View From Section U: How Long Patient?

“Patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”
– Proverb

“Patience: A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue.”
-Ambrose Bierce

Everyone knew that a challenging campaign lay ahead of the Minutemen coming into the season, considering the stars lost and the large freshman class burdened with carrying so much of the load from the get-go.  However, a quarter into the 2010-11 season I don’t think many thought that UMass would be the lone team in all of college hockey to find itself without a win.  In the long run I’m not sure how significant that is.  I’ve said all along it’s not how this team starts but how they finish.  Yet, just how long should we, as fans, wait patiently?

I don’t want to rehash it too much, but obviously this team had serious challenges from the very start of the season.  Of course they had to deal with the usual attrition from graduation, bringing in freshmen to replace key guys like Justin Braun.  Then they lost their two top offensive players early in James Marcou and Casey Wellman and had to scramble to try to bring guys in perhaps earlier than planned.  The two first points led to a much larger than normal freshman class and Coach Cahoon now finds himself putting teams on the ice made up of half first year players.  But UMass is not unique in this aspect.  Across the state in Lowell, Blaise MacDonald is faced with the same thing.  In fact for some reason he’s doing this every four years, choosing not to break up his available scholarships more equally among the classes.  Yet the River Hawks and their inexperienced players have two wins on the season, including one over Providence which UMass was unable to beat.

At the time the inability to Providence was extremely frustrating.  Any maybe it still should be to an extent.  But this year’s Friar squad doesn’t seem to be the pushovers that they used to be.  In fact they find themselves with a winning record and in a tie for 3rd in Hockey East.  And UMass played them closely, like they have just about everyone.  UMass’ schedule has not been easy to start the season, with two games against BU who has spent time at #1, two at current #7 UNH, and two out in Minnesota.  And with the exception of last Friday in Durham, UMass has been in each and every one of those games.  Something I’m not sure we would’ve expected going into the season and looking over the schedule.  No, allowing for an improved Providence squad, I think most can say that the only game where the team vastly underperformed was the spanking given to them by Army.  That’s the game where no excuse of youth or anything else is allowable given how thoroughly they were outworked and dominated for the entire time on the ice.

So, fine.  If this team beats Army as they should have and perhaps beat Providence rather than tying them then they’re 2-5-2.  Given who they had to faced I think faced that record we’d all be doing our best Denny Green impression.  They were who we thought they were.  But, that has happened.  Unfortunately we’ve had a team that has found a way to lose games due to stretches of time where they have very poor execution.  But how long can that continue before we should take notice.  How many more losses until we can no longer shrug it off and tell each other “they’re young”.  How long can we admire the obvious talent of this freshman class without worrying that they keep making the same mistakes again and again.  My answer, not long.

UMass has three games coming up, at home, against teams they have a legitimate chance to beat.  Not only that, but the schedule allows for ample time to prepare and heal for each one of them.  Counting the leadup to Tuesday’s game they’ll have 21 days to face three beatable teams in the friendly confines of home.  First up is Vermont, a team which only got its first win of the season last weekend.  Quinnipiac, which has won 5 games so far but does not resemble some of the better teams of the past few years, follows.  And they finish with Lowell, which I’ve already mentioned as going through the same youth movement as UMass.  If UMass cannot find a way, cannot will themselves to at least one win in these next three games then it’s time to hit the panic button and buckle yourself in.  Because the rest of the season could resemble the new trainwreck disaster film in theatres, with no Denzel to save us all.


USCHO takes a look at all the Hockey East teams status so far.

Dick Baker has a season reset of his own.

The Collegian takes a look at the goaltending play thus far into the season.

Elsewhere in Hockey East Merrimack has given coach Mark Dennehy a contract extension through 2015-16.

Hockey’s Future takes a look at the Sharks organization and the many Minutemen who inhabit it.