Boston College Preview

Massachusetts Minutemen 7-11-2 (4-8-1) 8th Hockey East

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#2 Boston College Eagles 13-4-2 (10-3-1) 1st Hockey East

The Massachusetts hockey team looked like they were going to turn over a new leaf at New Years as they won the Ledyard Classic against stiff competition.  But last week they got swept in a weekend series at the hands of Providence, a team they need to beat if they have any hopes of accomplishing something of significance this season.  Now, if they want to jumpstart their season they’ll have to face a wounded Boston College team in Chestnut Hill tomorrow night.

BC is struggling as of late.  Well, struggling for them.  Since the last day of November the Eagles are 3-3-2.  One of those losses came to rival Boston University.  One was an absolutely drubbing at the hands of Minnesota by the score of 8-1.  And then last weekend they ended up splitting a weekend series with New Hampshire.  Of course for the most recent games they were without coach Jerry York who is recovering from eye surgery, as he will be tomorrow.  As said, this is a wounded Eagle team.  They’re not playing up to the level they’re used to as they’re without their legendary coach and they’ve had to deal with some injuries (Patch Alber) and absence (Johnny Gaudreau).  However, BC struggling at this time of year is nothing new.  The scary part is this is usually right when they turn it all around and start a streak that carries them to the NCAA title.

Despite recent struggles the Eagles are still quite formidable on offense.  Their 3.42 goals per game is tops in the league, with Gaudreau the leader in both goals (12) and total points (26) despite missing a few games representing Team USA.  Not too far behind him in terms of goal scoring are seniors Pat Mullane and Steven Whitney, who has half of his 10 goals on the power play.  BC is far and away the best power play unit in the league at 25%.  UMass is second best converting 19.8% of their chances.

On defense the Eagles have been, well, mediocre.  Their 2.58 goals given up per game puts them in the middle of Hockey East.  Some of that is due to the youth of their defense.  Some has to do with losing guys like Alber to a soccer injury (no seriously).  Senior Parker Milner is still putting up solid numbers however with a 2.43 goals against and a .921 save percentage.  Though their blueliners can be young, Mike Matheson is certainly one to keep an eye on as he has four goals to go with 10 assists and is a +14 on the season.

UMass has already lost two games to BC this season but they did play the Eagles tough in both.  In fact they absolutely should have won the first, bringing a 3-0 lead into the third before ultimately falling 5-4 in overtime in just the second game of the season.  In early November at Chestnut Hill the Minutemen would again play well and again have a third period lead until losing when Patrick Brown scored with under four minutes left.  Between this season’s efforts and the fact that UMass took the regular season series from BC last season shows that the Minutemen are capable of playing with this team.  The question is if they can put it all together, play mistake fee, and play well on both sides of the puck to win.

Last weekend they did well offensively on Friday but played pretty horrible defense and ultimately could not complete a valiant effort at a comeback.  On Saturday they did well on defense, limiting Providence to minimal opportunities, but could not finish offensively despite over 40 shots on net.  The Eagles are young defensively but they’re not without talent.  With a veteran goaltender to back them up UMass will have to find a way to make the most of their offensive opportunities.  They’ll also have to play damn good defense.  If Gaudreau was jetlagged from the tip back from Russia he didn’t show it, scoring a goal to go with a couple assists in his first game back.  This team is extremely dangerous on offense but the Minutemen did find a way to hold this team to just three goals through five periods earlier this season.  They’ll need some of that tomorrow.

Beer The Triangle
I suspect that pre-game will find me at Cityside, which has a solid beer selection but probably is better known for their food and locale.  However no trip to BC is complete without a stop in at the Publick House.  Best beer bar in Boston?  Yeah, I’ll say so.  For some reason the Publick House has decided to give up on this crazy invention called the interwebs and no longer have a web page.  So I guess we’ll all be pleasantly surprised when we get there and find what they have on draft.

I want to send along some get well soon wishes to BC coach Jerry York.  I’m actually disappointed that I won’t be able to witness the celebration for his gaining of the win record.  There’s a lot to dislike about Boston College.  Jerry York is not one of those things.

The Republican preview centers on the on the fact that the senior Minutemen have never won at Chestnut Hill.

The boys over at BC Interruption are glad to start a soft spot of their schedule this weekend against the Minutemen.

Here’s the Hockey East weekend preview from College Hockey News.

I was ecstatic to hear the news tonight that the WCHA accepted Alabama-Huntsville to join their league next season.  UAH may be geographically challenged but they have a lot of tradition and certainly were worthy of a lifeline to keep their program going.  College hockey needs more teams not less and so glad that it appears the Chargers will be sticking around.

Lastly, I think it’s apparent that I have a soft spot for Minutemen players who hail from Western Mass.  I was neither born there nor live there currently but I consider Western Mass home and love to see the local hockey talent end up playing in the Mullins Center.  There have been a bunch to do so from Rob Bonneau to T.J. Syner.  But in the vein of celebrating the WMass players and WMass locales I somehow got into calling Kevin Czepiel “Holyoke” after his hometown during his freshman year.  I thought it was a fun way to celebrate the gritty, blue collar nature of the town with the gritty, blue collar nature of Czepiel’s play.  It has stuck, at least for me and the Section U crew, and so I wanted to make sure to share this video the athletic department put together of “Holyoke” showing UMass fans Holyoke:

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Hockey East Preview: #6 Maine Black Bears

Hockey East Preview: #6 Maine Black Bears

2011-12 Storyline: Maine returns to the NCAA tournament after a four year absence; Black Bear fans still unhappy with the coach

2012-13 Storyline: Too many losses up front relegates Maine to the bottom half of Hockey East in 2012-13

Player To Watch: Joey Diamond F (25-22-47)

Player Missed Most: Spencer Abbott G (21-41-62)

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Devin Shore F

Random Fact: Much maligned head coach Tim Whitehead is signed through 2013-14

Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: I’m going to give a shoutout to Oxbow Brewing, which can be found in Newcastle on the way up 95 to Orono.  I first was introduced to their Loretta last winter at the Great Lost Bear in Portland on the way home from a road trip to Alfond.  However by chance I ended up meeting one of the co-owners/brewers in Santa Rosa, CA at the legendary Russian River Brewing over the summer.  Give these farmhouse fiends a try.

Team Outlook:

Maine had some of the top offensive players in the country last season in the form of Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn, and Joey Diamond.  Unfortunately they only return one of those three, and that’s why I think the Black Bears will take a significant step back this season.  The pesky Diamond is coming back, but it’s unknown if he can match his 25 goal, 22 assist effort from last year without the ultra-talented Flynn and Abbott by his side.  The Black Bears will need significant contributions from Adam Shemansky and Mark Antoine to keep pace with what they were able to accomplish last year.

Maine will have some significant holes to fill on defense as well.  Gone are the constants of Will O’Neil and Ryan Hegarty as well as defenseman/forward Matt Mangene who signed a pro contract rather than return for his senior year.  They won’t be entirely without experience though as Nick Pryor is more than capable of holding his own in the league.  Fellow seniors Mike Cornell and Mark Nemec will look to build off of strong seasons last year as well.

Dan Sullivan’s play last year solidified his standing as the go to goaltender in Orono as he had a 2.59 GAA and the third best winning percentage in the league.  This was a huge step up from his freshman season where neither he or Martin Ouellette did much to distinguished themselves.  Sullivan will have to be at the top of his game from the start as the Black Bears will be looking to work a lot of newcomers into the defensive crew in front of him.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Diamond can’t get near his prior year’s total without his old linemates.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: Shemansky and incoming freshmen such as Drew Shore and Will Merchant are able to contribute to the scoring effort from the get go.

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

Here’s an interview of Coach Micheletto by UMass hockey radio’s Brock Hines from Media Day.  Coach Mick talks about general stuff, captains, and goaltending.  As I expected, it’ll be an open competition in net:

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Speaking of the venerable Brock, it’s come to my attention that there will be a bit of a change for the hockey broadcasts this season.  Don’t worry, Brock will be returning for his…wait for it…20th season of bringing UMass hockey to the masses.  But he’ll be doing so as a play by play announcer, moving over from the comfortable color chair.  Adam Frenier, who did well last year broadcasting from ice level, will be the new color commentator.  With that news I want to thank John Hennessy for his dedication to UMass hockey over the last few years.  Hennessy arrived in Amherst with a wealth of hockey knowledge and I always enjoyed the times I got to interact with him.  I admired the fact that he’d drive all the way from his home in New Jersey to Amherst every weekend.  And for trips to basically anywhere else in Hockey East, that was only the beginning of a very long journey as the voice of Minuteman hockey.  Thanks for everything John and I wish you well in the future!

Matt Vautour has his coverage of yesterday’s Hockey East media day, focusing on the coming changes to the league.

Elsewhere around college hockey, Minnesota is the favorite in the WCHA, Union is picked to repeat in the ECAC, and Air Force is tops in Atlantic Hockey.

Alabama-Huntsville surprisingly replaced their head coach just weeks before the season.  Though it looks like got a qualified replacement in the form of former Providence Friar Kurt Kleinendorst, it does not signal good things for a program that is still without a conference and struggling to make things work.  I really hope a conference invite is coming soon though.  The program has done remarkable things in a completely foreign environment and, in my opinion, have proven their legitimacy within college hockey.

Boston College lost Frank Vatrano, one of their top freshmen for this coming season, for what’s being reported as NCAA clearinghouse issues, meaning he had not completed the minimum requirements to be considered a college student.  According to Mike McMahon Vatrano has rejoined the Junior Bruins of the EJHL.  Since he gave up an opportunity in the QMJHL to played with the Junior Bruins, I guess this means he’ll look to hook up with another college program next year.

Polls and Awards; Farewell UAH

Boston College is your new unified top ranked team in the nation after they beat the Minutemen and Huskies over the weekend, retaining the #1 status in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll and vaulting to the top of the USCHO poll.  Interesting to see Ferris State getting first place votes after their sweep of Miami.

The Eagles and specifically Billy Arnold were also atop the Hockey East awards for the week.  No UMass players were award winners or Top Performers for the week.

In an opinion shared by myself and, it seems, many FTT readers, Dick Baker gives Toot Cahoon a thumbs down for changing up the lines for the Boston College game in a well thought out blog post.

Here’s the Collegian’s recap of the game.

Some alumni news to share.

Jon Quick is the hottest goaltender in the NHL right now.  After getting a shutout over Phoenix last week to earn his 100th NHL win he’s been unstoppable ever since, posting two more shutouts since then.  The effort earned him the NHL’s first star for the week.  The LA Times says he’s been humble while doing it.

Sitting at the British Beer Company in Walpole Saturday trying to forget a loss in perhaps the last ever football game with UNH, it was great to look up to the TV and see that the Sharks had brought up Justin Braun to play against the Bruins.  He finished the night even in 15 minutes of play.

Back in Worcester Matt Irwin had the gamewinner.

Dan Gordon is playing pro hockey on the Cape.

Sad news in college hockey today as the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers announced this will be the last season for the program at the DI level.  This is a disappointing product of challenging geography, a short-sighted administration, and the inability of the other college hockey schools to find a place for the Chargers who were left standing when the CHA disbanded and the conference realignment music stopped.  It’s still unbelievable that with all the upheaval, with all the shuffling, with conferences coming in and out of existence in the last couple years that no one found a slot for the UAH program.  It should be noted that the Chargers had won multiple national championships at the DII level and had more NCAA appearances than a number of other college hockey programs, including UMass.  But that wasn’t enough for the remaining schools and conferences and UAH was left to die on the vine.  There are not enough college hockey teams out there if you ask me.  It’s tough to see one with history and tradition, created in spite of its unique locale, disappear from the college hockey scene.

Edit – Here’s one of the more comprehensive reads on the demise of the Chargers.

Preview: #7 Vermont; Scrimmage Details Set; Polls

Hockey East Preview: #7  Vermont Catamounts

2010-11 Storyline: Catamounts have a subpar season after making the NCAA tournament in the prior two years.

2011-12 Storyline: How far can Rob Madore lead Vermont in his final go-around?

Player To Watch: Rob Madore

Player Missed Most: Jack Downing

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Mike Paliotta

Random Fact: Former Catamount Tim Thomas brought the Stanley Cup to Burlington for UVM fans to enjoy over the summer.

Usual Beer The Triangle Pre-game Spot: American Flatbread

Vermont had a tough season last year and could not make it three years in a row with an NCAA berth.  Though they had solid defense and a reliable goaltender in Rob Madore, they were unable to find the scoring they had seen in previous years when Viktor Stalberg was still wearing green.  This was complicated further when Wahsontiio Stacey was kicked off the team mid-season.  They should improve on offense with little brother Sebastian Stalberg developing into a fine forward and sophomore Connor Brickley on the verge of becoming a star in the conference.

Rob Madore starts his fourth year in net with the Catamounts and while his numbers have dropped off each year he’s played, he’ll likely be reliable in net.  However, he’s lost a lot of help in front of him with the graduation of guys like Kyle Medvec and Kevan Miller.  If the Cats don’t see some decided improvement from their younger defensemen and contribution from their talented but untested freshmen blueliners, Madore could be seeing a lot of rubber this season.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Madore’s goals against average continues to increase at the 0.30 clip we’ve seen the last three years.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: The young forwards make a huge leap offensively.

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
1. ??
2. ??
3. ??
4. ??
5. ??
6. Massachusetts Minutemen (preview upcoming)
7. Vermont Catamounts
8. Providence Friars
9. Northeastern Huskies
10. Lowell River Hawks

While UMass will not be having a true exhibition game this season, there will be an intrasquad scrimmage open to the public.  The scrimmage will take place at 4pm Saturday and will be followed by the annual Skate With The Minutemen event.  Seems like it’s been an unusually long offseason.  I can’t wait to see the team take the ice, even if they’ll only be facing each other.

UMass got 3 points in the USCHO pre-season poll, good for last of the “Also Receiving Votes” teams.

Tomorrow is Hockey East Media Day.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it this year, but I’ll definitely share my thoughts on the pre-season picks that come out of it tomorrow.

Paul Dainton is dressing tonight for the Bluejackets as they take on the Washington Capitals.

The conference shifting is not set yet.  Bowling Green is still weighing their options, one of which could include the University of Buffalo.  Meanwhile, Notre Dame has narrowed it down to either the NCHC or Hockey East.

Alabama Huntsville is still figuring out what it will take to continue on.

UMass to Forgo Exhibition Game

So Dick Baker confirms what I speculated earlier in the week, that Toot Cahoon will be skipping an exhibition against a CIS team in lieu of an intra-squad scrimmage.  Hopefully said scrimmage will be open to the public as I mentioned in my last post.  I’d actually be a little disappointed without being able to watch some kind of game in the practice rink to start the season.  Watching the team there is a lot of fun.  You can stand and actually have something to lean against.  You’re at great risk for losing teeth, which adds excitement.  You can hear everything on the ice.  And, everyone on the ice can hear what you’re saying.  It’s satisfying to be able to watch Tim Benedetto laugh at whatever good-hearted ribbing you send his way.

Herald HS Hockey guru and UMass alum Jim Clark reports that new assistant coach Blaise MacDonald will be one of the featured speakers at the Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association clinic.

FTT reader Amy pointed out that Chase Langeraap will be returning to the South Carolina Stingrays this season, the ECHL team that he signed with following the college season last year.  Pretty much all the UMass alumni you’d expect to sign or re-sign have, with the notable exception of Alex Berry.  How are AHL or NHL teams not clamoring for a guy who racked up 34 points and 150 PIM last year in the AHL?  Oh and he was also nominated for AHL Man of the Year for his work off the ice.

As a college hockey fan it’s incredibly sad and at the same time infuriating that with all the conference shuffling going on right now there’s no place at the table for Alabama-Huntsville and they may have to shut down their program.  Come on.  Somebody step up and do what’s best for college hockey in general.

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