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Polls & Awards

The latest polls are out and the Minutemen moved up a spot to #9 in the USCHO rankings.  Quinnipiac jumped five spots to #4 after beating Princeton and UMass and are now receiving first place votes.

UMass sticks at #9 in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll.

And 9s are wild as that’s where the team checks in for INCH’s Power Rankings as well.

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Casey Wellman shared Hockey East Player of the Week honors with Maine’s Tanner House.  Paul Dainton made the Top Performer list.

Wellman was a co-UMass Player of the Week as well.

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Quinnipiac Recap

Will Ortiz (photo by Karen Winger)

Save for the UConn tournament following Christmas the non-conference schedule is in the books for the 2009-2010 Minutemen.  Now I realize that these games are important in terms of PWR/RPI/KRACH and whatever acronyms you personally adhere to but quite frankly next to the Hockey East slate, they’re nothing.  I’ll always take the wins regardless but I think what may be more important are the lessons they learn out of conference to help prepare for another grueling Hockey East gauntlet.  Lessons learned last night; do not take periods off, do not spot good teams 3-0 leads to start the game.  At the same time the lesson that we, as fans, were introduced to against UNH, reviewed again versus Yale, and after last night have been well schooled in; this UMass team will not quit when down.

Ok, no need to do a play by play recap, I’m sure there are much better ones in the paper (which I’ll link to anyway).  Instead let’s address the main issues surrounding the game. 

The Meyers decision.  It was certainly surprising to arrive at the arena and find Dan Meyers was getting the start.  Meyers has played very well in his starts against Niagara and Yale but with the high profile matchup of the game against a supercharged offense, it seemed to me like Paul Dainton would be the  choice.  That said, was Meyers performance in the first period the difference of the game?  Not in my opinion.  He has certainly looked much sharper at times and the numbers do not look good, but it’s tough to put those goals on his shoulders.  He was a bit shaky and gave up some rebounds but got very little help in clearing them out of the slot from his defensemen and with the offensive unable to maintain possession he had the puck in front of him way too often.  While I was happy to see Dainton in net to start the second, it was because I hoped it would light a charge underneath the Minutemen (which I think it did) rather than a statement on Meyers’ play to that point.

The first period.  The thing that stood out in that first period was how conservative the team looked, both offensively and defensively.  Quinnipiac effectively clogged both the neutral zone and the slot and prevented UMass from getting any rhythm offensively.  Defensively I’m not sure what the team was trying to do in the first but once the team went down and had to open things up on both sides of the ice the defensemen seemed to be able to move in their own zone better and shut down the talented Bobcats forwards from then on.

The comeback.  Down by three goals Toot appeared to loosen the reigns and it seemed to make the difference.  The offense responded to start the second and were able to at least put something on the scoreboard with a nice put back by Casey Wellman.  The third was highlighted by a great shot and score by Will Ortiz and then just eleven seconds after a second goal by Wellman catching an unprepared Dan Clarke.  The goal by Mike Lecomte to tie was a skill shot taking a rebound and roofing it straight up and in.  But it wasn’t just a reawakened offense that got UMass back into the game and ultimately a lead.  What made the difference was some great defensive work by Brett Watson, Danny Hobbs, and Ortiz on the forwards to keep the Bobcats out of the offensive zone.

The interference call.  I would love to see the interference called on Justin Braun with just over two minutes again.  I didn’t have the best angle from where I was sitting but it looked pretty questionable from what I did see.  Aside from some blatantly missed calls by the ECAC officiating crew on both sides (specifically some obvious offsides and an elbow to Marcou’s head that went without a whistle) the refs seemed like they were going to let a lot go in what was a very physical game.  That’s fine with me, just as long as they’re consistent and they call it that way throughout.  But they weren’t consistent when they put away their whistles for nearly the entire third period and then pull them out for a ticky-tack interference call on a faceoff.  In the context of the many penalties which went uncalled throughout the game, it was ridiculous.  That said, I refuse to say that UMass lost the game because of the referees.  They lost because they gave one of the best offensive teams in the country a three goal head start to begin the game.  The team was flat out dominated for that first twenty minutes.  If the team played like they did in the following periods for even parts of the first and it never comes down to a Braun penalty or an overtime goal and the Minutemen leave Connecticut with a win over a top ten team for the second time in ten days.

Not surprisingly I don’t think the team took the loss very well, completely understandable considering everything they had to do to get back in the game and even take the lead.  I do hope however that they look back and realize how well they’ve played thus far, how well they played for good stretches against a skilled QU team, and I hope they play just as hard in the next few weeks.  Six Hockey East points are up for grabs against three tough conference opponents between now and Christmas.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Will Ortiz
I haven’t gone through all the box scores yet, but I have to assume that with 5 goals this week Casey Wellman will be getting some deserved recognition in the hockey world.  But I like the FTT player of the game to go beyond statistics sometimes.  Will Ortiz played a huge role in the comeback effort on both sides of the puck.  Ortiz played some great defense 5 on 5, was key on the power play, scored the momentum swinging goal, put a body on anyone who came near him, and looked to be the emotional leader on the ice.

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Toot says the team lost in the first period in the USCHO recap.  I have to agree.

He has this to say about starting Meyers in the Republican game story:

“Paul still had started nine of the first 12,” he said. “I’ve seen other schools try to ride one goaltender sometimes successfully. But more times than not, he gets beaten up by the end of the year.”

Here is a Quinnipiac viewpoint of the game from the New Haven Register.

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Quinnipiac has been added to the Road Trip page.  TD Bank Sports Center is truly a very nice arena for an up and coming program and is a great symbol of the school’s committment to their hockey program.  Frankly, I would think a UConn fan must be embarassed to find that the premiere college hockey arena in the state is located outside of Storrs.  Frietas looks like a practice rink compared to both TD Bank SC and Ingalls Rink.

Make sure to check out the comments of the Road Trip page also as readers have put in their two cents for good places to go for this weekend’s trip to Lowell.

Quinnipiac Preview


#10 Massachusetts Minutemen 9-2-0, (Hockey East 5-2-0 T-1st)
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#9 Quinnipiac Bobcats 11-1-0, (ECAC 7-0-0 1st)

Quinnipiac Bobcats Official Site

Quinnipiac has certainly seen some great success in recent years, they managed 20-win seasons in their first three years in the ECAC and finished .500 last year.  This year however was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Bobcats.  Before the season started the other ECAC coaches had Quinnpiac finishing 8th in the league while the media picked them 11th due to question marks in net and what was thought to be a sub par defense.  Instead the Bobcats have been impressive from the very start of the season when they went out to Columbus and swept Ohio State in their own barn.  Save for one loss to Robert Morris they’ve been winning ever since including two quality wins recently over Princeton and Cornell, the last coming away at Lynah.

Quinnipiac wasn’t supposed to have much problem scoring since they returned four of their better forwards from last year in Brandon Wong, Eric Lampe, Scott Zurevinski, and Jean-Marc Beaudoin.  Lampe had led the way with 9 goals in 12 games while Wong is leading the team in points.  Freshman Jeremy Langlois, a teammate of Kevin Czepiel in juniors last year, has contributed as well with 5 goals and 4 assists.  Quite frankly this team puts out three lines that are serious scoring threats and the Bobcats find themselves averaging 4.25 goals a game, tops in the country.  That success is carrying over to the power play where they are converting at a rate of 26%, good for 6th in the country.

Everyone knew QU’s offense would be good this year, but the real story for them is their defense.  That question mark in net has been answered pretty resoundingly by sophomore Dan Clarke.  Clarke is 7-0-0 on the season with a GAA of 2.01 and save percentage of .939, second in the country to Denver’s Marc Chevrie.  The guys in front of him aren’t playing badly either, which is surprising since they only returned four defensemen from last year.  Quinnipiac is currently 8th in the country on the penalty kill with 88.6%.  Juniors Brett Dickinson and Zach Hansen lead the defensive group that’s mostly made up of freshmen.

With the type of offensive firepower the Bobcats are able to put on the ice this is obviously going to be a huge test for Paul Dainton and the UMass defense.  Can the Minutemen go toe to toe with Quinnipiac and win a high scoring shootout?  Probably, but I’m not sure that should be the gameplan.  With Quinnipiac able to roll out so many good lines, it’ll be important for all six defensemen to play their very best this afternoon to ensure a victory.  Offensively they’ll just have to keep doing what they’re doing and see if there are any chinks in the armor of Clarke and the young QU defense.  If they can keep up the speed and accurate, quick puck movement that did in Vermont on Tuesday they just may be able to pick up their second win this season in Connecticut over a top ten team.

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According to the Republican preview while the rest of us were crashing on the couch or perhaps fixing the first of many turkey sandwiches Thursday night, the Minutemen were at practice.

Leftovers

Not too much going on today.

The game notes are up for tomorrow’s game.  Here are the UMass notes as well as the Quinnipiac version.

The ECAC writer at USCHO doesn’t think very much of UMass.

Hockey East is debuting a new feature on their website, Five Minute Major, a Q&A session with players from around the league.  James Marcou is the first interviewee.  Make sure you watch all the way to the end.

Vermont Recap

Casey Wellman (photo by Karen Winger)

Well, with Plymouth just down the road from where I’m writing, it seems fitting to take the time to give thanks.

I am thankful for the power play.  With last night’s 3 for 6 effort on the extra man advantage UMass is now converting at an mind-boggling rate of 29.1%, 3rd best in the country.  Last season the team finished the year with a power play of 16.1%.  What’s the difference?  I think it is simply the fact that you have a group of players that see the ice well, make smart passes, and most importantly seem to mesh very well with the other guys on the ice.  There have been some major line shuffling due to injury and such and yet the guys don’t seem to be missing a beat and are able to find each other on the ice.  Last season I don’t think that was the case.

I’m thankful for the penalty kill.  Not only is UMass killing 84% of the penalties, but they are doing a great job of staying out of the box in general.

I’m thankful for the young defensemen.  Some very talented blueliners graduated last year and to be successful this season it was going to take some improved play from guys like Matt Irwin, Doug Kublin, and Mike Marcou plus some quality minutes from Darren Rowe and Mike Donnellan.  Well, the team has gotten exactly what it needed from all of them.  Irwin was already emerging as a top defensemen by the end of last year but Kublin has been very steady on D while Mike Marcou has been the same and has added a little offense to go with it.  Donnellan and Rowe have played with poise and limited their mistakes despite platooning for that last defensive spot.

I’m thankful for the schedule.  Starting the season with a bunch of games in the Mullins Center allowed the team to gel and the freshmen to get comfortable.  Now with two wins in a row on the road over ranked teams, that development time in the comfort of the Bill is paying off.  However it doesn’t get any easier as there are some even more challenging road games on the horizon starting this Saturday at #9 Quinnipiac.

I’m thankful for Casey Wellman.  Casey is doing it all.  9 goals in 11 games.  That puts him at 5th in the country in goals per game and only two behind his entire total from last year.  He also has 9 asissts in that same time and has become the goto man for key faceoffs.  And he’s only a sophomore.

I’m thankful for James Marcou.  With 21 points he’s tied for the lead in the nation and tops for points per game.  With his 5 assists last night he now has 100 points for his career, good for 7th all time at UMass (passing Pond Club President Mike Merchant).  With only 4 more he’ll be in 3rd place.  I always figured Pat Keenan’s 180 points was out of reach.  If Marcou comes back next year, it may not be.

I’m thankful for solid goaltending.  With the unexpected scoring explosion so far this season it’s probably easy to overlook the good job both Paul Dainton and Dan Meyers have done to date.  Well so far UMass has the 3rd best scoring defense in the conference overall and the best in league games.

I’m thankful that I’ve been able to get to most of the games.  Thanks to a favorable work schedule and only two games beyond reasonable driving distance; Niagara and Vermont.  And for those couple games I couldn’t make I’m thankful for John Hennessey and Brock Hines for bringing the game to me.

I’m thankful for the team’s determination.  Multiple times they gone down by a goal or two, played well and still been losing, been pushed to the brink, but they haven’t given up yet.  They’ve scratched and clawed, scored dramatic game tying goals with only seconds left and then put away game winners in overtime.  They find a way to win and as one FTT reader said, that’s what good teams do.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Casey Wellman
When you score three goals in less than ten minutes, add and assist, and win 65% of your faceoffs, you’re pretty much a shoo-in for this award.  Obviously under other circumstances it would’ve gone to the guy with five assists instead.

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The athletic department’s official writeup notes that Marcou’s five assists were the most by a UMass player since 1957.

Here’s the recap from the Collegian.

The Burlington Free Press warns teams to beware Marcou, Wellman, and the UMass power play.

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There was a surprising result from the Coffin last night as the Friars beat #3 Lowell 4-2.  BU was able to squeak by Harvard in overtime.  A game of interest being played tonight will be Princeton travelling to Connecticut to take on Saturday’s opponent, Quinnipiac.

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John Parker’s recent performance is mentioned in the weekly USHL recap.  Also noted in the recap is the first goal of the season for Eddie Olczyk’s brother, Tommy.

Peter DeAngelo had a nice goal described in this story from a Monarch’s game.  Makes me wish I had gone to the game as I had originally hoped to, but I didn’t want to chance missing any of the Patriots game.

Vermont Preview

#10 Massachusetts Minutemen 8-2-0, (Hockey East 4-2-0 4th)
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#18 Vermont Catamounts 4-4-1, (Hockey East 3-3-1 T-5th)

Vermont Catamounts Official Site

It’s that time of year again, UMass and Vermont meet tonight in the annual Turkey Tuesday tilt. I love that these two old Division II ECAC rivals get together for this yearly tradition. Unfortunately I haven’t exactly loved the results the last few years as the Minutemen have dropped the last three of these holiday week contests. Over the past ten years UMass is 4-5-1 in the pre-Thanksgiving matchups. Add in the fact that UMass has to travel to Burlington where they’ve gone 1-3-1 over the past three seasons and this is certainly proving to be quite a test for the squad.

UVM currently sits at .500 both overall and in Hockey East, but they have yet to lose at the Gutt. They have done ok against top level teams, splitting a series with Denver and tying Lowell, but losses to Merrimack and Maine probably have some Catamount fans scratching their heads. UVM last played over a week ago when they split a series at Boston College by the scores of 1-7 and 3-2. Going into the season the biggest question mark was who would take over the scoring lost when Viktor Stalburg jumped to the Maple Leafs. I think the Catamounts are still waiting for that answer as they come in ranked 7th in the conference in scoring offense and sport the worst power play at just 12.2%.

While they haven’t had anyone step up and put the scoring load on their shoulders they have gotten some here and there from a number of players. Bayden Irwin and Justin Milo lead the team with 4 goals each while a half dozen other players also have more than one goal. Irwin is really the key as he’s leading the team in goals, assists and plus/minus. Wahsontiio Stacey is second to Irwin in team points with 7. Juniors Kevan Miller and Kyle Medvec have both performed well on defense. I think the biggest surprise for UVM so far this season has been their poor goaltending. Rob Madore looked to be the best freshman goaltender in the league last year (yeah, yeah, Millan won a title. How’s he doing now without that defense?) but now he finds himself at or near the bottom of the league in goals against and save percentage. His GAA of 3.73 is downright upsetting. (edit: it now appears Madore will not get the start tonight)

UMass is coming off a thrilling overtime win at #9 Yale and enjoy their first top ten ranking of the season.  If they want to win at the tough environment that is Gutterson Field House they’ll have to cut down on the mistakes that allowed Yale to stay in the game last Thursday.  UMass dominated play through most of the first two periods but the Elis were able to stick around and ultimately take the lead due to the Minutemen taking too many penalties and turning the puck over in their own zone.  Every time UMass had a little bit of momentum the whistle would blow and they’d find themselves shorthanded.  While UVM doesn’t have much of a power play it’s still important for UMass to have their best players on the ice.

The team continues to get production from all four lines, with three of them on the ice for the four goals last week.  I’m guessing Toot will keep the Syner/Carzo/Boehm line together as they clicked very well and led to a number of odd man rushes against Yale.  With Madore’s struggles so far this year it’ll be important to challenge him early and hopefully put one in the net to shake his confidence.

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Here are the UMass game notes for tonight.

The Republican talks about the impact of T.J. Syner’s return in the Yale game.

Here’s the preview from the Gazette.

Here’s the view of tonight’s matchup from the Burlington Free Press with the late news that Mike Spillane will probably be in net.

INCH mentions tonight’s game as one of the highlights of the holiday week’s schedule.

Rankings, shmankings says the Collegian preview.  The road trip continues in their notebook section.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to make the trip to tonight’s game but for those who do make sure to take a look at the Road Trip page for some suggestions on one of Hockey East’s best destinations.  I will however be Twittering updates.  Also, remember that with tonight’s hoops game going at the same time the hockey broadcast will be available only through the internet.

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UMass moved up to #9 in the most recent USA Today/USA Hockey poll.

James Marcou was named one of the Hockey East Top Performers for last week.  Marcou was also named the UMass Athlete of the Week.

Polls; Recruits Sign NLIs

Well the rankings are out and  would you look at that,  two spots in this week’s USCHO top ten are held by public universities from the great commonwealth of Massachusetts while nary a private insitution from the state cracked the ten best.  How do you like them apples?

And UMass sits at #10 in the INCH Power Rankings as well.

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The five outstanding national letters of intent have come in as expected for Mike Pereira, Kevin Boyle, Conor Sheary, Joel Hanley, and John Parker.

Interestingly, it lists Mike Pereira’s current team as South Kent still, but I’m fairly certain he was not with the team yesterday at the prep tournament in New Haven.

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This is probably my only chance to blog today so I wanted to get the poll and recruit information out while I could.  The USA Today poll and Hockey East awards will be included in my usual Tuesday morning post.

Scouting Colin Shea; Tracking Alumni

A weekend free of UMass hockey games afforded me the opportunity to get out and try and see some of the incoming recruits playing in the area, something I enjoying doing whenever feasible.  So yesterday without a reason to truck all the way out to Amherst I only went halfway instead to watch the EJHL’s Green Mountain Glades take on Colin Shea and the Junior Bruins in Marlborough.

So here are my thoughts from watching Shea play:

He’s a very smooth skater, he even may have a little speed.  The entire game he was very poised and relaxed, even at the end when things got chippy.  He played smart on defense, putting himself in good position.  His greatest skill is his poke check which stymied the Glades all game long.   

Offensively he was solid.  He made good outlet passes and moved the puck well both on offense and on the power play.  He seems to have a solid wrister but he only used it a couple times.  His slapshot needs work however both in terms of strength and accuracy.  He seemed to like to jump up into the play when possible and didn’t hesitate to skate down with or even lead the rush (similar to what we see from Justin Braun).  He finished the game with two assists, one on a slapshot that was stopped and put back in by a teammate and the other I think was him cycling it down for the goal.  I believe he was on the ice for four of the five goals (EJHL doesn’t have +/- on box scores), played on the first pairing and was on the first PP and PK units.

Now to the elephant in the room, he is very skinny.  He certainly has good height, but I think the 170-175lbs published is accurate.  The weight and his slapshot are the two things that pose the greatest challenges to him having success in Hockey East.  His poke check is excellent but there are times when you have to pinch someone up along the boards and he’ll have a tough time doing so currently until he bulks up.  I wanted to offer to take him out for a couple prime ribs and perhaps a pizza or two after the game but I don’t think the NCAA would’ve appreciated such a gesture.

Some other players who stood out in the game:
–  Joe Pendenza.  Lowell bound forward who had a good two-way game.
–  Justin Breton.  Had two goals in the game, looked to be the main scorer.  Heading to Bentley.
–  Dan Federico.  Shea’s defensive partner.  Unsigned.  Son of Hockey East linesman?
–  Joey Yeadon.  Only a junior.  Unsigned.  High energy, was all over the ice.
–  Matt Esposito.  Unsigned.  Looked to be Glades best player.

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I’ve been able to add an Alumni page to Fear The Triangle hoping it will be a central place to keep track of where all the former Minutemen are playing or coaching nowadays and see their up to date stats.  I think I have almost everyone covered, mostly thanks to HockeyDB.  I’ll do my best to keep it up to date as guys change teams, etc.  There are a few players that I think are probably still playing somewhere but I couldn’t track them down, namely Scott Crowder, Kelly Sickavish, and most surprisingly Stephen Werner.  If anyone has any information on these three or any other UMass alums who are still in pro hockey in some way, shape, or form, please email me or use the comment function on the page itself.

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New England Prep hockey begins today with an exhibition tournament out at the site of UMass’ latest win, Yale’s Ingalls arena.  Cushing and Conor Sheary will be in action.

John Parker assisted on three of Indiana’s four goals last night as the Ice beat Chicago 4-0 in USHL play.  Parker was named the game’s #2 star and had a +3 on the game.

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For those that missed it, could’ve-been Minuteman John Carlson made his NHL debut for Washington on Friday.  He became the youngest Cap to do so.  Recaps say he played pretty well and even hit a post.

Trovato on Fox Boston; Davis Debuts; Misc Links

Former assistant captain Peter Trovato was interviewed on Fox Boston morning news show yesterday regarding his Massachusetts Soliders Legacy Fund.  Unlike the Globe article earlier in the week, Peter freely mentions his alma mater.

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There are probably not many better ways to make your debut on a team than scoring an overtime winner, and that’s exactly what Chris Davis did last night in his first game with the Wheeling Nailers.  Chris Capraro also scored a goal in the game.

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Nothing too surprising from last night’s results as BC beat Maine, BU’s slide continues with a loss to UNH, and Northeastern beat Providence.  With their wins BC and UNH leapfrogged UMass into first place in Hockey East, but both teams have a game in hand or two over the Minutemen.  Those same teams will matchup again tonight with the addition of Lowell hosting Merrimack at Tsongas Arena.

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James Marcou dropped a bit in this week’s Hobey Watch from Inside Hockey.  However Thursday’s game-winner plus an assist in addition to whatever he may do in Vermont will help him next week.

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What’s life like for recruit Eric Filiou and the rest of the players in the British Columbia Hockey League?  Not Easy.  The Penticton Vees blog describes a 10 hour journey to get to opponent Powell River that includes not one but two ferry rides.  Maybe that bus trip to Orono isn’t too bad after all.

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College Hockey News has an interesting article on the reemergence of former BU netminder Brett Bennett with Wisconsin.

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The Road Trip page has been updated after a very enjoyable trip to New Haven on Thursday.  Also, with a link to the right you can stay up to date with your UMass hockey news and info through Twitter, email, and now Facebook.

Who’s Your Puck Daddy?

Just a few quick notes this afternoon.

The Puck Daddy blog over on Yahoo has long been a good source of information and a few laughs for all things NHL.  Well this season they’ve added a college hockey contributor to give exposure to hockey at this level and help introduce the game to those diehard pro fans.  Weekly he’ll explore some of the unique aspects to the college game like last week’s blog about the traditions you’ll only see in the NCAA.  He’ll also does a Q&A every week with a college hockey blogger from around the country.  This week Fear The Triangle was lucky enough to be  featured in the latest Puck Daddy blog.  Be sure to check it out.  You can see me set a new record by using the word “certainly” for what seems like five sentences in a row.  That certainly doesn’t speak well for my copy editing skills. 

He also discusses some of the issues with swearing at college games which I really wish would be addressed at UMass.  As a fan and alum it’s gotten to the point where it is flat out embarrassing.  It is possible to be loud, raucous, and have class all at the same time.  I think the UMass students are capable of finding a way to do so.

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Wait, what’s that?  Could it be?  No way!  Yes, it is!  Not only did the Boston Globe wise up to the fact that Massachusetts extends beyond 495, but they realized there’s a hockey team out that way that’s doing pretty well so far this season.

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Lastly, just a quick Mike Pereira update which is that I basically know nothing.  USHR posted a Gunnery roster on their site that doesn’t have him on it despite the fact that they said he was likely transferring there.  Could he be heading to Nebraska to play in the USHL?  Did he decide to stay at South Kent (which does not have a roster posted yet)?  No idea.  When I know, you’ll know.

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