Recruit & Alumni Update

And then there was one.  With Oleg Yevenko’s Fargo Force getting swept at the hands of Shane Walsh’s Duquesne Fighting Saints in the second round of the USHL playoffs, Walsh is now the only UMass recruit still playing this season.  Here’s hoping that Walsh and the Saints bring home the Clark Cup!

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)
49 GP / 13 G / 42 A / 55 Pts / 76 PIM
Gillespie’s season is over after Shattuck won the Tier-I Under 18 National Championship earlier this month in Simsbury, CT. Gillespie was the 12th leading scorer in the tournament, netting two goals and three assists in the six 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.

Andrew Tegeler – F – Junior Bruins (EJHL)
44 GP / 19 G / 21 A / 40 Pts / 38 PIM
Tegeler’s Bruins were eliminated in the EJHL playoffs.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
49 GP / 9 G / 7 A / 16 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh went scoreless in the two playoff games in which he saw action.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko had 4 PIM and no points in his three playoff games.

Very little UMass hockey or even general college hockey news as of late.  Greg Cronin was leaving Northeastern.  And then he wasn’t.  Meanwhile the man who took over at Princeton for Len Quesnelle, who took over for Toot Cahoon is now the first ever head coach for Penn State.

In alumni news, Jon Quick had some amazing games for his Kings, including a shutout and a 51 save effort, but he and his teammates were not able to overcome the 2nd seeded Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Justin Braun saw one game of action for San Jose and hopefully will see more as the Sharks continue towards the cup.

In the AHL Casey Wellman’s Houston Aeros have moved onto the second round where they’ll take on the Milwaukee Admirals.  Wellman had a goal and assist in the first round.  David Leaderer is still on the roster for Milwaukee but didn’t see time in any playoff games so far.  Alex Berry’s Norfolk Admirals were eliminated by the W-B Penguins.

Dean Stork coached his Greensville Road Warriors to the 7th game of the second round of the ECHL playoffs, but they fell there to the Wheeling Nailers.  Still, this season represented an amazing start to Storker’s head coaching career.

Nothing hockey related, but there’s a ton of action on campus this weekend.  Everything starts with senior night for lacrosse tomorrow as Garber Field is illuminated for a rare night game.  Tailgating is being encouraged before the game (though, I didn’t really need the encouragement).  UMass softball will have the second of a key series against Fordham at noon on Saturday which will lead into another tailgating opportunity before that evening’s spring football game.  All are great opportunities to head back to the valley and hang with old and new college friends.

Hacking For Hockey: Pond Club Golf Outing Registration Now Open

Information is available for this year’s Pond Club Golf Outing which will take place on June 13th at The Orchards, in South Hadley.  The event is a great opportunity to play on a premiere course with supporters, former players, coaches, and others connected to UMass hockey.  Last year the outing featured over 25 former players, including notables such as Jon Quick and James Marcou.  I’m not much of a golfer myself, but I do know enough to know a chance to play on a course like The Orchards, previous host to the Women’s US Open, is worthwhile in itself.  In addition to the golf is a breakfast to start the day and a cookout to end it, as well as a raffle, silent auction (where yours truly picked up a Brett Watson gameworn jersey to add to the collection last year) and a chance to beat Coach Toot Cahoon in a closest to the pin contest.  If you enjoy playing golf and you’re reading FTT, you should really sign up for this event. Of course all this goes towards supporting the program and the money raised at events like this or the Reverse Raffle earlier this month is essential to keeping this team competitive in Hockey East.

This past week’s announcement that the UMass football team will be upgrading its status and joining the MAC is a reminder that big time athletics needs big time supporters.  That’s true in football and it’s true in hockey.  It’s an arms race out there in Hockey East currently.  UMass has always had the luxury of a great academic reputation and good facilities to help its case, but every year the other schools in the conference are improving the state of their programs and UMass must do what it can to keep up and attract the best and brightest players to the team.  Recent years has seen upgraded facilities to the Tsongas Center in Lowell and new scoreboards and compressors to Boston College’s Conte Forum.  On the heels of completely overhauling Lawler Arena last year, Merrimack has announced it will be adding a second ice sheet and other practice facilities.  You get the picture.  It’s essential for UMass to get the support of its fans and community.  As a fan you can help the program be successful by buying season tickets, joining the Pond Club, and attending events like the Reverse Raffle an Golf Outing.  In addition you or your company can sponsor UMass hockey.  The department has put together this great informational page about the benefits of associating your company with UMass hockey.  I know that I’m personally proud to be connected to the program, if only as a fan, because of what it stands for and its history of developing individuals into excellent athletes and members of the community.  The page linked above also outlines the different levels of sponsorship available for the golf outing and the benefits that come with it.  You can just sponsor anything from a hole, to the various contests and raffles, to have the whole damn thing named after you and your company.  Whatever way best suits your brand.  Last year I sponsored the Golf Outing for the first time thinking it would be an excellent way to inform UMass hockey fans of this site.  Which it was.  But at the same time it was a nice way of feeling I had done something to help contribute to the success of the team.  Obviously I’ll never be able to score a goal or make a save for the team, and my cheering in the stands only lasts as long as my voice, but contributing to the team through events like the Golf Outing at least makes me feel like I’m doing what I can to see my team succeed.

Hockey East has a full compliment of coaches again with Lowell hiring former player Norm Bazin and Providence plucking Nate Leaman from Union where he turned that program from nothing to an NCAA tournament team.  Leaman will have his work cut out for him at Providence which has seen dismal attendance as a result of some very bad hockey in recent years.  Out of the two jobs one could easily argue that Lowell was more appealing given their facilities and support from their administration, despite Providence having more hockey tradition and success in its history.

View From Section U: On The Subject Of Recruiting

A couple weeks ago Ryan S. Clark, reporter for the Fargo-Moorhead Forum, was nice enough to share his thoughts on UMass recruits Oleg Yevenko and Shane Walsh as well as Western amateur hockey in general with Fear The Triangle.  With Walsh and Yevenko’s teams starting a USHL second round series tonight Clark had a feature on Yevenko and his return from suspension in today’s paper.  He also put some of his unused material for the Yevenko story on his blog.

Personally I’m kind of disappointed in his story.  Not for the content mind you, it’s great that Clark has been able to provide us UMass fans with insight into this future Minuteman.  Believe me, it’s really tough to find much first hand material on hockey recruits.  No, my disappointment surrounds the picture.  In the time since Yevenko committed to UMass he has been suspended twice, finished second in his league for penalty minutes, and I even may have seen some disparaging remarks about him on Twitter by other USHL fans.  Yet this is the picture we get?  I expected to see something more like this with the caption, “If he dies, he dies.”

It sounds to me that Yevenko suffers from the same ailment that Brian Boyle did when he played in Hockey East.  Everyone else in the league happens to come up to his elbows and therefore he gets called for a lot of penalties.  That’s not to say he’s not tough or aggressive.  Obviously he is if he’s fighting teammates in practice or delivering big hits in scrimmages, he is.  But at the same time guys that much bigger than everyone else will always be on the wrong end of some calls.  Hopefully that won’t happen too much when he joins UMass next year or the penalty kill will improve.  As for the series between Yevenko’s Fargo Force and the Dubuque Saints which is starting as I type this, I just hope he goes easy on future teammate Shane Walsh.

Being able to learn more about UMass’ towering new player got me to evaluating the current crop of recruits out there for the Minutemen.  Coach Cahoon’s recruiting has taken some criticism recently, some of which I think is deserved.  Last year’s class, while without more than one or two very well known prospects, was very deep and as it turns out perhaps underrated.  Overall prospects for next year are looking good if this year’s inconsistent freshman can become improved sophomores.  But there were some deficiencies in the class.  Namely, I thought the team lacked an aspect of toughness.  Not that the players weren’t tough in terms of how they carried themselves, but that they had a difficult time making things tough for their opponents.  Namely, opposing teams were never afraid to enter the offensive zone or skate across the slot.  This team didn’t have an Alex Berry or even a Martin Nolet who would make them pay for such an action.  Obviously with Yevenko’s addition to next fall’s freshman crop Cahoon has taken action to correct that deficiency in the team’s makeup.  I think he did the same with adding another quality goaltender, Steve Mastalerz, to complement Jeff Teglia and fellow incoming freshman Kevin Boyle.  The limit of UMass’ potential next year could very well come down to the play they get out of their goaltenders, so adding another talented player to that mix seems like a smart idea in my view.  I’ve always been a big proponent for competition between goaltenders and keeping them hungry.

On the larger issue of recruiting, I think Cahoon has gotten a bad rap lately.  Now as certain winter inhabitants of Boca Raton may tell you, I fear the truth. Yet, I’m still going to take a moment to defend Cahoon from some recent criticism I’ve read and heard.  I guess the thought out there is that UMass fans can thank former assistant coach Mark Dennehy, and Mark Dennehy alone, for all of the team’s best recruits and success for the past decade.  Now I’m  a big fan of Mark Dennehy.  In fact I don’t know of many others who were more pissed off when he was shunned for Hockey East Coach of the Year in recent months.  And we can all agree his contributions to UMass hockey are great.  But I think to say he’s solely responsible for the construction of the most successful UMass teams is a stretch.  As some would lead you to believe Dennehy was the only reason why guys like Jon Quick came to Amherst.  I don’t think this is true.

As FTT readers know, I do my best to read everything I can about UMass hockey and pass it along to you.  But even before there was a FTT I was still reading everything I could find.  And when teenage junior hockey players like James Marcou or Justin Braun spoke about their decision to come to Amherst they cited, among a number of other strong arguments, Toot Cahoon as one of their reasons.  I didn’t see Dennehy specifically mentioned.  Ever.  Not to say he doesn’t deserve credit for the recruiting he did while here, and his recruiting abilities continue to yield results at Merrimack, but he still was part of a staff assembled by Cahoon.  It is ultimately the head coach’s responsibility to delegate recruiting responsibilities and extend scholarships.  Ultimately the buck stops with him.  Assistants may do a lot of the initial leg work, but it’s usually the head coach who is the end-all decider.

The whole Dennehy recruiting myth also conveniently leaves out some blue chip recruits that committed to UMass long after he left, like John Carlson and Zack Phillips.  Carlson was considered a candidate for the Calder Trophy in the NHL this year while Zack Phillips will likely be a first round pick in June’s NHL draft.  Unfortunately the cash lure of major juniors proved too much and they weren’t able to become Minutemen, but I don’t think their decision to renege on their commitments should detract that Cahoon and his current staff of Red Gendron and Len Quesnelle still got these elite  players to choose UMass.  Even on the current roster, shouldn’t the current coaching staff get credit for getting Mike Pereira, who I  still think trumped a current NHL first round draft pick for Hockey East Rookie of the Year, to become a Minuteman?

All in all, I cannot argue against those who are disappointed with the team’s recent success when it comes to wins and losses and Cahoon’s responsibility in that outcome.  I’m right there with you.  Probably not last year, but since 2007 this team has not lived up to potential.  But it’s a misrepresentation to say that Cahoon’s recruiting successes have come at the hands of others.  It ignores the recent successes of Cahoon and the current staff in that field. Also,  it doesn’t take into account that Cahoon ultimately makes all recruiting decisions.  And it surely doesn’t look ahead at what he has lined up for next year.  And if you disagree, you just may be on the wrong end of a Oleg Yevenko elbow come next season.

Recruit Update

First off, a big congratulations and thank you to Athletic Director John McCutcheon and Chancellor Robert Holub for doing what others would only talk about.  UMass is set to announce it is upgrading its football program to FBS where they’ll play in the MAC.  It’s been a dream of mine, and many others, to see the school play at the highest level of collegiate football.  While I focus primarily on hockey (and beer) on this blog I’m also a season ticket holder for football, attending every game and have followed the team in its travels from Ann Arbor to Chattanooga.  This is tremendous news and will only make the athletic department, and thus the hockey program, better as a whole.

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)
49 GP / 13 G / 42 A / 55 Pts / 76 PIM
Gillespie’s season is over after Shattuck won the Tier-I Under 18 National Championship earlier this month in Simsbury, CT. Gillespie was the 12th leading scorer in the tournament, netting two goals and three assists in the six 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.

Andrew Tegeler – F – Junior Bruins (EJHL)
44 GP / 19 G / 21 A / 40 Pts / 38 PIM
Tegeler’s Bruins were eliminated in the EJHL playoffs.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
49 GP / 9 G / 7 A / 16 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh’s Saints had a first round by in the USHL playoffs but will take on Oleg Yevenko and the Fargo Force in the second round.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko was suspended for the first round of the playoffs but is due to return against the Saints.

In alumni news Jon Quick and Justin Braun and their Kings and Sharks will play Game 3 tonight, with Quick coming off his first ever playoff shutout.  In the AHL Casey Wellman has a goal and an assist while his Houston Aeros are up 3-0 in their series over Peoria.  Alex Berry’s Norfolk Admirals are up 2-0 on the Wilkes-Barre Penguins but he appears to be out for injury or something.  David Leaderer hasn’t played for the Milwaukee Admirals who are tied 1-1 with the Texas Stars.

In the ECHL coach Dean Stork’s Road Warriors are tied at one apiece in the second round of the playoffs there.

It appears that Lowell has found their next coach.

Keith O’Connell Fighting For A Cause

Those triangle teams of the 90’s always had trouble accumulating wins but boy could they rack up the penalty minutes.  When you think back on those games you think of infamous fighters like Brad Norton and Dennis Wright, UMass’ career leaders in PIM.  But Keith O’Connell?  Not really.  O’Connell was a dependable blueliner who luckily for the goaltenders behind him was able to keep his gloves on and out of the penalty box most of the time.

However, in June he’ll be trading his hockey gloves for boxing gloves to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund.  Here’s more information on why he chose to step into the ring.

Dear Friends and Family,

I am proud to announce that on June 23, 2011 at the Park Plaza Castle in Boston, I will be fighting in the Haymakers for Hope Charity boxing event! I know that at first glance people must think I am crazy, and I am actually still trying to figure out if I am. But the true motivation is the cause! The charities that have been chosen are the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. Need I say more?

At some point in our lives, we all have been affected by this awful disease they call Cancer. Whether it was a family member, a friend or even a friend of a friend, there is just nothing good that I can think of that relates to this sometimes tragic disease. I say sometimes, because in my own personal experience, my father was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a type of cancer that has a pretty successful cure rate. But I remember being in the 6th grade, and not really knowing what was going on. Why is my dad losing his hair? Why did he have go to Mass General Hospital every week for a year? Now being 38 years old, I fully understand that patients can spend days, weeks, and months in the hospital without getting the same result my family got. Fortunately for my dad, he has been in remission for 26 years and is in the best shape of his life at 66 years old. I love you Dad!

But as we all know, these stories don’t always end the same as my dad’s did. And again, I know firsthand with the loss of my grandmother to lung cancer, and the struggles she had right up to the end. Though she was strong and fought as hard as she could, it was just too much for her at her age.

It’s funny because people are saying “Wow! You’re really going to get in the ring and fight?” And of course I say yes! “That takes a lot of courage.” Yes it does to a degree, but the courage and the will to fight is really being driven from the courage and fight that I saw from a distance in young Christopher Mullen, and his hard fought battle with cancer. Christopher is the son of my lifelong friend Chris Mullen from South Boston and his wife Lisa (Hayes) Mullen, who unfortunately lost young Christopher this past December at the tender age of three. To actually put into words what they went through I think is impossible. But knowing the Mullen family, they will have their moments, and I know that they will always draw on the courage and will that young Christopher showed right up to the end to get them strong again. This is the same motivation and strength I will have when I am in the ring battling for their Little Angel, and for all of those who have been affected by this awful disease.

In closing I want to personally thank any and all of you who are willing support me in my personal fight in the ring against cancer!

Sincerely,

Keith O’Connell

Click here to support Keith and his cause.

In other alumni news Jon Quick picked up his first ever playoff shutout to help the Kings even their series at one game apiece.  Justin Braun made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in the game.  Game 3 will take place tomorrow.

Around Hockey East, Providence has interviewed three people for its vacancy while Lowell is zeroing in on an alumni to fill their position.

Tegeler Commits To UMass; Recruit Update

Chris Heisenberg passed along the news that UMass picked up a commitment from Junior Bruins forward Andrew Tegeler for next fall.  The 6’1”, 170lb right wing is originally from Sewell, NJ.  In 44 games for the Junior Bruins this past season he had 19 goals, 21 assists, and 38 PIM.  He had 2 shorthanded goals on the season and his 6 game winning goals were tied for second in the EJHL.  He was listed as a player to watch for the 2011 NHL draft in the initial rankings from the Central Scouting Service.  He was not listed however in the final rankings released earlier this week.

It sounds like he has the potential to add some goal scoring for the Minutemen in the future and you especially have to like his ability to score goals that count.  Coach Cahoon has had success in commitments coming late in the recruiting season.  Adam Phillips and Branden Gracel were both players who committed to UMass after March of last year.

As of now UMass will be graduating 1 goaltender, 1 defenseman, and 5 forwards.  According to the Heisenberg site, UMass has incoming 2 goaltenders, 2 defensemen, and 5 forwards.  However, I have heard that one of those forwards shown on the site as coming next year will likely be coming to Amherst in 2012 instead, though that has not been confirmed.  Therefore it appears that there is one player more coming in than leaving and that may indicate that there will be some turnover on the team.  Who am I kidding, there is always turnover on the team.  At least this year it’s not coming in the form of players leaving for the pros.  The fact that an extra defenseman is coming in probably shows that Toot is looking for extra depth at that position and perhaps will be moving Darren Rowe to forward full time next season.  I’ll have more on how the team could potentially look next season in the coming weeks.

Now on to the regular recruit update.

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)
49 GP / 13 G / 42 A / 55 Pts / 76 PIM
Gillespie’s season is over after Shattuck won the Tier-I Under 18 National Championship earlier this month in Simsbury, CT. Gillespie was the 12th leading scorer in the tournament, netting two goals and three assists in the six 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)
49 GP / 9 G / 7 A / 16 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh scored a goal in one of his three games last week.  His Saints have a bye in the first round of the USHL playoffs.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko is still suspended and hasn’t played since March 27th.  He should be returning early in the playoffs as his Force take on the Lincoln Stars.

Pereira and Manno On Final Draft Rankings; Minutemen In The Playoffs

Hope everyone enjoyed Saturday’s National Championship game.  A game winner in overtime, it certainly doesn’t get anymore exciting that that.  Congratulations to the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs for their victory!

The final rankings for the NHL Draft were released today by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service.  The Minutemen had two players on the list with Mike Pereira ranked 114th among North American skaters and incoming freshman Joseph Manno ranked 145th.  Pereira’s rank improved from a mid-season rating of 135th while Manno was previously unranked.  Pereira was ranked 63rd in last year’s final rankings, but went undrafted come draft day.  I’ve heard a couple different reasons as to why he wasn’t picked; one that he was injured and had to limit his participation when he went to the NHL combine and the other that teams were concerned with his strength.  Whatever the reason, I really hope he gets to hear his named called this year.  As a freshman he put up numbers as good or even better than BU’s Charlie Coyle, a first rounder at last year’s draft.  I’ve also heard that Pereira has put a lot of time in at the weight room, which hopefully together with how he performed on the ice will make the difference for him this year.

Zack Phillips, who committed to UMass before jumping to the QMJHL, was rated as the 15th best North American forward and will likely go towards the end of the first round.

It’s playoff time in pro hockey and a few Minutemen will be key parts of their teams’ postseason success.  UMass’ two NHL representatives will actually be facing each other in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as Jon Quick and the L.A. Kings will be taking on Justin Braun and the San Jose Sharks.  This will be Quick’s second NHL playoff appearance when he takes the net for the seventh seeded Kings.

In the AHL Greg Mauldin will be a part of the first ever playoff team for the Lake Erie Monsters, the second seed in the North Division, who will be taking on the Manitoba Moose.  Casey Wellman and the Houston Aeros will be taking on the Peoria Rivermen in the first round.  Alex Berry and the Norfolk Admirals will look to upset the East Division’s top seeded Wilkes-Barre Penguins.  Also, I missed this last week but David Leaderer was loaned from the Albany Devils to the Milwaukee Admirals and could see time with them in the playoffs.

No UMass players in the ECHL made the playoffs, but former Minuteman captain turned coach Dean Stork already has his Greenville Road Warriors in the second round in that league.

With my actual posting becoming less frequent make sure to follow Fear The Triangle on Twitter as well as like the Fear The Triangle Facebook page to keep up to date on all things UMass hockey.  I’ll be sharing any UMass and general hockey news through those mediums that may not necessarily be worth a full blog post.

UMass At The Fens?

Last year when ice was put down at Fenway Park a lot of UMass fans, as well as other local programs, were disappointed that only Boston College, Boston University, and two women’s Hockey East programs would get the chance to play in the grand old ballpark.  Well, Toot Cahoon told the Gazette that UMass was in fact scheduled to play there as part of the original plans surrounding the games.  Unfortunately, those plans changed and UMass and its fans lost the opportunity for a truly unique experience.  However, the Sox are exploring the possibility of creating a rink there again next winter and Cahoon is hoping the state university will be part of it this time.  I’m sure the same can be said for the UMass fans out there.

NHL.com has an excellent story on Jon Quick and all he’s already been through in his short career.

I came across this interesting blog post about a Wisconsin fan who recently completed his quest to visit every college hockey arena with a trip to Tsongas this past season.  He even made it to the rinks for a few teams which no longer exist.  I share this same desire to get to every college hockey barn.  This past season I was able to make it to Brown’s Meehan Auditorium which brought my total to 26 of the 58 rinks.  With UMass only playing at places I’ve already been next year (aside from the trip to Estero, home of the minor league Everblades) I have my sights set on trying to get to Sacred Heart’s Milford Ice Arena, which will give me the achievement of visiting every rink in New England, as well as getting to Colgate and Princeton, which are the last of the ECAC rinks I need to get to.  To see all the different college  and other hockey arenas I’ve visited on my quest, check out the About page.

I hope everyone enjoys watching tonight’s National Championship game.  FTT is officially cheering for the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs to win it all.  Go UMD!

Recruit Update; Q&A With Ryan S. Clark

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)
49 GP / 13 G / 42 A / 55 Pts / 76 PIM
Shattuck won the Tier-I Under 18 National Championship this past weekend in Simsbury, CT.  Gillespie was the 12th leading scorer in the tournament, netting two goals and three assists in the six 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)
46 GP / 8 G / 7 A / 15 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh went scoreless in his one game this week.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko is currently suspended and hasn’t played since March 27th.

Here is a  Q&A I recently did with Ryan S. Clark.  Clark is a Maine grad (but we won’t hold that against him) who writes for the Fargo-Moorehead Forum where he covers the USHL’s Fargo Force and Minnesota high school hockey.  His blog, Slightly Chilled, covers all levels of amateur hockey.  I started following him on Twitter when the Force’s Oleg Yevenko committed to UMass and was able to get his thoughts on UMass’ towering recruit and other topics.  Much thanks to Ryan for his contribution.

Fear The Triangle: Yevenko is currently serving a multi-game suspension and was suspended at least one other time earlier this season. Since media coverage of the USHL is sometimes scarce, would you be able to shed any light on what transpired that led to the most recent or earlier suspensions?

Ryan S. Clark:  Sure. From what I gathered from talking to scouts, he used an elbow and that was enough to warrant a 6-game suspension. He’s got four more games left in the suspension. Oleg’s been suspended quite a few times this season. He’s been suspended twice according to the league’s transaction’s page. NHL and college scouts have both said what hurts him is the fact that he’s so tall that when his elbows move around, they are usually within distance of someone’s chest or higher and there are times where it could be something simple that turns into something worse.

FTT:  Yevenko obviously plays on the edge in terms of his physical style. Would you say his toughness is an asset overall to the Force or do the penalties and suspensions make him more of a liability?

RSC:  It is an asset for sure. Fargo is a physical team and it is no secret that they’re going to make a game tough just for the fact that they like to check and get gritty with people. His toughness would also be an asset because he’s so physically imposing. Coach Jason Herter has said about penalties in general that they are part of the game and that these things happen. With Oleg they happen a lot as he’s set the record for most PIMs in a career by a Force player.

FTT:  How would you describe the strengths of his game?

RSC:  Aside from size, he can actually move the puck pretty well. His shot is also pretty strong too. His shot is a hard one that when accurate can be tough to deal with. Another strength of the game is his positioning. He uses his frame to make sure he can cover the ice and get into the passing lanes. He can also block a shot too.

FTT:  What are the areas you think he needs to work on as he sets his sights on college hockey in a top conference like Hockey East?

RSC:  Speed. He sees a lot of it in practice and in the league, but speed is so killer in Hockey East to where it can be your downfall. He just needs to get faster or continue his adaptation into handling speed when it goes against him. I haven’t seen him get burned at all, then again, he wasn’t going up against the Da Costas of the world every weekend either.

FTT:  Do you know what, if any, other schools were also looking at Yevenko?

RSC:  To my knowledge, I am not sure if others were looking at him. Most players tend to be pretty quiet about all that just because they don’t want to burn bridges. But from what I gathered, other schools were indeed looking at him.

FTT:  How are the Force’s chances to win the Clark Cup?

RSC:  They’d have to be good but they also have to be consistent. The Force have a ton of talent and everyone around the league knows that. They just have to be consistent when it matters. The thing that helps them is that entering last weekend, they were tied for the most road wins in the USHL with 19. Bad news is, they have an average home record. If they can win those home games they can be back in the Clark Cup Finals for a third straight year.

FTT:  As someone who covers both the USHL and Minnesota High School hockey, how would you compare the level of play of the two?

RSC:  Great question. In truth, they are different. The USHL is a faster, physical league that relies on talent and/or systems to win games. That and the defense and goalies on this level are far better than what you see in Minn. HS. Another thing about the USHL that makes it different is the skill level. Take a guy like Force forward Joe Rehkamp for example. He played at Breck in Minnesota and kid was easily the fastest skater in the state. He comes to the USHL where he uses his speed to kill but it hasn’t translated into a lot of goals like it did in high school.

That said, Minnesota HS hockey is very good. There is talent there and it is a great place for recruiters to go. MNHS is like any high school sport where you have a balance of power and the power is pretty much with the schools in the Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul and its suburbs.) Schools like Eden Prairie, Edina, etc. are in locations where kids can train year round and go against the best competition whether it be in the fall with the Elite League or the regular season. Then there are outstate schools like Duluth East, Moorhead and Roseau that get respect and work hard too. They also have kids in the Elite League but they are few and far between compared to the Cities schools. There is talent that can make the jump from HS to college, but most of them need the USHL or any junior league for that matter to make the transition.

FTT:  UMass recruit Kenny Gillespie is playing for Shattuck St Mary’s in Minnesota. Have you seen him play at all and what do you think of his game?

RSC:  I have not had a chance to see him play but I have been following Shattuck because how can you not? They don’t play the public schools, which is something most people outside Minnesota do not know. But know this, if you are playing at Shattuck that is saying a hell of a lot because they don’t just let bums walk into that place. If UMass or any school has someone that is at Shattuck right now, congratulations. You know that kid is going to come in with talent but more than anything, work ethic.

FTT:  UMass recruit Shane Walsh is playing for the Dubuque Saints of the USHL. Have you seen him play at all and what do you think of his game?

RSC:  I’ve seen him a few times this year and he’s not a bad player at all. He’s got some speed about him, which is a plus. The times I’ve seen him, he’s been good but just has had a hard time getting scoring chances. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Dubuque has some monsters and one guy you’re going to hear about if you haven’t already is John Gaudreau, a Northeastern commit. He’s uber talented. Going back to Walsh, he’ll be a good addition for UMass because he can play defense and he doesn’t make a lot of dumb decisions. He’ll be a hardworking forward for them.

FTT:  Lastly, how in the world does a Maine alum end up covering amateur hockey in Fargo, North Dakota?

RSC:  My goal is to cover the NHL and you can’t say you want to do it covering Texas HS Football like I was doing before I moved to Fargo. The Forum had an opening and I told myself that if I was serious about getting back into covering hockey I needed to make this move. Things have worked out to this point and that’s why I am here. Fargo is great and I enjoy being here. But I know there is an end all goal and that is the NHL. I grew up a hockey fan and I always knew I wanted to cover it. I covered the women’s team at Maine for two years and Hockey East women for a year at USCHO.com while I was a senior. My last two jobs got me out of hockey but I really missed the game and covering it. So I made a choice. I don’t regret it at all. Coming to Fargo has been the greatest experience of my career and I know it’ll lead to bigger things. There’s an old African saying, "You can’t hide the sun with your hand forever." My time will come, I know that.

The UMass Athletics site has another entry to Chase Langeraap’s blog following his first journey into pro hockey.

Staying in the ECHL, former UMass captain Dean Stork was named runner-up for the league’s Coach of the Year award.  Stork, in only his first year as a head coach, led the Greenville Road Warriors to the second best record in the league. 

UMass Hockey Award Banquet News

I wasn’t able to make it to the team banquet yesterday, but luckily I got a first hand account from Brock Hines and Dick Baker has a nice writeup about the event, which included an emotional speech by Paul Dainton who received the team MVP award.

Here are the awards given out yesterday:

Team MVP – Paul Dainton
Rookie of the Year – Mike Pereira
Jack Canniff “Unsung Hero” – Doug Kublin & Chase Langeraap
Minuteman Spirit Award – Kevin Moore
Most Improved – Anthony Raiola

I can’t argue with any of those. Though personally I think Most Improved could have been shared between Raiola, who did a great job showing that he should be considered for an everyday spot on the blueline next season, and Danny Hobbs, whose production exploded this year.

Also announced at the banquet was that T.J. Syner and Hobbs will be co-captains for next year’s squad while Mike Marcou will keep his role as assistant captain.

Yesterday I mentioned that there’s a good chance UMass will be heading up to Canada to play regular exhibition opponent University of New Brunswick in a future year. Thanks to FTT reader Graham for bringing to my attention that the V-Reds, a powerhouse in the CIS, won the championship yet again. Graham also endeared himself to me by passing along beer suggestions, specifically Propeller Brewery in Halifax.

The Boston Herald has an article on ex-BU assistant coach David Quinn who is now coaching the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters where he names Greg Mauldin as one of the key leaders on the team.