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More On Vienneau; INCH Hobey Watch

Contradicting what they published yesterday the Star Tribune is now saying OJHL goaltender Joel Vienneau has NOT been offered a scholarship by the Gophers.  I guess we’ll have to stay tuned.

INCH has debuted their annual Hobey Watch feature and amazingly it’s missing both the national leaders in points and goals.

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Recruit All-Stars; KAEO Joel Vienneau; Concecrate The Triangle

UMass recruits Kevin Boyle and Chris Delmauro have both been named to the Atlantic Junior Hockey All-Star Roster. They’ll suit up for the South team in the game taking place in Walpole on Sunday, January 31st.

Colin Shea meanwhile played in his second Eastern Junior All-Star Game yesterday in New Hampshire. His North Team lost the contest in overtime.

UMass has been recruiting Canadian goaltender Joel Vienneau from Kingston of the OJHL. Though he has already visited campus the odds of landing him are not good as he has also received an offer from Minnesota and his father says he’s “95 to 99 percent” sure he’s going there. In addition he’s being recruited by St Lawrence and Lake Superior State. Vienneau is 21-3-0-2 for the Voyaguers with a 2.09 GAA and .930 save percentage. He is tops in his league in both those categories. He’s also ranked 29th among North American goaltenders in the NHL Draft mid-term rankings.

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The Collegian staff is back from break and writing about hockey again. They have one piece recapping the Minutemen’s bi-polar winter break effort while this effort talks about some of the struggles the team is working to overcome.

Paul Dainton was named Co-UMass Athlete of the Week along with Track and Field athlete Lisa Wilson.

Assistant Coach Red Gendron will be speaking at the Washington Capitals College Hockey Fair late in March. I also noticed that Red was not in attendance for this weekend’s game at Lowell, perhaps out on the recruiting trail instead. With David Boehm’s departure that opens up a slot for another forward to potentially come in next season or perhaps a current commit will come to campus a year earlier. Recruits this late in the process can end up being impact-type players. Just look at Casey Wellman.

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College Hockey News is doing a two-part feature on the top stories of the past decade, here is part one. Here is part two.

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UMass football star and potential first round NFL draft pick Vladimir Ducasse is doing what he can to aid those in his native Haiti.

Lastly, I wanted to address something quite serious and disturbing I witnessed at the Tsongas on Saturday. Of course, I am always delighted to see UMass fans wear their triangles to support the team at the games. However, let it be known that the author of this blog, which celebrates the greatness of the triangle, disapproves with great vigor the wearing of a triangle jersey together with a Boston College hat. This is simply unacceptable and I would rather see said triangle put to flame than disgraced in such a fashion again. That is all.

Boehm Gone

Only one piece of news this morning.

According to this report, David Boehm, who was suspended from the team last month,  is returning to the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL where he played juniors.

Polls & Awards

UMass and Lowell switch spots in the USCHO poll with UMass checking in at #15.  Vermont, this weekend’s opponent, is the #17 team in the country.

#15 is also the magic number on the USA Today poll.

And in the all-important pairwise UMass is tied for 10th with Colorado College.  Vermont is right behind them tied for 12th.

INCH’s power rankings has UMass as the #16 team in the country.

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Congratulations to Paul Dainton who shared the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week award with Providence goaltender Alex Beaudry, giving up only 3 goals on the weekend while stopping over 95% of the shots he faced.  Justin Braun and James Marcou were named top performers.

Saturday Recap

Paul Dainton (photo by Karen Winger)

This appears to be a statement weekend by UMass. They proved that they are recovering from whatever ailed them since Thanksgiving, gaining their third win a row. They proved they can take advantage of games against teams near them in the standings, taking 4 points from Lowell as well as the all important tiebreaker. And they showed that they can succeed where past teams have failed, bringing back the Alumni Cup to Amherst for the first time in too long.

They also demonstrated that they can find a way to win against a good team even when they’re not at the top of their game. Better yet, they can find a way to win even when they play one of their worst periods of hockey all season, which we saw during the second period last night. In that period they managed only two shots on net and overall looked completely disjointed offensively. By the end of the second they had gone 0-for-3 on the power play generating exactly 0 shots on the man advantage. It’s tough to win with those kind of numbers. So what was the difference of the game? Paul Dainton. Dainton made 28 saves and single-handedly kept UMass in the game during stretches when they were simply unable to get anything going offensively. He kept them in it and when the third came the forwads played much better and were able to edge the River Hawks in the crucial final period.

One of the more bizarre penalty calls I think I’ve seen in my 16 years of watching this team happened in the third period when Patrick Cey was called for interference, just one of many instances where Lowell’s players were going after Marcou. James, however, was also called for embellishment on the play which seemed a little odd since he was hit hard enough to open up a cut on his chin that required him to leave the game briefly to get it stitched up. The question is, how is it diving when the hit itself draws blood? Thinking about it on the way home I think this was referee Tom Fyrer getting back at Marcou for something that happened earlier in the game. In the beginning of the second Maury Edwards was called for a five minute major for a high stick to Marcou. James was shaken up a bit and took some time to get off the ice with a little help from the trainer. But in the time it took to sort out the penalty and then the obligatory explanation to Blaise McDonald who was understandably not happy, Marcou cleared the cobwebs and was ready to return for the faceoff. Fyrer didn’t allow him back on the ice but Marcou was back on his line seconds after the faceoff was won. I have a feeling Fyrer thought James showed up him with this sequence of events and let him know this with the diving call in the third. It’s not the most upstanding of ways to officiate but I don’t think Fyrer has even been considered one of the better Hockey East officials anyway.

Last night’s win gave UMass its first four point weekend of the season and did it against what was supposed to be one of the best teams in Hockey East this year. I think BU’s fall from last year’s pinnacle has overshadowed what has transpired with Lowell’s hockey team. This is a team that returned everyone from last year’s squad that went to the Hockey East championship, was the preseason #2 in the league, and has two of the league’s better goaltenders at their disposal. So what’s their problem? Not the goaltending, as both Nevin Hamilton and Carter Hutton played very well this weekend, with the latter making one of the best saves I’ve seen this season early in the 3rd of last night’s game. They’re not the most offensive minded club but with their defense and goaltending they don’t necessarily have to be. Their problem is they’re completely undisciplined taking too many penalties at the worst possible time in games. It nearly cost them last week’s game at Northeastern and it certainly played a role in both games this weekend. If Lowell ends up missing the NCAAs for the 14th year in a row, they can look back at all those cheap, unnecessary penalties and think about the season that could’ve been.

As for UMass, it’s time to look ahead. They’ll have another key chance to grab some Hockey East points this weekend with Vermont coming to town for two games. UMass finds itself in third place in Hockey East just three points out of first, though UNH still has one game in hand on the Minutemen. They’ll have to remain focused and get at least three points from this weekend to set themselves up for the remaining schedule. It’s a little scary to think that after this coming weekend there will only be three games left in the friendly confines of the Mullins, so the team simply cannot let the opportunity pass to get points at home.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Paul Dainton
Without Dainton’s play, especially in the first two periods, this game gets ugly fast.

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Matt Irwin credits Will Ortiz’s screen for his game-winner in the USCHO game story.

Thank equipment manager Josh Penn for spotting the Lowell player in the crease on the disallowed goal according to the Republican recap.

Here’s how things looked for the uncredited Gazette reporter.

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Jon Quick get the shootout win over the Bruins yesterday afternoon.

WEEI.com had a nice feature on how Quick used to study Olympic teammate Tim Thomas’ style while a student at UMass.

Friday Recap

Mike Marcou (photo by Karen Winger)

This is what happens when this team plays 60 full minutes of hockey.  UMass was able to match arguably the deepest team in Hockey East line for line, overcome a strong goaltending performance by Nevin Hamilton, and frankly just out hustled Lowell for the win tonight.  I’m not going to get into too much detail because to be honest I’m pretty tired from driving the two hours home from the Mullins, but I was happy to see the complete team effort shown in the Northeastern game last weekend carried over to this crucial series against Lowell.

Just a few things I wanted to note.  First off, Paul Dainton played very well tonight and made some tough saves, especially during some scrums in front of the crease, at key points in the game.  All four lines had quality shifts.  The radio guys went out of their way to mention how well the fourth line of Kevin Czepiel, Eddie Olczyk, and Shawn Saunders played and I would like to as well.  For the second game in a row the penalty kill was stellar as Lowell went 0 for 5.  My only critique from tonight, PLEASE do not hang back and try to sit on a one goal lead for most of the third.  If UMass attacks the net like they did for the first two periods Lowell likely does not get that third goal.

Tomorrow (or tonight if you’re smart enough to be sleeping already) is a huge opportunity for the Minutemen.  I’ll be honest, the odds are against them.  Lowell is still a good team and showed it tonight despite the loss.  The Hawks will have the advantage of being at home and likely will have their better goaltender in net.  Let’s remember that last month UMass jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the Tsongas only to end up losing 5-3.  But if UMass can play like they have the last two games they’ll have a chance to take two more Hockey East points, put some distance between themselves and the other teams in the standings, and take the tiebreaker from a team that likely will be battling for home ice to the end.  They’re certainly capable of accomplishing all that, let’s see how much the team wants it.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Mike Marcou
Given how well the entire defensive corps played tonight I’m very glad to give this to a defenseman.  Credit to Mike for having the wherewithal to step up into the play and put home the game winning goal.

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Here’s how Dick Baker of the Republican saw things.

The USCHO recap talks about how evenly matched these two teams are.

The Gazette recap mentions that Mike Marcou’s last goal also came against Lowell.

Kudos to the Herald for sending someone all the way out to Amherst to cover the game.  I was under the impression they thought the Earth dropped off somewhere around Auburn.

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Unfortunately I was already out in Amherst when I caught this and couldn’t add it to yesterday’s preview, but former Collegian writer Joe Meloni has this feature story on the Minutemen for College Hockey News.  I found Brett Watson’s reaction to Toot’s comments following the UNH debacle to be interesting:

“[Cahoon’s comments] motivated us for sure. It was embarrassing to hear our coach say that,” senior captain Brett Watson said. “We have to grow and mature as a team to the point where we’re coming to the rink every day, whether it’s a practice or a game, trying to be the best we can be. That’s the only way we can get to where we want to be at the end of the year.”

Lowell Preview

#15 Lowell River Hawks 12-7-2, (Hockey East 6-4-2 T-4th)
vs
#19 UMass Minutemen 12-8-0, (Hockey East 7-6-0 T-4th)  

Official Lowell River Hawk Hockey Site
Ice Is Life Lowell Hockey Blog

If you look at standings this should be a great weekend of hockey.  Both of these teams are currently tied for the final home ice spot in Hockey East, with Lowell getting the tiebreaker edge due to their earlier win over the Minutemen.  Nationally, these teams are neck and neck in the pairwise with UMass one spot ahead of Lowell at 15th.  A sweep either way could have long term effects as the teams march on towards the Hockey East playoffs.  Even a split would have consequences as it gives the River Hawks the tiebreaker, not to mention the Alumni Cup.

Lowell came into the season with high expectations, being picked 2nd in the conference preseason poll and just outside the top ten in the USCHO poll.  Thus far, they’ve had trouble living up to those forecasts.  While at times they’ve been the deep, dominating team that many, including myself, thought they’d be, for the most part they’ve been inconsistent.  Though they’re coming off a 3 point weekend a couple bounces the other way they could’ve come away with zero.  Still, they are very dangerous.  While they’ve held their own on offense averaging 3.33 goals per game their greatest strength is their defense which checks in at a 2.38 goals per game, by far the best in the conference.

Of course the key to that defense is their two seniors in net, Nevin Hamilton and Carter Hutton.  Hutton has had the better numbers thus far with a goals against of 2.16 and save percentage of .926.  Hamilton’s numbers are still strong with a 2.52 goals against and .912 save percentage.  In front of those two is arguably the best defense in the league.   Senior Nick Schaus gets it done on both ends of the ice as this hard-hitting defenseman is currently the 2nd leading blueline scorer in the conference, putting up 20 points.  Jeremy Dehner and Maury Edwards have also have provided offensive punch to go along with their solid defensive play.

What sets Lowell apart from the rest of the conference is their depth and it shows when you look at their scoring stats.  Ten different River Hawks have double digits in points on the season.  Compare this to UMass who only boast six players with 10 or more points.  Offensively Kory Falite is capping off his Lowell career by leading his team in scoring this season with 11 goals and 9 assists.

This weekend will be a big test for the Minutemen who played one of their best all-around games on Sunday against Northeastern.  The Minutemen had an opportunity to take some important points from these River Hawks last month but ended up falling 5-3 in Lowell despite leading the game 2-0.  They can’t let leads like that slip by the wayside.  While Lowell has played inconsistently at times, due to lack of confidence or for some other reason, I doubt they’ll be unprepared to play this weekend.  Recent Lowell teams have certainly upped their games when they’ve played the flagship campus’ squad and it’s made the difference on the scoreboard.   For the Minutemen they’ll need to build on Sunday’s win.  They’ve been reminded what can happen when they come in mentally prepared and everyone on the team is ready to play.  They’ll need to perform just as well if they want to compete with this Lowell team.  Two nights of good efforts could quickly get them back on track for the balance of the Hockey East season.

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The Republican’s preview focuses on the improved penalty kill performance on Sunday.

In the Gazette, Matt Vautour says Chase Langeraap did not practice yesterday and is unlikely to play.

INCH includes this weekend’s series in their Friday Four-cast.

Andrew Merritt of New England Hockey Journal says the Minutemen are a riddle.

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Merrimack has real scoreboards!

James Marcou continues to lead Inside Hockey’s Hobey Watch while the author, Scott McLaughlin, also thinks Casey Wellman’s omission from the Hobey voting list is ridiculous.

Miscellaneous Links

Minimal news out there today.

The athletic department has the game notes up for this weekend’s series.

It does appear that recruit Chris DelMauro’s games with Lincoln of the USHL was just a tryout; them getting a better look at him as well as vice versa.  A goal in three games probably left a good impression.  Maybe he’ll head out that way for next season.

College Hockey News put together their All-Decade team.  It looks a little western biased at first glance but it’s tough to say who should be there that isn’t.

Recruit Update; KAEO

I’m as happy as the next guy, maybe more so, regarding UMass’ performance at Northeastern on Sunday but I’m not sure I’m ready to say they’re back on track as this headline from the Republican reads.  Not to knock Northeastern who has beaten some good teams this year like Colorado College and Lowell, but they still are in a rebuilding year.  And I don’t think you can blame them if they were a little emotionally drained Sunday after clawing their way back into the game the night before against Lowell only to be heartbroken at the end.  Anyway, Sunday was one of the better games all season for the Minutemen but I’d like to see a strong effort in both games against Lowell before concluding that they’re back on track.

Redshirt defenseman Anthony Raiola is mentioned in this article about Minnesota high school defensemen.  Two of Raiola’s defensive teammates are also playing college, one at Mercyhurst the other at Wisconsin.

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Mike Pereira was ranked as the 77th best skater in the NHL Central Scouting Mid-Term Rankings that came out yesterday.

What does that mean?  It’s tough to tell.  I checked who was ranked 77th last year at this time, Willie Coetzee, and he went undrafted, though he later signed a free agent deal with the Red Wings.  Jerry D’Amigo was ranked 72nd and he has exploded onto the college (and international) scene this year.

Also, Pereira’s signing with UMass over BU and Providence are mentioned in his local paper as well as a story on his brother’s game at Fenway last week.

Colin Shea has been named to the EJHL All-Star game for the second year in a row.

I often look on youtube for videos of UMass prospects but it seems like people only take video, or at least post video, of fights.  Here’s Joel Hanley throwing some punches back in November.

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I’ve also had a few names pop up as being players that UMass is likely looking at in addition to Devin Tringale whom I wrote about last week.  I don’t know how interested or how recent UMass was looking at these prospects but here’s what I’ve found in research.

Nick Gordon is a 6’2″ 195lb captain forward at Northfield-Mount Hermon who had an official visit to UMass back in October.  He currently has 6 goals and 6 assists in 13 games.  He also played QB for NHM’s football team.

Dan Szerlip is a 5’9″ 160lbs speedy forward playing with the Boston Advantage who just started play in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League.  So far he has 4 goals and 2 assists in 15 games.  Boston Advantage is where recruit Peter DeAngelo played last year and is run by former Minuteman and Black Bear Tim Lovell.  Previously he played with the Junior Bruins’ Empire League team and the Capital District Selects of the EJHL.  He has also received interest from Quinnipiac and Miami.

I’ve added a Recruits to KAEO page which can be accessed at the top menu.  KAEO stands for “Keeping An Eye On”, a term used on UMasshoops.com by the immortal kmac to keep track of basketball recruits.  I’ll try to keep this up to date with potential recruits as they come to my attention.

Polls & Awards

This week’s polls are out and the Minutemen have hung onto their ranking.  Barely.

UMass sits at #19 in the USCHO poll.  Note that six Hockey East teams currently sit in the top 20.

The team is just barely in the also receiving votes category for the USA Today poll.

In the only poll that really counts, the pairwise, UMass sits at 16th.  That means that they’d be on the outside looking in for a NCAA selection since the Atlantic Hockey autobid would take that spot.

INCH has UMass at #19 in their power rankings.

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Bobby Butler’s four point outing against UMass helped him gain the Hockey East Player of the Week which he shared with Lowell’s Scott Campbell.  Justin Braun and Will Ortiz were named Top Performers.

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However when we’re talking about college hockey awards there’s one that stands out above the rest.  The Hobey Baker Award.  Fan voting has started for this year’s award.  UMass has two players on the fan voting ballot; Justin Braun and James Marcou.  For some inexplicable reason Casey Wellman, who leads the nation in goals currently with State’s Corey Tropp, is not on the ballot.  Better yet, there seems to be no way to contact anyone having to do with the website to try to correct the obvious error (or the fact that they say the championship will be held in Washington DC).

But in the meantime be sure to cast your votes for Marcou and Braun.

The Hobey Baker Award last year in DC.

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