View From Balcony 322: Why Not Us? (Go Friars!)

On Thursday I was at the TD Garden with 18,000 other diehard college hockey fans from across the country to experience the wonderful event that is the Frozen Four.  If you haven’t attended a Frozen Four before, I highly recommend it.  As big as college hockey is in some of our lives it’s still has a relatively small hardcore following, so it’s a lot of fun to get all those fans together in one place at one time.  It’s interesting to see all the different jerseys and traditions of programs you don’t typically interact with much.

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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.

Providence Preview

Providence College Friars 7-8-3 (5-4-2) 4th Hockey East (12 pts)

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Massachusetts Minutemen 7-9-2 (4-6-1) 7th Hockey East (9 pts)

Massachusetts and Providence will close out their season series with a home and home this weekend starting with a game tomorrow night at the Mullins.  The teams met last in the beginning of November in what I thought was UMass’ most complete game so far this season as they shutout the Friars 4-0.  In that game the Minutemen had a sizable edge in shots, 32-17, and scored their goals even strength, on the power play, and even shorthanded.  When the Minutemen play this weekend the team will, most likely, still be missing one of the key components of that win in the form of Troy Power, who had a goal, an assist, and finished +3 in that previous game against the Friars.

The loss against UMass put the Friars at .500 on the season and they’ve struggled to be any better than that since.  They’ve only won three games since losing to the Minutemen and last gained a win in late November, a 4-3 overtime victory against Merrimack.  They come into the game 0-2-3 in their last five, though one of those ties came against Boston College.  Last weekend they travelled out to Minnesota State and dropped both weekend games, one in overtime.

Offensively the Friars are fourth among Hockey East teams, tied with the Minutemen scoring 2.78 goals per game.  Unlike UMass though they gain most of their goals at even strength, as their power play is next to last in the league at just 12.7%.  The Friars have spread the scoring around with five players having at least four goals on the season but no one has more than six.  Junior Derek Army is tops in goals and total points with six goals  and 12 points respectively.  Sophomore Ross Mauermann is one of the few Frairs who has had power play success with three of his five goals coming with the extra man.  Freshman star Mark Jankowski (4G, 4A) has missed the last four games with a hip injury and his status for this weekend is unknown.

While Providence is scoring the same as UMass, they’re giving up considerably less goals.  Their 2.44 goals per game is 3rd best in the league (UMass is last with 3.06).  A good deal of those goals though have come a man down as PC is only killing only 80% of power play chances, worst in the league.  The Friar defense is led by seniors Alex Velischek and Myles Harvey.  Freshman goaltender Jon Gilles will be returning to the Friars after being part of the gold winning Team USA effort at the World Juniors.  It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to jump right in and play without having to readjust  as he has not seen much game action recently as he was relegated to backup duty overseas.  Before he left though he was playing wonderfully, putting up a GAA of 1.95 and .928 save percentage.  Both of those puts him at 2nd in the league behind UNH’s Casey DeSmith.

For UMass it’s all about carrying over what they established up in Hanover.  They certainly played poorly in that first period against Bemidji State.  But from then on they were the better team during the entire tournament. Against the Beavers they surpassed with skill.  Against Dartmouth, due to the interfering officiating, they just made the most of what they were given and took the hardware.  UMass will have some momentum to start the second half but it’s less than what they would’ve had if they didn’t have last week off.  As a UMass fan you’re happy to give guys like Steve Mastalerz and Troy Power an extra week to get healthy but you also would’ve rather the team picked up right where they left off when they were grabbing the trophy up in Hanover.  Will they be able to recapture momentum?

Certainly it seems like UMass would do well to make the most of their power play.  On paper that’s the biggest advantage seen in the statistics.  Providence is dead last on the penalty kill while UMass is second best at 20.6%.  UMass will also have to rely on their stars.  Going into the season most Minuteman fans thought it would be Mike Pereira or Conor Sheary doing  most of the work for the team but so far it’s been Branden Gracel who’s been the MVP.  Now that the has the attention upon him can he continue to produce at the rate he has thus far?

The Minutemen have a tremendous opportunity in front of them.  Despite some struggles in the first half of the year they still find themselves in 7th place in Hockey East and with some luck and a couple of wins they can vault themselves into home ice position this weekend with a sweep.  But they’ll have to play like they did in Hanover, with a bit of desperation and a whole lot of effort, versus how they did against Yale or Colgate to end the year where they look lackadaisical. The hope was the trip and the challenge in Hanover woke up this team.  These two games against the Friars will tell us if that’s the case.

Beer The Triangle
The Hanger has Café Racer 15.  That is all.

Sorry, can’t find any previews for this weekend as everyone is busy with basketball.

Here’s CHN’s look at the Hockey East weekend that shall be.

Providence Preview

Providence Friars 4-3-1 (3-2-0) T-4th Hockey East

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Massachusetts Minutemen 2-4-0 (1-4-0) 8th Hockey East

Tomorrow will be an interesting game for the Minutemen.  To date they’ve faced a daunting Hockey East schedule and it has resulted in an unfortunate result of 1-4-0 in the conference so far.   But on Friday it gets, perhaps, not quite as intimidating.  To date the Hockey East teams that UMass has played have been traditional Hockey East powers currently ranked in the top 15 in the polls, not to mention teams that have a lot of recent success over UMass.  Providence does not fall into those categories.  But that’s not to say that the Friars should be overlooked.  However the point I’m trying to make is that few UMass fans thought the team would be competing with the likes of Boston College, Boston University, or New Hampshire this year.  Instead they thought or at least hoped it would be teams like the Friars, picked to finish in the middle of the conference, that would be the ones UMass could have to beat consistently to be successful.

That’s not to say it’ll be easy though.  It didn’t take Nate Leaman long to improve the Providence program, leading the Friars to the TD Garden last spring.  So far they’ve done about what you can expect from a talented, but young team.  They narrowly lost at BU, got a tie from Miami followed by a loss, swept Maine, and split with a surprising Vermont team.  Probably not the start to the season that the Friar team was hoping for, but not entirely unexpected.

This Friar team is young.  Of the nine players leading in points only two of them are juniors or seniors, and both of those are defensemen.  The team has been led by sophomore Ross Mauermann who has four goals and two assists so far this season.  A lot of attention has been paid upon freshman and first round draft pick Mark Jankowski who has three goals on the season, though two of those came in the season opener against Sacred Heart.  Providence has also gotten some good production from sophomore Shane Luke and freshman Paul De Jersey who have a couple of goals apiece.

The defensemen have also contributed on offense as senior defenseman Myles Harvey is averaging almost an assist a game so far.  Freshman blueliner John Gilmour has had two goals to go with three assists to date.  The Minutemen will also still have to deal with senior talent Alex Velischek on defense for the Friars.  In net UMass will get their first look at John Gilles, the Northeastern Husky recruit turned Friar goaltender.  Though it’s still early on the season he’s already been named Hockey East Rookie of the Week twice and garnered Defensive Player of the Week honors as well.  Those accolades are not a surprise when you consider the fact that he has a 1.80 goals against average thus far to go with a .932 save percentage.

The good news for UMass when facing Gilles is that the goaltender who is ahead of him statistically so far is Casey DeSmith, the backstop the Minutemen beat last weekend for their first Hockey East win.  Still, beating the Friars will not be easy.  They don’t have a ton of experience, but they believe in themselves and their coach.  But for the Minutemen, this is a bit of a referendum (apologies for the political terminology, I’m sure we’re all enjoying our respite from the negative ads).  UMass has a poor record so far in conference, but they’ve been in almost all the game against top notch opponents and nearly pulled off a number of high profile upsets.  If they’ve been *this close* from beating the likes of BU and BC, this veteran UMass squad should be able to beat an inexperienced Friar team at home, right?  We’ll see.

When first looking at the schedule I perhaps overestimated Providence and was initially very worried about this game.  Perhaps I put too much into how the Friars finished last year without accounting for just how many underclassmen they have to rely on to win this year.  But overall, those underclassmen have come through so far.  If anything you have to wonder where the production is from the likes of Tim Schaller (1G, 2A) and Derek Army (1G, 2A).  Point being, UMass cannot overlook this team.

For the Minutemen, they just have to build off what has gone right for them so far.  There has been a lot of switching of lines to find the right mix, but I thought the line combinations are starting to come together.  The Steven Guzzo/Rocco Carzo/Conor Sheary grouping looked very good last week and helped to get Sheary his first goal.  The other top line of Mike Pereira/Branden Gracel/Troy Power did very well with Power putting up a multi-point night against BC and Pereira getting his first point of the season.  On the other end of the ice the defense has looked very solid, when not fatigued, and the team may have found their starting goaltender in Kevin Boyle.

Honestly, this is a huge game for the Minutemen.  It’s their only chance at points on the weekend and they really can’t afford to fall any further behind in the league.  Add in the fact that this game is at home against a young team that has only one win away from Rhode Island and UMass should be expected to be victorious tomorrow night.  Let’s see if they can turn narrow losses against elite teams into decisive victories against the not quite as experienced teams in Hockey East.

Beer The Triangle
The Hangar is supposed to be having a mini Lagunitas takeover.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was sitting at the bar at the Lagunitas brewery in Petaluma while on my NoCal beercation.  According to Stoney they’re expected to have the Pale Ale, Pils, Maximus, and their session Daytime IPA.  Seems like a good way to cap off a decent week of Lagunitas for me after grabbing some of their luxurious Brown Shugga on Sunday while pregaming at Publick House ahead of the BC game and even finding a Little Sumpin’ at Stars in Hingham before that.

USCHO’s Hockey East piece features Providence’s talented youth as well as the almost, but not quite, season for UMass so far.

The Gazette’s preview notes that Mike Pereira had a hat trick the last time he faced the Frairs.

UMass is focused on closing games says the Republican preview.

Providence’s Mark Jankowski is the focus of the preview out of the Collegian.

Via the UMass Athletics website is UMass Hockey: Behind the Scenes hosted by senior Eddie Olczyk.  “Pillows are for those people that are weak.”

UMass Hockey Behind The Scenes

 

Good luck to the Minutewomen Field Hockey team as they take on #1 Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament this weekend.  Go UMass!

Polls & Awards

So this first Polls & Awards post of the season can pretty much be titled “Why Polls Are Stupid”.  Last week UMass had enough votes in the USCHO poll to be de facto 28th and ahead of fellow Hockey East teams Northeastern and Providence.  In this week’s poll UMass received zero votes, no doubt because of their lackluster performance this past weekend against…er…UMass.  Providence and Northeastern played as many real games as UMass this past week, zero, yet still received votes.  Just another lesson that the polls are only as valuable as the people that are chosen to vote in them.

We have a split poll this week as Boston College is #1 for USCHO but Minnesota is tops in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

All Black Bears and Warriors in this week’s Hockey East awards, since they’re the only ones who played.

UMass is flip-flopping a home and home with Providence in January.  The teams will play at the Mullins on Friday, January 11th and then at Schneider the next night.

New England Hockey Journal has their preview of Hockey East.  They also have this in-depth feature on Jerry York, claiming he’s the best coach in college hockey.  Yes, yes he is.

Starting to wrap-up preview mode here at FTT.  Tomorrow I’ll unveil my pick for Newcomer of the Year, Wednesday will be the annual way too long season preview for the Minutemen, and then Thursday will take a look at Friday’s opener against the UConn Huskies.

UMass To Scrimmage On Saturday; Hockey East Preview: #5 Providence Friars

As I tweeted over the weekend, UMass will in fact hold their maroon and white scrimmage this coming Saturday at 4pm at the practice rink. The event is free but they will be accepting donations for the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund, the charity started by former Minuteman Peter Trovato to benefit the children of Bay State soldiers lost overseas. I do plan on being in attendance and will share my observations with a post on Sunday. With that, back to the previews.

Hockey East Preview: #5 Providence Friars

2011-12 Storyline: In his first season at the helm, Nate Leaman leads the Friars back to the Garden for the first time since 2001

2012-13 Storyline: Leaman got it done on the ice last season, but his work on the recruiting trail will payoff for Providence this coming year

Player To Watch: Tim Schaller F (14-7-21)

Player Missed Most: Alex Beaudry G (13-19-4, 3.04, .896)

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Mark Jankowski F

Random Fact: Freshman Mark Jankowski is the 3rd Friar to be picked in the 1st Round of the NHL Draft. The others were Joey Hulbig and Tom Fitzgerald.

Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: Apparently there’s Revival Brewing out of Providence that I must try. Which is good because I’m not overly impressed with the rest of the beer that comes out of the state.

Team Outlook:

Most college hockey fans were pretty impressed when Providence landed Nate Leaman during their offseason coaching search last spring and knew that it was probably only a matter of time until he’d have the Friars succeeding in Hockey East. I bet few though thought he’d bring them to the conference semi-finals in his very first year. But after knocking off second seeded Lowell, that’s exactly what happened. This season Leaman will try to follow-up on that success immediately thanks to a strong recruiting class.

The Friars return their top four goal scorers from a year ago, led by senior Tim Schaller and junior Derek Army. Schaller seemed to be the key for the team a year ago. Hindered by injury, the Friars were 12-11-3 when he suited up and just 2-9-1 with him out of the lineup. He still managed to scored 14 goals in the 26 games he dressed. Army, surprisingly, flourished without his father as coach, putting up double digits in goals and assists. Added to the mix at forward will be Mark Jankowski who the Calgary Flames chose in the first round of this past June’s draft.

The Friars return most of their key defensemen, including senior Alex Velischek who had a solid season returning to Providence after a year in the USHL. He’ll be aided by senior Myles Harvey and junior Steven Shamanski. It’ll be interesting to see if Buffalo pick Mark Adams will be able to get on the ice more this season after only playing in 19 games last year.

The big question mark will be in net where the team graduated long term starter Alex Beaudry and his backup Justin Gates. However Leaman got a potential answer for his goaltender situation when Jon Gillies decided to back out of his commitment to Northeastern in late March. The Huskies loss is the Friars gain as Gillies, one of the top goaltenders in the USHL and a 3rd round NHL Draft pick, is seen as one of the top freshmen in the league.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Gillies takes longer than expected to transition to college play and Jankowski’s lack of high level junior experience slows his development

They’ll Finish Higher Because: A healthy Schaller becomes one of the top goal scorers in the league

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
1. ??
2. ??
3. ??
4. ??
5. Providence Friars
6. Maine Black Bears
7. Massachusetts Minutemen (preview upcoming)
8. Merrimack Warriors
9. Northeastern Huskies
10. Vermont Catamounts

UMass received votes in the pre-season USCHO poll, ending up as the de facto 28th team in the country. That puts them ahead of Northeastern and Providence among Hockey East teams receiving votes. To the surprise of no one Boston College gets the top slot in the poll. Lowell is picked 7th while Boston University was chosen 13th and Maine came in at 15th. Merrimack and New Hampshire also received votes.

New England Hockey Journal highlights UMass as one of five teams in the conference facing questions in net.

Beanpot Forum picks UMass to finish 6th.

Husky Hockey News has the Minutemen finishing 9th.

Here is the USHL’s press release on Dennis Kravchenko’s commitment to Massachusetts.

This Worcester Telegram story on UMass PA announcer Matt “Matty G” Goldstein is worthy of a Noise Meter.

UMass Hockey To Be Broadcast on WHMP

Well, aside from the freshmen arriving on campus and the ice to actually be laid down in the Mullins and practice rink, the final pieces are falling into place for the upcoming hockey season.  Today it was announced that Massachusetts hockey can be found on WHMP next season.  WHMP, which carried hockey previously, can be found on the valley on 96.9 FM out of Williamsburg, 1400 AM Northampton, and 1240 AM Greenfield.  Here’s a map from their website that shows their coverage area.  On Twitter, Brock Hines  mentioned that the 1600 AM station in Longmeadow is a daytime station only, so will not be used for broadcasts.  Games will be streamed live on WHMP.com.

As of right now there is no ability to stream the station through iPhones (and therefore I’m assuming other smart phones), though a friend mentioned that the company that provides WHMP’s streaming service, Liquid Compass, does have an app for iPhone and Android.  However WHMP would have to opt-in to that service in order to become available on it.  Hopefully this is something the Athletic Department is addressing as part of the agreement.  But besides that the deal seems like good news for the program, though it’s a little worrisome that it appears to be just a one year contract versus the five year contract the school signed with other area stations.  It’s also a little disappointing the broadcasts will not be available to the entire valley, as Springfield is out of range and they would have to stream as well.  One thing to note is that the release says not only will coaches shows be available via podcast as they were before, but the games will be as well.  I’ve already been in contact with Brock Hines to suggest he set up some kind of cross-promotion with this show that airs weekly on the station.

With today’s release and the season approaching I think we can finally put this tumultuous offseason behind us.  As FTT reader “George” noted earlier today, “Amazing how the lack of a release 2+ months ago changed the UMass hockey landscape”, citing the news that WEEI Springfield was becoming the Flagship home for UMass Sports, as long as those sports were football and basketball.  Things got ugly quickly immediately following, but no matter now.  The boys are on campus, the staff is in place, and for those who cannot get out to the Mullins for every game, you can now follow the Minutemen from afar.

A name UMass hockey fans should keep an eye on, or at least one I will be keeping an eye on, is Dennis Kravchenko.  Kravchenko decommitted from Vermont yesterday citing the turnover in coaching staff as his primary reason.  This blog post from the Burlington Free Press mentions he established close ties with new UMass assistant Joey Gasparini during the recruiting process.  Kravchenko is a former teammate of current Minuteman Steve Mastalerz when they played at Kimball Union, where he also would’ve played with 2014 recruit Casey Miller.  Kravchenko, a California native, is due to play for Sioux Falls in the USHL this coming season.  At the time he committed to Vermont he was also being recruited by Denver, Maine, Northeastern, RPI, and St Cloud.

As I mentioned yesterday, Providence will be undertaking a significant renovation of Schneider Arena (renderings start around 2:15):

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Providence Recap

If you had told me that after three games UMass would have the third best offense of Hockey East teams at 4 goals a game and the second best power play I’d have been pretty happy.  However, UMass has not been able to make the most of their offensive production and through two games against teams they’ll likely be battling in the standings UMass has been able to capture just one point.  Despite another four goal game last night, two coming on the power play, UMass got the loss because defense and more specifically goaltending let them down against Providence.

If there are positives last night it is that the team kept battling to get back into the game throughout and that the top line of Danny Hobbs, Mike Pereira, and T.J. Syner continues to put up a ton of numbers, accounting for two goals and four assists last night.  With some average goaltending UMass likely gets the win and the two points last night.  I believe I wrote earlier in the week that with Jeff Teglia over the flu, it seemed like a logical decision to have Kevin Boyle make his home debut Friday and put Teglia in last night because he was at least familiar with the rink, one where UMass has struggled in recent years.  How that scenario would’ve turned out, we don’t know.  But what we do know is that Jeff Teglia looked solid and stopped all 8 shots in relief of Boyle and that Boyle let in a number of goals that he shouldn’t have.  At least three of them.  And let’s face it, his defense made some key mistakes that led to some of the other goals as well.  And speaking of defense, where is Anthony Raiola who played so well at the end of last season?

It wasn’t just the bad goals that hurt, the timing of them hurt immensely and killed any momentum UMass was generating.  After going down 2-0 in the first, Danny Hobbs put the Minutemen on the board just 1:15 into the second.  But 45 seconds later an inexcusable shorthanded goal gave the Friars the two goal lead back again.  Later in the period a power play goal by Hobbs cut the PC lead to 4 to 3, but again a soft goal was let in just a minute later that gave the Friars a two goal lead again.  That goal ended Boyle’s night.  Unfortunately UMass was unable to get their offense going until late in the 3rd when Conor Sheary scored with under 5 minutes left and never got that elusive tying goal.

Am I worried about Boyle’s performance?  Not really.  At least not any more than I am about Teglia’s or Steve Mastalerz.  He played very well at Northeastern and played well enough Friday against Bentley to get his first win.  But it does show that a quick resolution to the team’s goaltending issues is not going to happen.  That’s why I think it’s important over the next few months to give each goaltender a shot at games and not stick with one for more than a couple.  That means getting Teglia in in a game like last night and getting Mastalerz some time when he returns from injury in a few weeks.

As much as it would’ve pained me, I wish if UMass dropped a game this weekend it would’ve been Friday’s.  Losing to an Atlantic Hockey team is never good for the program, but UMass really could’ve used 2 to 3 points out of these early games against Northeastern and Providence.  Instead they only got one.  Now begins probably their toughest stretch of the season.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Danny Hobbs
Not only did Hobbs score a couple goals last night, both were at critical times in the game that, however briefly, gave UMass a shot a comeback.  Five points in two games.  Not a bad start to the senior season.

Here’s the recap from the Republican.

I guess the good news for UNH is that they actually scored a goal against Boston College, their first of the season.  The bad news is they lost 5-1 and are now 0-3 to start the season.  Elsewhere Merrimack got a bit of a scare from Army but won 3-2.  BU rebounded from Friday’s loss to Providence by beating #3 Denver.  Maine tied North Dakota while Lowell completed a sweep of Minnesota State out west.

Bentley & Providence Previews

Bentley Falcons 0-2-0 (0-0-0) T-3rd Atlantic Hockey

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

4-1 loss.  To an Atlantic Hockey team.  For actual hardware, something that UMass doesn’t get very often.  As the only team from a top tier conference in the mid-season tournament.  And then the season went to all hell.  Sure the loss to Bentley in the UConn tournament a couple years back was in the back of my head when we first learned of the schedule last spring and then more recently when I began to dig in deeper to the season that lay ahead.  But Dick Baker’s post about the game a couple days ago as well as reading my own recap from that time not only brought home the facts of the game, but the emotional impact as well.  What an embarrassment.  What a low point for UMass hockey.  What a long drive home from Storrs that was.

Of course the star from that game for Bentley was sophomore goaltender Kyle Rank who the Minutemen could not solve.  A lot of that was because it’s nearly impossible to shoot a puck through a goaltender’s chest and into the net.  But Rank did come up big in the game and was able to stop 42 saves altogether, 34 through the first two periods alone.  Rank is still with the Falcons, but his play slipped from his sophomore year and last season saw him split time with senior Joe Calvi.  Rank played the first of the Falcons’ two games this season with Northfield Mount-Hermon product Brandon Komm playing the other.  The Falcons played those two games against Michigan, losing by a combined score of 9-2.  But don’t let that huge margin mislead you.  The Falcons had a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission of the first game, giving the Yost faithful a bit of a scare.  And in the second game they were only down 2-1 until the Wolverines scored a power play and empty net goal with under three minutes left.  If Bentley can hang with #4 Michigan for four of six periods in one of the more intimidating barns in college hockey, they’re probably not going to be overwhelmed at the Mullins tomorrow.

Bentley has relied on young players so far for their offense with freshmen and sophomores counting for both goals and all six points.  Their top goalscorer from last year, sophomore Brett Gensler has yet to get on the board.  The Falcons look talented, but young, and are likely a year away from doing damage in Atlantic Hockey.  They were picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll for their conference, but their strong showing in Ann Arbor may have a few people wondering if that was an accurate pick.  Defensively the Falcons will look to Rank and Komm, both of whom were forced to come up with in the neighborhood of 40 save last week against Michigan.  The Falcons return all six of their regular defensemen from last year, including three seniors.

UMass did almost everything you could’ve asked for last weekend.  They got solid goaltending from freshman Kevin Boyle in his collegiate debut.  The defense looked good, with Mike Marcou having a strong game and Colin Shea playing well defensively and offensively.  Sophomores Conor Sheary and Brenden Gracel moved the puck well and added to the offense.  New guys like Emerson Auvenshine and Steve Guzzo had contributions on both sides of the puck.  Hell, even the power play looked damn good for a couple periods!  And yet, a win escaped them.  The team looked tired and/or unfocused at the end and did not execute on the minor things (clear the puck!)  in order to take the win away from Northeastern.  Two seconds away from an opening win, their first since last January, the lead was gone and in the end they’d have to settle for a tie.

This team should be hungry.  They should be desperate for a win.  They should have had one last week.  They should’ve had a few, or at least played hard enough to deserve a few, during the last two months of the Hockey East season last year.  In comes a lackluster Atlantic Hockey squad.  Do not overlook them.  It seems like Michigan almost made that mistake.  No.  Play to your abilities and bury them.  Remember that this team, with this goaltender, gave the program one of its recent, all too many, embarrassing moments.  Seniors and juniors, explain to the underclassmen how bad it felt to lose that game in the aluminum box known as the Freitas Ice Forum and what it ended up meaning for the entire season.  Underclassmen, you make up the majority of this team.  Don’t be a slave to the history, achieve retribution for it.  I can’t believe I’m actually having an emotional reaction to a UMass-Bentley hockey game.  But I am.  So do us fans a favor and exact just a little revenge for what we had to endure almost two years ago.

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

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Providence Friars 0-0-0 (0-0-0) T-6th Hockey East

Think UMass is at a bit of a disadvantage because they didn’t play an exhibition game and only had one game last weekend?  Well the Friars have played exactly zero games.  They’ll make their season debut tomorrow night against Boston University on NESN.

Since Providence hasn’t even played an exhibition game, there’s probably not much I can write about them beyond the season preview I put together.  If I’m Toot Cahoon and both Kevin Boyle (or Mastalertz) and Jeff Teglia are available, I go with Teglia in this game.  He didn’t play in Providence, but at least he had a chance to warm up there last season and I’d rather see someone familiar with the quirky rink in net.  That would give one of the freshmen the chance to play against Bentley without the extra pressure of points on the line as well.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got.  With just one game combined under the belts of both of these teams, it’s pretty much a blank slate.  The only thing to keep in mind is that UMass really, really needs two points on Saturday.  The Minutemen will be serious underdogs in the five games that follows the tilt with the Friars; at Boston College, vs Boston University, at BU, at UNH, vs BC.  I would hate to see UMass play the next six games getting little to no Hockey East points in that time.  Is a Saturday a must win?  Of course not.  But could it set the tone for the first half of the season?  Yes.

Beer The Triangle

I’ll be happy to make my regular season debut at the Hangar tomorrow afternoon for the usual pre-gaming activities.  Of course Stoney doesn’t put his beer list online, so what to recommend there, I don’t know.  However it’s safe to say I’ve never walked in there and been disappointed with what’s on draft.  And a lot of times I’m happy to find a beer rarity or even something I haven’t tried before.

Providence presents a bit of a conundrum.  The usual spot before games at Providence is The Abbey, located just down the street from the Coffin.  They have great burgers and a good beer list (hell, when the place’s website is www.92beers.com, you know they take their beer seriously).  Yet, most of the Providence beer scene is unknown to me.  So perhaps I’ll take the chance to check out Julian’s, which I’ve heard many good things about.

Dick Baker profiles Colin Shea, my FTT Player of the Game for last week, and his improved play.

USCHO has an interesting look at how the addition of Notre Dame will lead to scheduling opportunities and challenges.  It’s a much better read on the situation than the one from the Lowell Sun which seems to be under the impression that the Hawks will be forced to schedule ACHA teams.  For those that don’t know, the ACHA is the umbrella organization for club hockey teams.  The author probably means Atlantic Hockey, but maybe not.  Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to listen to this author do his postgame show after games at Lowell knows that his knowledge of college hockey is lacking.

Personally I’m not worried about the scheduling situation, yet.  The fact that you’ll now have a six team Big 10, 8 team NCHC, and a 9 (10 if they take UAH) team WCHA versus an 11 team CCHA and a 12 teams WCHA means less conference games and more flexibility, thus more teams looking for non-conference opponents.  Hopefully, and that’s a big hopefully, that will get some of the big name western teams to get off their high horses and visit mid-level Hockey East teams instead of just BU, BC, etc.  Perhaps even a couple of schools which got a visit from the maroon and white last year.

I write and post these previews the night before games rather than the morning of because my schedule for my real job means I’m usually out the door and sitting in traffic before 7am.  As a result I usually miss the late breaking injury and roster news that Baker or Matt Vautour publish on game day.  But I do do my best to pass along any late breaking news via Twitter, so make sure to follow Fear The Triangle on Twitter or at least keep your eye on the Twitter feed in the right hand column.

11-12 Preview: #9 Northeastern Huskies

Hockey East Preview: #9 Northeastern Huskies

2010-11 Storyline:  Huskies unable to bounce back from 1-8-3 start to season.

2011-12 Storyline: Can Northeastern recover from an offseason full of loss.

Player To Watch: Anthony Bitetto

Player Missed Most:  Jamie Oleksiak

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On:  Josh Manson

Random Fact:   St Botolph Street has become a refuge of sorts for the wayward in Hockey East.  On the Huskies roster is Cody Ferriero who went to Northeastern after decommiting from BC where his brother played, Joe Manno who was at one time committed here to UMass, and Vinny Sapornari who was kicked off of the BU squad by Jack Parker.

Usual Beer The Triangle Pre-game Spot:  Pizzeria Uno.  Seriously, how can you be in the middle of a metropolitan city and not have a decent beer bar within walking distance?!?

Northeastern has some very talented players on its squad such as Bitetto, Chris Rawlings, Anthony Quailer.  But, frankly, Northeastern is a mess.  After starting off horribly last season they improved somewhat only to have head coach Greg Cronin and an assistant coach suspended for recruiting issues as they went down the stretch of the season.  Cronin was ultimately reinstated but spring saw a strange “Is he or isn’t he?” melodrama regarding if he would bolt for the pros.  Ultimately he ended up leaving for an assistant coach role with the Maple Leafs.  That was obviously a blow to the Husky program since Cronin had led a resurgence in his time there, but the worst was yet to come.  When it came time to replace him as head coach the school waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Seemingly the entire summer transpired before they finally named Jim Madigan as head coach, an administrator without head coaching experience who hasn’t been behind a bench since 1993.  Needless to say, his appointment wasn’t enough to keep stud defenseman Jamie Oleksiak in school plus the Huskies lost three top end recruits in John Gaudreau (BC), Garrett Haar (WMU), and Justin Kovacs (WMU).

The Huskies still have talent and they have it where it matters in Rawlings, a seasoned goaltender in net.  But between the early defections of key players, losing their top recruits, and having a coach who’s still trying to figure out which door leads to the bench, I don’t see Northeastern doing much this season.  They’ll likely keep games close with the players they have on the blueline and in the crease, but mentally I think the team has been through too much already and the season hasn’t even started.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: They’re emotionally spent after this offseason.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: Opposing teams are unable to solve Rawlings.

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
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9.  Northeastern Huskies
10. Lowell River Hawks

Marvin Degon has returned from playing overseas and will attend Providence  Bruins training camp.

College Hockey News has come out with their preseason top 10.  Two Hockey East teams, Boston University and Boston College, are on the last at #2 and #5 respectively.  In addition Maine is listed as a team to watch.  Non-conference opponent Yale is ranked 10th while surprisingly Holy Cross is listed as a team to watch as well.

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