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Friday Recap

Well you have to feel sorry for Niagara, once again they play a decent game that doesn’t really show on the scoreboard.  They certainly gave the Minutemen everything they had but in the end thanks to a couple of empty net goals at the end the Purple Eagles fall to UMass 4-1.  Niagara certainly dominated play early  and looked to be in control after the first.   UMass woke up a bit in the second able to get a goal from Mike Lecomte and then another from Danny Hobbs at the very end of the period that put the Eagles on their heels for the third.  At the end both Lecomte and David Boehm made some nice plays in open ice for a couple empty netters to put the game away.  Boehm’s goal was his first of his career.  Despite a year’s worth of lobbying by UMass fans to various announcers no one announced “Boehm goes the dynamite” when it was scored.  We’ll continue or effort for his second career goal.

UMass definitely struggled early and the entire offense seemed really thrown off by the absence of T.J. Syner and Rocco Carzo to injury.  It appears Carzo could be out for some time unfortunately.  Toot originally substituted Marc Concannon in for Syner on the first line but it was obvious from the start that it just wasn’t going to work.  But hats off to Toot who made a good in-game adjustment to put Danny Hobbs on the line instead.  He gave an interesting physical aspect to the line and played to his strength and planted himself in front of the goal and really change the aspect of UMass’ offense when that change was made.

As great as a three goal win is I’m still extremely worried about Sunday.  Part of it is what I wrote in my preview, the fact that the teams now have to travel, Niagara is getting a much deserved homecoming, and the odd start time.  But now we can add on yet another game in which Niagara played well enough to win, especially, defensively and yet came up short in the end.  This is going to be a frustrated, hungry team on Sunday.  Hopefully the Minutemen are ready to absorb whatever NU is going to throw at them.

Fear The Triangle Player Of The Game – Mike Lecomte
A very strong game from Lecomte returning to the lineup after injury.  Mike was able to convert a nice setup from Will Ortiz and Shawn Saunders for the game tying goal and then hustled his way to an empty netter later.  If there is a runner-up for this award it goes to Paul Dainton who kept the team in the game early with some amazing saves.  without him it easily could’ve been 3-0 Niagara after the 1st.

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Elsewhere tonight Northeastern was able to hold off BU 1-0 in the refurbrished Matthew Arena.  Elsewhere in Hockey East it was all sister-kissers as Lowell and UVM as well as BC and UNH all tied.  #1 Miami reinforced their top ranking by taking down Michigan by the score of 3-1 in Ann Arbor.

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Weekend Preview; Pereira To Stay Local?; Syner Out Tonight

Niagara Purple Eagles 0-5-1, (CHA 0-0-0 T-2nd)
vs
Massachusetts Minutemen 4-1-0, (Hockey East 3-1-0 1st)

Niagara Purple Eagles Official Site

On paper this looks like a complete and total mismatch.  UMass is off to a great start with a 4-1 record, a win over the defending national champs, and a spot atop the early Hockey East standing.  Niagara on the other hand is winless through six games and will be coming into Amherst after a grueling road trip that’s seen them travel to the hinterlands of New York’s North Country, the unfriendly confines of Michigan’s Yost Arena, and then back to NY to take two more losses to upstate foes.  HoweverUMass will be unwise to think they’ll be able to just sweep away what’s probably a hungry Purple Eagles team.

One thing in Niagara’s favor to get at least one win this weekend is the odd home and home series.  After meeting tonight in the Mullins Center the teams will travel six-plus hours across the New York Thruway for an early Sunday afternoon start.  The fact that Niagara will be psyched to finally be playing on familiar ice after their long trip combined with the strange start time will likely work to their favor.  But what the Minutemen really need to be wary of this weekend is the fact that Niagara is much better than their 0-5-1 record.  It should be noted that two of their losses were to #5 Michigan and #6 Cornell, both of those by only one goal, in fact they took the Big Red to overtime.  Their games to SLU and Clarkson were also one goal losses including another OT loss to the Knights.  A couple bounces and this team could be 4-1-1 instead with some very quality wins.

On offense Niagara is paced  by the Zanette brothers, junior Paul and freshman Marc.  Marc is their top scoring forward this season so far with 5 points in 6 game while his brother leads the team in goals with three.  Defenseman Tyler Gotto is actually the leading scorer for the team averaging a point a game with a couple of goals on the season.  NU coach Dave Burkholder seems to still be feeling out his goaltending situation as he’s played all three of the goalies on his roster so far this season.  Junior Adam Avramenko has played in 4 of the games with a 3.48 GAA.  Sophomore Chris Noonan has an identical GAA in a couple games while freshman Andrew Hare gave up four goals in his only game of the season.

For UMass I think if they can have success on special teams they’ll win both games.  UMass comes into the game with perhaps the best power play in college, converting chances at 30.6% while Niagara has a kill of 78.1%.  On the other side of the coin UMass has a chance to improve upon their struggling PK of 75% against a team that has only scored one power play goal all season on 25 chances.  Other than that it’ll just come down to effort and execution, two things that were missing for large parts of last Saturday.  I’m interested to see how this team responds to their first loss.  There are certainly signs that perhaps this team does have a different makeup than past years where UMass would take lower profile teams more lightly and end up losing games they probably should’ve won.  If they can play hard both games this weekend for the entire sixty minutes in two completely different environments it could show how mentally prepared this team is for the long haul.

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Here are the game notes from Niagara.  NU will be honoring the 10th anniversary of their program’s historic 99-00 season where the Purple Eagles upset UNH in the NCAA tourney.

James Marcou is pictured on the front page of USCHO while their weekly Hockey East column talks about how so far Hockey East is up for grabs.

Toot agrees that the Purple Eagles are much better than their record in the preview from the Collegian while Brian Keane says the Minutemen learned their lesson about not giving full effort last Saturday in the Republican.

The Gazette has a brief preview as well.

Andrew Merritt of the New England Hockey Journal notes that the Minutemen are playing with fire by taking so many penalties.

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So USHR put out a correction saying that Mike Pereira was added to Sioux City’s protected list, not Lincoln’s.  But then later on they reported that Periera is likely to transfer to another prep school versus heading west to play in the USHL.  Stay tuned.

John Parker and Team USA defeated Sweden in the quarterfinals of the Under 18 Junior A Challenge and will be taking on Russia today at 1pm.

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A recap of tonight’s game may be late in getting on the site.  With tailgating for tomorrow’s football game starting somewhere around the crack of dawn I may not have the time to write something up.  At the very least I’ll have something up by tomorrow night.

Update:  Much thanks to a real reporter friend who caught this article in the Collegian saying that T.J. Syner will be sitting out tonight.  It doesn’t say if it’s injury or not or what his status will be for Sunday.

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