Vermont Recap

While I’m a little frustrated that UMass outscored Vermont 7-2 over the weekend and only picked up two points, you have to admire the way the team came back from a disappointing Friday night to dominate the Catamounts on Saturday.  In the end the weekend can be considered a success as UMass went up to frigid Burlington and came out of The Gutt with two points, the all important tiebreaker over UVM, and kept their spot in the Hockey East standings.

The inability to play physical or finish in close to the net is what sunk the Minutemen’s chances on Friday as they lost 2-1.  The team was able to generate enough shots, outshooting the Cats 29-28, but had very few real scoring chances.  The Catamounts were successfully able to push UMass off the puck and keep them from getting close to any potential rebound chances.  This game reminded me a lot of the Northeastern loss a couple weeks ago where physical play was the difference then as well.  The team didn’t really play badly, but they didn’t do the little things they needed to get a win.  They let in a power play goal to the worst extra man unit in the league and performed very poorly on their own power play, generating just 5 shots on 4 opportunities.  I thought UMass really missed the injured Adam Phillips on the power play this weekend.  Speaking of injuries, the biggest negative of Friday besides the final score was probably the loss of Mike Lecomte to injury.  He’s been a a big sparkplug  since he returned to the lineup at Wisconsin and he was limping pretty badly when he came off.  Hopefully he can bounce back soon.

One of the positives on Friday was the overall defense which played well in front of Paul Dainton.  With Phillips and Mike Marcou still out, Darren Rowe and Anthony Raiola played well in their place both nights.  Rowe’s effort defensively has continued to improve as the season has gone on.  Conor Allen has looked better as he gets more games under his belt as well.  The other big bright spot on Friday was Conor Sheary, who may have had his best game as a Minuteman.  He had the lone goal and came very close at least two other times to gaining another.  Nice to see him look to the net more and more as he gets more comfortable.

The strong defensive play continued into Saturday’s game but unlike the night before UMass was able to leverage their speed and puck skills and overcome UVM’s defense.  The night was filled with some great passing, crashing the net for rebounds, and most of the UMass fans yelling “Get back in net, Paul!”  The skating and motion on offense was the key for the Minutemen.  A few of the goals were created with great passing, specifically Doug Kublin’s pass diagonally through the slot that set up T.J. Syner’s second goal and a truly unselfish pass from Eric Filiou point blank in front of UVM goaltender Rob Madore to set up Mike Pereira.  Hobbs’ goal to get things going was the result of putting home an easy Syner rebound and “Holyoke” Czepiel got his first goal of the season as a result of getting in front of the net and burying a Chase Langeraap rebound.  If UMass wants to be successful against Northeastern next weekend, I think Saturday’s game showed them how to do it.  Just as the Huskies physical play was too much for the Minutemen to handle a couple weeks ago, so was Vermont’s on Friday.  By adjusting their style of play to stress their skill sets and doing what they could along the boards, they not only won this critical game, but they embarrassed the Catamounts at home.

Paul Dainton did a great job in net to get just the second shutout of his career, the last being a scoreless tie at Cornell as a freshman.  He wasn’t tested too much, facing only 26 shots, but he had to throw the pads around to make a few of them and worked hard to keep the Cats off the board.  His work in the crease was stellar and most UMass fans were hoping he’d stay there since he was doing such great work.  But he didn’t.  Now Dainton has always had a nose to play the puck in the corners, but last night he was wandering much more than normal.  By my count he got knocked down twice inadvertently while behind the net and one of those resulted in a shot that went through the crease and out by UVM.  That would’ve been a tough way to lose a shutout.  Whatever works for him though.  He’s great at playing the puck and it’s tough to argue with a shutout.

UMass has now won 3 of the last 4, all against teams below them in the standings, and maintained their four point lead, plus the tiebreaker, over UVM who sits in 9th and out of the playoff race.  Northeastern picked up a key point at home against Maine to put themselves three points ahead of the Minutemen.  If UMass wants to continue their climb up the standings they’ll have an excellent chance this coming weekend.  Hopefully what they learned last night in Burlington will give them the tools to make the most of the home and home with Northeastern.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game (Friday) – Conor Sheary
A bounce here, a bounce there and Sheary almost single-handedly beat the Catamounts on Friday.  With an assist last night as well Sheary now has points in five of his last six games.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game (Saturday) – Doug Kublin
It’s really tough to pick just one guy who stood out from last night’s game.  You had Danny Hobbs with a multipoint night.  Syner had two goals.  And of course Paul Dainton gained only his second ever shutout.  But I’m giving it to someone who doesn’t really get a chance to be honored very much.  Top notch defensive defensemen never get the recognition they deserve and Kublin has been just that ever since he set foot on campus.  I was actually considering naming him my POTG for his work on Friday, but when he had a career game on Saturday that made the decision for me.  Kublin was on the ice for all five of UMass’ even strength goals, had two assists including that great setup for Syner’s goal, plus he did everything he needed to do on the defensive end, as always.

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Just a quick Beer The Triangle recap.  Every time I visit Vermont I’m reminded that this sparsely populated state is a mecca of beer and I would rank them up there with California, Oregon, and Massachusetts when it comes to quality beer production.  I was lucky enough to enjoy all the beers and beer places I wanted, plus some.  I had an interesting flemish sour at Vermont Pub and Brewery.  I was able to find pints of both Switchback’s Ale and Porter.  I finally got to spend some quality time at American Flatbread enjoying the pizza and their Zero Gravity Brewing.  They had a wonderful selection of beers there, most of them german styles.  Their marzen was the best I ever tried of that style.  Of course I made a pilgrimage to the Alchemist and was even able to make the Fight Mass guys fans of the place.  Their Crusher (double IPA) and Double Twubble (belgian winter warmer) were spectacular as expected.  But the star of the show was Pappy Secret Stash, a vanilla milk porter.  It tasted great and was unlike anything I’ve had before.

While those places were all familiar, I did check out the Farmhouse Tap and Grill which just opened up last summer.  This beer bar is very pricey, but had a great selection of beer.  I’ll also always remember now as the place where I first had Hill Farmstead beer.  Hill Farmstead, also recommended by a readers, is a relatively new Vermont brewery and I found them to be much in the style of Jolly Pumpkin, which I raved about when visiting Michigan last fall.  If I tried to describe how good their Edward was, I would fail.  Just try it.  You’ll love it.

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Dick Baker has recap of Friday’s game as well as Saturday’s big win.

Here are how things looked from the Burlington Free Press’ point of view for Friday’s win and the drubbing they took last night.

Also be sure to check out the recaps at The Gut, a Vermont blog that started up this season.  I had the chance to meet the authors last night and as I told them at the time it’s great to see UVM with some presence in the world of college hockey blogs.  Vermont has excellent tradition, diehard fans, and of course a great hockey barn so I’m happy to see these guys dedicating themselves to helping others follow their program.  And they’re doing a good job doing it.

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NESN is alreadying starting to hype this Friday’s televised game against Northeastern.