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