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Bentley Recap

Unlike the previous night UMass had great effort in the game against Bentley and came out to play from the start.  Unfortunately the execution was flat out poor.  Hats off to Bentley which had a game plan to attack the Minutemen as much as possible and do their best from keeping UMass from establishing a real flow to the game.  If UMass had a game plan it didn’t really show and sadly there seemed to be little to no adjustments as the game went along.

I’m sure a lot of fans left Freitas with their thoughts on the circus-quality, bush league officiating in the 3rd where the Atlantic Hockey referees let it be known exactly who they were pulling for in the tournament.  But the fact is the game should’ve been over and done with by that point and nothing the refs could’ve done at that point should’ve swayed the outcome.  UMass outshot Bentley 35-10 through two periods yet could only manage one goal, by a freshman playing in his 9th game.  Teams simply cannot let so many chances go by the wayside no matter what conference the opponent may play in.  If you let any team hang around long enough, they’ll figure out a way to score and ultimately win and Bentley did exactly that.

This team has come out publicly and said multiple times that they’re different than past UMass teams and that a mid-season swoon will not happen.  But so far that just appears to be talk as they’ve now lost 4 of the last 6 and was one garbage goal away from going winless in the UConn holiday tournament.  If this UMass team wants fans to believe that they truly are different than past teams, it pretty much starts now.  Show us.  The schedule is about to get a lot harder than a holiday tournament featuring an ECAC team and a couple of Atlantic Hockey squads.  Four of the next five are on the road, starting with a tilt on national TV in Agganis Arena, a venue where UMass has not exactly played its best in recent times.  Let’s see how the team sets the tone for the second half of the season this Saturday afternoon.

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Union Recaps:

Fear The Triangle Player Of The Game – Paul Dainton
I could easily choose Casey Wellman or one of the other guys who helped sparked the comeback, but if Dainton doesn’t play as well as he did the comeback never happens.

The Republican

Albany Times Union

USCHO

Gazette

UMass Athletics

Bentley Recaps:

Fear The Triangle Player Of The Game – Kevin Czepiel
He scored his first collegiate goal and played well throughout both games this weekend.  He may have played well enough to get more ice team as the season moves along.

The Republican

Bentley Athletic Site

UMass Athletics

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Matt Vautour at the Gazette takes a look back at the decade in UMass sports.

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Union Recap

Well, this UMass team certainly does not know the meaning of quit as we saw yet another thrilling comeback. However, if the team would just come out and play as they’re capable to start these monumental comebacks would not be necessary.

To say UMass played badly to start would be an understatement. They flat out looked slow and disjointed. And right when they started to get a little momentum to counter Union’s early lead they started taking bad penalties. None worse than the Will Ortiz five minute major for elbowing the goaltender. But after surrendering the goal on the two man advantage UMass locked down and did a good job killing the rest.

A bad Matt Irwin turnover on the power play would make it 3-1 Union after two and UMass fans started cancelling hotel reservations. But five minutes into the third Wellman would scor and then rout after ortiz would make up for his earlier penalty with a nifty shot right off a face off. Wellman would cap things off with a garbage goal, but good teams make their own luck. Through all of this Paul Dainton played excellent and had another 30+ save game.

Next up will be Bentley. The Falcons looked good against Uconn and get good offensive pressure from the point. Based on what I saw and read Bentley may be a little underrated coming into the game. Even more of a reason for UMass to come out strong from the start.

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No links tonight as this is being written on an iPhone. I’ll try to post all the recaps from the tourney after the championship game.

Toyota UConn Classic Preview

#18 Union College Dutchmen 8-3-5 (ECAC 4-0-3 T-3rd)
Official Union College Hockey Site
Union Hockey Blog

Union has been one of the more pleasant surprises in college hockey this season and comes into this afternoon’s game ranked 18th in the country.  After finishing 8th in the ECAC last year the Dutchmen started the season strong with a two game sweep of Maine.  They’ve only lost three games on the season and are one of only two teams so far with five ties.  Against common opponents of the Minutemen Union has so far split a pair of games with RPI and tied Yale in addition to the games against Maine.

The Dutchmen have been getting it done with offense.  They come into the game 10th in the country in scoring offense at 3.50 goals per game.  Their power play has been solid at 21.2%.  The team is an experienced team led by their upperclassmen as the top five scorers are all seniors or juniors.  Senior Mario Valery-Trabucco is tops in goals (10) and points (21) with senior Jason Walters and Adam Presizniuk behind him.  Defenseman Mike Schreiber has added some scoring punch from the blueline.  Sophomore Kelly Zajac, whose brother plays for the New Jersey Devils, has also played well so far this season.  Thus far on the season they’ve split goaltending duties equally between Keith Kinkaid and Corey Milan with both faring about the same.

An advantage for UMass in this game will be their power play.  Union comes into the game with one of the worst penalty kills in college at 72.4%.  Unfortunately they do a pretty good job staying out of the box.  If UMass can use their speed to their advantage and draw some penalties from Union skaters not being able to keep up, they’ll have a good chance to win.


Bentley University Falcons 6-7-3 (AHA 5-4-2 6th)
Official Bentley University Hockey Site

Bentley has sputtered a bit this year compared to last year when they won a program best 19 games.  To date none of their wins are against strong teams, although they did push Qunnipiac to overtime where they ultimately lost.  Bentley will be playing UConn in the second semifinal tonight.

Bentley has been doing a pretty good job of getting the puck in the net at 2.75 goals per game, but their defense is where they’ve been struggling most giving up almost a goal more.  Their special teams are ok and about at the average nationally.  Offensively they are led by senior Marc Menzione who has scored 8 goals to go with 9 assists.  But the two players to keep an eye on are freshmen Joe Campanelli and Dan Koudys.  Campanelli is one of the highest ranked recruits to play for Bentley and was a prospect for last year’s NHL Draft.  So far the two have combined for 7 goals and 20 points on the season.  Senior Bobby Preece leads the Bentley blueliners.

It’s always easy to dismiss an Atlantic Hockey team, but Bentley looks to have some young talent.  They also have some key seniors that are experienced winners at their school and will help direct the younger players.  Bentley’s biggest weakness appears to be in net where starter Kyle Rank has put up horrible numbers so far on the season. 

Connecticut Huskies 62-12-2 (AHA 2-8-2 8th)
Official UConn Hockey Site

One of these years UConn is going to figure out a way to syphon off some of that basketball and football money and put it towards their hockey program and actually win something in Atlantic Hockey for once.  But it’s not going to be this year as once again UConn finds itself as one of the worst hockey teams in the country. 

To date they’ve only put up two wins on the season and both of those came at home to AIC.  The Huskies have allowed five or more goals five times so far and have been shutout four times.  They come into their tournament with the worst offense in the country, only finding a way to score 1.5 goals per game, while they’ve allowed the 6th most at 3.88.  Their special teams are just as bad with a power play of 12.2% and kill off 77.9% of penalties.  They’ve done all this despite playing pretty much no teams of significance thus far.

I guess the lone bright spot for the Huskies is that they’re getting production from their younger players so there might be hope for the future.  Freshmen Alex Gerke, a defenseman, and Sean Ambriose are tied with junior Andrew Olson with 8 points on the season.  Their defense looks to be experienced with a good number of upperclassmen among their ranks.  In net expect to see freshman Jeff Larson who is putting up a goals against average of 3.46 while getting peppered with 30 shots night in and night out.

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The Gazette talks about expectations at the start of the second half of the season and also mentions that David Boehm will be out for the tourney due to violation of team rules.

Here’s a tournament preview from the Bentley website.

The Republican has a preview of today’s game and discusses the role of Rocco Carzo, who is friends with the Union goaltender.

USCHO has a preview of the tourney.  Interestingly the Bentley-UConn game will be considered an Atlantic Hockey conference game.

USCHO attempts to rank the toughness of the various holiday schedules.  The UConn tourney is in the middle of the pack, which is probably the highest in its history.

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UMass hockey is mentioned in this look back at Western Mass sports this decade from the Republican.

Looking Back At UMass Hockey This Decade

Top Five UMass Hockey Moments From The Decade

Honorable Mention:  11/14/2008 UMass 5 Boston University 1
In convincing fashion UMass picked up just its second win in program history over a top ranked team.  Alex Berry scored two goals against the Terriers who had only lost once previously on the season and would go on to win the national championship.  Paul Dainton had 30 saves in the winning effort.  It was the program’s first win over a #1 team since the miraculous victory over Maine in 1995.

5.  12/30/2007  UMass 5 Colorado College 4 (OT)
After beating #6 Notre Dame the day before in the first round of Lightning College Hockey Classic in Tampa, Florida UMass had to face #4 Colorado College in the championship.  Things did not look good to start as the Tigers went up 2-0 after the first period, but UMass answered with three goals in the second.  The teams would trade goals from there on out and find themselves tied at the end of regulation with the tourney trophy on the line.  But two minutes in Matty Burto, who had a knack for providing game winners in his UMass career, stepped up and put a rebound in the back of the net as UMass captured their first ever tournament title and found themselves ranked #5 when the polls came out the following week.

4.  12/6/2002  UMass 5 Boston University 4 (OT)
After only winning 8 games in both of the previous seasons UMass had already matched that total by December of 2002.  But the Minutemen needed a signature win to prove to themselves and the rest of Hockey East that things were changing in Amherst.  In came BU to the Mullins, a team that had owned UMass since the program had been reinstated.  Things looked dire when BU had a 4-1 lead halfway through the game but the Minutemen setup a thrilling end by scoring the next three unanswered.  In overtime Chris Capraro poke checked the puck away, screamed into the BU zone, and put the puck past Sean Fields, all while being tripped from behind, to show that UMass truly was changing the direction of Hockey East.

3.  3/7/2003 UMass 4 Maine 2
That victory over BU helped propel UMass to their most successful season in Hockey East to date but their reward was a trip to Orono, Maine to face the 4th ranked Black Bears in the quarterfinals.  UMass surprised Maine with a 5-3 win in the opening night and then shocked them by jumping out in the second game 3-0 in the first period, chasing Jimmy Howard from net.  The Minutemen were able to hold on to the lead after that thanks to some solid play from Gabe Winer and with a 4-2 advanced to the FleetCenter and the conference semifinals for the first time in program history.

2.  3/19/2004  UMass 5 New Hampshire 2
UMass found themselves down 2-0 early in this game as well, but after that it was all Minutemen.  UMass got goals from that season’s stars like Tommy Pöck and Greg Mauldin but this show belonged to the Warner brothers.  Tim Warner was filling in for an inured Gabe Winer and ended up with 27 saves, including 15 in the 3rd period alone.  Mike Warner only scored 20 goals in his entire career but scored two in this one as the team advanced to its first ever Hockey East championship game.

1.  3/23/2007  UMass 1 Clarkson 0 (OT)
The team’s prospects for its first ever NCAA bid looked dim after UMass lost to UNH in the conference semis and news came of Quinnipiac jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the ECAC championship which would leave the Minutemen on the outside looking in of the pairwise rankings.  But Clarkson scored the next four goals in Albany and with it secured themselves a #1 seeding in the East Regional and a matchup against the UMass team they helped invite to the party.  The game was dominated by goaltending as Jon Quick and Clarkson’s David Leggio combined for 68 saves in regulation.  But in overtime it was all about retribution.  Kevin Jarman was just a freshman in 2003 when his skate in the crease disallowed a Greg Mauldin goal in the Hockey East championship against Maine.  But as a senior he scored the biggest goal in UMass history when he put back a Jordan Virtue rebound 7:40 into overtime to give UMass its first ever NCAA tournament victory, the pinnacle of the program to date.

UMass All-Decade Team

Greg Mauldin – 48G  46A  94pts
Despite only playing three seasons Mauldin’s 48 goals is the second most in the decade and sixth all time in UMass history.  Mauldin was honorable mention All-Hockey East in 2002-03 and became just the second UMass hockey player to play in the NHL.

James Marcou – 28G 77A 105pts
Just two and a half seasons into his UMass career Marcou’s 105 points is the third most in the decade and already 6th overall in team history.  Marcou was an All-American last year as well as All-Hockey East.

Stephen Werner – 50G 66A 116pts
Werner scored the most points and most goals of any UMass player in the decade.  He’s fourth all-time in both categories.

Justin Braun – 18G 52A 70pts
Braun has emerged not only as one of the better defensive defensemen in the conference, but in all of college hockey.  He was second team All-Hockey East last season.

Thomas Pöck – 44G 58A 102pts
Pöck’s numbers are tops for UMass defensemen.  Pöck was a Hobey Baker Finalist, twice named All-Hockey East, won INCH’s Defenseman of the Year, and played in both the NHL and the Olympics.

Jon Quick – 2.40 GAA .925 save%
Quick averaged nearly 29 saves per game in his career, tops for all UMass goaltenders.  Posted a goals against of 2.16 in 2006-07 and was named an All-American.

Honorable Mention:  Marvin Degon, Paul Dainton, Mike Kostka, Cory Quirk, Nick Kuiper, Matt Anderson, Mark Matheson.

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College Hockey News has a preview of the holiday tournaments.

Looking Ahead To The UConn Tourney

The athletic department’s game notes are up for next week’s tournament at UConn.

Inside College Hockey has a look at the UConn tourney as well as others.

Here’s a preview from the Union athletic website.

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Team USA won its first game at the World Junior Championships.  RPI’s Jerry D’Amigo was named player of the game while former UMass recruit John Carlson also scored a goal.

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With the team on break and the holidays upon us there is minimal information out there to pass along.  So I’m working on some original content for tomorrow.

Merry Christmas UMass Hockey Fans!

Grading the Coaches; Melrose On Quick, Recruits Update

So last week I took a shot at grading the players’ performances so far this season, now it’s time to take a look at those behind the bench.  First off, there was a lot of griping about the schedule before the season started, saying it was too full of cupcakes and would hurt the Minutemen by not giving them chances to win key out of conference games.  Ok, I was one of the people saying that as well.  But perhaps we were too quick to judge this schedule.  It may be just the kind of lineup this team needs to gain confidence and give the young defense a chance to develop.  It also has featured some quality opponents like Yale, Quinnipiac, and even Union whom UMass will play next week.  All three of those teams are in the top 15 of the RPI.

As for the actual in-game coaching, I think it’s been pretty good.  With a couple exceptions Toot has allowed to team to open up its play and use its speed to its advantage.  The few times when the game plan seemed to initially be too conservative, such as the first period of Quinnipiac, in-game adjustments have been made when it wasn’t working.  I’d love to see this type of play, combined with a strong forecheck, continue as the season goes along when the ice surface allows it.

A lot of credit has to go to assistants Red Gendron and Len Quesnelle who coach special teams, the penalty kill and power play respectively, as both have been key to the team’s success this year.  The kill is about where they were last year, but the power play, which at best last year was inconsistent and at worst completely horrid, has been transformed into one of the best in the country.

Overall I think the coaching has been very good.  They’ve adjusted when necessary, especially when early injuries forced players onto unfamiliar lines, and more importantly they seem to have this team believing in themselves.  Now is the tough part though, to keep the team focussed through the holidays and the winter break period.  So far so good though and I give the coaches an A- so far.

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Only the USA Today/USA Hockey rankings were released yesterday.  UMass stayed put at #15.

The handful of results over the past week pushed UMass down to 10th in the pairwise.

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Be sure to check out this article on the Kings from ESPN Los Angeles. Not only does it include a Jon Quick and UMass mention, but the video feed at the top of the page has Barry Melrose praising Quick’s play as well.

Greg Mauldin is currently 28th in the AHL in goal scoring.

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Conor Allen scored his first goal of the season on Friday as his Sioux Falls Stampede fell in overtime to Fargo.

Eric Filiou scored his 10th of the season as Penticton beat the Surrey Eagles on Friday.

Mike Pereira is currently 11th in prep hockey in scoring with 9 goals and 8 assists in nine games.  Conor Sheary has 4 goals and 11 assists.

Pereira’s Avon Old Farms team lost their exhibition game to Taft yesterday on the Fenway ice.  The Courant article includes a photo gallery as well.

Miscellaneous Links

I’ll get back to my mid-season grades tomorrow with a look at the coaching thus far, but for today I just wanted to share a few links.

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Andrew Merritt of the New England Hockey Journal does his mid-season grades for Hockey East.

Ryan Lambert of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy takes a look at the race for Hobey Baker.  While I think he’s correct in that James Marcou will have to increase his goal production if he has a chance at the award he’s definitely underrating the skill of Casey Wellman.

Here’s an interesting article about what college hockey is doing to combat the growing list of Americans choosing to play Canadian major junior over going the NCAA route.

Here’s an article about the upcoming Avon Old Farms-Taft prep hockey game at Fenway Park which will feature recruit Mike Pereira.  The game itself is technically a private event and is being completely funded by two of the parents players to the tune of $30,000.  Whoa.

Luke Curadi who committed to UMass last December only to decommit a month later has committed to play for RPI.

Grading The Forwards; Hobey Watch

James Marcou and Casey Wellman (photo by Karen Winger)

David Boehm
 Grade: B-
Overall I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Boehm who’s coming off a broken leg that forced him to miss nearly all of last season.  He’s yet another Minuteman forward with lightning speed and also has a pretty good shot.  He has a couple goals so far, including a game winner, and a +3 rating.  I’m very interested to see how he continues to develop. 

Rocco Carzo
Grade: B
Rocco came out of the gate blazing with 2 goals and 2 assists in his first two games.  He has cooled off since then, not helped by a shoulder injury that put him out a few games.  Still he’s provided some quality minutes and has played good defense as well.  Hopefully he’ll get his confidence back and begin to shoot a little more. 

Marc Concannon
Grade: B-
Concannon has seen time in nearly every game thus far and is being used quite regularly as a key defensive forward.  Results have been mixed to date with a -3 rating. 

Kevin Czepiel
Grade: C+
Czepiel has shown flashes of some excellent playmaking abilities, but as of yet it hasn’t translated into any points.  Hopefully he’ll continue to get playing time as the season goes on to develop as it appears he has some of the best hands on the team. 

Danny Hobbs
Grade: B+
Hobbs has been one of the most improved players on the team from last year.  His 2 goals and 5 assists put him 10th on the team in points after finishing with only 2 points all last season.  He has also played well defensively though hopefully he’ll use his size more as the season goes on. 

Brian Keane
Grade: C+
Keane has played some solid defense to date but it was hoped that his overall play would develop more from last season. 

Chase Langeraap
Grade: C-
It was hoped Langeraap would build upon his 17 point season last year but he got off to a slow start and then was injured for a few games and comes into the break with zero goals.  I’m not sure if the injury is still lingering but UMass could be even that much more dangerous offensively if he can get things going. 

Ryan Leary
Grade: Inc
I’m shocked that he hasn’t been able to see the ice yet.  Granted it’s a lot to ask a player to jump from DIII but he was one of the more skilled players at that level.  I expected big things from him. 

Michael Lecomte
Grade: B
Lecomte has been able to provide some quality two-way play for the team.  His absence was definitely noticed in the month of October when he went down with injury.  His point production is down a bit but he’s getting some decent shots on net every game. 

James Marcou
Grade: A+
Leads the nation in points per game. Leads the nation in assists per game.  Hobey Baker candidate.  I still remember an email exchange I had with a guy who runs a recruiting website who said that James would be an ok player in Hockey East but wouldn’t stand out.  Hilarious. 

Eddie Olczyk
Grade: C+
Olczyk has only played a handful of games but as time goes on I think he’ll become a reliable defensive forward in the mold of Brett Watson. 

Will Ortiz
Grade: A
The seasons being had by James Marcou and Casey Wellman have unfortunately overshadowed a great story being writting by Ortiz for his senior year.  His 7 goals already match his career high and his 16 points are 3rd on the team and 10th among Hockey East players for all games.  Beyond the numbers he brings a great tenasiousness to the ice combined with hard-hitting that makes you forget he’s only 5’9″. 

Shawn Saunders
Grade: B-
Saunders has played good D and brought some great speed and intensity to the games in which he’s appeared. 

T.J. Syner
Grade: B
Syner has done well, especially when put on the line with Marcou and Wellman.  He’s been doing well scoring goals, setting up his teammates, and has a great forecheck. 

Brett Watson
Grade: A-
The Minuteman captain may be one of the more underrated players in the country since he rarely puts up points but is able to keep opposing stars from doing the same thing.  

Casey Wellman
Grade: A+
I don’t think many people would’ve guess that Wellman would be 6th nationally in points per game, 2nd in goals per game, 4th in power play goals, and 5th in game winning goals.  Is there a better one-two punch in all of college hockey than Wellman and Marcou? 

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Speaking of Wellman and Marcou, here’s the latest Hobey Watch from Inside Hockey

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INCH has a mid-season Hockey East review.

Grading The Defense

Mike Marcou (photo by Karen Winger)

A couple days ago I reviewed where UMass is season to date, now it’s time to discuss how they got there.  For the next couple days I am going to review the players’ and coaches’ performance so far this season.  It’s important to note that I’m grading against the general expectations for that player, so an A doesn’t necessarily mean that player is a Hobey Baker candidate (although I have a feeling there will be one of those in the bunch) it just means he’s outperformed versus the level of play I thought he would play.  First off, let’s look at the defense.

Justin Braun
Grade: B+
Braun has done a decent job anchoring the defense and continues to boost his NHL prospects with his play.  With 13 points to date he’s on pace to surpass his career high of 23.  Defensively he’s played well and continues to do well against opposing teams top lines.  Unfortunately it seems when Braun struggles so does the team as a whole.  There was a stretch when Braun’s play seemed to be below what would be normally expected of him but luckily his games of late have looked much better.

Mike Donnellan
Grade: B
Donnellan has only played in six games but so far he’s shown the potential to be a solid stay at home defender.  He has a -3 on the season but has been good about not getting beat when matched up against a forward. 

Matt Irwin
Grade: B-
With Irwin’s start to the season it appeared this could be a breakout season for him on the national level since he had 5 goals and 4 assists in his first five games.  Unfortunately he’s only had two assists and no goals in the ten games since.  I’ve always felt his defensive work has been underrated but he’s struggled at times this year and currently has a -5 on the season and has had breakdowns at inopportune times.

Kevin Kessler
Grade: B
I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Kessler’s play so far.  With the emergence of Mike Marcou and the two newcomers I didn’t think Kevin would see a lot of playing time.  But he’s been in there for six games and has made very few mistakes.  It would be great to see him use his size and play a little more physical as he’s one of only a couple UMass players with that skill set.

Doug Kublin
Grade: B+
Kublin may be UMass’ most consistent defenseman so far on the season.  He’s gotten better each season he’s played and now as a junior could be one of the more underrated defensemen in the league.  He’s not flashy but he gets his job done each and every shift.

Mike Marcou
Grade: A
Last year I found his play unexpectedly solid.  This year I think his play has exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations.  Defensively he uses smart play and good positioning to overcome his lack of size and it’s helped him achieve a +5 rating, 2nd best on the team.  But those are things we saw last year from him, what we didn’t see was offense.  He’s suddenly become a legitimate two-way defenseman in the line up puting up 4 goals, 3 assists, and 27 shots on the season so far.

Martin Nolet
Grade: A-
With Braun, Nolet has provided excellent play and leadership on the blueline.  His +6 leads the team and is off to a solid start offensively with 3 goals and 3 assists.  He’s also continued to develop a much needed physical dimension to his play.

Darren Rowe
Grade: B-
Rowe has certainly shown his offensive prowess, so much so that he’s even seen some time at forward.  Overall he looks good, but like most freshmen still looks a bit timid in his play.  He seems to have good instincts on defense and sports a +2 rating.

Paul Dainton
Grade: A-
If you look at stats you’ll see that Dainton’s goals against is actually up from last year.  But considering the turnover and youth on defense I think this was to be expected.  Paul’s .922 save percentage to date is impressive and second best among Hockey East goaltenders.  The rest of Hockey East has noticed his play as he won goaltender of the month for November.  So far he’s had 6 games with 30 or more saves, including a career high of 42 against UNH.  Dainton has kept UMass in every game in which he’s played.

Dan Meyers
Grade C+
Meyers didn’t dress for the first few weeks of the season and it has appeared to make it tough for him to get into the swing of things.  He does have an record of 2-0-0 in three games but hasn’t quite appeared as sharp as he had in past years.  His .890 save percentage and GAA of 3.34 will have to improve for him to continue to get regular ice time.

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