path back to becoming an impact player on the squad started in the second half of last year when he was put on the third line with Troy Power and Patrick Kiley.  There were times in the last three months of the season when that line contributed the most consistently night in and night out.  And Carzo was a big part of that.  The resurgence of his career has carried into this year where, as co-captain, he has scored eight goals, 4th best on the team.  It hasn’t been the easiest of careers at UMass for Carzo.  But I was always impressed that, even when faced with unrealistic expectations, he consistently went out on the ice and gave a great effort, eventually finding the role on the ice that fit him best.  I’m glad to see him come full circle and as a senior regain the role of being an integral player on the team.

▲ #16 Eddie Olczyk ▲

Eddie Olczyk’s role was never questioned during his time as a Minuteman. His job as a third or fourth line winger was to go out there and minimize the impact of the opponent’s offensive stars.  And he’s done that consistently.  UMass has had a number of forwards recently who have been able to regularly make an impact on the outcome of games even while rarely scoring.  Brett Watson is perhaps the best example of this.  Olczyk followed in Watson’s footsteps in this regard.  After playing in 21 games his freshman year his playing time dwindled and he only played half of his sophomore and junior seasons.  However I was thankful to see him return to the lineup on a regular basis for his senior year, playing in all the games thus far.

Playing Olcyzk every game has not only helped the defense’s ability to keep the other team off the board, but has had the surprising benefit on offense too.  Through his first three seasons he had amassed just one goal, scored halfway through his freshman year.  But this year he’s tripled that number to three.  Three goals doesn’t seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but two of them have been incredibly important.  The first came shorthanded in the win over Dartmouth to win the Ledyard Classic, easily the highlight victory of the season.  The most recent goal was this past weekend late in Friday’s game against UNH which temporarily gave UMass the go-ahead lead.  It’s never easy to be the namesake of a hockey legend that also happens to be your dad.  But at UMass Eddie Jr did a good job of making a name for himself as a dependable and hard-working shutdown forward.  And he should be proud for that.

▲ #17 Darren Rowe ▲

There was a time last season when most Minuteman fans probably thought they had seen the last of Darren Rowe in a UMass uniform.  After playing in 45 games in his first two years on campus Rowe seemed to fall out of favor with then coach Toot Cahoon.  In his freshman and sophomore years Rowe played well enough, but never seemed like a natural fit at defense.  He seemed to excel in the offensive zone, where he was able to leverage his puck handling skills and dangerous shot.  But on the defensive end he seemed to struggle.  In the offseason before his junior year I know that I personally advocated for him to move to forward to better take advantage of his natural instincts and strengths on offense.  But that didn’t happen.  Instead he sat in the stands for a good part of the season.  Yet somewhere along the way he was given a chance, made the most of it, and played the last two months of the season last year, though not really on an impactful basis.

Fast forward to this season and perhaps no one has benefitted from the offseason coaching change than Rowe.  Just a year and a half after many thought his UMass career was done he has played in all but one game this season.  Not surprisingly, it’s been his offensive skills that have gotten him the most attention.  And for good reason.  UMass does well when Rowe gets on the scoresheet.  Of UMass’ 11 wins, 6 have come when Rowe registers a point.  In fact the team has a winning record when he does so.  He’s had a number of key goals this season as well.  He scored a power play goal against Bemidji State in the Ledyard Classic, had three points against Providence in January, and had the overtime winner against #9 New Hampshire in November, one the season’s most memorable wins.  Rowe certainly helped add excitement to this season and his resurgance became one of the best storylines on the year.

I didn’t go back to previous years Seniors’ posts, but I’m sure I probably express the same sentiment every year.  That is that I have the utmost respect for the guys that pull on the UMass sweater every weekend.  College is full of demands and distractions.  It can be tough for anyone to make it all the way through and finish their senior year.  To juggle the classes, a social life, and then add on an insane amount of games, practices, and all the other time that goes with being a DI athlete is commendable.  I honestly don’t know how they do it.  But they do and represent the University of Massachusetts well whlie they do it.  I love my alma mater and am proud to tout and represent UMass whenever possible in my personal and professional life.  But these guys actually go out and represent the students and alumni with “UMass” emblazoned across their chest.  And for that they should be recognized.

The last few years have not been fun for UMass fans who no doubt hoped for more wins and better finishes within Hockey East.  But imagine what it must feel like for these seniors.  No player envisions their senior night coinciding with a fight just to extend their season another weekend or two.  I’m sure these guys probably envisioned things turning out much differently when they were ranked 15th in the country in January of their freshman year and the future looked bright.  But the team collapsed at the tail end of that season, Marcou, Wellman, and Irwin left, and the program has had a tough time returning to a successful footing since.  But not for lack of effort.  Let’s remember that these four guys have gone out there and played hard, done their best, and represented Your State U to the best of their abilities.  I’ve always thought Senior Nights at Boston College must be a lot of pomp and circumstance as they count the national championships won by their outgoing players and pat themselves on the back but I’ll take the guys who have had to grind it out for every win, every ounce of recognition, and have battled just to dress for games during their career.  And that’s pretty much how you have to describe this senior class.  Holyoke, Rocco, Eddie, and Darren, thanks for your dedication to Massachusetts hockey.

I know this has been a tough season to follow as a fan.  I also understand that the short term prospects for the team are currently working against them.  But I would hope that the true UMass hockey fans will do all they can to make it to the Mullins on Saturday, if only to clap and thank these four individuals for wearing the maroon and white.  They’ve earned it.

Merrimack will definitely be without defenseman Kyle Bigos on Friday.  Should make for an awkward (though fitting?) senior night for the Warriors.

Paul Dainton is back in the valley.

About these ads

Boston University Preview

#11 Boston University Terriers 13-9-1 (10-6-1) T-2nd Hockey East

at

Massachusetts Minutemen 9-12-2 (6-9-1) 7th Hockey East

The Massachusetts hockey team will only have one game to focus on this weekend, which is a good thing because it’ll be a tough one but a win versus the Terriers is not outside the realm of possibility.  Boston University is still very talented and not easy to beat, the Minutemen know this with the weekend sweep at the hands of the Terriers in the beginning of the season.  But they’re not exactly untouchable either.  They’re just 1-2-1 in their last four and 3-4-1 since winter break.

Offensively these Terriers are pretty much what you’d expect.  Their 3.09 goals per game is good for third in the league, tied with Lowell and behind Boston College and New Hampshire.  Their power play is only middle-of-the-pack though, converting just over 16% of their chances.  BU has gotten production from all their classes, as shown from their leaders in goals scored so far.  Tops on the team is senior Wade Megan who has 12 goals on the season, tied for third best among Hockey East players.  Behind him is freshman Danny O’Regan who has 9 goals to go with 13 assists.  Those two both had two goals apiece against the Minutemen when the teams met for a home and home series in late October.

Defensively is where the Terriers, at least statistically, look a little more out of character.  However, I think that’s probably to be expected when you’re trying to break in two freshman goaltenders (see: UMass last year).  It’s important to note that Matt O’Connor and Sean Maguire haven’t done terribly in their debut seasons.  O’Connor has played more of the games, compiling a 2.90 goals against average and .910 save percentage.  Maguire has the better stats with a 2.34 GAA and .925 save percentage.  The two have been roughly alternating since early December and the Boston Hockey Blog reported on Twitter that Maguire would get the start.  BU has struggled on the penalty kill, sitting at 82% and 8th in the league.

Frankly, this is a vulnerable Terrier team.  It’s also a BU team could’ve been facing the prospect of losing a season series to the Minutemen tomorrow.  However in the last time these teams meet in the Mullins Center the Minutemen gave up a 2-0 lead and somehow could not find the back of the net despite 20 third period shots on O’Connor.  The result ended up being a 3-2 loss for UMass and now BU has a chance at a season sweep tomorrow night.  Hopefully pride and the fact that Vermont, Maine, and Northeastern are all breathing down their necks will give the Minutemen the motivation needed to upset the 11th ranked Terriers.  To do so they’ll need a consistent effort on offense.  The team as a whole has played good defense since winter break ended, with the exception of the Providence game at home when they gave up five goals.  But defensively UMass has been playing some of its best hockey of the season, even on special teams.  Scoring however has been hit or miss in that time.  They’ve been able to generate a lot of shots but some nights the puck finds the back of the net and the next opposing goaltenders look like world-beaters.  The finishers that are on the team, most specifically the first like of Branden Gracel, Mike Pereira, and Conor Sheary, will have to make sure Sean Maguire looks human tomorrow.

Beer The Triangle
Seems like a long time since I’ve been to the Hangar.  I wonder what they have on draft?  Since they tend to highlight Lagunitas I hope they have the Lagunitas Sucks on draft, one of the top beers from a favorite brewery.

A number of BU Twitter accounts have reported that BU will dress seven defensemen tomorrow night, with Ryan Ruikka in the lineup at forward.  The Boston Hockey Blog also tweeted that Evan Rodrigues will dress after missing last Saturday’s game against Providence due to injury.  Rodrigues has eight goals on the season.

The Republican has this profile on Darren Rowe as part of their preview of tomorrow.  Overall Rowe has been one of the better stories of the UMass season after getting very limited playing time last season.  While there are certainly still times on the ice where his defensive limitations prove frustrating for UMass fans, the fact is when he’s doing what he needs to on defense and combining it with offensive contributions he’s a very valuable part of the team.  And he’s done well in both aspects in recent games notching two goals and six assists in the last seven games while maintaining an even plus/minus rating.  I always thought Rowe’s skills weren’t totally maximized during his UMass career and continue to contend that he should’ve been moved to forward earlier in his career.  But he continues to do his best on defense while making the most of his offensive instincts during his senior season, shaking off a mid-season slump.  And the team has benefitted when he’s moving and shooting the puck well on the season.

Here’s some additional coverage of Matt Anderson, who picked up his first NHL point/assist tonight for the Devils.

Dick Baker had this article about Anderson’s accomplishments framed around the legacy of Springfield hockey legend Gary Dineen.

And Collegian alum Andrew Merritt wrote this enjoyable piece on Anderson for the New England Hockey Journal.  I know I mentioned it the other night but, like Mike Kostka, I’m thrilled to see Anderson get his shot in the NHL.  I have followed the program for almost two decades and there are few better representatives of the dear old alma mater and the Minuteman hockey program than those two.

Oh hey Casey Wellman was traded again and is now in his fourth NHL organization since the beginning of last season.  Maybe sometime between now and when I retire at the end of the season I’ll do a View From Section U column expressing what I really think about Wellman.

Friday Recap

During the opening game of the Ledyard Classic UMass did not look good defensively.  Their play was not catastrophic, they just looked a step behind, a second late in their reactions.  Luckily they woke up in the second period, outplayed Bemidji State in the balance of that game, and went on to win the tournament.  Last night that sluggishness on defense was back.  Unfortunately this time they could not shake off the rust and they ended up dropping a key game at home to Providence by the score of 5-4.

It’s too bad that the team did not get the job done defensively, but they made some great plays offensively and it’s frustrating to get the loss when the team scores four goals.  In terms offense I thought UMass played very well.  Patrick Kiley opened up the scoring for the Minutemen by attacking the net and getting one past John Gilles.  Having Conor Sheary on the point on the power play continues to pay off as he put home a wrister to tie things up in the second.  Darren Rowe had the highlight of th enight for UMass when he used his stickhandling skills to skate in and around the Providence defense to put an easy backhander past a beaten Gilles.  The last goal was by Conor Allen who had the wherewithal to skate into the slot with the puck behind the next and was rewarded when Branden Gracel made a nifty center pass right onto his stick.

But defensively, UMass just never looked solid.  Providence too often was able to freely skate right in on Kevin Boyle.  Rebounds were not swept away and Friar skaters were allowed to plant themselves in front of the crease to put them in the net.  Amazingly the team had just five blocked shots last night.  Providence was by far the faster and more energetic skating team during the game.  The killer defensively for UMass was the fact that it was a shorthanded goal that ended up being the game winner for Providence.  Darren Rowe tried to repeat his highlight goal from earlier, skated deep into the zone on the power play, only have it knocked away.  Unfortunately, with Rowe already in as far as the faceoff circles, no teammates took his spot on the blueline and Providence was able to generate an odd man rush while being a skater down.  Game over.

The loss means a number of things for the Minutemen.  They remain in 7th place, where they’re now tied with Lowell who has a game in hand on them.  Northeastern is in 9th place just one point back.  The team is now five points behind the Friars and home ice.  A win last night would’ve give them the season series and the all important tie breaker over the Friars.  What hurts is that UMass now embarks on a four game road trip and they missed out on a chance to kick off the second half of the conference schedule with a win in their only home game during the month of January.  Instead, if the Minutemen want to put themselves back into the fight for home ice they’ll have to do so on the road.  Starting tonight.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Darren Rowe
As mentioned Rowe had a highlight goal (see below) last night and also assisted on both the Kiley and Sheary goals.  After going 10 games without a point Rowe now has four points in his last three games.

Highlights from UMassAthletics.com

 

Here’s the game recap from the Republican’s Harry Plumer, who had an interesting vantage point last night.

In the Collegian game story, Coach Micheletto says there were enough fingerprints on the opposing goals that he won’t single out anyone.  I agree, team loss.

Friday Recap

Well the Massachusetts hockey team had lost a few games in dramatic fashion this season so it’s only fitting that they picked up their first conference in the same way last night.  Darren Rowe continues to make the most of the second chance he’s gotten under the new coaching staff with his game winning goal just over three minutes into overtime on a UMass power play.  By doing so the Minutemen not only picked up their first Hockey East points but handed New Hampshire their first loss of the young season.

It was a bit of a strange game with the teams taking the initial part of the game to essentially feel each other out.  I felt UMass was the better team for much of the game but it was the Wildcats who got on the board first with one of those killer goals with just seconds left at the end of the first period.  However the Minutemen came out in the second and continued to press UNH as the two teams traded scoring chances.  It would pay off as UMass would tie the game just over halfway through the second period.  From there it would remain tied through the end of regulation setting up Rowe’s heroics at the end.

Though Rowe deservingly receives the main accolades from this game, there were many who played key roles last night.  With Joel Hanley out with an injury UMass would need the rest of the defense to step up in his absence, and that’s exactly what happened.  UNH came into the game as the highest scoring team in the league but was held to just one goal and 26 total shots.  Conor Allen continues to be the anchor for the defense, providing excellent blueline play in addition to contributing quite a bit to the offense for the team as well.  Last night he assisted on both UMass goals, had five total shots, and even carried the puck up the ice in a few rushes into the UNH zone.  Kevin Boyle wasn’t tested too much as the defense in front of him kept the Wildcat forwards away, but he did look good when he needed to make plays and had an unbelievable save as the final seconds of regulation ticked off to allow for the overtime heroics.

Conor Sheary  looked good and picked up his first goal of the season on a quick wrist shot that beat UNH goaltender Casey DeSmith.  Sheary was also a perfect 7 for 7 in the faceoff circle.  Shane Walsh continues to play very well, providing a ton of energy on the ice, making some hard hits, and making solid contributions on offense.  Walsh had 3 shots on the night but it was his awareness and cross-ice pass in overtime which setup Rowe’s game winner.  Rocco Carzo continues to be a leader on the ice with his key two-way play this season.  If there is anything for UMass fans to worry about coming off this game it would probably be the play of Adam Phillips and Mike Pereira.  Phillips looks good at times but overall his performance on defense has been inconsistent and the momentary breakdowns have usually been costly.  Pereira was looked upon to be the star for UMass this season but so far through five games he has yet to register a point and is a –4 on the season.

Last night was exactly what this team needed.  Not only were they able to hand a top ten team their first loss of the season, but it was how they did it that was important.  They were able to reverse fortunes from earlier games and it was the Minutemen who won the game with the last goal scored.  Defense and goaltending played extremely well despite missing a key player in Joel Hanley.  UNH’s power play was held to just two shots and no goals in three chances.  And the team was able to get a goal from Conor Sheary which will be needed if they want to succeed in future games.  The trick now will be to carry over the momentum and confidence they gained last night into tomorrow’s matchup with #1 Boston College.  It won’t be easy, especially since the team hasn’t won there in five season, but I like their chances a lot more after what they accomplished last night.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Darren Rowe
Rowe’s performance is one of the enjoyable storylines early on this season, playing the hero last night and having three total goals on the season.  What’s important for Rowe and his battle to dress every night is that his defensive play has noticeably improved from previous seasons.  While it was Rowe who buried the puck high past DeSmith in overtime, a sticktap goes to Conor Allen and Shane Walsh who got the puck onto his stick.

Last night’s highlights from UMassAthletics.com

The game winning goal, coming just after a time out, worked just how Coach Micheletto drew it up, per the Gazette game story.

Rowe says the coach deserves an assist in the Republican’s recap.

Here are the Key Takeaways via College Hockey News.

The Boston Herald also has their coverage of the game.

Here’s a Wildcat perspective from the Union-Leader.

Weekend Preview

#9 New Hampshire Wildcats 4-0-1 (2-0-1) T-3rd Hockey East

at

Massachusetts Minutemen 1-3-0 (0-3-0) T-9th Hockey East

Coming into the Mullins Center on Friday night will be a one of the hottest teams in college hockey so far this season in the form of the UNH Wildcats.  They’ve yet to lose a game.  They’ve beaten BU, swept St Cloud out west, and beaten Northeastern in addition to tying the Huskies in Boston last week.  The Cats are tops among Hockey East teams in terms of offense and defense early on in this season.

UNH is scoring almost three and a half goals a game.  That production is coming from both their forward and defensive positions.  At forward seniors John Henrion and Austin Block have gotten the job done with three goals apiece in UNH’s five games this season.  They’ve gotten help from the likes of juniors Nick Sorkin, Dalton Speelman, and Kevin Goumas who have all contributed to the Wildcat offense.  However they’ve also gotten good production from the blueline as well as defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk has three goals thus far while Connor Hardowa has a team high six assists.

Obviously their production has helped Van Riemsdyk and Hardowa put up impressive numbers overall on the Wildcat defense, but really sophomore Casey DeSmith has had the most impact for UNH.  DeSmith so far has a save percentage of .931 to go with a stingy goals against average of 1.77.

I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be a huge challenge for the Minutemen to find a way to beat this UNH team.  That seems a little strange coming off of games against Boston College and Boston University but but UNH seem to be playing great hockey in all phases during this early phase of the season and is a little more seasoned than the Eagles and the Terriers.

Therefore, it’s that much more important that UMass leverage the advantages it’s afforded in these games.  To me, those appear to be experience and home ice.  Experience is something that the Wildcats have, as everyone I’ve mentioned above except DeSmith and Van Riemsdyk are upperclassmen.  Yet, UMass can equal or surpass that experience with a fellow sophomore goaltender and the immense junior class which is supplemented by the leadership from this year’s seniors.  The other advantage as mentioned should be the crowd.  Through the first three games of the season the Mullins has been filled with three crowds greater than 7,000 fans.  That’s never happened in the history of UMass hockey.  So far that support and energy has only been able to help UMass to a win over lowly UConn, but assuming they have a similar crowd on Friday it’d be nice to see UMass let the crowd carry them through to the end of the game with a W.

 

Massachusetts Minutemen 1-3-0 (0-3-0) T-9th Hockey East

at

#1 Boston College Eagles 4-1-0 (4-1-0) 1st Hockey East

Really, there’s not much to say in previewing UMass’ rematch with the Eagles.  Two weeks ago the Minutemen dominated the defending national champions for two full periods.  Going into the third period of the game two Fridays ago UMass had these guys beat.  Then, due to fatigue, lack of concentration, or disparity of talent, they failed to finish the job.  By the end of the third it was tied and in overtime BC’s Johnny Gaudreau grabbed a goal to give BC the game.  On one side I want the UMass team to look back upon that game to fill them with confidence that they can not only skate with a good team but outskate them.  But at the same time I want them to be out for revenge for the earlier loss the suffered at the hands of the Eagles.

BC has been led so far by the captain Pat Mullane, who had two goals to go with an assist against the Minutemen.  In total on the season he has three goals to go with five assists.  Johnny Gaudreau, the hero of the game against UMass, has continued his production with three goals and four assists.  Talented forwards Steven Whitney and Kevin Hayes join Mullane and Gaudreau with three goals apiece.

Helped by senior goaltender Parker Milner, the young but talented defense of BC has held up well.  BC has only allowed two goals a game on the season which is second best next to UNH.  Considering half of the defensive corps are made up of freshmen, that’s a pretty impressive stat.  In the game against UMass I thought Michael Matheson looked the best out of their freshman blueliners.  Matheson is a +4 on the season, tied with Patrick Wey for tops on the BC team for defensemen.  Milner has looked excellent thus far with a goals against of 1.98 and save percentage of .931%.

Hopefully UMass will use their last second loss to the Eagles a couple weeks back as motivation on Sunday.  It won’t be easy though.  UMass has not won at Chestnut Hill since fall of 2007.  We’ll see if that streak can end on Sunday.

Beer The Triangle
After a couple weeks away I’ll be happy to see what the Hangar has on the draft list tomorrow.  A rare Sunday afternoon game at Boston College likely means a trip to the Publick House.  Unfortunately their website is down so I have no idea what to expect when I get there.

UMass is not dwelling on the past according to the Republican’s preview of tomorrow.

The Gazette has a profile on Darren Rowe and the second chance he’s gotten in this his senior year.

Here’s a look at the weekend in Hockey East according to College Hockey News.

Hockey East is supposedly trying to address diving in the conference.  Good luck with that when it’s some of its highest profile teams that are the worst offenders when it comes to embellishment.  I’m going to guess that nothing happens.

Future regional sites were announced by the NCAA.

Sizing Up The Freshmen

This was a busy week for the UMass athletic department, what with football media day and such. So it doesn’t look like the shorthanded staff was able to update the hockey roster this week. Originally I was waiting see the final fall roster before starting in on previews but, probably like most of you, I’m chomping at the bit to start thinking about the upcoming season. So without knowing entirely who’s coming and who’s going, let’s start to take a look at this year’s roster. While most of the attention will be spent on the talented and deep sophomore class as well as the core group of returning captains as seniors, the freshmen will have a key role to play in this team’s success. Especially in perhaps the most important position of all, goaltender. So here’s a short introduction to the new players coming onto campus, what they bring to the team, and what holes they may potentially fill.

Forwards

Emerson Auvenshine
Auvenshine is the most recent player to commit to the Minutemen. He has spent the last two seasons with the Bismarck Bobcats of the NAHL, a Midwest junior league that seen as a step below the elite level USHL. With the Bobcats last year he put up 11 goals and 11 assists to go along with 106 PIM. The penalty minutes suggest he plays with grit, which is something that was definitely lacking with last year’s UMass team. The Michigan native seems to be a really hard worker, as Paul Teeple, broadcaster for the Bobcats, wrote about his perseverance in North Dakota that not only saw him make the team but become one of its assistant captains. Auvenshine will likely see some time on the third and fourth lines to help the Minutemen defensively and keep the other teams honest, but it’s always tough to know what to expect from players coming out of a mid-tier league like the NAHL. If he gets significant playing time, it’s likely because he’s working harder than everyone else in practice.

Zack LaRue
If LaRue isn’t seen as the highest profile freshman coming in, he at least is likely to make the most impact offensively. He’s seen as being one a strong skater, well-conditioned, can put up points (33 goals, 36 assists in 50 games with Markham of the OPJHL), and is also a top penalty killer. That description makes him sound a lot like co-captain T.J. Syner. The difference? LaRue is 6’2” and 195lbs. LaRue seems like the type of player who will be able to come in and immediately contribute to the scoring load, which is very important considering the team was 7th in Hockey East in goals, but at the same time able to withstand checks along the boards and maybe hand a few out. I see LaRue likely playing on the top two lines, mixing in with the likes of Syner, Danny Hobbs, Mike Pereira, and Conor Sheary.

Andrew Tegeler
Tegeler should also be able to provide some offensive punch when he hits Amherst in the fall, but for the most part seems like a solid two way player. Playing in the EJHL last year he had 19 goals and 21 assists in 44 games. Six of his goals were game winners which was good for second in the league. On the other side of the puck he ended up a +30. UMass has had good luck with two way players from the Junior Bruins before, such as Alex Berry. While not as big as Berry, it is reported that Tegeler is able to use his 6’1” frame to his advantage. I see the New Jersey native as getting solid minutes on the third line.

Defense

Mike Busillo
As mentioned before, physical play, or lack thereof, was a huge concern for the team last year. Busillo’s addition is another sign that the coaching staff moved quickly to address that deficiency. The 6’2” blueliner had 97 PIM for the Junior Wolfpack of the AJHL last year where he was an All-Star. He also proved to be pretty good with the puck as well, putting up 8 goals and 19 assists on the season. His 27 points led all defensemen on his team. Busillo adds depth to a solid, but young, defensive corp and while he might not be in the lineup every night, I do suspect he’ll play a fair share of games.

Oleg Yevenko
Again, size and toughness has been seen as a major area of concern for this team in recent years. Yevenko addresses both, in a big way. At 6’7 he becomes the tallest player ever for the program and will even have Adam Phillips looking up at him. As for toughness, playing for Fargo of the USHL he averaged just under 4 PIM a game and was second overall in the league. If anything, UMass fans are probably worried Yevenko might be spending too much time in the penalty box and his style of play may end up hurting the team. That remains to be seen. If you believe what Fargo beat writer Ryan S Clark has to say, Yevenko’s style of play will be an asset, even if it did draw multiple suspensions out west. I expect the big Belarusian to be in the lineup every night and having strong words with any opposing player who gets a little too aggressive with Syner, Sheary, or Kevin Czepiel.

Goaltender

Kevin Boyle
Boyle has been committed to UMass for a number of years now, which has allowed fans to get a pretty good feel for what type of player he may be. In fact I even got to see him play in person a couple of seasons ago. Boyle played well in the AJHL for a couple seasons, but last year went far from his home in New Jersey to play in British Columbia under the tutelage of former UMass grad assistant Darren Yopyk. While this couldn’t have been easy I think it was a great move to go against the higher competition of the BCHL. There, his play was, well, inconsistent (I know, I’m a terrible person for saying so). One night he’d get a shutout or give up a goal and the next he’d struggle to stay in the game. But overall he had a decent season going 20-16-1 with a GAA of 3.02 and save percentage of .902. In the playoffs he played even better but unfortunately an injury led to an early exit for him and his team. Still, he played well enough to be named to the BCHL All-Rookie team. With Paul Dainton gone and sophomore Jeff Teglia putting up OK but not great numbers last year the goaltender position is wide open. Boyle probably will be right there competing for the starting job.

Steve Mastalerz
Mastalerz but up stellar numbers for Kimball Union of the New England Prep League, going 24-6-4 with a miniscule 1.81 goals against and .931 save percentage. For all that USHR named him a prep All-Star. UMass has had pretty good success with goaltenders from the prep schools, with Jon Quick and Gabe Winer both coming from that route previously. Mastalerz already has a relationship with UMass goaltending coach Mike Buckley which should help him get acclimated to the school and college level quickly. He was pursued by multiple Hockey East schools before ultimately deciding on UMass. Frankly, the goaltender job is up for grabs. I don’t see any reason why he won’t contend for it.

While not a freshman another player to keep in mind is Stephen Guzzo, who injured his knee on the eve of last year’s opener and ended up being a medical redshirt. While he wasn’t able to skate again until spring, his familiarity with the system and his teammate should give him a step up this fall. Guzzo had 29 goals and 41 assists in 70 games in his last season in the OJHL, but will likely be used more as a defensive player. I expect him to get regular rotation on the 3rd and 4th lines.

So there you have it, your class of 2015. If anything, this class addresses immediate needs the team has to fill to be successful this season. Over the years the Minutemen have gotten smaller, quicker, more skilled. That has been a good thing when you see the production of guys like James Marcou and T.J. Syner. But at the same time strong defensive teams have found ways to limit how much damage those guys can inflict by being overly aggressive and using size to their advantage. That will not happen with this class. The team is bringing on skilled forwards who can score and move the puck, yet are over 6’. On defense UMass got bigger, a lot bigger, and will bring an edge to the squad that has not been seen since perhaps Steve Jacobs suited up for the Minutemen. In goal, the coaching staff have given themselves options. The goaltending situation will be the biggest story of the year. Fans will enjoy following how it progresses, even if it leads to some downright scary situations here and there. Still, if one guy isn’t getting it done in net, there are two others just as capable waiting in the wings. Some of the best goaltending for this squad just may take place during the week at practice as they fight for the top spot.

Nice to see Paul Dainton sign his first pro contract with the team just down the valley, the Springfield Falcons. Dainton did well for them during an ATO (Amateur Tryout) at the end of last season.

Stick tap to the reader who passed along the news that Darren Rowe and Troy Power, along with some other prominent college players such as BU’s Max Nicastro and Denver goaltender Beau Bennett, will be taking on alumni of the LA Kings this weekend. The game is a benefit for the Junior Kings squad, which Rowe, Power, and the other amateur players played for when they were younger. What? No Brad Norton?

Obi Aduba spent his summer playing in Australia.

Reports continue to come out that the Fenway game will be taking place.

Farewell, “Fighting Sioux”. I’m sorry the NCAA couldn’t see the difference between a name that honors and one that demeans (looking at you pro teams in Cleveland and Washington DC).

The selection committee has made a tweak to the common opponent part of the pairwise calculation.

Manno Decommits

Sometime in recent weeks Joseph Manno backed out of his commitment to UMass. This isn’t a huge surprise as his original commitment seemed touch and go with conflicting reports about whether he was or was not coming through at that time. Then there were rumors at the beginning of the summer that Manno was facing problems qualifying academically due to issues regarding transfer of credits from his school in Canada to his prep school in Connecticut. I’m not sure if that drove this decision or something else, but either way Manno will not be suiting up this fall. Coach Cahoon still has a sizable freshman class coming in, so someone should be able to step up and fill the minutes he may have provided. This could open up some minutes for an Andrew Tegeler or Emerson Auvenshine.

Reportedly Manno is exploring either catching on with Providence or going the major junior route with Saint John of the QMJHL.

Eddie Olczyk, Darren Rowe, and Troy Power are spending part of their summer in Sin City playing in an amateur hockey league there. The No Dome MacTavish’s (obviously a reference to the former Lowell player who was the last NHLer to play without a helmet) is representing Western Mass with two UMass players and three from AIC.

Congratulations to former UMass radio commentator Donnie Moorhouse who was named Director of Strategic Sales for the Springfield Falcons. The job seems like a great fit for the Springfield native and former AIC goaltender.

Lastly, in the last couple days Fear The Triangle reached 200,000 total views. Thanks to everyone for reading and making this place the central place for UMass hockey fans on the internet.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,178 other followers