Recruit Update

With the odd schedules as of late, it’s been a while since our last recruit update so time to get caught up on the future Minutemen.

Ben Gallacher – D – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) – 2013 (transfer)
13 GP / 2 G / 4 A / 6 Pts / 30 PIM / +5
Gallacher has had three assists in his last six games but what’s encouraging is that he did not take any penalties in that time.

Mark Hamilton – D – Salisbury School Crimson Knights (NE Prep) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Due for an update on the prep recruits.  I believe Hamilton is playing for the Knights currently after missing a few weeks with injury.

Marc Hetnik – D – Vernon Vipers (BCHL) – 2013
33 GP / 1 G /4 A / 5 Pts / 30 PIM
UMass’ newest recruit did not register any points in the last couple weeks.

Mike Iovanna – RW/C – Malden Catholic Lancers (MA High School) – 2013
6 GP / 2 G /4 A / 6 Pts
Iovanna is playing as I write this and as of now already has four points.  Last week he played well as MC played top ranked BC High, picking up two assists.  Richie Murray, a UMass alum covering the game for the Herald, passed along to FTT that Iovanna has a lot of good puck skill and looked good on the PK, but still needs to put on some weight before getting to Amherst.  Iovanna’s recent 100th point milestone was mentioned by the Herald’s Jim Clark.

Dennis Kravchenko – LW – Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) – 2013 or 2014
29 GP / 13 / 16 A / 29 Pts / 74 PIM / +9
Kravchenko had a goal and and three assists during the last couple weekends.  He’s currently 17th in the USHL in total points and 19th in scoring.

Patrick Lee – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2014
37 GP / 16 G / 18 A / 34 Pts / 18 PIM
Lee went scoreless in his last three games but amazingly the Bandits are 36-1-1 on the season.

Casey Miller – C – Kimball Union (NE Prep) – 2014
5 GP / 2 G / 5 A / 7 Pts
Updates for the prep recruits will be done semi-regularly.  Miller has some mention in this Q&A with Maine recruit Nick Roberto.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
19 GP / 0 G / 3 A / 3 Pts / 6 PIM
Smith didn’t have any points recently.

Frank Vatrano– LW/C – Junior Bruins (EJHL) – 2013
18 GP / 13 G / 9 A / 22 Pts / 22 PIM
Vatrano has not played with the Junior Bruins in a while.  I almost wonder if he’s now enrolled at UMass.  Will work to confirm.

Branden Gracel had a hell of a week last week, being named Ledyard Classic MVP, Hockey East Player of the Week, and Hockey East Player of the Month.  All of that helped him gain honors as runner-up for National Player of the Month.

The Republican’s Harry Plumer caught up with the Minutemen during their rare weekend off.

Don’t forget that this weekend’s games got switched on the schedule so now the team plays at home on Friday and in Providence on Saturday, thanks to some sort of a conflict with Women’s Basketball.  I assume the change was made so the pep band that plays before dozens of people at women’s basketball can make it on Friday to support hockey and the thousands of fans there, right?  RIGHT?!!?!

This weekend’s series is mentioned by CHN’s Joe Meloni.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the tremendous win by USA Hockey over Sweden to gain goal in the IIHF World Junior Championships.  In the last decade since I took a significant interest in the USA hockey program and how players develop through the ranks, Team USA has made huge strides.  To get to the point where they’re now regularly seen as having the best players in the world under the age of 20 is miraculous.  Congratulations to all the players on Team USA, but a little extra congrats to those guys like Rocco Grimaldi, Johnny Gaudreau, Jacob Trouba, Jake McCabe and many others who have chosen to hone their skills in the NCAA.

The UConn hockey program will not be led into Hockey East by the coach who has guided them for the last 25 years as Bruce Marshall has resigned after missing most of the season due to health issues.  It’ll be interesting to watch who the Huskies tap to take their program to the next level.

Here are this week’s polls and Hockey East awards.  Massachusetts is currently 23rd in the pairwise.

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Polls & Awards

With their loss at Northeastern over the weekend Boston College will not be coming into the Mullins Center on Friday as the top ranked team in the country.  Instead they’ll be coming in as the third ranked team according to this week’s USCHO poll, but still a team receiving first place votes.  Either way they’ll still be a very formidable opponent for Massachusetts, who has a number of areas to work on after last Friday’s victory against UConn.

Half of Hockey East is currently ranked as Lowell drops to #10 after tying Vermont, Boston University is right behind them at #11, and Northeastern and New Hampshire join the poll at 14th and 15th respectively.  In addition Maine, Merrimack, and Providence are also receiving votes.  UMass still hasn’t gained back the votes they had prior to their unfortunate loss to….UMass in the pre-season scrimmage.

Minnesota is tops in the USCHO poll as well as the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

Quality wins over Merrimack and BC deservedly gave Northeastern a couple spots in this week’s Hockey East Awards.  How half-assed is the UMass representation on the linked release?  Brendan Gracel is rightly recognized as a Top Performer for his one goal and one assist performance, but not Steven Guzzo who had equal statistics and a highlight goal?  Only a single sentence devoted to UMass’ Team Notes?

The Collegian has some notes from Friday’s game to go with their recap which I believe originally ran Saturday.

The Collegian’s Nick Canelas is pulling double duty this season as he’s also contributing to College Hockey News, like with this piece on how this past Friday’s matchup will likely blossom into a conference rivalry in the near future.

So if you happen to be a UMass hockey fan in the Carolinas, the Bi-Lo Center has become Mullins South.  Masslive’s Harry Plumer noted on his Twitter account earlier today that with Danny Hobbs being sent down to the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors he’ll be reunited with someone he has skated alongside for the last four years with in Mike Marcou.  The coach of Greenville?  None other than former Minuteman captain Dean Stork.

Nice to see Nebraska-Omaha taking steps to bring Maverick hockey on campus.

I am shocked, SHOCKED, that one of the clown WCHA officials who threw Paul Dainton out of a game at Wisconsin a couple years ago was suspended by the conference for being incredibly stupid.  (I’m also mildly shocked that I incredibly remembered he was one of the incompetent refs in question from that game)

UConn Recap

Last night was an enjoyable way to kick off the season and the new era of Massachusetts hockey as the Minutemen defeated future Hockey East foe UConn 4-1 in front of the largest opening night crowd in school history.  It wasn’t the prettiest of games at times as both teams looked sloppy at times and general chippiness led to a total of 26 penalties, which really hindered the flow of the game.  But a win is a win and last night should provide some confidence for the team as well as some tape for Coach Micheletto to identify the areas that need to be worked on prior to next weekend’s big tilt against Boston College.

The Minutemen came out absolutely flying from the drop of the puck and dominated play early on.  UMass held an 8-1 shot advantage six minutes in when Colin Shea put home the first goal on a slap shot from the point.  UMass would continue to control play until there was 9:28 left in the first and the team picked up its first of many penalties of the night.  Tyler Helton would score for the Huskies on the resulting power play and it would take the Minutemen a while to regain the momentum and crisp play they had started the game with.  UMass would get the lead back toward the end of the period when Branden Gracel redirected a Steven Guzzo shot, but from then on the Huskies, and especially their goaltender Garrett Bratus, did their best to stymie any attempt to widen the lead.

The score stayed 2-1 UMass until the third period when two excellent individual efforts would seal the game for the Minutemen.  The first came at the start of the period when Guzzo was able to take the puck from the corner, skate to the front of the net with a Husky defender on him, and get the puck past Bratus while getting pushed down to the ice.  A few minutes later Darren Rowe, making the most of his opportunity to dress as the sixth defensemen, took the puck at center ice on a UMass power play and skated through and around the four Husky players untouched to put home the final goal of the evening.

Again, not the prettiest of games, but UMass showed tremendous effort and got the win.  I thought there were a number of players who did very well beyond the goalscorers.  Conor Allen played tremendous last night and it makes me confident that he has a huge role to play for this team this season.  He moved the puck extremely well and generated four shots.  On defense I counted at least two or three blocked shots by him all the while playing physical and smart.  There were a lot of UMass penalties but Allen didn’t draw a single one.  Oleg Yevenko also stood out to me as playing well on defense, looking a lot more confident out there as a sophomore and still skating pretty well given his size.

Overall I thought the Conor Sheary/Mike Pereira/Troy Power line looked pretty good.  Power seemed to have a tough time making the transition to the top line at first, but by the second and third periods was putting in really good shifts with his new linemates.  The fourth line of Peter DeAngelo/Kevin Czepiel/Eddie Olczyk played a good share of minutes and did a great job of disrupting the Huskies’ offense.

Kevin Boyle did well, giving up just the one goal and made some key saves, especially on the penalty kill.  He did look shaky at times but there were so many long stretches where he might as well been another of the 7,123 spectators that I’m guessing he had a tough time getting into a groove due to lack of action.  The one obvious area where UMass must improve next week is penalties.  A lot of the team’s 12 infractions came out of the after-the-whistle melees, but they simply cannot go around giving teams eight power play chances.  They got away with it last night but give BC eight power play chances and you’re probably looking at least a three goal hole to climb out of.  Adam Phillips, who played well otherwise, especially has to try to stay out of the box as five of the trips were his.

Overall, it was a great night at the Mullins Center.  The team gave the excellent crowd and their new coach a win and have a lot to build off of as they begin their conference schedule.  It was great to see so many students there, 4,200 was the number given on the radio and it seemed like a lot were making their first trip.  I can’t see how they wouldn’t have enjoyed themselves enough to come back next week which has a very good chance of being a sellout when defending national champion Boston College comes to town.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steven Guzzo
Guzzo’s production last year as a freshmen was a nice surprise, but for UMass to be successful he’ll have to continue to put the puck in the net this season.  He did exactly that as it was his heads up play to drive to the net that put the game away for the Minutemen.  It was also his shot that Gracel was able to tip past Bartus on the game-winning goal.

Among the over 7,000 in attendance last night was none other than former coach Toot Cahoon, who I ran into after the game.  I think anyone who has been following UMass hockey knows what a classy guy Toot is and he showed that yet again by coming out to support the program and the players he brought to Amherst in the season opener.  Not surprisingly, I can safely say it was the most relaxed I’ve ever seen Toot after a UMass hockey game.

Based on what I saw last night in terms of demeanor and overall leadership displayed I would pick Rocco Carzo, Joel Hanley, and Conor Allen as this year’s captains/assistant captains.  We’ll see who coach Mick chooses soon.

Last night’s highlights via UMass Athletics

In the Gazette’s recap, Coach Mick says “unflappable” is a word the team must learn after last night.

Here’s the recap from the Republican as well as a piece on Mick’s first game as a collegiate head coach.

The Collegian has their game story as well as this interesting column as part of their season preview coverage, stating the time for UMass hockey to start winning is now.

One small benefit of the NHL lockout is that the Bruins writers are available to cover college hockey, as is the case with the Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa covering the team and last night’s game.

Former UMass captain Mike Kostka, who won a Calder Cup last year with Norfolk, is the feature of this piece from TSN.  Kostka is now with the Leafs organization.

Hockey’s Future has an excellent profile of Kevin Moore, including the story of the #freemoore campaign started before the final regular season game last March.

UConn Preview

Connecticut Huskies 0-0-0 (0-0-0) Atlantic Hockey T-1st

vs

Massachusetts Minutemen 0-0-0 (0-0-0) Hockey East T-2nd

Now that the applause has faded from the celebration announcing UConn’s addition to Hockey East, the Huskies are faced with a sobering reality.  They’re still a bad Atlantic Hockey team.  Bad as in a program that hasn’t had a winning season since the turn of the century.  Still, they’re not a team that Massachusetts should take lightly.  The Minutemen don’t exactly have a perfect record against Atlantic Hockey teams in recent years, dropping games to Army and Bentley in the last few seasons.  They’re not even perfect against UConn with the Huskies picking up a win over the Minutemen back in 2004.  If there’s one piece of advice I could give to UMass players it’s to recognize that this is one of the biggest games the Huskies will play all year and their players will always get up for it.  That’s something that’s likely to be amplified now that the move to Hockey East is on the horizon for them and I’m sure they’d like nothing more than to begin the season with a huge upset over their future conference rivals.

Yet, despite their lofty future, not much is expected out of the Huskies this season.  The 16-19-4 record they amassed last year is pretty good for the program’s standards but unfortunately for them a lot of that was due to star winger Cole Schneider who is now in the Ottawa Senators organization (though most definitely, and sadly, not in Ottawa itself).  As a result the Huskies are picked to finish 7th in the AHA.  UConn will have to have another star emerge if they’re going to put together a winning season in Storrs.

That star could be Brant Harris.  While Schneider got most of the attention, Harris put together a very strong sophomore season himself.  He had 18 goals on the year, a stunning 10 of which came on the power play.  Another winger, and another junior, that UMass will have to keep an eye on is Billy Latta who was third on the team in goals last season with 10.  Co-captain Sean Ambroise is likely to factor into any scoring for the Huskies as well as his 20 assists last year were second only to Schneider.  UMass will have to watch out for the Husky power play which was tops last season in the AHA at a stellar 25.2%.  This may be one area where the team does not miss Schneider too much as he only contributed 3 PPGs last year, versus Harris, Latta, and Ambroise who put up the bulk of the extra man goals.

Co-Captain senior Alex Gerke will be leading the defense for UConn, which overall is pretty young.  Tom Janosz is the only other upperclassman on the blueline, the rest are all freshmen and sophomores.  The Husky penalty kill was tied for fourth in their league last year at 82.9%.  Likely in net for tomorrow will be (soon to be) four year starter Garrett Bartus.  Bartus is coming off an impressive junior season where he had a 2.55 goals against average and a .923 save percentage.

The keys for UMass tomorrow are pretty much the same things I covered in yesterday’s season preview.  Build off of the strides made last year, especially the successes on offense and on the power play.  Make the most of the accumulating experience at defense.  The blueline is one area where UMass by far has the advantage over UConn in my opinion.  And the team needs consistently solid goaltending.  While doing all that they’ll have to adjust accordingly to the strategy  and methodology laid out by Coach Micheletto and the coaching staff.  My guess is that things will be kept simple as they have only a handful of full practices under their belt.  In the scrimmage on Saturday the team moved the puck pretty well once in the offensive zone.  The toughest part was getting it there.  Lastly, when playing a team like UConn, or any team from Atlantic Hockey, is it’s essential for UMass to make the most of its superior athleticism.  If they allow the Huskies with their game plan to strategically neutralize the skill advantage that UMass has, all bets are off for tomorrow.

Being the first game of the season and the first game of a new era of Massachusetts hockey, here’s a few things I’ll be looking for tomorrow.  Who is in net?  My money right now would be on Kevin Boyle, but remember that in the radio show this week Mick did say he was open to using multiple goaltenders.  Will we see the same lines from the scrimmage?  Personally there are a few adjustments I’d like to see made.  My top line is still Pereira/Guzzo/Sheary.  Or do we see Mike Pereira reunited with his old prep school linemate K.J. Tiefenwerth?  It worked well for the prep champion Winged Beavers.  Personally I’ll be very interested to see who dresses.  Do freshmen like Evan Stack and Shane Walsh get the nod over a Zack LaRue or Andrew Tegeler?  Lastly, who grabs that 6th defenseman spot.  Based on what I saw at the scrimmage, my money is on Mike Busillo.

So there we have it.  Another season of UMass hockey is upon us.  I think it’s more important than usual for UMass to start out with a win to start the schedule.  I’ve already written a lot about what foes loom on the docket after the UConn game.  It’s also the first match for a new coach who we all want to be successful.  Lastly, after another season of disappointment and a disheartening summer for the program in general it would be joyous to start the season on a positive note.  To do so they’ll have to play to their abilities and overcome what’s likely to be a motivated UConn team.  The Huskies have a lot to play for.  I’m sure there are more than a few clad in blue that want to show that one star player, now having moved on, did not make the entire team last season.  They’re also out to show that they truly deserve that golden ticket invite to Hockey East that was delivered over the summer.  And, as always, they’d love to stick it to their once and future rivals.  It’s up to the Minutemen to show them what to expect when they finally get to Hockey East.

Beer The Triangle
Last week’s scrimmage didn’t only give me a chance to scout the current UMass team, but it gave me a chance to scout the beer lineup at the Hangar.  What I saw impressed me.  I was lucky enough on my Summer Beercation to visit the Sierra Nevada brewery right when they released their Beer Camp series for this year.  So I was happy to see the Hangar was having a Sierra Beer Camp tap takeover as of last week.  After doing some checking, I’m told three of the Beer Camps were still on draft as of last night.  Gone is the Imperial Oatmeal Stout.  But still available is the Floral IPA, Imperial Red, and Imperial Pilsner.  All are good but I particularly enjoy the pilsner.  Imperial Pilsners are complex and rare.  Of the ones I have had I would put two at the top.  One is from Boulevard Brewing out of Kansas City.  The other is currently on tap at the Hangar.

Matty V brings news that there will not be captains for tomorrow night’s game.  Though in my opinion overblown, I know this has been a sensitive subject with some UMass fans.  Personally I don’t see the big deal.  I’d rather the coach get comfortable with who he sees as leaders in the locker room and on the ice before putting letters on jerseys.  If UMass needs someone to interact with refs during the game tomorrow, I’m happy to volunteer.  I’ve been “conversing” with Hockey East officials for almost 20 years now.

Matt also brings news that Steve Mastalerz is just returning to full health, a fact that I don’t believe was public.  He didn’t appear to be hindered by an injury on Saturday.  The same could not be said for Eric Filiou, who was in street clothes for the scrimmage.  Unfortunately it sounds like Emerson Auvenshine suffered a concussion in the scrimmage and his status is uncertain.

Speed and tempo is the key for the Minutemen according to the Republican’s preview.  Harry Plumer also has a podcast with our esteemed commissioner Joe Bertagna.

The Republican says speed and tempo, but the focus is consistency according to USCHO. (way to pick a photo from pregame warm-ups to make it look like UMass has zero fans)  The USCHO writers pick UMass to finish 7th/8th, higher than most media this pre-season.

Here’s a season/game preview from UMass Sports Weekly, the student run TV show.

View From Section U: An Even Dozen

As I promised a few weeks ago when the Notre Dame to Hockey East news became official, here are my thoughts on a potential additional program which would bring the total to twelve. While having an even number of teams isn’t absolutely necessary, after all there were only nine teams between when UMass joined in 1994 until Vermont was added in 2005, it does make scheduling easier and more exciting. One of great things right now in Hockey East is that during the months of February and March every team is playing every night as they battle for the championship. If Notre Dame joins as an 11th team by itself someone will be sitting on the sidelines every Friday and Saturday during that time. Plus a 12th team will allow for all teams in Hockey East to participate in the playoffs, with the top four seeds getting an opening round bye as the bottom eight fight to move on.

Of course a program shouldn’t be added just for the sake of getting to twelve teams. That school should bring value to the conference and its members. While I wasn’t on board with the Notre Dame decision due purely to geographic reasons, the profile of the school and competitiveness of the program is a benefit to Hockey East. But what other schools would do the same? Here are my thoughts on the pros, cons, and (since this is a FTT post) the road trip/pre-gaming possibilities of each one. Speaking of which, did you know South Bend, Indiana is only 80 miles from Bell’s Brewery?

Looks Good On Paper, But…

UConn

Pros – UConn fits well into the current geographic footprint of the conference. Four of the other flagship schools from New England are already in the conference in UMass, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Though not for hockey, they’re a high profile school in general college athletics, specifically for basketball and more recently football. They’re from an area with a decent hockey tradition and could potentially tap into that (beyond just playing Brass Bonanza after goals).

Cons – Their hockey history sucks. Despite beating Lowell just last night, it’s unknown if they’d be able to make leap from perennial Atlantic Hockey also ran to Hockey East. Their facility is frankly, awful. It’s essentially a building right out of an industrial park with a rink inside surrounded by metal football bleachers. The really sad part is it’s a relatively new building right out an industrial park with a rink inside surrounded by metal football bleachers. UConn would have to build something new if they want to meet Hockey East standards. That’s major hurdle number one. Major hurdle number two is the fact that they don’t currently fund scholarships, or if they do it’s just a fraction of the full allotment that HEA schools do. They’d have to fund all the way up to the max to become a Hockey East program and then of course find money for to offset such increases on the women’s side of their sports, due to Title IX. Considering the school has shown exactly zero interest in doing what it takes to have a successful program even at the AHA level, I don’t see this happening.

Road Trip – Storrs is a pretty barren place in terms of anything to do. The first time I went there I had to pregame at the Hooters all the way in Manchester. Luckily the last time UMass played there I came across Willimantic Brewing company, a great brewpub located in an old post office with garlic fries that are so good they should be illegal.

The Contenders

Quinnipiac

Pros – It wasn’t long ago that Quinnipiac was in Atlantic Hockey themselves, but a large investment in the program has allowed them to elevate to the ECAC and still be somewhat successful. The school built a decently sized, impressive facility right near campus that would work for Hockey East. The school also demonstrated their willingness to improve the profile of the program by paying for some games to be televised on NESN. While the team hasn’t made the NCAAs since 2002, it has enjoyed 20 win seasons in 5 of the last 8 years. Specifically from a UMass perspective these teams have played each other for the last few seasons and enjoyed some memorable games during that time.

Cons – Not a lot here to tell you the truth, other than the fact that while they’ve shown they can compete in the ECAC, they haven’t demonstrated they can reach the NCAAs in a more competitive league. It’s also an unknown whether they could attract a casual fan following to their games. Although it’s interesting that the small private school offers more than the state’s flagship.

Road Trip – This one is actually a con. Last time UMass played at Quinnipiac we pregamed at Southport Brewing Company which is a chain in the area. Meh. Mediocre craft beer. Think Northampton Brewery without the deck. Decent pregaming would have to take place down the road in New Haven, where Prime 16 is one of my favorites.

Holy Cross

Pros – Holy Cross would be the best geographic fit for the current Hockey East schools, just a short bus ride for both UMass and the Boston area schools. Unlike UConn, Holy Cross has actually won something in Atlantic Hockey, with a couple conference titles to their credit. They also have one of the more storybook wins in NCAA tournament history when they topped #1 seed Minnesota in 2006. The fact that Holy Cross has the support of the city if they decide to move to Hockey East is a plus.

Cons – While Holy Cross’ rink is nice by AHA standards, it’s not good enough for Hockey East. The good news is the city would allow them to play at the DCU Center. The bad news is they’d have to play at the DCU Center. Now, DCU is one of the few area hockey arenas I haven’t been to, but I’ve heard nothing but horror stories about it during those times when NCAA regionals are held there. Is that the best place to showcase Hockey East? Also it’s an unknown how much support Crusader hockey would get from its administration and student population. For these reasons Holy Cross is probably a longshot.

Road Trip – Though it’s on the far side of Worcester from campus, Peppercorn’s, the home of Wormtown Brewing, would be a great addition to Hockey East, as I found out when I pregamed the pregame before football played Holy Cross this fall. Wormtown’s owner and head brewer is a UMass alum.

Dark Horses

Niagara

Pros – I guess this is probably the closest thing Notre Dame would have to a travel partner. While we are talking about an Atlantic Hockey team, they’re not one by choice. Niagara would love nothing more than continue to raise the profile of its program by offering close to or at the maximum for scholarships and making the team the flagship of its athletic department. Unfortunately when the CHA disbanded Niagara was forced to join the AHA to remain viable and adopt their myopic limitations on scholarships. Niagara wants out and wants big-time hockey, but has no where to achieve such dreams. The Purple Eagles have had success at the DI level with three NCAA appearances to their name.

Cons – The distance is an issue, for both teams and fans. The program would also very quickly have to invest in its facilities, scholarships, and try to make a splash in Hockey East. As UMass fans we saw the troubles of jumping right into an elite conference and the long term effects it can have. Another huge problem would be where would they play? Their current arena is inadequate and I’m not sure if the area has anything that could be used as an alternative, even if temporarily.

Road Trip – Pregame in the area best known for being the birthplace of the buffalo wing? Oh, OK. If I absolutely HAVE to..

RIT

Pros – If we’re talking about all these Atlantic Hockey teams, why not look to the current kings of that conference who went to the Frozen Four in 2010? It’s amazing to think that in 06-07, in just their 2nd year in DI and their first year in Atlantic Hockey, they won 21 games. And they haven’t looked back since. They would bring a very passionate fanbase who I personally witnessed take over the MDC rink that Bentley plays in a few years back. So we know they’ll travel. There’s talk about building a new facility on campus or as a backup is Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester, home to UMass’ biggest win.

Cons – Like Niagara, geography isn’t a perfect fit. They’d also have to invest in scholarships, facilities, and so on. It’s unknown if the school would be willing to put that much into their hockey program.

Road Trip – Dinosaur BBQ is located a slapshot away from Blue Cross Arena. I have to say I really enjoyed the time spent in and around Rochester for the NCAA tournament in 2007.

Syracuse

Pros – Here’s a high profile school that would fit well into the other institutions already in Hockey East. The trip to Syracuse is doable for most of the existing teams. The school just recently added DI women’s hockey.

Cons – The obvious one is that they’d have to actually start the program, fund scholarships, build a facility (unless they play in the War Memorial), etc…

Road Trip – Like Rochester, Dinosaur BBQ. Other than that I know nothing about Syracuse, having only driven through it. Beer Advocate has a number of interesting looking spots in town however.

Rhode Island

Pros – The school itself would be a natural fit in the conference, in terms of geography and the fact that it’d be the fifth flagship school from New England. They would automatically have a bitter rival in Providence. There are rumors the Ryan Center could be retrofitted for hockey, but I’ve yet to see them confirmed. The school has long had one of the better club teams in the country. Their AD, UMass’ own Thorr Bjorn, already has a relationship with Hockey East and was involved with running the Minuteman hockey program.

Cons – Like Syracuse, they’d have to start a program. Unlike Syracuse, which is now rolling in ACC money, URI is hurting. Citing lack of success and budget problem, they’re actually cutting scholarships and dropping their football program to the Northeast Conference. Probably the only way this could work is if they cut football all together and reallocate that money to hockey.

Road Trip – Honestly, I’m not seeing much down there. Anyone?

My Choice

RPI

Pros – Personally I think RPI fits best. Geographically they’re located just outside the New England footprint. Amherst to Rensselaer 100 miles. Amherst to Newton 89 miles. Beyond proximity, they have tradition. Houston Field House is a quintessential college hockey barn. It’s capacity of 5,000 fits well with Hockey East. Inhabiting HFH are some diehard fans, a great hockey band, and of course Puckman. This is a team on the rise. Seth Appert is considered one of the better coaches in college hockey and he’s brought some good talent to the capital region in his tenure. In the last three years RPI’s win total has gone from 10 to 18 to 20. Of all the schools mentioned as an addition to Hockey East, this is the only one that has national championships to its name.

Cons – It had been a long time since they found themselves in the NCAA or atop the ECAC before last season. 1994 to be specific. It’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain at that level.

Road Trip – Brown’s Brewing is a brewpub I try to hit when in the area, located just down the hill from campus. Thirsty on the way back to Amherst? Moe’s Tavern in Lee is Berkshire County’s premiere beer bar and UMass alumni owned and operated.

There you have it. Address the invite and get a stamp on this thing. I’d love for Hockey East to jump on this so both schools could enter at once.

Dick Baker takes a look at the ease Friday’s game will mean to the Shea family with both their sons playing each other. I noticed last year at the pregame at Cityside that the Sheas had taken a page from the Pereira family and constructed a half UMass-half BC jersey. Although it kind of turns my stomach to see my beloved maroon and white attached to a BC logo, I do appreciate the thrill it must mean for them to see both their sons compete at the same time on the ice at the highest level of college hockey.

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