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Schedule Released

The schedule for the upcoming season was announced this afternoon and it did contain one small surprise.  Instead of an expected visit to the Mullins from Yale the Minutemen will host the Swedish Under-20 team in an exhibition game.  They will likely be a pretty talented bunch as this past Spring’s squad won a bronze at the World Junior Championships.  This second exhibition game on top of the pre-season rematch against New Brunswick also means UMass will play one less regular season game than it did last year, 33 versus 34.  This could because Coach Cahoon was looking to make the long season just a little less grueling for a team that is heavily laden with freshmen and offset not one but two trips out west to play WCHA powerhouses.  Or, it may have just been as simple as not being able to find a missing piece of the scheduling puzzle.

Either way it’s still going to be one of the toughest schedules in UMass hockey history and those young players will be thrown into the fire right from the get go with a season opening trip to play Minnesota at Mariucci Arena (which coincidently I got to see from the skies above the Twin Cities after catching a connecting flight last week).  Hockey East play will get going for the Minutemen the following weekend with a trip to The Greek to take on Boston University.  They’ll first hit the Mullins ice for this year’s campaign against those same Terriers on 10/22.

Halloween weekend will again feature a home and home with Providence.  Then they’ll briefly jump out of conference play the next weekend as the USMA Black Knights visit Amherst followed by the exhibition against the Swedes the next night.  I know I mentioned it earlier in the Summer, but I really think the game against Army presents an excellent opportunity for the school to do some kind of tie-in with the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund.  UMass will then play two games at UNH the week after which the back to back home games between these two teams introduced last year continuing.  Thanksgiving will be bookended by two home games with the traditional Turkey Tuesday game against Vermont and then Quinnipiac visiting that weekend.  The fall semester will conclude with a visit by Lowell and a trip to Maine over the span of two weeks.

After the December break UMass will celebrate New Years with a two game series out at Wisconsin.  It’ll be interesting to see how UMass fares against the WCHA’s Badgers and Gophers as like UMass both power programs have seen significant players leave school early.  Hopefully the early season trip to Minnesota will help better prepare the team for the games at Madison and they can try to pick up some favorable non-conference results to start the new year.  The team comes back with two home games against UNH and Northeastern but the schedule gets very difficult at that point with five of the next seven games away from home.

First off will be a home and home with Lowell to finish off that season series.  Two games up in Burlington against UVM are then followed by a home and home with Northeastern.  Amazingly, UMass will not face defending national champion Boston College for the first time until the first week of February with a trip to Newton followed by a look at the newly renovated home of the Merrimack Warriors. 

From then on travel will be at a minimum with 6 of the final 8 games in Amherst, kicked off with games against BU and Providence and a home and home with Merrimack.  The final four games come against Boston College and Maine.

As I said, this is a really difficult schedule.  Despite the defections Minnesota has seen (and perhaps will continue to see) it’ll still be a big challenge to expect the young Minutemen team to start off the opening weekend with much success.  The four games against Providence (two), Army, and the exhibition against the Swedes should give the team a chance to get some wins and also establish some confidence in themselves.  Perhaps a split against UNH and then taking a couple of the next three at home and the team could be in decent shape at winter break.  What will they do in Wisconsin and after?  Well, let’s not think about the second half of the season just yet.  After all, I’m still trying to forget the second half of last season.  But we do know that if the team is able to establish any kind of momentum to start the season the mental toughness of the team will be tested once again when they get deep into Hockey East play come January.  One good thing about the youth of the team and large roster turnover is that a sizable portion of the team will not have suffered through the late season collapses and hopefully won’t even give it a thought.

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News broke tonight that Cody Ferriero who just decommitted from BC will be playing at Northeastern this coming season.  Reportedly he had heard from five Hockey East teams since announcing his attentions not to head to Chestnut Hill.  I am nearly certain UMass was one of those five.

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Miscellaneous Back From Vacation News

Well, Delta did their best to prevent it, but alas I have returned from my Summer vacation to the Pacific Northwest.  I got to see volcanoes up close and personal, choke on the burnt coffee they make up there, and of course drink some really good beer that is generally tough to find around here.  On the beer front I took a trip to one of my craft beer meccas of Rogue and decided that Deschutes Brewery is one of the best the country.  All in all I tried countless beers I’ve never had before and got to visit 10 different breweries or brewpubs.  Also got to five National Parks along the way to see some of this country’s greatest natural wonders.  And hey, I actually got to see the Sox bullpen perform well in the game I saw at Safeco Field.  Great trip all in all.  I really wish the Pac-10 12 would start a hockey conference so I had an excuse to go out that way more often.

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There wasn’t too much in the news regarding UMass hockey while I was gone but here are a few things.

Mike Marcou was featured in this article about local players attending the Islanders’ rookie camp.

I came across on the excellently named Fear The Fin blog news that Cory Quirk has been resigned by the Worcester Sharks in a move that will likely put up to four UMass players in teal for the team this year.  Matt Irwin, Justin Braun, and James Marcou are all also likely to be playing in the Centrum this winter.

A couple things on Twitter caught my attention tonight.  First was this article in the Providence Journal about the Dunkin’ Donuts Center looking to attract NCAA regionals and even the Hockey East Championship to the venue.  As UMass alum Rick Pitino would say, having regionals at the Dunk is a “no brainer.”  Why this hasn’t happened recently is a little puzzling given the number hockey schools in the vicinity and the fact that it used to host Frozen Fours.  The Providence area would be a good place for fans to hang out given the decent bar scene, legendary italian restaurants, and of course the equally legendary gentlemen’s clubs.

But I think the Hockey East semifinals and finals belog in Boston, despite the unfortunate fact that it puts more money into the pockets of Jeremy “Can’t Find Boston On A Map” Jacobs.  I understand attendance had been trending downward but this may only be temporary.  After all, the economy has been in horrible shape the past two years and college students and recent grads, who make up a sizable portion of the crowd that attend such events, don’t have a lot of disposable income even in good times.  Plus as much as it is to UMass’ disadvantage sometimes, Boston is the hub of Hockey East (please don’t sue me Kevin Paul Dupont).  There are two schools in the city itself, three if you count Newton’s Boston College, and three more within an hour’s drive.  The trophy may be named after Providence’s Lou Lamoriello, but I still think it should remain presented on Beantown ice.

The other piece of news found making the Twitter rounds and then confirmed by US Hockey Report is that Cody Ferriero has decommited to play at Boston College where his brother played.  He was due to arrive on Chestnut Hill this coming fall.  The USHR report also confirms something I had heard earlier in the year that Ferriero didn’t like the fact that BC had only guaranteed him a scholarship for two years, despite the fact that BC coach Jerry York does so regularly with a lot of his recruits.  What does this mean for UMass?  While I’m not sure to what extent but UMass was certainly very interested in him and recruited him prior to his commitment. Would UMass then welcome him, especially so late in the game?  I think it’s a possibility.  Of course scholarships with the current projected roster are likely maxed out, so the coaching staff would be forced to ask one of the incoming freshmen to wait a year.  As I’ve already pointed out in previous writings, Conor Sheary would probably be the most likely candidate.  Would they want a player like Ferriero?  It would be stupid not to since we’re talking about one of the best players in the prep league and a 5th round NHL draft pick.  However, just as long as he buys into the whole team first/”Navy Seal” concept that Toot talked about in the wake of last season’s disappointing end.  Is it likely then?  I have no idea, but I’ll do my best to keep an eye on where he may land.

In other recruiting news, Matt Gaudreau has chosen to commit to Northeastern.  According to USHR Gaudreau had also considered UMass and Maine but hadn’t taken visits to either school.  It probably doesn’t hurt that Matt’s brother John has also committed to the Huskies.

Off For A Little R&R

For the next week or so I’ll be taking my talents to the Pacific Northwest for a mid-summer vacation.  Highlights of the trip will include touring some national parks, catching the Red Sox at Safeco Field, and of course sampling as many of the fine beers produced out there as I can.  I’ll also be making the second leg of my Holy Trinity of Breweries pilgrimage with a visit to Rogue in Newport, Oregon (I previously visited Stone in California;  Dogfish Head, you’re on deck).

I’ll likely be sniffing around the net for UMass news from time to time and if anything comes up, I’ll do my best to pass it along.  But don’t expect anything too detailed as the iPhone keyboard isn’t really conducive to such things.  Once again this is a great time to follow Fear The Triangle on Twitter and Facebook so you’re sure not to miss out on anything.

Roster Thoughts – Update

Monday’s blog with my thoughts on the potential roster and lines has produced some of the best comment conversation in the short history of the blog.  Which is pretty amazing considering it’s currently 80 degrees out.  As one reader said, ” thanks for letting us all talk a little hockey on July 14 !!”.  I agree 100% and thank you to everyone reading and adding your two cents!

Of course a couple readers mentioned some rumors floating around the team that I did my best to look into.  Mike Lecomte is indeed still recovering from the injuries that caused him to miss a bunch of games last season.  He will not be healthy in time for the beginning of the season and if he is able to play at all this coming season remains to be seen.  He may miss the first few months or the coaching and training staff may decide to redshirt him altogether and have him come back for a full season in 2011-2012.  From what I’ve heard that decision has not been made yet.  To inject my own thoughts, since next season will most likely be a “bridge season”, to borrow a term from the Red Sox, I think if he’s going to miss a few months then I would just shut him down entirely.  I don’t think a partial season from Lecomte will make or break the year for the Minutemen.  Better to bring him back a year later to lead a team that will be more experienced and perhaps more poised to accomplish more.

The second thing I can confirm is that Randy Wolcott and Djan Lefebvre will not be on next year’s roster.  A reader had mentioned that Randy Wolcott had chosen to transfer, and while I don’t know that for sure, it wouldn’t surprise me.  Coming into UMass Wolcott was the Goaltender of the Year for the Atlantic Juniors.  While not the highest level of junior hockey, that is still quite an achievement and one that would likely gain him a starting job in Atlantic Hockey or some other level of collegiate hockey.  With Paul Dainton in net this year, Jeff Telgia as his heir apparent, and Kevin Boyle arriving in another season it would’ve been very tough for Wolcott to see any playing time at all at UMass.  I can’t blame him for looking elsewhere.  This will likely move Kevin Moore into the third goalie slot for the incoming season.  I’m not sure what Lefebvre’s plans are at this point but I’m guessing the coaching staff will help him as they can as they viewed him as a very intelligent player in his time here.

A FTT reader also mentioned that Conor Sheary was at student orientation recently (ah, memories on non-air conditioned, cell block-like Northeast in the hellish Summer).  I can only confirm that Sheary may or may not be at UMass this fall (how’s that for reporting?).  Perhaps it depends on the Lecomte situation and how that transpires.  If he does come to Amherst it adds a talented playmaker to the mix who will likely dress most nights.  If not, he puts up huge numbers in the New England Prep League again and comes a year later.

Roster/Line Thoughts

Three months from today the UMass hockey team will already have a weekend of hockey under its belt after opening the season out in the Twin Cities against Minnesota.  In fact, we now find ourselves closer to the beginning of next season than the end of last season.  And, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to leave last season long behind.  So with that in mind, let’s take a potential look at the roster and lines we may see come October.  UMass usually does not update the roster, in terms of offseason subtractions and incoming freshmen, on UMassAthletics until late August or early September, so what you’ll see here is my best guess based somewhat on information I’ve found and part hunch.

Freshmen (14):
D – Djan Lefebvre (redshirt), D – Anthony Raiola (redshirt), F – Eric Filiou, D – Colin Shea, F – Peter DeAngelo, F – Mike Pereira, D – Joel Hanley, D – Conor Allen, F – Stephen Guzzo, G – Jeff Teglia, F – Troy Power, F – Brenden Gracel, D – Adam Phillips, F – Pat Kiley.

Sophomores (6):
F – Rocco Carzo, F – Kevin Czepiel, D – Mike Donnellan, F – Eddie Olczyk, D – Darren Rowe, G – Randy Wolcott.

Juniors (4):
F – Danny Hobbs, D – Mike Marcou, G – Kevin Moore, F – T.J. Syner.

Seniors (7):
F – Marc Concannon, G – Paul Dainton, F Brian Keane, D – Doug Kublin, F – Chase Langeraap, F – Mike Lecomte, F – Shawn Saunders.

Obviously, this looks like a lot of players.  But it’s actually pretty comparable to last year’s roster size if you include Kevin Moore as the 4th goaltender and count redshirts Lefebvre and Raiola.  Coach Cahoon could choose to go the redshirt route yet again, perhaps with a Colin Shea, Peter DeAngelo, and likely walk-on Pat Kiley.  Or perhaps someone like DeAngelo ends up in juniors for another year.  So all in all the roster, in terms of size, is about the same.

Obviously what jumps out at first is the size of the freshmen class.  The second thing that jumped out at me was the class breakdown of the defensemen; one senior, one junior, two sophomores, two redshirt freshmen, and three true freshmen.  Ideally I was hoping depth at defense would allow Toot to experiment with Darren Rowe up at forward.  Matt Irwin’s early departure pretty much sunk that idea as he now is one of just four defensemen with game experience.  Maybe guys like Phillips and Shea can come in and play solid minutes right away, but for now you have to think Rowe will end up on the blue line to start the year.

So let’s get to some thoughts on lines and pairings:

Pereira / Lecomte / Syner
Keane / Carzo / Gracel
Hobbs / Czepiel / Filiou
Langeraap / Olczyk / Saunders

Kublin / Hanley
Marcou / Phillips
Donnellan / Rowe

Dainton / Teglia / Wolcott / Moore

So that’s my best guess.  Could I be wrong?  Hell, yeah!  At this point guys like Raiola and Lefebvre are complete question marks.  Beyond Pereira and probably Hanley it’s tough to guage which other freshmen are talented enough to come in and play right away.  One thing I do think is that if guys like Keane and Langeraap come in and just go through the motions as they did at end last season, they’ll probably find themselves in the stands while guys like Guzzo and Power are on the ice.  Believe it or not those two senior forwards are likely the key to next season.  If UMass want to surprise some teams and have success, it is absolutely essential that the upperclassmen all contribute.  Freshmen are going to be freshmen.  They’ll have a great game and then be horrible the next.  They may start off hot and then fade as the season takes it toll.  But the seniors don’t have that luxury.  UMass desperately needs a full effort from the juniors and seniors every time they take the ice.  No excuses.

Prospect Camps Update

Well obviously when I went through the NHL sites looking for Minutemen on prospect camp rosters I did a poor job. Luckily a FTT reader did better job though and emailed to pass along some good news. Danny Hobbs is back at NY Rangers camp for his second prospect camp visit. And after spending last summer at his hometown Philly Flyers camp, Rocco Carzo gets to spend a couple weeks with the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

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Thankfully common sense has prevailed and the rules committee has backed off of that idiotic rule proposal to eliminate icing while shorthanded.

Prospect Camps

NHL developmental camps are pretty much in full swing and there are a couple UMass players participating.

First off, thanks to FTT reader “Greg” who was the first to point out that Mike Marcou is currently in Islanders Prospect Camp, taking place not too far from his hometown on the island. Of course his brother also participated in the same camp a few years back. This is a great opportunity for Mike to play with some elite players at his age level. It also goes to show how far he has come since entering UMass. I don’t think another Minuteman player has showed as much progress as him since entering the school a couple years ago, first solidifying his defensive game and then adding an offensive dimension this past year.

Another name that stood out on that roster is T.J. Sarcona who stood out when I went to watch some junior hockey this past year. I have no idea if he’s on Toot’s radar, but certainly with UMass having a connection with his AJHL team, the New Jersey Rockets, would help if he is. Recruits Kevin Boyle and Chris DelMauro are both former Rockets as was once committed John Carlson.

Not as surprisingly Casey Wellman will be at the Minnesota Wild’s prospect camp following a decent debut with the club following his season at UMass. Another Hockey East name that sticks out in camp with him is Vermont’s Kyle Medvec.

That’s all I’ve found for UMass players on prospect camp rosters. The Sharks, as they always have, keep their camp completely locked down so while I’m sure James Marcou, Matt Irwin, Justin Braun, or some combo thereof will be there, we’ll likely never know. If anyone else finds Minutemen in camp, please post a comment and let me know.

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UMass is mentioned with Michigan State, Denver, Ohio State, BU, and Wisconsin as losing at least three underclassmen to the pros (Wisco has lost four) this offseason in this article about Spartan captain Corey Tropp leaving for the NHL. Wisconsin almost lost another according to this blog. Like UMass, Wisconsin will certainly be in a state of flux when the two teams meet next season.

Miscellaneous Friday News & An Overdue Wellman Rant

Just wanted to pass along a few random UMass things I came across in the past few days before the holiday weekend begins in earnest.

First is this article mentioning incoming recruit Eric Filiou and his summer goals before arriving in Amherst this fall.  It’s a few months old, but it’s the first I’d seen it and thought I’d pass it along.

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Second up is the news that Mike McKee, a defenseman playing prep hockey at Kent, has committed to Northeastern.  UMass was also going after the 6’4″, 230lb Canadian as was Cornell.  McKee will arrive on St Botolph Street for 2012.

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Lastly is this USHL.com Q&A with Casey Wellman.  A couple questions and responses jumped out at me:

When did signing with a NHL club start becoming a reality for you?

There were a lot of teams talking to me and it got kind of overwhelming.  I ended up saying that I would not talk to anyone until the end of the season so that I could focus on college. Towards the end of the season, my dad asked if I would want to make the jump straight to the NHL and I said “absolutely.”

Although it was your dream, how tough was it to leave school at that point to pursue your hockey career?

It was a big decision. I was giving up two free years of education and I have a lot of great friends at UMass.  It was a decision that wasn’t made in a few days as I had been thinking about it for a long time. With all the opportunities that came up and the chance I had, it was something I just couldn’t turn down.

First off, it is utterly ridiculous that NHL teams are allowed to have discussions with college players, especially undrafted ones, during the season.  With the load of classes, practices, games, and just being a college student the last thing a player needs is an NHL club whispering in their ear making all kinds of promises of what awaits them after the season.  And yes, I realize usually those discussions are made with the infamous “family advisor” but it’s still information being relayed to the player and potentially would be a huge distraction to his responsibilities on and off the ice.  I’m sure there are some players out there that are able to deflect that type of distraction but in my opinion Casey Wellman is the poster child for someone who could not juggle both his college and NHL goals when they were layed out in front of him.

After his spectacular start to the season it’s a good guess that the NHL teams came sniffing around at winter break and began the process of luring Wellman out of school.  And what happened?  His performance on the ice went into the toilet, as demonstrated by going scoreless in 12 of 13 games in January and February, and the team circled the bowl right along with Wellman’s game.  That’s not to say that this past season’s collapse is entirely on his shoulders, but his uninspired play was probably the most glaring during that time period.  And who got hurt the most from all this?  Not Wellman, he still got a 2 year $1.8M contract with the Wild.  Who got hurt the most was his teammates, who depended on Wellman, and gave their focus solely to the success of the UMass hockey program.  For a lot of those guys on the ice a potential NCAA tournament berth would’ve been the pinnacle of their hockey careers.  Not everyone is NHL bound.

Wellman’s competing interests aside, the problem ultimately rests with the college hockey’s relationship with the NHL.  While these two bodies should be working together to develop not only players to move into the professional ranks, but promote the sport of hockey in general.  Too often though they treat each other as adversaries, competing for players instead of nurturing them.  One would hope that the NHL would realize the foolishness of this and would begin to put restrictions in place in terms of communication and transactions.  Unfortunately I’ve never thought the NHL to be full of visionaries however, starting with the clown at the top.  Hopefully Paul Kelley and College Hockey Inc. will be able to bring some sense to the current setup.

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