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Hockey East Preview

Let’s get to it, shall we? Here are my picks for this year’s Hockey East season.

1. Boston College

Let’s face it, it’s their conference championship to lose. The only player of consequence they lost was Carl Sneep, a very good defenseman. However when you consider how well the rest of the defense played, when most of them were only freshmen, overcoming the loss of Sneep should not be a problem. Oh, they also return the leading goal-scorer in the NCAA in Cam Atkinson and their 2nd and 3rd leading scorers in Joe Whitney and Brian Gibbons. In net they return John Muse who has guided them to two national championships and if something happens to him Parker Milner showed at the end of last season that he’s a very capable goaltender himself. Frankly, if BC does not win Hockey East it’ll be because they choked, not because there was a better team.

National aspirations: Frankly, if BC does not win the national championship it’ll be because they choked, not because there was a better team. Although NoDak and Michigan don’t look to shabby either.

Player to watch: Can Atkinson make a run at the Hobey?

Newcomer to watch: Kevin Hayes out of Noble & Greenough went 24th overall in this year’s draft will be joining his brother Jimmy on the Eagles this year.

2. New Hampshire

UNH returns the most players in the league from last year’s team. Though their losses are big ones, namely Bobby Butler and Brian Foster, I think their experienced returnees will lead them to slide into second place behind the Eagles. They return 14 of their top 16 scorers and lose only one defenseman. Look for Paul Thompson and Phil DeSimone as the goto goalscorers with captain Mike Sislo doing a little bit of everything up front.

National aspirations: UNH will make the NCAA tournament for the 10th straight year and fail to win it all for the 10th straight year.

Player to watch: Blake Kessel may be the most exciting blueliner to watch in the league.

Newcomer to watch: Eric Knodel should be able to step in and give the Wildcats solid minutes on D from day one.

3. Maine

The Black Bears return much from a team that made it to last year’s conference championship game. Most importantly they return 17 of their top 19 scorers including star Gustav Nyquist who put up over 60 pts last year. They also return all their defenseman. Normally that would be a great thing. And offensively it is as they’re one of the better point producing units in the league. Unfortunately the team was last in the league in goals against. Combine that with the fact their top 2 goaltenders are gone, one to graduation and one to discipline issues, and that does not bode well for the Black Bears. If returning Shawn Sirhan or newcomer Martin Oullette can do wonders between the pipes, Maine will go far. Otherwise I see a lot of 5-4 or 6-5 wins in their future.

National aspirations: Despite the defensive issues Maine should return to the tournament this year. If not the calls for Tim Whitehead’s head will go nuclear.

Player to watch: Nyquist is probably the best chance Hockey East has for the Hobey.

Newcomer to watch: If Sirman stumbles early the Black Bears may have to rely on Oullette to take them back to the promised land.

4. Merrimack

Am I mad? Have I gone crazy? Perhaps. But I’m a big believer in this year’s Merrimack squad and what Mark Dennehy is doing in North Andover. Listen, Merrimack students aren’t stupid (and I’m not just saying that because my father and sister went there). The players must realize there’s a sense of destiny around the Warriors this year. They return 20 players from the best Merrimack team in forever, including star forward Stephane Da Costa. Joe Cannata has the chance to break out and be the dominant goaltender he’s shown flashes of the past two years. And for once the team can feel like the school is behind them, with growing Merrimack crowds filling the newly renovated Lawler Arena this year. Put all that together and a couple bounces and Merrimack hosts a playoff game. No seriously.

National aspirations: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Finally make a showing in Hockey East and then Merrimack can worry about establishing themselves nationally.

Player to watch: Everyone knows about Da Costa but keep an eye on senior Chris Barton who lit the lamp 19 times last year.

Newcomer to watch: Dennehy has gotten some decent players from Western Canada in recent years, defenseman Brendan Ellis is the latest.

5. Boston University

For a team that lost 5 of its top 6 goalscorers from a year ago the last thing coach Jack Parker (recovering from heart surgery no less) needed was to have to suspend two of his top offensive players. But that’s exactly what happened this week when Corey Trivino and Alex Chaisson were told they have to sit for the team’s exhibition game and the Icebreaker tournament to open the season. I think it will be just the first of many bumps in the road for the Terriers this season. However if their talented freshman class can get comfortable quickly, the Terriers could be a school teams will not want to play come February.

National aspirations: If BU can go out and win the Icebreaker against the likes of Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and/or Holy Cross, without two of their top players, I’m throwing this preview out the window.

Player to watch: David Warsofsky is as good a two way defenseman as you’ll find in all of college hockey. While that’s not necessarily good for us UMass fans, it’s great for us Bruins fans.

Newcomer to watch: Weymouth’s Charlie Coyle, taken 28th by the Ducks in the NHL draft, is my preseason pick for rookie of the year.

6. Northeastern

Greg Cronin’s rebuilding of the Northeastern program took a small step back last year, but they should have the Dog Pound smiling again this coming season. The Huskies bring back 6 of their top 8 scorers including the talented Wade Macleod and Tyler McNeely. They do lose a bit more on defense but starting goaltender Chris Rawlings and backup Bryan Mountain looked very solid as freshmen last year and should be able to pick up some of the slack on defense.

National aspirations: Please, PLEASE win a Beanpot. I root for you guys every single year!

Player to watch: Rawlings has the potential, and size, to develop into a goaltending star in college.

Newcomer to watch: Anthony Bitetto will be asked to provide solid minutes on the blueline given their turnover at D.

7. Vermont

UVM lost 5 of their top 6 scorers and just this week had to dismiss 7 goal-scorer David Pacan from the team. Overall this is a solid team, but they’re going to have problems finding the back of the net. Sophomores Sebastian Stalberg and Wahsontiio Stacey will have to step it up if UVM wants to try to contend for home ice. The defense should be solid with Kyle Medvec and Keran Miller returning for the Cats.

National aspirations: Vermont will get an early test with Denver taking a visit to The Gutt in opening weekend.

Player to watch: Goaltender Rob Madore is always a guy who seems to play much better than his stats suggest.

Newcomer to watch: Look for Connor Brickley to spend time on Vermont’s top two lines.

8. UMass

Check back tomorrow for my team preview

9. Lowell

The River Hawks try to start anew after what is probably the most disappointing season in their history. Unfortunately for them the losses kept coming even after the season as they lost top recruit Julian Melchiori to the major juniors during the summer. Still, they add a large, talented group of freshmen to a core group of veterans led by Scott Campbell and Maury Edwards. The biggest issue for the Hawks is in net where the only returning goaltender goes by the name Empty Net. Well, not totally true as the team is bringing back T.J. Massie from juniors for a second tour of duty, but don’t expect too much out of him after a mediocre year with the Junior Bruins (including at least one game witnessed by yours truly where he got lit up). Likely Doug Carr will be the choice in net after putting up good numbers in the CJHL. If Lowell can get decent goaltending and Edwards rebounds from a bad season then the River Hawks will likely work their way into one of the final playoff spots, likely at the expense of the Minutemen.

National aspirations: A non-conference schedule featuring Princeton, RIT, Niagara, and Bentley? Seriously?

Player to watch: Campbell is the goto guy on the team but keep an eye on Riley Wetmore who looked very good during his freshman year.

Newcomer(s) to watch: Carr in net and Derek Arnold up front lead a pretty good recruiting class.

10. Providence

It seems like every offseason Tim Army loses fans, players, and now he’s even losing assistant coaches as Stan Moore suddenly retired on the eve of the season. On paper the Friars don’t look half bad, returning most of their top scorers to go with star goaltender Alex Beaudry. But unfortunately Army’s players have a history of underachieving under his leadership and many expect more of the same.

National aspirations: Just try not to lose to Brown in the Mayor’s Cup.

Player to watch: Beaudry’s going to have to be magical if Providence wants to make the playoffs.

Newcomer to watch: Winger Damian Cross put up huge numbers in the Canadian juniors.

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NESN has their Hockey East preview up.

As does Minuteman Nation.

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I got a chance to speak with Dick Baker at yesterday’s media day and he mentioned his increase in writing about UMass hockey is a result of the Republican strategically stepping up their coverage of the team. This is great news for UMass hockey fans since it can sometimes be tough to find regular coverage of the team.

Dick has a few stories out of media day. The first surrounds the team’s captains which includes the scary news that T.J. Syner separated this shoulder during the summer (but is better now). Next is a short blurb about freshmen defensemen Adam Phillips and Joel Hanley. And the last is the great story of the Pereira brothers, UMass freshman Mike and BU captain Joe, with the anecdote that their family has created UMass/BU frankenjerseys for when the teams play.

Matt Vautour has his take from media day.

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North Dakota is the favorite in the WCHA this year while Miami and Michigan are picked to battle for the top spot in the CCHA. UMass oponnents Minnesota and Wisconsin are both picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the WCHA.

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Lastly, I overhauled the blog’s About section. The business person in me felt it important to put the blog’s mission statement somewhere in writing. Also, although probably a majority of readers have met me in person somewhere along the way, I found it important to step out from behind the Rocks22 moniker this season. As the blog is read more and I write more original content, sometimes positive and sometimes negative, I thought I should be held accountable to my words just as we as fans hold the players and coaches accountable for what they do on the ice.

Anyway, we’re just two days away from the maroon and white taking the ice again. Hope you’re excited as I am for the next edition of UMass hockey.

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Media Day Thoughts; Congrats Brock

Coach "Toot" Cahoon talks to the media at the 2010 Hockey East Media Day.

I had the opportunity to attend Hockey East media day today and damn am I ready for hockey season to begin.  First off I just want to say thanks to the Hockey East and UMass media relations folks for arranging for me to attend and of course thanks to Coach Cahoon and the players for taking the time to speak with me.

Most of the interview material I’ll probably save for my Hockey East preview (tomorrow) and team preview (Friday).  I’ll probably post a miscellaneous interview blog somewhere down the road for the interesting material that doesn’t get into either preview.  I will say that I enjoyed speaking with all the captains and came away thinking that this team has some pretty good leadership to it this coming season.

At the event they released the Hockey East coaches poll with the Minutemen picked 9th.  Here’s the entire poll. (Rank/Team/Pts/1st Place votes)

1.  Boston College 90 (9)
2.  Maine 80 (1)
3.  UNH 76
4.  BU 59
5.  Northeastern 54
6.  Vermont 53
7.  Merrimack 48
8.  Lowell 33
9.  UMass 26
10.  Providence 21

I kind of thought Merrimack would be the popular pick to finish higher, so I was surprised to see them 7th.  But overall it’s tough to argue with much in this poll.  Obviously the conference is BC’s to lose and there’s a pretty good gap between them and everyone else.  Keep in mind that coaches cannot vote for their own team so BC is essentially the unanimous pick to finish first while Jerry York put his 1st place vote in the direction of Maine.

For the most part media day was pretty much what you thought it would be, the Jerry York and Jack Parker show.  I’ve been to one other Hockey East function and it’s pretty much the same every time.  That’s not a knock on either them, that’s just pretty much the course for these things and probably deserved given they’ve won the last three national championships.  Parker, by the way, looked to be recovering well from his offseason heart surgery.  I wanted to get to ask him if he thought opposing crowds would go easy on him out of sympathy, because I knew he’d have a witty response, but never was able to get him alone.  Tim Whitehead was also very busy with his team being picked to finish second in the league.

It was good to see College Hockey Inc.’s Paul Kelly in attendance.  Kelly was hired by the college hockey community in the spring to be a spokesman/advocate for college hockey.  Basically it’s his job to promote college hockey as a viable path to pro hockey and try to stem the tide of top US hockey talent heading north to the Canadian major juniors.  It’ll be a tough battle but for the most part Kelley has been very visible in his effort so far.

Hockey East released their television schedule today as well.  I’m happy to say that UMass’ home opener against BU will be televised as well as 6 other games this season.  While the opening series at Minnesota was included on the schedule released, there was no note of the Wisconsin series, which seems a little surprising.  Hopefully that’s because the Badgers are still finalizing things, as most of their home games are televised and UMass fans will have the chance to watch the New Year’s series.  Hockey East did announce a new partnership with CBS College Sports for 10 games to be broadcast nationally, including the February 11th game against BU at the Mullins.

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While the 9th place pick was a little disheartening, if not unexpected, it was still a positive day for the UMass community as longtime UMass color commentator Brock Hines was the recipient of the Joe Concannon Hockey East Media Award.  Brock has been at the mic since the very beginning of the modern era of UMass hockey in 1993.  In his acceptance speech he made a point to mention that he doesn’t just work for UMass hockey, but he’s an advocate for UMass and college hockey in general and talks them up wherever he goes.  That especially stood out to me, as I try my best to do the same.  I certainly like all hockey, but there’s something about college hockey, with the rivalries, the sportsmanship, the raw yet innocent simplicity of the game, and of course the young players representing their school and its alumni and representatives that really appeals to me.  I would hope that all UMass hockey fans follow Brock’s lead and become advocates of UMass and college hockey and help expose more people the enjoyment of it.

I personally, was very happy to see Brock win this award.  From a technical standpoint, he does a very good job.  He has a smooth delivery, as a color guy he knows when to add texture to a play or situation or when to let things go, and is very knowledgable overall.  But as a fan, Brock, and his play-by-play partners over the years, has been a lifeline to me.  Sure I try to get to as many games as possible, but I still can’t get to all of them.  UMass has a good number of games on TV this year, but that hasn’t always been the case.  Diehard UMass fans for almost two decades have had to huddle around the radio (or now computer) and listen to Brock describe the Minutemen’s line changes from Orono, relay Toot’s post game comments from The Gutt, or react to game-winning goals from Rochester.  There have been countless games, from the playoffs in 2003 to meaningless games when I lived out of state where he helped me follow my team.

I had a chance to speak with Brock today and he said the award, as voted on by his peers in the industry, is worth more than anything he’s every gotten in his life.  Brock is the first person affiliated with UMass hockey media to win the award.  I had a chance to talk to him about his favorite moments in covering the coming on 18 years of UMass hockey and wanted to share them.  He had some interesting answers.  First he mentioned the game from December of 2002 when UMass came back from a 4-1 deficit against BU on a Chris Capraro breakaway winner in overtime.  This is probably my favorite UMass game as well (and not just because I can be seen in the background of Cappy’s gamewinner) but because as Brock put it, it was the “changing of the guard…and showed that UMass had arrived”.  It doesn’t seem like much now since UMass semi-regularly beats BU and has gone on to bigger and better things.  But remember UMass had only beaten BU once since the program was resurrected nine years earlier and coming off the Mallen era where the team was perennial doormats, this game was amazing.  It was the Generals outplaying and outhustling the Globetrotters.

The other game he mentioned was a random game in February of 1998.  To be honest, I had to look it up because it didn’t immediately pop into my memory.  But looking at old media guides, I very well could’ve been there.  To put it in context for those who remember the triangles, this was back in the season where Maine transfer Tim Lovell shared the captaincy with tough guy Brad Norton.  UMass would end up going an abysmal, but sadly typical, 6-24-3 this year.  But as Brock said, on this night the Minutemen had something to them.  The game was televised locally on Channel 40 he mentioned and the team came out and skated with the #3 Wildcats.  In the end UMass won a close game they had no business being in 4-3, on what Brock remembered as a huge performance by Brian Regan, who typically had to stand on his head for any of their wins in those days.  That’s definitely the memory of someone who has been around the program since the early days of the rebirth.

Congrats Brock, you’ve certainly cemented your place in the Hockey East media community but you’ve especially put your mark on the UMass hockey program.

Early Morning Links

Well, with the season just a few days away, news is finally coming at a good clip.  Here are a few things I found this morning while perusing the internets.

Dick Baker takes a look at what the team must do to improve scoring and his thoughts on this year’s schedule.  Here’s my take on the schedule from earlier this summer.

Freshman Adam Phillips being previously scouted by the Red Wings is mentioned in this news and notes story from his old junior league.

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Congratulations to Scott Crowder who was honored with the Lake’s Region Association Tourism Award for the New England Pond Hockey tournament he organized this past year.

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That’s it for now, I have a ferry to catch to get to HEA media day (One if by land, two if by sea?).  Check back later tonight for my thoughts from the event.

Recruit Comparisons

The last couple years, first on UMasshoops.com and then last year here on Fear The Triangle, I’ve done my best to compare the stats of the incoming crop of freshmen to current and past Minutemen who played in the same junior leagues.  Obviously there are a number of factors that could lead a player with similar junior numbers to have a different college career, but with how splintered the junior leagues are and how little coverage they get, I hope this at least serves as somewhat of a basis.  First up is redshirt freshman Anthony Raiola.  Though he last played in the NAHL before coming to UMass, a league the Minutemen hasn’t typically recruited from, he played Minnesota High School hockey prior to that. 

Anthony Raiola – redshirt freshman
07-08 Minnetonka (MN HS)
5G  12A  17Pts
Similar MN HS Players:
John Wessbecker 6G  16A  32Pts 


Conor Allen 
09-10 Sioux Falls (USHL)
48GP  7G  8A  15Pts +9 69PIM 

Adam Phillips 
09-10 Indiana (USHL)
47GP  1G  11A  12Pts +/-0 16PIM
Other USHL Defensemen:
Justin Braun  59GP  2G  11A  13Pts  +5  69PIM
Mike Marcou  48GP  2G  9A  11Pts -8  22PIM
Darren Rowe 52GP  7G  16A  23Pts  +16  8PIM
 


Troy Power 
09-10 Omaha (USHL)
57GP  28G  16A  44Pts
Other USHL Forwards:
Briane Keane 47GP  9G  6A  15Pts
James Marcou 58GP  24G  47A  71Pts
T.J. Syner 58GP  21G  14A  35Pts
Brett Watson  55GP 9G  14A  23Pts
Casey Wellman  59GP  22G  23A  45Pts
Cory Quirk  59GP  14G  26A  40Pts
Danny Hobbs  60GP  10G  11A  21Pts
Rocco Carzo 45 GP  20G  13A  33Pts
Eddie Olczyk 53GP  6G  15A  21Pts

Peter DeAngelo 
09-10 New Hampshire (EJHL)
45GP  15G  15A  30Pts 10PIM 


Pat Kiley 
09-10 New Hampshire (EJHL)
44GP  14G  38A  52Pts 83PIM
Other EJHL forwards:
Alex Berry ??GP  21G  31A  52Pts
Marc Concannon 20GP  2G  15A  17Pts
Scott Crowder  54GP  23G  30A  53Pts
Jordan Virtue  36GP  13G  30A  43Pts
Kevin Czepiel 43 GP  18G  58A  76Pts
 
Colin Shea 
09-10 Junior Bruins (EJHL)
44GP  6G  23A  29Pts 41PIM
Other EJHL Defensemen
Kevin Kessler  44GP  6G  15A  21Pts  81PIM
Doug Kublin  34GP  3G  17A  20Pts 81PIM
Topher Bevis  55GP  9G  20A  29Pts  44PIM
Mike Donnellan 42GP  5G  21A  26Pts 51PIM

 
Steven Guzzo
 09-10 Oakville (OPJHL)
56GP  29G  41A  70Pts 52PIM
Other OPJHL Forwards
Chase Langeraap  49GP  33G  46A  79PTS  73PIM
Shawn Saunders  49GP  10G  33A  43PTS  81PIM
Kevin Jarman 46GP  43G  36A  79PTS  51PIM
 


Mike Pereira
09-10 Avon Old Farms (NE Prep)
29GP  28G  36A  64Pts 

Conor Sheary
09-10 Cushing (NE Prep)
??GP  31G  42A  73Pts
Other Prep Forwards
Chris Davis  ??GP  17G  34A  51PTS
Will Ortiz  ??GP  38G  43A  81PTS (two seasons)
 

Eric Filiou
09-10 Penticton (BCHL)
45GP  12G  15A  27Pts
No similar UMass players from the BCHL for comparison.  Matt Irwin previous played in the league. 

Branden Gracel
09-10 Ft McMurray (AJHL)
58GP  38G  56A  94Pts
No similar UMass players from the AJHL for comparison.  Paul Dainton played for Ft. McMurray. 

Joel Hanley
09-10 Newmarket (CCHL)
23GP  5G  15A  20Pts
No similar UMass players for comparison.  The CCHL is an offshoot of the OPJHL, with the UMass forwards from the league listed above.  Hanley missed part of the season with a broken leg. 

Jeff Teglia
09-10 Omaha (USHL)
30-10-5 2.27GAA .921sv%
The only goaltender that played in the USHL in recent memory was Mike Waidlich. 

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Dick Baker’s latest blog post covers Rocco Carzo’s most recent NHL training camp experience

The Warrior Rink Rat covers the results of the first even Hockey East media poll with Boston College at #1 and UMass picked 9th. 

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Hockey’s Future has some good things to say about Alex Berry potential with his new team, the Norfolk Admirals. 

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Wednesday is Hockey East Media Day in Boston.  Make sure to follow the Fear The Triangle twitter page for live updates from the proceedings.

Media Day On Wednesday; NHL Cut Day; TV; Polls

Well the original idea was to roll out my Hockey East preview today or tomorrow and then post my UMass team preview at the end of the week.  Some good news has necessitated a change of plans.  I’m happy to say that I’ll be attending the Hockey East media day on Wednesday, so I’m going to wait to write up my conference preview until after that time.  I’m looking forward to media day, though I’ll admit I’m a little worried I’ll be out of my element.  I have a good idea of some of the things I want to ask Coach Cahoon and the UMass players in relation to the upcoming season, but seeing as though Fear The Triangle is a fan blog for the UMass hockey fans, I thought I’d open up the process a little.  If any readers have (serious) questions they’d like asked of the coach or captains, please post them as comments to this entry and I’ll do my best to work them in.

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Today was essentially cut day across much of the NHL and it appears that Casey Wellman has landed a spot with the Wild, helped out a bit by some offseason/training camp injuries.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for James Marcou, Justin Braun, or Cory Quirk who were all assigned to Worcester.  Matt Irwin was sent down to Worcester last week.  It’ll be interesting to watch as these guys try to gain spots with the big club, especially Marcou and Irwin who left school early to try to live their NHL dreams.

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Dick Baker had a good feature post on Brian Keane and how he admits that guys like him will have to step up if the team will have any kind of success this season.

It appears that UMass’ home opener against BU will be televised live on NESN as will Quinnipiac’s visit in November.  UMass’ lone visit to Lowell’s Tsongas Arena will also be found on NESN.  All home games can also be found on CBS3 Now for Comcast subscribers in Western Mass this season.  Though nothing has been released yet I expect the games in Minnesota and Wisconsin will likely end up on TV as well and are usually found on one of the Fox College Sports stations.

Of course why watch on TV when you can see the team in person.  Single game tickets and mini-packs go on sale tomorrow.

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The first poll is out with defending champion Boston College picked atop the USA Hockey/USA Today Poll.  Other Hockey East teams in the ranking include Maine (#8), UNH, (#9), and BU (#14), while UVM, Northeastern, and Merrimack all received votes.  UMass out of conference opponents Wisconsin (#13) and Minnesota (#15) also made the list.  I have no problems with the BC pick since they return almost everyone of consequence from last year, but the Maine pick seems like a reach considering the gaping question mark in net (Sirman is reportedly the favorite).  All in all there appears to be a big drop-off after the Eagles in the conference.

A few more links

T.J. Syner was featured on Inside College Hockey’s A-Z feature. I for one am also looking with interest to what Syner is capable of this season. He really is the goto guy for scoring and I think he still has room to elevate his game.

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Dick Baker has a brief recap of the team’s first scrimmage.

The Salem News has a mention of Shawn Saunders in their list of North Shore college players gearing up for the season.

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The Salem News also has a mention of Alex Berry, recently traded from Toronto to the Tampa Bay organization, in their listing of local players in the pros.

Lastly I’m sorry to report that Greg Mauldin has been reassigned by the Avalanche to Lake Erie of the AHL. I know I’ve been beating the “stay in school” drum all summer, but time for a final drum solo (for now). First off, Mauldin left for the pros under very unique circumstances, mostly surrounding the fact that the collective bargaining agreement was expiring and also that he felt the need to provide for his mother in the absence of his father who had passed away earlier in his life. Still, the way his pro career has played out is probably not what he had expected. After playing a handful of games for the Blue Jackets after his last UMass season in 2004, he has played in just one other NHL game (this past season for the Isles), despite some very strong seasons in the minor league. This is unfortunately the fate of a lot of very talented, but undersized, players Did James Marcou choose this fate instead of a senior year at UMass? Time will tell. I hope not.

Links Galore

First off, some freshman news.

Dick Baker of the Republican continues to amp up his hockey coverage and has this story on teammates turned roommates Troy Power and Jeff Teglia.  Both of whom will play pivotal roles this coming season, Power as a needed presence as a strong forward with a scoring touch and Teglia as Dainton’s backup and goalie of the future.

Baker also has a short blog post on playmaker Conor Sheary.

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Next up is alumni.

Kevin Kessler has signed with the Huntsville Havoc of the Southern Professional league.

Meanwhile Matt Irwin was one of the first cuts at San Jose Sharks training camp and has been assigned to Worcester.  James Marcou, Justin Braun, and Cory Quirk are still up with the big team.

The Star Tribune out of Minnesota has this article on Casey Wellman, touching on the awkward circumstances surrounding one of Coach Cahoon’s former players signing one of his best players halfway through his college career.

Greg Mauldin is impressing at Avalanche camp.  Will he finally get his chance?

And finally John Wessbecker has signed with the Rapid City Rush of the CHL.

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On to the recruits.

John Parker and the Muskegon Lumberjacks had a chance to play one of their preseason games at Joe Louis Arena last week.  Here are some highlights that the Lumberjack team has turned into a promo:

Parker has started off pretty well and had a couple goals this past weekend.

Kevin Boyle unfortunately is off to a rough start with Westside of the BCHL.

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Media days have begun in the land of college hockey which means it’s time to look at some preseason polls.

First up is Atlantic Hockey where Frozen Four participant RIT is picked to finish first while UMass opponent Army is picked 9th in the newly expanded 12 team league.

Staying east, UMass opponent Yale is the favorite in both the ECAC media and coach’s polls, while Quinnipiac, which rolls into the Mullins on Thanksgiving weekend, is picked 8th.

Hockey East’s media day is next Wednesday. 

Look for my comprehensive Hockey East preview early next week with my UMass preview likely coming a week from Friday.

Back From A2; Keeping An Eye On Mike Weaver; Catching Up On News

Well, there are no moral wins, but how about pride-filled losses?  I know I certainly left Michigan Stadium proud to be a UMass fan following such a valiant effort against college football’s all time winningest program.  Hats off to the players and coaches for being prepared, playing hard, and not giving up against Shoelace, the Wolverines, and 110,000 of their closest friends.  I don’t want to go too far off topic since this is a hockey blog and there is so much involved with this particular subject, but it is completely and utterly ridiculous that UMass does not play FBS football.

Also with a courageous and powerful performance on Saturday was the UMass Marching Band, playing without their leader George N Parks.  It may just be one of their best performances especially considering the circumstances.  As I said to one of my friends afterwards, “We were all bandos today.”  One of the Michigan Stadium event staff came up to me afterwards and said, “We may have the better football team today, but you guys have the better band”.  Considering the caliber of the Michigan band, I don’t think there’s a much better compliment than that.  All in all the hospitality in Ann Arbor was amazing.  From the people on the streets to the season ticket holders in the row in front of us they were all extremely friendly and welcoming.  Or pretty much exactly the opposite of how I remember the town when I lived there 10 years ago.  Go figure.

I’m very happy to report that I was able to right a past wrong and get into Yost Ice Arena during a public skate session on Friday.  All I can say is, wow!  I can only imagine what the place is like filled with close to 7,000 fans in there (it actually feels smaller) and “Victors” bouncing off the old field house’s slanted roof.

And finally, since I continue to meld this hockey blog with my love of a pre-game beer or two, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great brews I had while in the land of the maize and blue.  I had not fully explored the beer snob aspects of my personality when I lived in A2 so really this was my first introduction to the town’s hoppy underside.  First to be visited was Arbor Brewing Company where my wife and I lined up ourselves with a pull of each of their 10 offerings.  Overall very good beers, with a an organic, natural theme (ditto for their food menu).  I liked their Best Bitter and Milestone Cask Porter but they may just have the best alt ever (and I love my alts).  Next was the star of the brew pubs, Jolly Pumpkin.  In addition to a great atmosphere and an extremely engaging and knowledgable staff, their beer was amazing.  I would say it was very high-end, almost experimental stuff, kind of like Pretty Things made here locally in Mass.  The Bam Biere and La Parcela were my favorites but I bet they could’ve even made their dishwater worth tasting.  Following that I met friends at the Blue Tractor Brewpub.  While they had a couple decent brews what was memorable about the place was their frost bar to keep your beer cold.  The last brewpub visited was Grizzly Peak, with the Bear Paw Porter as the standout there.  Of course, when I was anywhere else during the weekend I was pretty much drinking Bell’s Brewing the whole time, a brewery I completely took advantage of when I regularly visited Kalamazoo and now pine for continuously since they don’t distribute to the northeast.  Easily one of my top 10 brewers in the country.  Perhaps top 5.  I’m not going to name my favorites because quite frankly, they’re all good.

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Now that I’ve returned (and sobered) it’s time to catch up on some UMass hockey news.

The top story in my absence was Paul Dainton being named team captain.  When I thought about prospective captains since last season Dainton never came to mind because, well, he’s a goalie.  But this makes complete sense.  As the most important cog returning from last year’s team and someone who has played with poise since becoming the starting goaltender his freshman year there is probably no one better to lead this team.  He becomes the first goaltender captain for UMass since Brian Regan and just may need some Regan-likes stand on your head performances given the youth of this year’s squad.  Assisting Dainton will be T.J. Syner, Danny Hobbs, and Mike Marcou while Kevin Moore will also have some leadership responsibilities.  The pick of Hobbs is interesting.  Hopefully the added title of assistant captain will help spur him on to consistently perform like the type of player he was pegged as coming into UMass and has shown flashes of in the past.  The assistants will be important as Dainton cannot actually serve as on-ice captain due to rules (thanks to my friend Wardy for reminding me of this over the weekend), but will be the goto guy in the locker room.

The Republican’s Dick Baker has been doing some short blogs about the hockey team, including this one on Kevin Moore’s “XO” role rewarded due to his high work ethic.

Baker also has a good post about Toot Cahoon’s contract extension, echoing a lot of the thoughts (down to the headline) I wrote about a couple weeks ago.

He has another one confirming what I reported earlier in the summer that the compressor at the Bill has been upgraded and should lead to better ice this season.

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USHR is reporting that UMass is looking at Junior Bruin Mike Weaver, a 6’1″ 185lb wing.  Weaver is playing in the Empire League this year and currently has 2 goals in 5 games.  Weaver would likely be a 2013 recruit and is also being looked at by UNH and Northeastern.

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UMass alum Andrew Merritt had an interesting look at the subject of early departures for the New England Hockey Journal, featuring a lot of insight from Coach Cahoon.

And finally, Penn State made it official and will be playing DI hockey two years from now.

The UMass Community Loses An Icon

I wasn’t planning on posting while in Ann Arbor due to feasibility reasons, but there are times when you find a way.

It was shocking to awake this morning to the news that UMass Marching Band Director George N. Parks passed away while en route to one of his band’s biggest performances. And when I say his band I mean HIS band. He was the embodiment of the band program and all it represented to the UMass community. And on top of that he was a mentor, an inspiration, and a friend to countless students who came through UMass’ classrooms.

People who read FTT and know me personally are aware that George and I disagreed on the need and feasibility of a hockey band. But I will always remember the graciousness and understanding he displayed during the couple times I spoke to him about it. However, the different point of view on the subject did not diminish the tremendous respect I had for him and for what he accomplished with the band, making it a huge point of pride for the university.

UMass has lost one of it’s greatest representatives and the band’s presence tomorrow at one of college football’s cathedrals is a tribute to him and all that he accomplished.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
Massachusetts, yours and mine.

Another UMass Preview; Ann Aabah Bound!

Another preview from a respected Hockey East blogger came out today.  Scott McLaughlin of the Boston Hockey Blog has his UMass preview where he picks the team to finish 10th (yes last) in Hockey East, citing of course the huge loss of scoring versus last year and the lack of experience on defense. 

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Don’t expect many, if any, updates on FTT in the next few days as I’ll be Ann Arbor bound in the morning to watch UMass take on the Michigan Wolverines in the Big House this weekend.  Unfortunately this football trip pretty much kills any chance I’ll be able to make the Minnesota or Wisconsin trips for hockey this year, but the chance to see the Minutemen in Michigan Stadium is something I’ve dreamt of since I lived in Ann Arbor and worked for the UofM a decade ago.  I do plan to make up for a regret I’ve lived with ever since and promise to find a way to into Yost Ice Arena even if I have to pack a crowbar in my carry-on.  I hope that all UMass fans can find a way to watch the game, either in person, at one of the many alumni gamewatches across the country, or otherwise, as this chance to play one of college football’s legendary programs in the biggest stadium in the land is a one of the kind type of experience.  Personally, as a Colorado and UMass fan I’m picking the Minutemen to win 27-26 with Kyle Havens playing the part of Kordell Stewart and Julian Talley to be Michael Westbrook in the end zone.  Do you believe in miracles?  You bet your ass I do.

Needless to say, keep an eye on the Fear The Triangle twitter account for glimpses of my football pilgrimage (and of course partaking in some of Michigan’s finer beers).

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