Northeastern Recap

This UMass team can play so amazing at times and then with one bad period, one bad stretch, or even in the flash of 38 seconds, tear down everything they’ve accomplished and find a new way to lose.  Last night after flying around the ice for the beginning of the game where they had the first 8 shots on net, not to mention the first 2 goals, they seemed to lull themselves to sleep and end up giving up 5 goals to one of the worst offenses in Hockey East.  The three goals given up in a span of 38 seconds is not only a new UMass record, it’s pretty much a weekend’s worth for these Northeastern Huskies.

Playing undisciplined hockey is bad no matter who you are.  But it boggles my mind that the team with the second worst penalty kill IN THE COUNTRY continues to take completely unnecessary penalties game after game.  The team is 11th in the country in penalty minutes.  36% of the goals that UMass has given up this season have been with the other team on the power play.  All this you’d think would lead the team to try to stay out of the box.  Nope, the team continues to take penalties had a pretty good clip, and bad ones at that.  Three of Northeastern’s goals game on the power play last night, including one five on three.

It’d be one thing if all these penalties were the result of aggressive, physical play.  But they’re not.  They’re usually the result of lazy play or retaliatory crap.  In fact, it’s easy to know they’re not the result of physical play because this team flat out doesn’t play very physical.  In fact they’ve gotten absolutely manhandled the last three games.  Coach Cahoon after the game called them an “undisciplined women’s team”.  No sexist slight was intended, what he was inferring is that this team is better suited to play in a no-check league, which is exactly what women’s college hockey is.

The talk of Navy Seals was gone from Toot’s postgame remarks and replaced with his suggestion that maybe the “country club atmosphere” is to blame for this team’s softness.  I can sympathize with his frustration with the team’s lack of physical play and mental toughness.  But at the same time he also shares some of the responsibility for this.  I like his recruiting strategy in the past few years where he’s targeted quick, skill guys who may have been overlooked by some of better schools due to the fact that they’re undersized.  The T.J. Syners of the world.  But you cannot construct a team built on these types of players alone.  Gone are the Scott Crowders, gone are the Alex Berrys.  There needs to be some kind of balance between skill and size and that’s something that UMass is missing.  Guys like Marc Concannon try to make up the difference but it’s not having the same result.  The fact that Concannon is also one of the worst at taking bad penalties doesn’t help either.

Regarding the lack of mental toughness, this is also something that Toot can affect.  Last spring we heard a lot about how his approach was going to change at the beginning of this season.  I think there were some things that were put in place to make the team tougher, but it may not have been enough or may not have been followed all the way through.  Toot is a very nice person.  Perhaps too nice.  The fact that we’re half way through the season and already talking about the team’s mental tenacity is not a good sign.

Yet, the players are also not kids.  They’re smart enough to see what’s in front of them.  This month presents an enormous opportunity for the Minutemen in the form of the schedule laid out ahead of them.  Last night, they blew a huge advantage they had.  Northeastern is a team they have to beat if they want to be successful.  But they’re not an easy team to score against.  So taking an early 3-1 lead was huge.  By keeping up a strong effort the win was theirs since scoring more than 2 or 3 goals is unheard of for Northeastern.  UMass gave up 5.  Two points thrown away because the team didn’t want it enough.  Now #4 UNH rolls into town and there’s a good chance UMass will start off this key month with a pointless opening weekend.  I’m not sure exactly what goals the team has set for themselves this season and what they’d like to accomplish at its end.  But continued games with so-so effort like we saw last night will likely keep them from doing much of anything. 

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Conor Sheary
Sheary had a goal and a team best +2 rating.  But more importantly I thought he was one of the few players with consistent effort on both sides of the puck for the entire game.


Matt Vautour has a recap of the game as well as a transcript of Toot’s postgame press conference

“Gone in 38 Seconds” is the title of Dick Baker’s recap.

UNH beat Lowell 5-2 and were Amherst bound right after the game.