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Vermont Recap; Braun Called Up

In the aftermath of UMass’ first win the players acted like this was any other game, the coach could be described as only mildly pleased with the effort, and the team as a whole went off their separate ways with plans to return to the ice Thanksgiving Day to prepare for Quinnipiac.  But while the team may have been subdued following their first win of the season, the fans, the small crowd in the Mullins and those following the game elsewhere, were anything but, judging from the countless “UMass wins!” messages I saw on Facebook following the game.  While it’s good the players immediately set their sights on win number two, this first one is a good win for the fans to celebrate.

A happy ending did not look likely following a first period where UMass got outshot 13-5 and were only kept in the game thanks to some stellar goaltending from Paul Dainton and some key penalty killing.  Let me repeat that, key penalty killing.  UMass came into the game with one of the worst kills in the country yet last night turned back five UVM penalty kills and the 12 resulting shots.  And they looked good doing it.  I thought the game was a good step forward for the Minutemen defensively as a whole.  They seemed to be doing a lot of the extra things that lead to good defensive play.  Blocking shots (UMass had 17 of them), making that extra effort to poke the puck out of the defensive zone, and tough play along the boards.  If I gave a defensive skater of the game award it would likely have gone to Marc Concannon, who continues to just outwork his opponents and continue to be a presence on the ice.

Offensively the team looked awful in the first.  They struggled to get outlet passes out of their own zone, would get tripped up when crossing the opponents blue line and turn it over, and seemed unable to control the puck in the offensive zone more than a few seconds.  That all seemed to change in the second when they ramped up their forecheck and suddenly the Catamounts found themselves on their heels.  Eventually UMass was able to create more offense without the forecheck but there is no doubt that it swung the momentum early in the second.  No one did more on the forecheck last night than T.J. Syner.  The first goal, on the power play, resulted when UVM goaltender Rob Madore came out to play the puck and swing it around behind the net only to have Syner there waiting to pick it off and put it in front to Mike Pereira.  Again in the second T.J. Syner on the forecheck picked off the puck at the opposing blueline, centered a pass to Branden Gracel who roofed it to put UMass up 3-0.

While the lone power play goal came from Madore being caught with his pants down there was some improvement to the extra man play as the game went along.  The power play opportunity in the first was much like what we’ve seen all season, no shots and unable to maintain possession.  Most of the power plays from there on were decent and resulted in some quality scoring chances.

Mike Pereira continues to impress, scoring two goals and now finding himself near the top in the league in the category.  His second goal came off a great play from Chase Langeraap who skated into the zone, made a nifty move around a Catamount player, and passed the puck to Pereira all in one motion, who put it home and put the game away.  At the beginning of the season I was unsure whether Langeraap would even see much playing time this season and in fact he was a healthy scratch for a few games.  But he is certainly earning his ice time with his play as of late and looked to be one of the best players out there last night.

Not only was the win last night a big confidence builder, but it had material impact on where UMass stands.  With the two points the Minutemen leap-frogged UVM and Lowell in the standings, with team having three games in hand to the latter.  Coach Cahoon however made sure to let everyone know that he was not entirely happy with the effort after the game, saying the team still has a lot of work to do.  He specifically mentioned undisciplined play and disparity of effort from period to period as the areas to work on.  He won’t have long to address these and other issues as the team practices at 6pm on Thanksgiving Day.  Until then though us fans can be thankful for the effort taken to put the Minutemen in the win column.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Paul Dainton

Mike Pereira is certainly deserving of recognition for his multiple goal game last night and was named the game’s number one star.  But Paul Dainton at times stood on his head last night and without him UMass goes down 2-0 or more in the first period when they were unable to gain possession of the puck.  If not for an unfortunate turnover that led to a shorthanded breakaway goal, Dainton was perfect last night.  He went out of his way to credit his defense after the game and they do deserve praise with 17 blocked shots.  But 45 still got through to Dainton and he stopped them all but one.  He did all this and remained poised despite repeated times where he was getting knocked down by UVM players.  This game was one of his best while wearing the maroon and white.

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Matty V has his recap where he goes into Cahoon’s postgame comments in more detail.  Matt was also determined last night to come up with a name for this traditional pre-Thanksgiving matchup complete with an elaborate, yet slightly odd, half hockey stick half turkey leg trophy.  I think by the end of the night he was leaning towards Turkey Tuesday Tilt after it was endorsed by Toot.  I hope to see some schematics of the proposed trophy on his blog soon.

Dick Baker makes good use of the phrase “cold turkey” in his recap.

Here are how things looked for the writers up north.

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UMass will continue to have three players in the NHL as Justin Braun has been called up by the Sharks and will likely make his debut tonight but Casey Wellman was sent down to Houston by the Wild.  Jon Quick and Greg Mauldin are the other Minutemen on NHL rosters currently.

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