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Providence Recap

Dan Meyers (photo by Karen Winger)

Well, no sooner do I note that the team is only 1-3 in games with over 40 shots and unable to score more than 2 goals in those games than the team blows those numbers away.  In the end the Minutemen generated 43 shots en route to a 4-1 win to gain two key road points at Providence last night.

Unlike the previous night when UMass was able to make the most of their shots, mostly through some nice passing as well as some good old fashion crashing of the net.  The passing came exclusively from Darren Rowe who played the best game of his UMass career.  He had two heads up passes across the slot, the first to Mike Marcou to get UMass its first goal while the other came later to secure the win in the third as he setup Eddie Olczyk’s first collegiate score.  The two goals in the middle came from UMass camping out in front of the goaltender waiting for a loose puck and Rocco Carzo and Will Ortiz were able to make the most of those Alex Beaudry rebounds and put them home.  Beaudry actually played very well and made a couple spectacular saves but in the end UMass just put too many shots on him to stop and he got very little help in front of him.

Another big positive from the game, the team was able to put up four goals without any of them being scored by the first line of Marcou-Wellman-Syner.  Don’t get me wrong, of course I want to see those guys score early and often.  However if this team is going to be a legitimate conference and national contender this Spring they’re going to need scoring from their other lines and tonight showed that that was possible.

Overall, this was a much needed result.  The win puts UMass back into a 2nd place tie with Boston College, though the Minutemen have played one more game than BC and 1st place UNH and two more than the teams behind them, Maine and Lowell.  It also keeps them in good position in the pairwise as they’re currently tied for 7th, still the top spot among Hockey East teams.  Lastly, while Providence is still a last place team, it hopefully gives them a little confidence in their play on the road which will be key down the stretch run.  Now the Minutemen can watch Beanpot tomorrow and scout their next opponent for a 2nd place showdown at the Mullins on Friday.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Dan Meyers
Though not entirely his fault, Meyers hasn’t exactly had the senior season he was probably hoping for and many fans would’ve been completely satisfied if Toot went with Paul Dainton for the rest of the season.  Yet there was Meyers in net tonight, composed and ready to help lead the Minutemen to victory.  From the drop of the puck he was completely on his game and while it was nice he finally got some goalscoring support in this start, he pretty much didn’t need it.

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Dick Baker has the recap for the Republican.  In fact, it’s the only recap I can find.

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Jon Quick helped lead the Kings to a shootout win over the putrid Boston Bruins.

The ECHL’s Reading Royals gave out a four foot figurine of Quick at last night’s game.  Ah, minor league hockey promotions.  What will they think of next? 

I’m still trying to find pictures of Quick’s olympic mask.  If anyone comes across them on the internet please send me the link.

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BU Recap

Brian Keane (photo by Karen Winger)

Though the result looks similar, last night’s game against BU at Agganis was actually very different than the previous one where they lost 7-3.  Yet a four goal loss was still the result. 

Unlike last game the Minutemen avoided being physically pushed around as much and they were able to generate offense.  In fact for the fourth time this season the team put over 40 shots on net.  But what’s really disturbing is that the team is 1-3 in those game, losing to BU, Bentley, and Providence.  In fact in those games where they’ve put up 40 shots or more they’ve managed just 2 goals three of the times and 1 goal the other.  I honestly have no idea what to make of those numbers.  Do they just so happen to keep running into really hot goaltenders or are they just making them look like they’re standing on their head?  Not being able to finish is a theme that’s beginning to haunt this team a bit.

What also hurt the Minutemen a lot tonight was penalties.  Beyond giving BU 5 power play chances, 2 of which they converted, the timing of the penalties is what really hurt them.  Toward the end of the 2nd just moments after Brian Keane got UMass on the board and helped get some momentum back Martin Nolet goes off for holding.  Mike Marcou’s penalty near the beginning of the third did not help, nor did Matt Irwin picking up a slashing call seconds after Nolet cut it to 2-4 with 10 minutes left.  UMass simply must play smarter and avoid bad penalties at the worst possible moments.

The last problem from this game was faceoffs.  Losing the faceoff battle 35-43 isn’t good but at the same time it isn’t horrible.  However, at least two of BU’s goals came directly off the faceoff.  If you’re going to lose faceoffs, make sure you don’t lose the ones in your own zone.

This is a weird team.  What makes them get up or down for games is beyond me.  Well, I take that back.  I know there is something about playing at Agganis that seems to intimidate the hell out of them.  But they’re going to have to get over it and develop a mental edge if they want to finish off what they’ve started this season.  They need to learn to win tough games on the road.  With so few home games left it’s essential if they want to accomplish anything this season.  We’ll see how they do tonight at the Coffin.  There are zero excuses for not coming away with two points.  Providence is having an awful season and even their one bright spot, Alex Beaudry, got knocked down a notch last night by giving up five 1st period goals and getting the hook.  Let’s hope for a repeat performance tonight.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Brian Keane
Keane has been working pretty hard in the last few weeks, it was good to see him get on the score sheet for his efforts.  With a revolving door to the trainer’s room recently it would be great to have Keane be able to get points on a regular basis while guys like Lecomte and Hobbs are out injured.

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There were some interesting results around the league tonight as Merrimack beat UNH and Northeastern defeated Lowell.  The result is some pretty tight league standings.

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Dick Baker explores a lot of the same subjects I did above in his recap.

The Herald also has a short recap.

Mr. BU has the game story for USCHO.

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Jon Quick will be in Boston tonight to take on the Bruins.  With the way the local team is playing lately he’ll likely have a great chance at a shutout.  Ugh…

Weekend Preview

#15 Massachusetts Minutemen 15-9-0, (Hockey East 10-7-0 T-2nd)
at
Boston University Terriers 8-11-3, (Hockey East 6-9-2 T-6th)  

Official Boston University Hockey Site
Boston Hockey Blog

Tonight’s matchup with Boston University could tell us a lot about this UMass team.  Just four weeks ago the Minutemen suffered through a shameful 7-3 loss to these Terriers on national TV and then followed it up with another blowout defeat to UNH.  Since that time the Minutemen have looked much better, taking 8 out of a possible 10 Hockey East points.  But can they redeem themselves for that earlier embarrassment?  They’ll have their work cut out for them since Agganis has been anything but friendly to the UMass program.

BU has done pretty well since that game on the 2nd as well, with that game being the first of four wins in their last six games.  By far January has been the most successful month of this unusual season for the Terriers.  But, BU continues to struggle on both sides of the ice.  They’re only managing a bit over 3 goals per game, well off their pace from last year, but what is killing them the most is their defense which is allowing almost 3.50 goals a game.  On top of that they find their specials team in the lower half of the conference rankings.

But do not underestimate them, they still, as always, have skilled players.  Though struggling with the rest of his team on defense, Kevin Shattenkirk is leading the Terriers in total points currently with 19.  Nick Bonino and Vinny Saponari have led the forwards in scoring while Chris Connelly is enjoying a breakout sophomore season with 7 goals and 8 assists so far.  Kieran Millan continues to struggle to put up the stellar numbers he put up last year without the NHL caliber defensive corps in front of him.  His goals against of 3.35 and save percentage of .878 are near the bottom for starters in Hockey East.

UMass’ main problem when they played on Comm Ave at the beginning of the month was a total inability to generate offense.  They were faced with a team struggling on defense and without strong goaltending yet were only able to muster 23 total shots, including a mere 11 through the first two periods.  This simply cannot happen if they want to have a chance to win tonight.  Put pressure on Millan and they’ll likely be in a good spot to take the game.  If they play conservative or without confidence they might as well not even show up and just head straight to Providence to prepare for tomorrow.  UMass teams have had some pretty good success against BU in recent years.  But only at home.  For whatever reason though when the bus exits Storrow Drive they seem to step off it beaten before the puck even drops.  This can’t happen tonight.  BU has a losing record.  UMass is the better team.  This is not a Terrier squad to be in awe of.  UMass should, not just can, beat this team.  Let’s see if they’ve realized it yet.

#15 Massachusetts Minutemen 15-9-0, (Hockey East 10-7-0 T-2nd)
at
Providence Friars 9-13-1, (Hockey East 4-11-1 10th)

Providence College Hockey Official Site

The season started out promising for the Friars, a team not expected to do much of anything this season.  A 6-3-0 record out of the gate, including a 2-1 result over UMass, got the few remaining Friar faithful hopeful but since that time they’ve only managed a mere 3 wins and Tim Army finds himself back in their fandom’s doghouse.  That’s not to say they’re playing entirely bad however as they recently took conference leading UNH to overtime before falling and picked up four points a couple weeks ago against Maine and BU.

What the Friars have going for them is defense.  For Hockey East teams they’re behind only Lowell in scoring defense, giving up just 2.65 goals a game.  Their penalty kill is also second in the conference at 85.7%.  Quite a bit of the credit for this goes to Alex Beaudry, who is among the goaltending leaders with a 2.40 goals against average and a stingy .927 save percentage.  They have two defensemen, young and old, to keep an eye on in the form of freshman Alex Velischek and senior Mark Fayne.  Fayne finds himself third on the team in total points.  Ahead of him are junior forward Kyle MacKinnon and sophomore Matt Bergland.  Don’t expect to see the Friars put the puck in the net too many times though as they are dead last in Hockey East at 2.26 per game, far below everyone else.

UMass should be wary of the Friars.  Not only have they played some quality teams close while beating others, they’ve also proven they can shutdown the UMass offense as they did en route to a 2-1 victory last Halloween.  In that game Alex Beaudry had perhaps his best game of his career, stopping an amazing 47 Minutemen shots, including 20 in the third period alone.  Does he have another performance like that in him?  Will he even need to go to that extent if the defenseman in front of him play as well as they have of late?  Should be interesting to see.

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Here is Dick Baker’s weekend preview for the Republican.  He reports that Chase Langeraap and Marc Concannon may return to the lineup this weekend.

Unfortunately Matt Vautour reports that Danny Hobbs will be out with an injury sustained in practice.  Neither have anything to say about Doug Kublin who missed both games against UVM.

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Casey Wellman is a popular topic among former Collegian writers this week.  Andrew Merritt of the New England Hockey Journal has a good story on Wellman’s journey from baseball player’s son to goalscorer on the ice.

Wellman is #7 (appropriately enough) on Inside Hockey’s Hobey Watch while James Marcou continues to hold on to the top spot.

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Boston.com is profiling all Olympians with New England connections.  Here’s their entry for Jon Quick.

Miscellaneous Links

The Daily Collegian has a look at this weekend’s games.   A separate story says the Minutemen are out to avenge the embarrassing loss at Agganis earlier this month.

Kevin Shattenkirk says BU will not be looking past UMass to next week’s Beanpot.

The player just behind Casey Wellman as the national leader in goals also has a Western Mass connection.

USCHO has the Minutemen heading west in their latest edition of bracketology.

Credit to Wardy over on UMasshoops for finding this humorous article on Jon Quick and his sleeping habits.  No mention of how he sings to himself when the puck is on the other end of the ice however.  It mentions in the article that Quick’s Olympic mask was delivered to him prior to his game against the Maple Leafs.  I haven’t been able to find a picture of it yet but here’s an article on the creation of Ryan Miller’s, complete with photo.

Wellman A Crowd Pleaser; Pereira Q&A; Looking At The Numbers

UMass’ own Joe Meloni has an eloquent article on Casey Wellman for the College Hockey News.  It’s good to see Wellman get some national press.  I think a lot of accomplishments and skills are being overlooked because of the fact that he plays on a line with James Marcou, one of the elite playmakers in the country.  But much of what Wellman has accomplished in his stellar rookie season and the current one are through his hard work and talent.  The play that Meloni details was one of those plays, where Wellman played smart, was in the right place, hustled, and put a shot exactly where it needed to go to hit the net.  Unassisted.

Wellman and James Marcou are mentioned in this USCHO blog regarding the Hobey Baker race.

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McKeen’s Hockey has an interview with recruit Mike Pereira.  He states that BU, BC, Providence, Yale, and Quinnipiac were all involved in his recruiting.  Here’s why he’s coming to UMass:

I really liked what UMass and its staff had to offer to me. It is a place I could really see myself going to and enjoying it there. It isn’t a BU or BC where it has a ton of history. I want to be apart of a team at UMass where we could continue the progress they are making now. Each year they are getting better and I want to be apart of it. I am looking forward to coach Cahoon’s coaching style. He doesn’t “handcuff” his players. He lets them play, while they still follow the systems he has to offer. He is a very similar coach to coach Gardner (Avon coach) and coach Marotollo (former South Kent coach).

I’m glad to report that UMass recruit Joel Hanley, who broke his leg in November, made his return for the Newmarket Hurricanes.

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Matt Vautour of the Gazette says his New Year’s resolution will be to blog more about hockey.  What many people probably don’t know is that, while he writes mostly about basketball, Matt actually is a self-proclaimed hockey guy, so I look forward to seeing some more of his hockey blogs.  Of course one of his first blogging ideas was to detail how the teams for the NCAA tournament was picked.  Which is funny since in a similar vein I was thinking about doing a blog on the pairwise, which is used to pick the NCAA tournament.  Of course he found a pretty good explanation from College Hockey News which I’ll also just choose to pass along rather than try to recreate.  However, as things get down to the wire and if UMass is still in the mix, expect to see some more pairwise blogging in the future.  Since I’m a numbers guy in real life I always keep a close eye on the formulaic rankings and stats. 

We already saw an interesting event with the pairwise this past weekend whereas UMass went from 6th to tied for 5th after losing to UVM on Sunday.  While many may think this was due to some odd, fuzzy math that rewarded UMass for a loss, what actually happened was the win over the Minutemen gave Vermont a better record against Teams Under Consideration than St Cloud, the team previously in 5th, resulting in them losing a pairwise point and dropping into a tie with UMass. 

Scanning the individual comparison table of the PWR it really looks like UMass’ 8-5-0 record against teams under consideration is what’s making the most difference in the pairwise.  Their 9th best RPI ranking doesn’t hurt either.  What was largely criticized as a soft schedule to begin the year (including by yours truly) has materialized into the 11th toughest according to the RPI formula.  Just because I felt like breaking it out, here’s strength of schedule for all the Hockey East teams as of today:

UNH 5th
Vermont 10th
UMass 11th
Boston University 14th
Boston College 18th
Maine 19th
Northeastern 20th
Merrimack 22nd
Lowell 27th
Providence 31st

Vermont’s schedule has certainly helped them and is one of the key reasons they find themselves 10th in the pairwise currently despite only being four games over .500.  Schedule is also a reason why a team like Lowell finds itself on the outside looking in of the tournament field currently despite having only a slightly worse record than UMass.

Polls & Awards

This post is late as sadly I just got home from work and I have a case of the Mondays.

Anyway, polls are out.  UMass remains at #15 in the USCHO poll and move up one spot to #14 in the USA Today poll.

Even though they only managed a split UMass rocketed up the pairwise and are currently tied for 5th.  Meaning that if the tournament selection occurred today (which it doesn’t) the Minutemen would be in line for a #2 seed.  Although the team is benefitting from the flawed math model that is the pairwise I’d still like to point out that the KRACH is a better way of ranking.

UMass dropped to #18 in the INCH Power Rankings.

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No Minutemen won Hockey East honors this week but Casey Wellman was named a Top Performer.  Also note that Commissioner Joe Bertagna mentions that all Hockey East teams will be doing voting for All-Decade teams.  Fear The Triangle’s UMass’ All-Decade team was posted last month.

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USHR is reporting that UMass missed out on defenseman Brian Harris who committed to Maine.  Harris is currently playing for the Boston Advantage Midgets where recruit Peter DeAngelo played last year and is run by former Black Bear and Minuteman Tim Lovell.    He also visited Northeastern.

Mike Pereira had a couple good performance for Avon Old Farms last week.  In two games he tallied 3 goals and 4 assists for the Winged Beavers.  He’s currently 9th in prep hockey in goals with 17 and 10th in 38 points.  Conor Sheary isn’t too far behind with 36 points.

Sunday Recap

Unlike Saturday’s high-energy, exciting game Sunday’s matinee was everything that can make hockey downright boring.  Two tired teams, a listless crowd, and two officials who decided they would do their best to get Barry Melrose to announce their names on ESPNU by calling each and every penalty in the book.  In the end Vermont was able to make the most of their chances and shutout the Minutemen 3-0 to gain the weekend split.

This game had the feel of the Bentley game all over again.  UMass had a good amount of shots on net but only had a handful of true quality chances and when they did they were unable to finish.  A missed pass, a shot wide, a linemate turns the wrong way.  UMass was just one step behind all game long and in the end had another disappointing performance on national television.

With nine (yes, nine) power play opportunities UMass should have found a way to win this game.  Instead they were only able to muster five total shots on the man advantage.  This is completely unacceptable considering UMass has one of the better power plays in the country.  I was also unhappy to see a number of players trying to do everything themselves and not involving their teammates.  That’s not what has gotten the team to this point.

A split on the weekend isn’t the end of the world, but given the tough road ahead for the team another point or two would’ve come in handy in the long run.  It’s good that they find themselves in second place in the conference but a better effort today would’ve put them ahead of BC and given them a little more breathing room in front of Lowell and Maine.  With ten games left on the season they simply cannot take games off like they did today.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Matt Irwin
It’s tough to pick a POTG when no one scores and the overall effort of the team is sub par.  However I thought Irwin did pretty well on both ends of the ice and was doing what he could right up until the end to try to get the Minutemen on the scoreboard.

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The Republican game story mentions that UVM goaltender Rob Madore played very well this weekend despite losing a family member earlier in the week.  His performance given those conditions is admirable.

Kevin Sneddon credited Madore and his team’s forecheck for the win in the Burlington Free Press’ recap.

Here’s the Collegian’s game story.

From Saturday is an article by Matt Vautour gauging the season so far.

Saturday Recap

Two very evenly matched teams took the ice last night but in the end it was UMass that was able to break through UVM’s defense and pick up the 3-1 win.  The crowd was certainly entertained as they were treated to exciting up and down action, some great saves (two in particular by Catamount goaltender Rob Madore), and another UMass win.

Paul Dainton had another solid game, though he didn’t quite have to stand on his head as much as he did last week.  Even with the absence of Doug Kublin due to injury the defensive group had one of the best overall games of the season, led by Justin Braun’s play.  All four lines contributed last night and were able to sustain good offensive pressure on the Catamounts.  Surprisingly though the two goals came off wrist shots from both James Marcou and Casey Wellman when they skated into the zone.

Hopefully the team can pick up where they left off last night.  A win today will give them sole possession of 2nd place in Hockey East and complete the series sweep with the Catamounts.  A few hours and it’s time to do it all over again.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Casey Wellman
Catamount fans will be seeing Wellman in their nightmares after he put up another big game against them, scoring two goals and adding an assist.

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UVM Coach Kevin Sneddon said giving up a goals early and late in periods sunk the Catamounts in the USCHO recap.

Dick Baker has the game story for the Republican.

The Burlington Free Press states that the Catamounts have no answer for Marcou and Wellman.

Here’s the Gazette’s take.

Vermont Preview

#17 Vermont Catamounts 11-7-2, (Hockey East 5-6-2 8th)
vs
#15 Massachusetts Minutemen 14-8-0, (Hockey East 9-6-0 3rd)  

Official Vermont Catamount Hockey Site

When these two teams last met UMass carried, nay, dominated the game in impressive fashion in what may be considered their best game of the season.  Casey Wellman netted a hat trick, James Marcou had an astounding five assists, and the team was able to capitalize on 3 of 6 power plays en route to a 6-2 victory.  From that point however the teams have fared quite differently.  Vermont has gone 7-2-1 since that Thanksgiving week game and currently find themselves 12th in the pairwise.  The road since Burlington for the Minutemen has had its share of bumps, starting with the very next game at Quinnipiac and the worst of the rockiness occurred with successive losses in which the team gave up 14 goals.  Luckily it does appear that the team is finding its way again with three straight wins, including last weekend’s sweep of Lowell.

Interestingly both teams come into this weekend tied in scoring defense at exactly 3 goals per game.  UMass boasts the better offensive numbers at 3.36 GPG but the Catamounts are not too far behind at 3.20.  UVM has been able to rely on their upperclassmen to provide the bulk of that offense, starting with senior forward Brayden Irwin who has put up 21 points including 10 goals.  Justin Milo and Jack Downing have provided some scoring punch as well.  They also have a lot of veteran leadership on the blueline as well with Kyle Medvec and Pat Cullity.  I’m interested to see how the Catamounts look in net.  Going into the season it appeared that goaltending may be UVM’s greatest strength with Rob Madore coming off a stellar freshman campaign and veteran Mike Spillane to provide quality minutes as well.  Though the goaltending seems to be improving recently the numbers are still far from what was expected.  Madore’s GAA has surprisingly jumped from 2.35 last season to 2.83 so far this year.  UVM likely won’t be relying on their powerplay as much as UMass will be since they’re converting at a league low 16.3%.

For UMass there’s a lot to be proud of from last weekend’s sweep.  But at the same time there’s a lot to build off of too.  The team went 2 for 12 on the power play and for long stretches of the weekend simply could not run an effective offense in the zone.  Still, you have to admire their effort and tenacity.  That hard work kept Lowell off the board completely on the power play, killing all 10 River Hawk power plays chances on the weekend.  At the same time Paul Dainton is playing some of his best hockey of the season.  The offense certainly clicked the first time UMass met Vermont.  With the effort and defense back on track it will be interesting to see if the offense can get it going again as well.  Whatever happens it in imperative that UMass makes the most of their few remaining games at home.  At least three points out of the weekend would go a long way to helping secure a foothold in the home ice portion of the Hockey East standings.

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Here are the game notes from UMass Athletics.

Looking Toward The Weekend

Dick Baker has a great feature on Will Ortiz as part of his weekend preview.  I know I’ve mentioned this a few times but watching Will have a tremendous senior season has easily been one of the best parts of what has become a pretty good season.  His energy combined with his physical play is unmatched on the ice.  And I don’t think he’s done yet.  I’m guessing he has a few more game-changing goals up his sleeve for the last two months of the season.

The Collegian previews this weekend’s series with Paul Dainton talking about the spanking they took over break as a needed wake-up call.  They also have a sidebar focusing on special teams and the improved play of Dainton.

USCHO’s weekly Hockey East column talks about the lack of a nationally dominant HEA team and that Lowell is overrated.  He also picks UMass to sweep, which means four points this weekend is officially not happening.

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James Marcou remains on top of Inside Hockey’s Hobey Watch.

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The LA Kings site has this story on Jon Quick and some of the in-season adjustments he has had to make.

Here’s an interesting article on how Nebraska-Omaha considering building an on-campus arena to help retain more of the revenue from their hockey games.

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