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Thank You Seniors; Looking Toward The Weekend

This Saturday will mark the last regular season game played in the Mullins Center for this year’s senior class.  There is no greater reason to make the trip out to the Bill on Satuday than to bid farewell these five individuals who have made great contributions to the UMass hockey program.  As freshmen they helped the school make its first ever NCAA tournament and now to close off their career they have they chance to return to the tourney.  Please come out this weekend and join me in thanking this year’s senior class.

(photo by Karen Winger)

#27 Justin Braun 

Braun may well leave UMass as the best two-way defenseman ever.  He was poised on defense even from his very first game as a freshman and he’s been that way ever since.  He never panics on defense and is always very good at being in the right place at the right time.  I’ll probably remember him most however for the numerous rushes he leads in almost every game.  He can skate and weave through defenses with the best of them and a lot of times it completely caught the opposition off guard leading to some key offensive opportunities.  I forsee a successful pro career in Braun’s future.  Hopefully one day soon he’ll be sporting some teal in the Golden State. 

(photo by Karen Winger)

  #33 Dan Meyers 

Frankly, it sucks to be a backup goaltender.  If the backup starts a game that the entire plays poorly in somehow that’s still the goaltender’s fault because the usual guy isn’t in there.  And that has happened too often to Meyers.  But if you look at his performances he has put together a career to be proud of and come up huge when called upon for the Minutemen.  How about his 6-0 shutout of RPI last year?  Or his 40 save effort in a win over #5 North Dakota.  Two times he was Hockey East Player of the Week and as always was ready and willing to take his turn in net. 

(photo by Karen Winger)

#2 Martin Nolet 

Ok, I’ll admit it, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Marty Nolet when he first started playing for UMass.  Sure he was highly touted and an L.A. Kings draft pick, but he seemed to make a lot of bonehead plays and take the worst penalties at the worst time.  My how things have changed.  Now in his senior year Nolet has developed into a key component of this UMass hockey team, excelling on defense, offense, and even adding a bit of grit to the game when needed.  He has likely been UMass’ most consistent defenseman this season.  And through it all the pre-med major has been the quintessential student-athlete annually making the Hockey East All-Academic team.  

(photo by Karen Winger)

#10 Will Ortiz

I think I’m going to miss Will Ortiz the most.  I just admire something about a player who doesn’t take a weekend, a game, or even a shift off and leaves everything they have in them on the ice every night.  He can score, backcheck, forecheck, slam someone against the boards, whatever was asked of him.  He has lived or died with every goal scored or goal allowed.  It’s tough to think of another player in the 16 years I’ve watched UMass hockey who can match Ortiz’s intensity. 

(photo by Karen Winger)

#26 Brett Watson

Unsung hero.  That team award, named after the late Jack Canniff, has found its way into the hands of Brett Watson for the past three years and will likely find its way there again this year.  Even when you’re one of the elite defensive forwards in the game it’s tough to find recognition in a sport that rewards goalscorers and elastic goaltenders.  No doubt those snipers and goalies appreciate a Watson when a well timed poke check or faceoff win makes their goal or save the difference in the game.  Hero is also what Watson has been off the ice as his charity work with the local Big Brother/Big Sister program has touched the lives of many Pioneer Valley children and gained him a nomination for hockey’s Humanitarian Award.  A two-year captain, Watson’s leadership on and off the ice will be missed. 

Thank you seniors! 

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The game notes are up for this weekend’s series against Merrimack. 

The Collegian has their previews of the weekend.  In the first Toot Cahoon says he’s focused on showing the team what they did well at the beginning of the season during practice.  The second piece says Paul Dainton will make the start tomorrow night but Cahoon has not yet decided who will be in net on Saturday. 

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Somewhere along the way I missed that Dan Meyers posted another chapter of his movie blog.  The theme of this one is sports movies.  I can’t really argue with Slapshot being best hockey movie, after all I went as far as to make it one of only two movies I put onto my iPhone.  I do have a real soft spot for Miracle though.  But Major League over The Natural for best baseball movie?  No way, Danny. 

Nice to see the hockey team supports the other sports teams on campus.  If we’re down a few players this weekend due to pneumonia, we now know why ;).  Thanks to Matt over at the Tri-Corner Blog for bringing this to my attention. 

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According to the Boston Globe, Jon Quick will in fact dress for today’s Olympic hockey game against Norway.

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Wednesday News

The Collegian talks about the weekend that was for UMass hockey.

Remember, all is not lost yet.  The latest USCHO Bracketology has UMass barely hanging on to that last at-large spot.  In their projection UMass would be a #4 seed taking on Wisconsin in the Albany bracket.

James Marcou and Casey Wellman are mentioned in this piece on the Hobey Baker award from College Hockey News.

According to USHR, UMass missed out on recruit John Gaudreau who first popped up on my radar last year.  While his father played for “Toot” Cahoon at Norwich, the 5’6″ 135lb forward ended up commiting to Northeastern instead.  Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Brown, and UNH were all interested as well.

Vermont will be without the services of Justin Milo after the Catamounts dismissed their second leading scorer from the team.

The USA Hockey team won their Olympic opener 3-1 over Switzerland.  Tim Thomas dressed over Jon Quick to backup starter Ryan Miller.  Various reports have stated that coach Ron Wilson plans on alternating dressing Quick and Thomas each game.  That would have him on the bench for tomorrow’s game against Norway.

Scouting Mike Pereira; Recruit Update; USA!

My Saturday afternoon was spent on the campus of Deerfield Academy to watch the Big Green take on incoming recruit Mike Pereira and Avon Old Farms. While not huge, Pereira has good size at 5’11, 180lbs. He plays bigger than that though because he’s such a good skater. Not only does he posses great speed, which was shown numerous times in the game, but he’s extremely strong on his skates. There were very few times that Deerfield was able to knock him onto the ice without resorting to penalties, and that’s impressive considering they have a couple of 6’5″ guys on defense. Potentially he could be a force in front of the net and in the corners as he’ll be so tough to push off the puck.

He had very good vision of the ice on both offense and defense. I was happy to see him on the first penalty killing unit which hopefully means he could be an asset on defense. I didn’t see too much physical play for him but there was an instance early on where he completely levelled a Deerfield player along the boards to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

Offensively he certainly lived up to everything I had read to date. Exceptional stickhandling combined with his strong skating makes him extremely dangerous. At one point late in the game with the score tied he went completely coast to coast, barely touched, and almost put home the game winner. Overall he considers himself a playmaker, but I think he has the potential to be a key goalscorer for the Minutemen. He ended up with a lone goal in the 3-3 tie but it was a beauty. His center won a faceoff in the offensive zone, Pereira picked up the puck, and skated around the faceoff circle toward center ice. As soon as he came around the corner and had a straight view of the net he unleashed a nice wrister that when far top corner just a few inches below the crossbar. Skill goal. Assuming the two of them stay in school the prospect of Pereira on a line with James Marcou and Casey Wellman is enough to be cheerful about right now despite the team’s recent struggles.

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Speaking of Marcou and Wellman, the Republican’s Dick Baker writes that Toot needs to keep those two on the same line for UMass to be successful. In an effort to shake things up Toot put Wellman with TJ Syner and Will Ortiz and Marcou with Rocco Carzo and Danny Hobbs. At first I was going to refute Baker seeing as UMass actually got a whole three goals in the game including ones directly assisted by the two guys Toot split up. But Wellman only getting one shot on goal isn’t going to cut it, so perhaps putting them back together is the only choice at this point.

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Eric Filiou has recovered from mono and scored a couple goals for Penticton his weekend. Maybe he can give Doug Kublin some recovery pointers.

Colin Shea had 3 asssits to help the Junior Bruins win both of their games this weekend.

Conor Allen had a goal and an assist in three games for Sioux Falls this past week.

Kevin Boyle has not played since I watched him in the AJHL All-Star Game. He did not appear to get injured in that game.

Here’s a release the Rockets put out on Chris Delmauro heading out west to play in the USHL.

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In yet another ridiculous move by the International Olympic Committee, Jon Quick has been told to cover up the “Support The Troops” message on his Olympic mask. What a joke. Which is the more corrupt organization that has completely lost sight of their true mission; the NCAA or the IOC? I say it’s a tie.

According to the LA Times Quick will alternate with Tim Thomas as the backup to Ryan Miller. Team USA gets started today at 3pm EST against Switzerland.

Polls & Awards

In a shocker UMass did not drop out of the rankings following this weekend’s sweep.  In fact they didn’t even drop a spot in the USCHO poll.

They’re essentially in the same spot in the USA Today poll

And they’re just barely clinging to the final at-large berth in the current pairwise rankings, assuming Bemidji wins the CHA tournament.  If someone else would emerge from their post-season tourney, UMass would be the last team out.

UMass is no longer in the INCH power rankings.

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Not surprisingly UMass did not have any weekly award winners or top performers.

Saturday Recap

Well I (luckily) wasn’t at the game and was unable to follow it, so I don’t want to comment on it without having some first hand knowledge.  All I know is that despite James Marcou and the other players calling this the most important game of the season, the end result was the same as we’ve seen in the last few weeks.  Despite it being a must-win game the Minutemen still found themselves getting dominated on the scoreboard, at one point down 5-1 to the Huskies before a couple meaningless late goals led to the final score of 6-3.

It’s sad to see a team which through two thirds of the season had surpassed expectations now give back everything they accomplished in the final weeks of the season.  The team has spent most of these last few months in the top of the Hockey East standings and holding onto a potential at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.  Now the team that was originally picked to finish 7th in Hockey East could very well wind up there.  Or worse.  Last night’s loss drops UMass into a fourth place tie with BU, who owns the tie-breaker.  Good bye home ice.  What’s even worse is that 8th place Vermont is now just three points behind the Minutemen with Lowell and Northeastern even closer.

The season was once full of promise.  Now the players seem like they can’t wait for it to end.  A few more weekends like this one and they’ll may have their wish.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Mike Lecomte
It’s amazing that Lecomte was able to come back from a broken foot so quickly and it seemed early that his return could be a spark for the Minutemen when he picked up an assists.  He ended up +1 on the game but got an early gate in the third for a fighting penalty which means he’ll be out for Friday’s game at Merrimack.

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According to the Republican there was some questionable officiating last night.  Shocking.  Couldn’t have made too much of a difference however judging by the final score.

Toot says the team isn’t playing with any unity in the Gazette recap.

Here’s the USCHO game story.

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Ron Chimelis explores why students like to attend hockey games more than basketball.  I’m glad to see students coming to hockey games, especially compared to the days when I was a student and you could practically have an entire section to yourself.  That said, I would hope that more students come out and support the hoop team as well.  In the long run basketball is still the flagship sport of the university and can lead to wider exposure for the school in general.  Though still in a transition phase, alum Derek Kellogg is putting together a talented young squad which just picked up a committment from a top high school point guard.  The future looks bright for the basketball team so I think students should check out a game if they haven’t before.  Some of my best memories as a student are from sitting in the stands screaming my head off at basketball games.  It’s sad to see the program become such an afterthought on campus.

Friday Recap

After last night the UMass hockey team now stands at the edge of losing everything they had hoped to accomplish this season.  The two main goals for this year was to get home ice in Hockey East and put themselves in place for an NCAA berth.  They are now barely clutching onto both of those things and will have to find a way to maintain that tenuous hold while playing five of the next six games on the road.  It won’t be easy.

Amazingly, UMass has found themselves in this position by being unable to generate any offense.  Losers in four out of their last five the Minutemen have been shutout in two of those losses and managed only one and two goals in the other two.  Only in the game against lowly Providence were the Minutemen able to put goals on the board and a win in the books.

Unlike last week where the team showed absolutely no effort on the ice, that wasn’t the case against Northeastern.  Effort was there, execution was lacking.  Sure UMass had 31 shots on net, but none of them were really quality ones.  And credit goes to Chris Rawlings for registering the shutout but it’s tough to say he was really tested.  A reader posted a comment a few weeks ago asking if the team had gotten too fancy on offense.  This was very apparent last night.  There are just too many no look passes to guys who aren’t there.  Too many passes trying to thread the needle through the defense.  And too much waiting around for the perfect shot.  I think it’s time to get ugly.  Shoot the puck as often as possible and have the forwards crash the net time and time again.

UMass are essentially at the point where they have to win their next three games, starting with tonight’s matchup at Northeastern.  The final three games are going to be a huge challenge by playing Maine and Boston College away.  They have to take six points from Northeastern and Merrimack.  It surely won’t be easy, but if they still have hopes for home ice in the playoffs and a trip to the NCAAs they haven’t left themselves any other choice.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Brett Watson
Watson was his usual self in terms of defense and effort, but he also did a decent job offensively last night with 5 shots on goal.  It’s never good when your best defensive player, with only two career goals to his name, is the one leading the offense.

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According to the Gazette, James Marcou agrees that tonight is the biggest game of the year.

The Republican recap talks about the recent home woes.

Here’s the recap from USCHO.

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I won’t be able to make the game at Matthews tonight but I will be able to watch UMass’ top recruit, Mike Pereira, play at Deerfield today.  So look for my writeup on him in the days to come.

Northeastern Preview

Northeastern Huskies 13-12-1, (Hockey East 8-10-1 10th)
vs
#18 Massachusetts Minutemen 16-11-0, (Hockey East 11-9-0 4th)  

Official Northeastern Hockey Site

UMass enters this weekend losers of three of their last four and needing to send a statement following the horrendous 7-1 loss to Boston College a week ago.  A statement to the rest of the league?  Perhaps.  A statement to the fans who showed up in droves and then bailed after the first.  I guess, though I think the ones that stuck it out are the ones who deserve something.  No, I think this statement needs to be made by the players to the players.  As I mentioned last weekend this team still needs to figure out things mentally, just how good are they and what are they able to accomplish.  While I don’t think this weekend against Northeastern will offer definitive conclusions to either question, a strong showing will help put them back on the right track.

Of course just a few weeks ago these teams met and UMass played one of their better all-around games of the season in the 4-1 win at Matthews Arena.  The Minutemen went 3 for 7 on the power play while killing all six Northeastern chances.  However, I’m not sure if we saw the best that Northeastern has to offer that night.  First off, they started their backup goaltender, Bryan Mountain, not that he played all that badly.  Secondly, they were coming off a tough overtime (mostly) televised loss to Lowell the night before where they scored three goals in the last 10 minutes to almost complete the comeback.  Northeastern ended up only managing 13 total shots in the game.  Since that time the Huskies have played well going 5-2 with a loss to UVM in Burlington and a narrow defeat to BU in the first round of the Beanpot.

Northeastern is still getting things done with defense.  Their 2.77 goals allowed average is good for 3rd in the league, which is pretty impressive considering they start two freshmen goaltenders in Mountain and starter Chris Rawlings.  If not for Merrimack’s Stephane DeCosta, Rawlings might be a consideration for Hockey East Rookie of the Year for his 2.67 goals against and .914 save percentage.  Amazingly Northeastern is doing that well on defense despite being dead last in the league in penalty killing at 76.2%.  This would be a great opportunity for UMass to get their power play going again as they’re only 3 for the last 29 with the extra man.  Defensively the Huskies are led by seniors Dave Strathman and Jim Driscoll but keep an eye out for Jake Newton who has put together a good freshman year on both ends of the ice. 

Offensively the Huskies rely on junior forwards Wade MacLeod and Tyler McNeely as well as senior Kyle Kraemer.  All three forwards are tied for the team lead in goals with 10 but MacLeod has a slight edge in overall points with 22.  It’s surprising to see Alex Tuckerman with only 11 points to date on the season.  Last year he appeared to have a bright future ahead of him as one of the more impactful freshmen in the league, at least in the games I saw him.  But he’s hit a bit of a sophomore slump so far and his production is down in terms of both goals and assists.

Flat out, UMass needs three points this weekend at least.  Every Hockey East team is playing two games this weekend with the expection of the two that find themselves at the far sides of the standings, UNH and Providence.  In a quirk in the schedule the two teams ahead of UMass in the standings will play the two teams behind UMass.  BC and Maine, both two points ahead of UMass, will play Lowell and BU respectively, both four points behind the Minutemen.  That basically means that if UMass gains ground on a team ahead they won’t necessarily be able to distance themselves from a team just to the back in the standings and vice versa.  The team also has to take advantage of the games they have against team in the bottom of the standings.  And to put the pressure on even more, tonight is the second to last game at the Mullins in the regular season.  Five of the last six games in the season will be played on the road.  UMass already let the previous two home games go by the wayside without gaining any points, they simply cannot let that happen tonight.

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Toot says everyone, including the coaching staff, was to blame for last week’s loss in the Republican preview.

The Collegian article says UMass bounced back from a tough loss against Northeastern and they can do it again.

Here’s Matt Vautour’s preview from the Gazette.

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In what I think is a good for UMass, Athletic Director John McCutcheon withdrew his name from the San Diego State opening.

James Marcou drops to #3 in Inside Hockey’s latest Hobey Watch.

Greg Mauldin is putting the skills he used while playing point on the power play at UMass to good use in the AHL.

Miscellaneous Thursday

Not too much news out there.  I think much of the college hockey world has a bit of a Beanpot hangover.  As much as I enjoy belittling that tournament it was a pretty exciting game.

The game notes are up for this weekend’s series against Northeastern.

USCHO has their latest Bracketology projection.  In this one UMass would be the #3 seed in the Ft Wayne regional taking on Colorado College.

Speaking of the tournament, number junkies like myself will enjoy this site that runs playoff berth and final standings probabilities.

Here’s the story behind Jon Quick’s Olympic mask via the Kings website.  Quick chose the “Support The Troops” theme to honor a neighbor who did two tours in Iraq.

The UMass men’s club team is also having a good season this year as they won the league title and now head to the playoffs.  The team is led by Alec Goolsby whose brother played for Colorado College.

Interestingly Army and Colgate will open next season on the Cape.  They’ll take part in the Cape Cod Collegiate Classic (someone likes alliteration) which will take place in the Hyannis Youth and Community Center with a capacity of 1,500.

Wellman To Leave? Recruit Update; Quick’s Olympic Mask

Elliot Olshansky has an interesting look at the Hockey East Hobey candidates, using a statistical formula to basically evaluate how clutch they are.  Casey Wellman leads the league for forwards.

Speaking of Wellman, the Red Line Report, a scouting website and USA Today contributor, is saying that “he’s ready to leave the classroom immediately if NHL clubs come calling.”   My general feeling about players leaving early is it’s their decision and I would rather not have players on the team if they’re not 100% committed and would rather be elsewhere.  That only creates problems in the locker room.  My specific feeling to Wellman’s pro prospects?  He’s certainly on a high development rate right now given how well he’s done in his first two years.  In my opinion is his pro potential greater than that of say Greg Mauldin who also left early to go pro (granted under much different circumstances) and has to date played only 6 games in the NHL?  I’m not sure, but at the same time the Red Line Report knows much more about scouting hockey than I do.  But we’ll see how this plays out.  There were substantial rumors that James Marcou was most likely leaving after last season but that did not materialize. 

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According to the Black and Blue Lincoln Stars Blog, Chris DelMauro has decided to head out west to play the remainder of his season in the USHL.  I think this is a great move.  Nothing like playing against and with the best to develop your game.

Conor Allen followed up his USHL Player of the Week honors with another good game as he had a goal and an assist in a 5-1 win for Sioux Falls.

Eric Filiou is still out with mono for the Penticton Vees.

Nick Gordon, one of the recruits to keep an eye on, had five assists for Northfield-Mount Hermon in a game over the weekend.

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Thanks to the LA Times for providing links to Jon Quick’s Olympic mask.  See the mask here and the backplate here

It sounds like Scott Crowder’s Pond Hockey Classic was a big hit over the weekend.  The honor presented to the winning teams?  The Winnipehockey Cup, of course.

Polls & Awards

Not surprisingly Friday’s drubbing at the hands of Boston College did not help UMass in this week’s polls.  The Minutemen drop to #18 in the latest USCHO poll.  They are the first “Also Receiving Votes” team in the latest USA Today poll.

UMass is still hanging in there in the pairwise as they find themselves tied for 9th place with North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth.  This will be changing in a matter of hours however when the Beanpot results go final.

They come in at #20 in the INCH power rankings.

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James Marcou was named a Top Performer in this week’s Hockey East release.

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