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Recruit Update

The weekly recruit update is a day later than usual because I chose to go to the tremendously disappointing UMass lacrosse game at Harvard last night.  For those who missed it, UMass was up 8-4 in the 3rd quarter only to have the Crimson score 7 of the last 8 goals to take the win.  It was sad to see a UMass lacrosse team fold that way and be missing the usual fire we’ve come to expect from Greg Cannella coached teams.  One positive on the night was my first trip to Cambridge Common where I enjoyed a Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabbits (probably my favorite Pretty Things beer) and tried Long Trail’s Triple Bag for the first time.

Anyway, on to the future Minutemen.

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
39 GP / 20-16-1 / 3.02 GAA / .902 sv%
Boyle’s team was eliminated in the second round of the BCHL playoffs after he got injured.  He did pretty well in the playoffs going 6-6-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack (AtlJHL)
41 GP / 8 G / 19 A / 27 Pts / 97 PIM
Busillo’s season is over as his Wolfpack were eliminated by Walpole in the first round of the AtlJHL playoffs. He had a goal in three playoff games.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
43 GP / 11 G / 42 A / 53 Pts / 66 PIM
Gillespie’s team didn’t play this past week.  This coming weekend Shattuck will be playing in the Tier I National Tournament in Simsbury, CT.  I’m going to do my best to juggle my weekend schedule enough to try to see him play.

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
LaRue’s season has come to a close as his Waxers lost in the first round of the playoffs. He had a goal and four assists in five playoff games, including a game winner and a shorthanded goal.

Joseph Manno – South Kent Cardinal (NE Prep)
24 GP / 16 G / 27 A / 43 Pts
South Kent was upset in the prep playoffs despite being the top seed.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union Wildcats (NE Prep)
35 GP / 24-7-4 / 1.63 GAA / .923 sv%
Mastalerz’s season is over after KUA lost in the first playoff game 4-3 in overtime.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
45 GP / 8 G / 7 A / 15 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh went scoreless in his three games this week.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko had 16 PIM in his last game.  He’s still 2nd in the league in that category.

UMass isn’t mentioned but a blog I just discovered, Slightly Chilled, has an early look at the best recruiting classes in college hockey for next year.

Ryan Durling of Sieves The Day wrote a good analysis of how much scoring each Hockey East team is bringing back next year which, on paper, bodes well for UMass.

I did similar number crunching myself, but only looking at scoring in conference games, so as to have an equal sample size to compare teams.  Of the players coming back next year (as of now), UMass has the 4th, 7th, and 10th leading scorers from this past year with T.J. Syner, Danny Hobbs, and Mike Pereira respectively.

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Miscellaneous Monday

It has been a few days since my last post. I’ve been on a bit of a FTT sabbatical which ironically enough consisted of watching a lot of hockey and drinking some good beer. Time to catch up on what’s going on with UMass hockey and the rest of Hockey East.

Paul Dainton picked up his first professional win on Saturday night against the Worcester Sharks, stopping a 12 game winless streak for the Falcons.  Dainton had 39 saves and even picked up an assist in the effort.  He was able to keep former teammates Cory Quirk and Matt Irwin off the board and got the win over former Lowell goaltender Carter Hutton who got lit up for 4 goals in 11 shots before being yanked.

Chase Langeraap is writing a blog covering the beginning of his professional hockey career for the UMass Athletics site.

Alex Berry was named the Norfolk Admiral’s representative of the AHL Man of the Year.  Berry is being recognized for his participation in a variety of causes in the Norfolk area.  Truly he’s doing an excellent job carrying on the legacy of dedicated community involvement that we’ve seen develop in Amherst in recent seasons with the UMass program.  Berry is now up for the league-wide award for the AHL.  Congratulations to Alex, a great representative of the University of Massachusetts.

I likely would’ve been at Dainton’s first win in Worcester if I didn’t end up deciding to head up to Manchester for the Northeast Regional at the last minute.  I attended the games with my father, a Merrimack grad, who quite frankly has learned everything he knows about Warrior hockey from yours truly.  Still it was fun to bring him up there to watch his alma mater make their first NCAA appearance since 1988.  First off, we started the afternoon at the Strange Brew Tavern, which I recommend for those looking for a good place for a beer in Manchester.  They have an excellent selection of northern New England brews and I enjoyed some Smuttynose, Woodstock, and Trout River during my visit.  Saturday was my first visit to Verizon Wireless Arena, which I thought was a pretty nice minor league venue aside from what seemed like some narrow concourses.

I was certainly surprised by what occurred in the first game between UNH and Miami.  The Wildcats had a very solid year, but the way in which they shutdown a very talented Miami team was extremely impressive.  I had looked forward to seeing Hobey Baker finalists Carter Camper and Andy Miele for the Redhawks but they did not live up to their reputations that day.  Both showed good moves and hands but like the rest of their team were unable to put quality chances on net all night and UNH came away with the upset.

The stories of the second game was a great Merrimack crowd and how their team was killed by bad goals.  The Merrimack crowd was impressive, many sporting jerseys or specially made t-shirts.  They were spurred on all night by the University of Dayton hoop band which Merrimack had rented for the last three weekends.  They were energetic and entertaining but I found it sad that now even Atlantic 10 basketball foes can claim they have a better hockey band than UMass.  Anyway, onto the game, the Warriors played great.  Unfortunately Joe Cannata let in some soft goals as well as a couple flukes.  The softie from way out to cut Merrimack’s lead 3-2 was really the killer.  The game-winner in overtime was simply a great effort by Notre Dame.  I have no idea what Anders Lee thought would happen when he laid out and poked the puck towards the net, but it’s that kind of desperation and extra play that wins games.  Jeff Jackson’s timeout five minutes into an overtime period dominated by the Warriors was the smartest move I saw all day.

UNH could not continue their tough defense the next day against Notre Dame who moved onto the Frozen Four.  And with Boston College getting embarrassed in their first round game the Frozen Four will unfortunately be without any Hockey East representation after dominating the tournament for the last three years.

Hockey East has seen a flurry of early defections to join Maine’s Gustav Nyquist and BU’s David Warsofsky who signed with NHL teams last week.  Boston College will be without Paul Dainton’s newest teammate Cam Atkinson who signed with Columbus and Jimmy Hayes who signed on with the Blackhawks.  Eagle fans are likely worried that Chris Kreider may be leaving Chestnut Hill early as well.  Merrimack’s Stephane DaCosta has not signed as of yet, but  all reports say he’s on the verge of signing a free agent deal with any number of clubs and has already secured an agent.

Don’t forget, the Reverse Raffle is this Friday.  You cannot beat this event.  For $115 you and a friend can hang out with other fans, coaches, parents, and everyone else associated with the program, eat some good food, drink some good beer, win some cool prizes (I just kicked in a $50 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card myself), and maybe even walk away with $4,999.  Best of all, the program walks away with money too from this fundraising event.  Don’t you hate how BC, BU, UNH, and Maine always seem to have all the money and support in the conference?  Well here’s your chance to help level the playing field (ice?) for UMass hockey while having a good time as well.  Hope to see everyone there.

View From Section U: Filling Out The Bracket

Well I did fairly well with my Hockey East picks a couple weeks ago.  I did underestimate Merrimack a bit, first predicting they’d need three games to take care of Maine and then having them losing to New Hampshire.  But now it’s time to take a shot at the big tournament.  So without further ado, here are my predictions for the NCAA tourney which begins on Friday:

East Regional
Yale over Air Force
UM-Duluth over Union

UM-Duluth over Yale

Northeast Regional
Merrimack over Notre Dame
Miami over New Hampshire

Miami over Merrimack

West Regional
Boston College over Colorado College
UNO over Michigan

Boston College over UNO

Midwest Regional
Denver over Western Michigan
North Dakota over RPI

North Dakota over Denver

Frozen Four
Miami over UM-Duluth
Boston College over North Dakota

Boston College over Miami

Yeah, I have a lot of chalk in the Frozen Four, but I think the top seeds other than Yale are very strong.  Really, I think ANYONE can come out of that East bracket (yes, I’m a Yale hater…so be it). I do think the semifinal between North Dakota and BC will be the real national championship game.  Merrimack and Miami is probably a tossup, so I went with the Redhawks who have a lot of experience in the tournament in recent years.  Still, I’ll be rooting for the Warriors in addition to feel good stories like Union, making their NCAA debut, and Western Michigan who are making their first appearance in the tournament since 1996.

Thanks to the overwhelming responses I got from yesterday’s post.  My intention certainly wasn’t to solicit positive feedback, though I really appreciate everyone who provided some.  I really just wanted to state my case that I don’t think I “fear the truth” when it comes to UMass hockey, as well inform readers that Chip Ainsworth is a media member that talks tough about Toot Cahoon and John McCutcheon from a very safe distance equal to the length of the eastern seaboard.

Jon Quick’s goaltending skills have reached Jedi level.

 

Scott Coen featured Paul Dainton on his broadcast last night.

In one of the stranger transactions you’ll see Michigan State has filled their coaching vacancy with the commissioner of the conference they just announced they were leaving.

Recruit Update; Getting Chippy

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
39 GP / 20-16-1 / 3.02 GAA / .902 sv%
As I mentioned last week Boyle was hurt in Game 5 of his team’s second round series. Unfortunately he was not able to play again as his (and coach Darren Yopyk’s) Warriors were eliminated in the next game. Boyle did pretty well in the playoffs going 6-6-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack (AtlJHL)
41 GP / 8 G / 19 A / 27 Pts / 97 PIM
Busillo’s season is over as his Wolfpack were eliminated by Walpole in the first round of the AtlJHL playoffs. He had a goal in three playoff games.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
43 GP / 11 G / 42 A / 53 Pts / 66 PIM
Gillespie had 5 assists and 16 PIM in his last four games.

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
LaRue’s season has come to a close as his Waxers lost in the first round of the playoffs. He had a goal and four assists in five playoff games, including a game winner and a shorthanded goal.

Joseph Manno – South Kent Cardinal (NE Prep)
24 GP / 16 G / 27 A / 43 Pts
South Kent was upset in the prep playoffs despite being the top seed.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union Wildcats (NE Prep)
35 GP / 24-7-4 / 1.63 GAA / .923 sv%
Mastalerz’s season is over after KUA lost in the first playoff game 4-3 in overtime.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
42 GP / 8 G / 7 A / 15 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh had one of his best games of the season on Sunday, scoring two goals and adding an assist in a 4-3 win for the Saints.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
50 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 181 PIM
Yevenko only played in one game this past week, picking up 14 penalty minutes for slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct. As a result, I believe, he was suspended for the following game.

It appears Greenfield Recorder writer Chip Ainsworth has written another column calling for Toot’s head but this one also mentioned Fear The Triangle in a disparaging way.  I say another column because Ainsworth has been beating his “Fire Toot” drum since about 2005 or so. When the team made the NCAAs in 2007 he chalked it up to the luck of having Jon Quick in the net and that a “trained seal” could’ve made the NCAA tournament with that team (seals apparently being naturally good recruiters) and kept right on drumming. The Recorder is a pay site but a full transcript is posted, for the time being anyway, at UMasshoops.com. However, just so they don’t send me some kind of cease and desist letter, I’ll only repost the part that mentions FTT:

But like the Energizer Bunny, McCutcheon keeps marching along with his broken drumstick of a coach because nobody cares. Beside this lemonade stand of a column, media scrutiny of McCutcheon’s and Cahoon’s foibles is practically nonexistent. Boston’s two daily newspapers think the roads turn to dirt out here, and the two regional papers report the scores and throw in an occasional feature, but have never gone for the jugular. Meanwhile the hockey team’s only dedicated blog — “Fear the Triangle” — should more aptly be called “Fear the Truth.”

First of all, “the two regional papers report the scores and throw in an occasional feature” is a slap in the face of Matt Vautour and especially Dick Baker.  Baker has brought the Republican’s coverage of the hockey team to a whole new level with his regular stories and especially the blog he started this past season.  Regular FTT readers know that I regularly share the insight and information that Baker has written regarding the team.

Secondly, maybe it’s just me but I think it’s pretty weak for a professional writer to call out a non-profit fan blog, written by someone in their own spare time, in one of his columns because he has a problem with the coverage. Of course if readers want to call me out, which has been done on occasion, I understand that because that’s part of the whole dynamic of the blog itself. You folks are my customers. Hell, I don’t even care if players call me out since I could never do what they do.  Though I would hope in the end they realize I’m just trying to help fellow fans follow them and the team.  But I think some guy cashing a paycheck as a writer, excuse me, award-winning columnist taking shot at a non-journalist who writes about team as a hobby is, as they say, bush league.  Sure, I’m a big boy and I can take it but at the same time I think he’d be unhappy if I went out of my way crap all over his MS Excel skills, inability to construct a proper ROI calculation from scratch, or  inability to accurately assess a company’s financial well-being.  All things I get paid for.

Thirdly, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think I’m pretty truthful and rational when it comes to my assessment of the UMass hockey program. Or at the very least as rational as can be considering I write from a fan’s perspective and therefore I fully realize at times emotion will come through in my writing. Not being a journalist or having aspirations to be a journalist frees me from having to purge emotional attachment from my posts. Regardless, I think I’m pretty fair. I have criticized and celebrated players, coaches, administrators, fans, marketing personnel, and anyone else associated with the team when I thought it justified. I will say do everything I can to keep my criticism in context and from being personal, especially when it comes to the players. But I guess in Ainsworth’s eyes I’m sitting here writing about the rainbows and daisies that surround the hockey program while actually fearing the truth.

Specifically regarding Cahoon and his status as coach of this program, I need only to point you back to last summer when he signed his most recent contract extension (news first reported here on FTT by the way) and the case I made that it was what was best for the program. Nothing has changed for me since I wrote that in September. The team went out and had pretty much the exact season I expected, so why would my opinion change? Next season when all these talented freshmen turn into sophomores is when my expectations increase.  I’ll get more into that at a later date.  I’ve already been composing in my head an early look at next season to publish sometime after the Frozen Four. But I just point that out to say that I have very specific expectations of achievement for the final two years of Cahoon’s contract and if they’re not being met believe me you’ll be hearing about it.

Lastly, one thing I should have done in my season recap when thanking all you readers is to also thank Associate Director of Media Relations John Sinnett who was nice enough to offer me some of the same access to the team that he offers to the real media. Because of that I was able to attend Hockey East Media Day, some practices, and a good number of the post-game press conferences after home games. And because of that I got to meet and speak with some of the people who cover the team and Hockey East like Dick Baker and Andrew Merritt (I’d already met Matty Vautour since we happen to make up two of just a handful of Colorado fans in the state/GO BUFFS!). You know who I didn’t get to meet or even see in all that time where I had the same access as the media? Oh yeah, Chip Ainsworth. Those who read his columns in the Recorder know why. He’s one of the many New England snowbirds who head south to Florida for the winter. One can just picture him sitting poolside, pina colada next to him, pounding away furiously on his laptop keyboard about his profound disappointment in the state of the UMass hockey program and its coach. Yet, his shadow rarely graces the inside of the Mullins Center. What profound insight he must have of the sport to be able to know more about the daily trials and tribulations of the Minutemen from his lounge chair a thousand miles away than those fans and reporters who go to every game. One piece of advice, oh wise hockey sage. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

The Springfield Falcons coach is already singing the praises of Paul Dainton after one practice.  I’m currently planning on attending Saturday’s Falcons-Sharks game in Worcester with some fellow UMass fans to see Dainton, Matt Irwin, and Cory Quirk.  Hopefully he gets time in net.  And I hope James Marcou recovers from his concussion soon as well.

This Bleacher Report post outlines how this year’s San Jose Sharks rookie crop, including Justin Braun, made it to the NHL.

The Portland Press Herald is reporting that Boston College defenseman Brian Dumoulin will be returning to Chestnut Hill next year. As much as I hate that UMass will have to face him again, I love to see college players staying in school.

CollegeHockey News has a very interesting analysis of this year’s tournament selection and placement.

Dainton Signs With Springfield; Big Ten Makes It Official

Paul Dainton will not have to travel far to start his pro career as he signed an amateur tryout with the Springfield Falcons today.  Springfield also signed Northeastern’s Wade MacLeod.  The Falcons have nine games left and, as usual, will not make the playoffs.  You’ll remember that the Falcons also gave former goaltender Gabe Winer a chance after his UMass career, playing two games for them before hanging up the pads and heading off to law school.

Chase Langeraap scored his first pro goal in only his second game for the South Carolina Stringrays.

The Big 10 officially announced that they’ll be forming their own conference starting in 2013-14.  It seems that most of the college hockey community is meeting this announcement with dismay, although it’s been rumored for years and was essentially guaranteed ever since Penn State announced they were adding hockey.

I certainly understand some of the concerns coming out of the western programs.  Personally I think the WCHA will be fine with schools like North Dakota, Denver, and Colorado College carrying the flag for the league.  Even with Wisconsin and Minnesota having down years recently the WCHA hasn’t lost any of its national standing thanks to the emergence of Duluth and the additions of Nebraska-Omaha and Bemidji State.

The CCHA’s situation is a little more precarious.  Miami and Notre Dame have established themselves as annual NCAA participants, but the directional Michigans and other lesser schools in the conference are worried that crowds will suffer without annual visits from Michigan and Michigan State.  This could be a legitimate issue.  Or it might not.  One has to wonder if the non-Ivy ECAC schools were worried about the same thing when the New England schools split off to start Hockey East in the early 1980s.  It will also help that the new league is slated to play only 20 conference games and will have plenty of chance to schedule their old CCHA and WCHA foes.  Although that would also require teams like Michigan to actually play a non-conference game away from the friendly confines of Yost.

While there is some risk that schools like Bowling Green and Ferris State could struggle to survive, there’s also a good chance that college hockey could gain strong programs from existing Big 10 schools who look to create their own programs.  College hockey could use more stability and having the large, high-profile state universities (or Northwestern) in the Midwest could help provide that solid foundation in addition to grow the sport into already established college markets.  How great would it be open up those classic college towns like Bloomington or Champaign to the wonder that is college hockey?  Hopefully, that’ll be the consequence of today’s announcement.

The NCAA tournament field was officially announced yesterday.  Boston College will be heading west as a #1 seed.  Merrimack and New Hampshire are both Manchester bound as a 2 seed and 4 seed respectively.  Check back later this week as I make my tourney picks.

Langeraap to the ECHL; Dennehy Stiffed

Congrats to Chase Langeraap who has signed on with the South Carolina Stringrays of the ECHL.  He already dressed for their first game last night out in Kalamazoo against the K-Wings (one of the random pro teams I’ve seen to before).  Former Minuteman Stephen Werner played a couple seasons with the Stringrays from 2006 to 2008.  Nice to see Chase taking his game pro.

Hockey East announced their major award winners last night.  As I predicted earlier this week, Mike Pereira lost out to BU’s Charlie Coyle for Rookie of the Year.  However, that was just a minor difference of opinion compared to the epic snub that was Mark Dennehy somehow not being named coach of the year.  Listen, I have tremendous respect for Jerry York and consider him the best coach on the college level.  But he had his core group of players coming back off a national championship last spring and essentially has his pick of recruits every year.  On the other hand Merrimack has been an absolute joke for most of its Hockey East existence.  They played their home games in the equivalent of an MDC rink in front of a handful of fans.  When he took over the program a great number of Hockey East fans were actively campaigning for Merrimack to be kicked out of the league because they were a drag on the conference.  Five years later Dennehy has brought Merrimack to the Garden, got them home ice in the Hockey East playoffs, and for a period this season had them in the top five in the country.  No matter what happens tonight or tomorrow they will be heading to the NCAA tournament.  This isn’t a great turnaround story of this season.  This is one of the most amazing turnarounds in the history of college hockey.  Yet, somehow in Hockey East’s eyes, Jerry York did the better coaching job this year.  I’ve seen some major screw jobs in my many years of Hockey East on the ice, but this off ice one may be the worst.  I’m flat out astounded.

In a more minor surprise I thought the voting for player of the year to be suspect as well.  It doesn’t bother me that UNH’s Paul Thompson won.  While he wasn’t my pick he did have an amazing season and is a worthy winner.  But the runner-ups were John Muse and Kieran Millan?  Millan?  Seriously?  The guy was 4th in the league in goals against and win percentage.  How was Cam Atkinson not a runner-up?  He’s a Hobey Baker finalist after all.

Here’s the Hockey East major awards.  And here are the various All-Star teams.

2010-11 UMass Season Recap

UMass fans knew going into the season that this would be a rebuilding year. With 14 of 30 players on the roster being freshmen or redshirt freshmen I don’t know how anyone could’ve thought of this year as anything else. That’s not to say you can’t have certain expectations however. The only difference is success is not necessarily measured in wins and losses. There were a few major accomplishments I hoped to see this year when I first wrote my preview in the fall. That the freshmen would show tangible progress by the time February and March came around and would begin to lead the team as needed. I hoped the team would pull off a big upset somewhere along the way. And I wanted the team to secure a spot in the Hockey East playoffs. Against those expectations I believe the freshmen did show significant improvement as the season went along and at times they carried the load for the team. Unfortunately the team never got that big upset I hoped for. They came close; playing Minnesota tough in the second game, tying BU at Agganis, and leading UNH with only seconds left in November. But that signature win for the season escaped them. They did however play well enough to make the Hockey East playoffs, despite nearly all the pundits saying it wouldn’t happen. And once in the playoffs they performed admirably against a team that could very well go on to win the national championship.

The Season
UMass had the kind of schedule you probably wouldn’t want to throw at such an inexperienced team. Opening with two at Mariucci, a midseason trip to Wisconsin, having 9 of your last 10 games come against teams in the top 15 in the country are significant challenges for any team. But from the start the team didn’t seem like they were going to let the schedule bother them as they battled Minnesota to a couple close losses, despite losing goaltender Paul Dainton early in the second game and thrusting freshman Jeff Teglia between the pipes. Teglia would play two more games after that, tying and narrowly losing to Boston University, giving high hopes UMass’ future in net. From there things went a little sour however. UMass would drop a game to and tie Providence followed by probably the low point of the season, a 5-2 loss to Army in which the Minutemen were never even in the game. The team would regroup the next weekend, nearly coming away with a win against UNH when Mike Pereira put them ahead with under a minute left only to see the Wildcats even up the score seconds later. That close game was enough to give the team a little of momentum going into Turkey Tuesday and they picked up three wins in three games against Vermont, Quinnipiac, and Lowell. Maine put their win streak to an end however with a dominating 4-1 in Orono to close out the fall semester.

The second part of the season got started out in Wisconsin where they played tough against the Badgers at times but in the end were beaten pretty decidedly. Paul Dainton getting ridiculously tossed from the second game meant Jeff Teglia played the majority of minutes against the Badgers. At times he looked great, at times not so much. But if anything the games showed him and goaltending coach Mike Buckley what types of things he’ll have to do going into next season. January was seen as a month of opportunity as all but one of the games were against teams either below UMass in the standings or just above them. They ended up having mixed results. They were unable to solve the tough defense of Northeastern going 0-2-1 against the Huskies during the month. But UMass split a key weekend series at Vermont and completed the season sweep of hapless Lowell River Hawks to put them in 7th place heading into a very tough February and March. And tough it was. UMass would not see another win following their 6-0 blowout of UVM on January 22nd and finished the season on a 0-11-3 streak. Pessimistic fans could see that as yet another late season swoon that we’ve grown way too accustomed too. But I think that’s unfair to the players to think that way and doesn’t relfect how those games actually played out. The team looked very different down the stretch following an 11-2 embarrassment at the hands of Merrimack that rivalled even Mallen-era losses. But from that point on UMass was in each and every game they played, from rematches with the Warriors to going up against #2 BC in the playoffs. Of their last 10 games 9 were either ties or one goal losses (adjusting for empty net goals). The team showed just how far they’ve come this season when they battled on Saturday and had the BC Eagles sweating a bit before the defending national champs finally prevailed to end the Minutemen’s season.

Number Crunching
The one goal losses is really the biggest number that sticks out for UMass this season. All in all 24 of the team’s 35 games were ties, one goal losses (two in overtime), or a two goal losses that featured an empty net goal. Add that to the six wins and that means that UMass was legitimately in 30 of the 35 games it played this year. That’s not too shabby and something to build off next year. If UMass can convert half of those ties or near losses into a point or two, it’s a much different season.

While UMass did see a material drop in offensive production this season compared to last, 2.92 to 2.51, so did the league as a whole. The result was that UMass finished in 7th in scoring among Hockey East teams both years. A good portion of that drop in scoring can be traced to the futility of the power play which went from 20.1% last year, good for 4th in the league, to a mere 14.1%, or 7th. That was further complicated by the fact that the team just flat out could not generate shots on net when they needed. UMass had 10 games with 25 total shots or less and 6 games with total shots of 20 or less.

With only two regular defensemen coming back from last year defense was going to be a big concern for the team, even with a three year starter returning in net. The defensive scoring did get a little worse from the year before, 3.49 (9th) from 3.25 (8th). However if you take out that horrendous Merrimack game where obviously the team had some kind of breakdown the number is 3.26 or pretty much in line with last year. I think this is one of the better achievements of this year’s team considering UMass had to replace Justin Braun, easily one of the best defensemen ever in the history of the program and Brett Watson, one of the top defensive forwards in the league. Most nights UMass had four freshmen on defense and yet, with a lot of help from Paul Dainton, were able to do a relatively good job of keeping other teams off the board. UMass also saw slight improvement on the penalty kill from last year when they had the worst PK in the league.

Players
I’m not big into the whole performance grading thing, but I do want to say a little about each player:

Forwards

Rocco Carzo – Save for one game very late in the season Carzo never looked remotely like the player he was his freshman year when he scored 6 goals. Whether he just clicked with guys like Casey Wellman and James Marcou or something else, UMass will need him to move beyond his sophomore slump next year. He has the skills, given two invites by two different NHL teams to prospect camps, he just has to rediscover them.

Marc Concannon – Concannon provided some good grit to the team and played tough along the boards. He had a very specific role on this team and did it well every night.

Kevin Czepiel – “Holyoke” continued to improve his game as a playmaker and key faceoff taker. I like the versatility he shows to be able to play on lines with both skill type players as well as third line grinders.

Peter DeAngelo – DeAngelo played in about half the games for the Minutemen and at times showed a good ability to move the puck. He’ll need to become more confident and play bigger than his 5’7″ frame if he wants to increase his role next year.

Eric Filiou – I thought Filiou moved the puck well and gave good effort in the games he played. For a guy who once scored 29 goals in a BCHL season, I’d love to see him try to take a few more looks at the net.

Branden Gracel – Gracel’s playmaking skills were a factor for the Minutemen from day one. It’s obvious he’s a big part of the team’s future. He showed good ability in the faceoff circle. Like Filiou, Gracel put up some big goal numbers in juniors so I hope he can work on that part of his game. Quite frankly, UMass really missed him in that last game against BC.

Steven Guzzo – Guzzo blew out his knee practicing the day before UMass’ season opener and just started skating in the last few weeks. He’ll basically start next season as freshman, but one who already knows the schemes and his teammates. He could potentially take over the role played by Concannon or maybe even some more.

Danny Hobbs – Earlier in the week I gave my Player of the Year award to Paul Dainton, but if I gave a Most Improved award it would go to Hobbs. He registered 11 points total in his first two years, but put up 28 points this year alone to lead the team. He has a great combination of skill and size and seemed particularly effective camping in front of the net. I cannot say enough about Hobbs’ performance this year. Other than UMass will need more of that next year.

Brian Keane – It seemed like Keane finally found his role this year as one of the team’s key defensive forwards. More importantly he seemed like he was comfortable with that role. His effort along the boards and in the grinder capacity was essential to UMass doing as well as they did defensively.

Pat Kiley – Kiley played in 7 games and brought a good effort to all of those. I think he’ll really have to step up his game to see time regularly next year.

Chase Langeraap – Langeraap certainly ended his UMass career with a bang. I’ll admit that after he didn’t even register a goal in his junior year I expected him to be a regular healthy scratch for this season. And he was at times to begin the season. But from New Year’s on he was easily one of the best players on the team. His 9 goals were more than he had in his entire UMass career before this year and no one played harder in the last couple weeks of the season than him.

Mike Lecomte – When Lecomte came back to the team after winter break it appeared that he may be the spark they needed to do some damage down the stretch. Unfortunately after scoring 2 goals in 6 games back he had to be shut down again with problems in his hips. When healthy, Lecomte was an impact player for the Minutemen the past two years. Unfortunately it just never worked out for him.

Eddie Olczyk – Surprisingly Olczyk played in less games this year than his freshman year. I don’t think it’s a reflection on his actual play but his style, which is almost exclusively a defensive forward. And a good one at that. With guys like Concannon and Keane graduating I’d be surprised if he didn’t play every game next season. It would be good to see him improve his offensive play however as there were times when he could’ve change the momentum of the game but was unable to get the goal UMass needed.

Mike Pereira – Well as I posted already, I think he was worthy of rookie of the year in Hockey East. Pereira played a huge role in the offense and tied Hobbs for the team lead in goals. He had a few stretches during the season where his goalscoring dried up a bit. I think with a year under his belt he’ll be able to figure out a way to avoid such slumps next year. He’s obviously a key part of UMass’ future.

Troy Power – It still tough to tell what role Power will play for UMass in the future. He played smart in the 18 games he played in, but it’s a bit of a disappointment that he wasn’t able to find the net at all after putting up 28 goals in the USHL. A year under his belt and maybe mixed with different guys on his line and we could see a dramatically better Troy Power next year.

Shawn Saunders – Saunders has played hard in every game he’s played at UMass. And that goes for the last couple weeks where he was called upon to fill in for some regulars after hardly playing all season. I’ll definitely miss seeing him on the ice.

Conor Sheary – Sheary was steady and reliable the entire season. With Gracel, UMass now has two skill puck movers to build with going into the future. Sheary also seems to have a lot of upside in terms of goal scoring going forward. His play was definitely one of the highlights this season.

T.J. Syner – Syner provided a lot of leadership on the ice this year and has shown steady improvement every year in terms of points produced. He has become a player that opposing defenses focus in on and his speed is becoming legendary. Next year he has the potential to be one of the elite forwards in the league if he can finish his shots and not lose the puck along the boards as much.

Defensemen

Conor Allen – Allen struggled a bit to start the season but progressed nicely, first securing his defensive game and then even contributing offensively. He’ll be looked upon to play a key role against some very good offensive players next year.

Mike Donnellan – I honestly don’t know what’s going on with Donnellan who played only three games this year.   I can’t say I’ve seen him played badly in the times I have seen him, but I don’t know what he looks like in practice. I liked the idea of playing him at forward to give UMass some muscle but that experiment didn’t seem to last long even though it seemed like a legitimate strategy. I’m not sure how he fits into future plans.

Joel Hanley – Hanley had an awful beginning to his season with his brother passing away and an awful end when he came down with mono and missed the last few games. But in between he looked very good. He certainly can be considered one of the top freshmen defensemen in Hockey East in a year which had a lot of them. His two way game will play a huge role for UMass in the future.

Doug Kublin – One of the most reliable defensemen in UMass history. I’m actually quite pissed that he wasn’t even runner-up for the Old Time Hockey Defensive Defenseman award given out today. It’s obvious it was just chosen by looking up +/- without actually considering the individual players’ performance. UMass will miss Kubby next year.

Mike Marcou – Marcou had a very tough year. He had a disappointing year on the ice and even missed time with injury. Whether that was because he felt more pressure this year around with a letter on his chest or what, I’m not sure. I think for next year he has to get back to basics. Marcou is never going to be the most athletic person on the ice, but he has shown the ability to be a very smart defenseman who has good positioning. He’ll have to get back to this next year when UMass will really need his senior leadership on the blueline.

Adam Phillips – Overall Phillips looked pretty good for someone still learning the defense position. His work on the blueline got better as the season went on and his slapshot became one of the team’s greatest weapons. Offensively and defensively Phillips will be an important piece of next year’s team.

Anthony Raiola – Raiola only played in one game before January, a matchup against Minnesota before a hometown crowd where he scored a goal. But down the stretch he came in and played solid defense against tough teams. Without a doubt he’ll compete for an everyday spot on the blueline next year.

Darren Rowe – To start the season it looked like Rowe would have a huge role to play on the team, scoring 5 goals in his first 5 games. But he played intermittently after that and went without a goal for the rest of the season. With the other freshmen playing better defense he seemed to be the odd man out. I still think his future on this team is at forward.

Colin Shea – I saw Shea play multiple times in juniors and didn’t think he could be an everyday player as a freshman. I was wrong.  He ended up playing 30 games, contributed 5 points, and was only a -3 on defense. Needless to say, he’ll likely be a mainstay on defense for the next three years.

Goaltenders

Paul Dainton – Captain, team MVP, and holder of multiple UMass records. His season got off to a rocky start thanks to an injury and his play coming back from it wasn’t up to his usual standards. But as the season went along he got better and better until he was playing some of the best hockey of his career by the end. It’s tough to see him go out with a losing record, because he really is a great hockey player and a great person.

Kevin Moore – The small amount of fans in attendance were thrilled to see Moore see some time in net during the exhibition with Sweden. Little did they know that Moore would get to make his collegiate debut against Merrimack during the debacle in North Andover. 1.000 career save percentage and statistically the best goaltender in the history of UMass.

Jeff Teglia – His stats don’t show it but Teglia did have a good year that he can build off. I’m sure going into the season Toot thought he would be able to put Tegs in for games against Lowell or Providence. Instead he’s starting against BU the second week of the season and basically playing both games out a Wisconsin. The experience he got is good and something that will prepare him for next season where he’ll likely go into the fall as the likely starting goaltender.

Coaching
I think there are two things that Toot and the coaching staff really did well this season. First was the selection of captains. He let the players have a bigger hand in the selection and more importantly he selected a good group of guys. Dainton isn’t the normal team captain since he’s a goaltender first of all and by all accounts not a big rah rah guy. He leads by example. But he set a great example for these young players and the poise he showed in net rubbed off on them and help them stay calm and focused throughout what was likely a frustrating season. By picking Syner, Marcou, and Hobbs as assistants, Toot already has his leadership in place for next season and hopefully make for a quicker transition to a more successful team.

The second part of the coaching I liked from Toot this season was his recruiting. He directly addressed some of the major needs from the current team. Teglia played well but he did get injured and he’ll have to work on some aspects of his game in order to be successful going forward. So Toot went out and got another solid goaltending recruit to compete for the job next fall in Steve Mastalerz. At the same time this team was lacking size and bruising type players. He went out and got Steve Busillo from the AtlJHL and towering Oleg Yevenko who is 2nd in the USHL in penalty minutes. I don’t think teams will be taking as many liberties with guys like T.J. Syner or Kevin Czepiel next year with guys like that around.

The only criticism I really had of Toot this year was his stubbornness to reengineer the power play when it was obviously broken. He did come around eventually and the extra man advantage saw some moderate success at the end of the season. But it was clear from the start that the young team couldn’t really grasp the power play strategy and there were times when it was absolutely killing their chances at success during points in the season.

Summary
This was certainly a tough season to be a UMass fan with the team posting its lowest win total since 1997-98 (better known as my senior year). I guess the team kind of weeded out the true fans from the bandwagon fans of the last few years. But, I think the true fans understood the challenge this young team faced and appreciated the effort they showed during the year. They also know that this season realistically was not going to be anything more than a stepping stone to future years. On one hand the six wins was less than expected for this team. On the other hand the sheer number of close games could bode well for the future. Throughout it all we got to see some excellent performances from Paul Dainton and Doug Kublin who will go down as two of my favorite UMass hockey players and together with the other seniors provided some excellent leadership to this freshmen class. If these freshman do go on in future years and accomplish some great things for UMass it’ll be important to remember this year and this senior class. One only has to look at Lowell to see that a young team in this tough league could lead to disastrous results. But thanks to these seniors who kept the freshmen grounded and the team together the players never gave up and went into every game thinking they could win. In future years when that effort actually turns into wins hopefully this season will just be seen as the pain that everyone had to experience to achieve future success.

The boys over at Fight Mass have their season recap up as well.  UMass could use some more dedicated student fans like those guys.

I’m not sure if I was just way ahead of the game or what but Chris Heisenberg is now officially listing Joseph Manno as a UMass recruit for next year.  Here’s a post I wrote about him when I first learned UMass was interested in him.

Make sure to sign up for this year’s Reverse Raffle.  $115 gets you and a guest free food, beer, wine, and a chance at prizes and $4,999.  Plus you get to hang out with the coaches, parents, and some of the loyalest of UMass fans.  I look forward to it every year.

With the recap done I’ll likely be toning down the posting from the near daily basis I’ve been doing since September.  The recruit updates will keep coming as long as they’re still playing (unfortunately Kevin Boyle’s team was eliminated this week).  And I’ll post other UMass or general college hockey news as I see fit.  It’s nice not to have the Marcou’s leaving/Wellman’s leaving/Irwin’s leaving circus from this time last year going on.  But if anything comes up that I think UMass hockey fans want to know, you can bet that I’ll do my best to get it on here.

Even though it wasn’t an overwhelming successful season in terms of wins, I enjoyed following the team and helping others do the same through Fear The Triangle.  I had a lot of good times and drank a lot of good beer.  I got to see hockey arenas for the first time like the Kohl Center as well as favorite barns I haven’t been to in years like the Gutt.  Along the way I’ve met and talked with some great people from hotel bars in Madison, Wisconsin to the concourse of the Mullins.  I’ve met some really great people thanks to this site and I’ve enjoyed talking hockey, beer, or whatever else with everyone.   I started FTT mostly as a hobby and a creative outlet but I am overwhelmed by how many hockey fans now visit here regularly.  I’m glad I’ve been able to give Minutemen hockey fans one central place to gather on the interwebs.  Thanks as always for reading.

Is it October yet?

View From Section U: FTT Hockey East Awards

Hockey East has announced some of their award winners today and will announce the major ones at tomorrow’s championship banquet.  However, here’s my take on the major awards and All-Hockey East teams.  Feel free to tell me how wrong I am.  (For the record, I make my selections upon performance in league games only.  I also made my picks before the official ones came out this afternoon)

Player of the Year – Cam Atkinson, Boston College
To tell you the truth I was completely torn between Atkinson and New Hampshire’s Paul Thompson.  Atkinson had 24 goals in conference play, Thompson 23.  Thompson had 42 points, Atkinson 38.  Really, I found it tough to say definitively one was better than the other.  The tie-breaker?  How did they do when the two teams met in the last weekend of the regular season and the title was on the line.  Atkinson had three goals and one assist.  Thompson had just one assist.  Enough said.

Coach of the Year – Mark Dennehy, Merrimack College
If I have to explain this one it means you haven’t been paying attention.

Rookie of the Year – Mike Pereira, Massachusetts
This probably looks like a homer pick, but hear out my reasoning.  First, he led all freshmen in goals in conference play.  Not only that but he led the Minutemen in goals as well, accounting for 15% of the team’s total output in conference games.  He even led the Minutemen in +/- in those games with +5.  He was one point behind BU’s Charlie Coyle in league points for freshmen playing in one less game.  I can pretty much guarantee that Pereira won’t win tomorrow because unlike Coyle he’s not a high NHL draft pick playing for Boston University, but tell me which freshman had a bigger impact on his respective team?  In fact, I wouldn’t even put Coyle as runner-up in this award, instead giving that honor to Northeastern’s Jamie Oleksiak who absolutely shut down opposing offenses for the Huskies.

Hockey East All-Stars 1st Team
F – Cam Atkinson, Boston College
F – Paul Thompson, New Hampshire
F – Gustav Nyquist, Maine
D – Brian Dumoulin, Boston College
D – David Warsofsky, Boston Univeristy
G – John Muse, Boston College

Hockey East All-Stars 2nd Team
F – Stephane Da Costa, Merrimack College
F – Brian Gibbons, Boston College
F – Brian Flynn, Maine
D – Blake Kelssel, New Hampshire
D – Ulf Samuelsson’s son, Boston College
G – Matt Di Girolamo, New Hampshire

Hockey East All-Rookie Team
F – Charlie Coyle, Boston University
F – Mike Pereira, Massachusetts
F – Mike Collins, Merrimack
D – Jamie Oleksiak, Northeastern
D – Adam Clendening, Boston University
G – Dan Sullivan, Maine

As mentioned, Hockey East did announce some award winners and congratulations goes out to Mike Pereira who was named to the All-Rookie team.  Pereira and BU’s Coyle were the only unanimous picks to the team.   Paul Dainton was named a runner-up to the Len Ceglarski Sportsmanship Award (much to the chagrin of WCHA officials).

Recruit Steve Mastalerz and Joe Manno (who is rumored to have committed/recommitted to UMass) will be teammates in the Beantown Classic tournament that takes place this week.

The Big Ten Hockey Conference could become official as early as next week, thereby destroying college hockey as we know it…if you believe some WCHA and CCHA fans (which I don’t).

Make sure to check back later tonight or tomorrow as I plan to have my season recap very soon.

Recruit Update

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
39 GP / 20-16-1 / 3.02 GAA / .902 sv%
Boyle has continued to play well in the second round of the BCHL playoffs, including a 39 save effort in Game 3, though his Warriors find themselves down 2-3.  In each of the two Westside wins Boyle has only allowed 2 goals, while he has allowed 3, 3, and 5 goals in the losses.  He has a 3.00 GAA for the playoffs.  He was injured in the last game unfortunately and his status is unknown.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack (AtlJHL)
41 GP / 8 G / 19 A /  27 Pts / 97 PIM
Busillo’s season is over as his Wolfpack were eliminated by Walpole in the first round of the AtlJHL playoffs.  He had a goal in three playoff games.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
39 GP / 11 G / 37 A /  48 Pts / 50 PIM
Shattuck has been off these last few weeks.

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
LaRue’s season has come to a close as his Waxers lost in the first round of the playoffs.  He had a goal and four assists in five playoff games, including a game winner and a shorthanded goal.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union Wildcats (NE Prep)
35 GP / 24-7-4 / 1.63 GAA / .923 sv%
Mastalerz’s season is over after KUA lost in the first playoff game 4-3 in overtime.  He will be playing next week in the Beantown Classic next week.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
39 GP / 6 G / 6 A / 12 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh didn’t have any points on the weekend.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force(USHL)
49 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 167 PIM
Yevenko was +1 with 2 PIM over the past weekend.  Yevenko is second in the league in penalty minutes.

Kevin Moore has another edition of One Moore Minute.  This one pits three American freshmen against three Canadian freshman in feats of skill and strength.  I’ve loving the old school Nintendo music.

The UMass Alumni Association will be awarding former assistant captain Peter Trovato the Distinguished Alumni Award for his charity work with the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund which he founded and oversees.  Congratulations Peter, well deserved.

Fear The Triangle Player Of The Year

Regular readers know that in each game recap I write I pick a player of the game.  I haven’t always gone with the player that scored the most points or had the game winning goal.  Instead I’ve tried to pick the person whose play was key to giving UMass a chance to win.  Sometimes it was based on numbers or effort or perhaps something intangible.  Last year I decided to add up who received the most FTT Player of the Games for the season and award them my Player of the Year, with James Marcou being last year’s recipient.

photo by Karen Winger

So I’m happy to announce that the 2nd annual Fear The Triangle Player of the Year award goes to captain Paul Dainton.  You hear the term “backstop” thrown around a lot when talking about goaltenders, as you should considering a backstop is generally thought of as something that prevents an object from passing a certain point.  And Paul Dainton has done a lot of that.  3,226 times to be exact, a UMass record.  But backstop also means to support or bolster.  And Dainton has done a lot of that in his years at UMass as well, especially this season.  Dainton had a very solid season for the Minutemen, which desperately needed a strong presence in net given how many freshmen would be seeing time at defense in front of him.  With a GAA of 3.06 and save percentage of .908 Dainton actually improved upon his numbers from last year despite the youth of the team and losing Hockey East Defenseman of the Year Justin Braun. The 879 saves he made is the third highest single-season total.  Dainton did what he could to keep UMass in the games on the ice, but he did that off the ice as well.  His poise and quiet leadership served as model for his teammates in the locker room and helped keep together a team that had to withstand a host of challenges.  Paul Dainton came to UMass four years ago a relative unknown to the Hockey East circles.  But it didn’t take long to realize he was going to have an impact on UMass hockey when he helped lead UMass to the Lightning Classic championship and a top five ranking as just a freshman.  There have been a lot of ups and downs since those December games in Tampa three years ago but he has been in net backstopping UMass through it all.  Dainton leaves UMass not only as one of the program’s best players but also as one of its most beloved.

Here is the FTT Player of the Game final tally for the 2010-11 season:
Paul Dainton 6
Chase Langeraap 4
Mike Pereira 4
Conor Sheary 4
Danny Hobbs 3
Adam Phillips 3
Joel Hanley 2
Darren Rowe 2
Jeff Teglia 2
Conor Allen 1
Rocco Carzo 1
Doug Kublin 1
Kevin Moore 1
T.J. Syner 1

No UMass players were named award winners or top performers by Hockey East this week.  Dainton and T.J. Syner were both mentioned in the Milestones section.

With the season now ended for some teams polls are no longer relevant.  Here’s the only one that matters, the pairwise.  Boston College, UNH, and Merrimack are all in, Maine and BU are longshots but still could make it with the right scenario.

Some UMass mentions in this piece on the youth in Hockey East.

Dick Baker hits on a theme you’ll see me repeat when I post my season recap in the next couple days regarding the leadership of this senior class carrying beyond this year.

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