View From Section U: Schedule Thoughts

Continuing my look at the upcoming season, I thought it’d make sense to take a look at the official schedule and share my thoughts.  At this point there is still no news of an exhibition game, so the team may see it’s first action opening night at Northeastern.  While teams not having an exhibition is rare, it’s not entirely unheard of.  Perhaps if they’re unable to schedule one the school will schedule some kind of intrasquad scrimmage and/or skills competition at the practice rink the night of October 1st.

The opener against Northeastern will be interesting for both teams.  The Huskies just came through a summer that saw their coach bolt to the NHL, players leave early, recruits decommit, weeks and weeks without a coaching hire, only to finally select someone who hasn’t been a head coach in nearly two decades.  For us UMass fans, there will be a few questions to be answered; how much have the skilled freshmen from last season progressed as they start their sophomore year, can the added size and toughness make a difference in the form of results, and most importantly, who’s in net?  They’ll then come home to Amherst to open the Mullins against Bentley, a team that went 10-18-6 last year but does have wins over Hockey East teams for the last three years straight.  That includes of course a 4-1 win over UMass two year’s ago in UConn’s tournament.  After a game at Providence the team will have a tough close to October with a game at Boston College followed by a home and home with Boston University.

The Minutemen will have 8 games in the month of November which includes four straight at home after opening the month at UNH.  They’ll then play a couple catholic schools at home with Boston College followed by their second Atlantic Hockey opponent, Holy Cross, which finished third in their league last year.  It’s rare that UMass will have played both BC and BU twice before Thanksgiving dinner ever hits the table.  The team will be tested early with these four games against the Comm Ave schools  plus another in Durham against the Wildcats, all in the first 8 games of the season.  The Minutemen will play Northeastern for the second time on 11/12 before hosting Maine and travelling to Lowell the following weekend.  Unlike previous years where the conference schedule has stretched into December, the Turkey Tuesday game up at the Gut will be the last Hockey East game of the calendar year.  After that it’s three straight ECAC opponents, starting with a return to Quinnipiac’s TD Bank Sports Center where UMass lost an overtime heartbreaker in their last visit.  The Minutemen might as well decorate the Mullins with ivy instead of mistletoe for December as NCAA participant Yale and Harvard visit, with the Crimson finally returning a game owed from way back when the triangle jerseys were first replaced.  The game will mark only the 8th time the two Bay State schools will face each other and only the 4th since the UMass program was reinstated

After Christmas UMass fans will have a chance to watch the team in two very different climates.  The team will take part in the Everblades College Classic in Estero, FL first taking on co-host Cornell before face either Maine or Clarkson.  The next week will be seen as a historic moment in the long history of UMass hockey as the boys will take the ice at legendary Fenway Park as part of the Frozen Fenway 2012 festivities.  There they’ll take on Vermont in a doubleheader featuring the four New England flagships as Maine and New Hampshire take their rivalry outdoors in the nightcap.  UMass closes out the season series with a game at home against Boston College before hosting Vermont and playing a home and home with Lowell to close out the month.

The Minutemen start February at a venue actually older than Fenway when they travel to Matthews Arena to play Northeastern.  They’ll see Merrimack for the first time the following night in Amherst.  After a game at BU and at home versus the Friars the traditional full weekends against one opponent to close the season will start up.  First up is two games at Orono followed by two at home against UNH.  The team will then close out the season with a home and home against Merrimack, honoring seniors T.J. Syner, Danny Hobbs, Mike Marcou, and Kevin Moore on Friday, March 2nd.

There’s really no easy part of the schedule, with a steady stream of tough teams almost every weekend from the onset.  They’ll certainly have to make the most of the non-conference schedule since Yale is really the only elite opponent outside of Hockey East, though Cornell is likely to be ranked when the season starts.  If I were to identify one key stretch, other than March when UMass will likely be chasing something (a playoff spot, home ice, an at large, etc), I would say it’s the stretch of games in November at home starting with Boston College.  The opponents are tough in BC, Northeastern, and Maine, but if the Minutemen were to go pointless in this stretch they’ll likely find themselves playing catch-up for the rest of the season.

So there we have it, the schedule laid out for us.  I can almost hear the skates on the ice, feel the chilly Back Bay air, and taste those pregame beers.  Is it October yet?

Mike McMahon of the Eagle Tribune picks UMass to finish 8th and says the solving the question mark in net may be easier than you think.

Stick tap to whoever thought of “UMass Athletics 101” for the freshmen.  It looks like they packed to newest Minutemanics into the stadium, had coaches and players speak, and then threw a tailgate for them.  Way to get them engaged in UMass sports from the start.  And welcome to any freshmen who have made their way to FTT already.

Paul Dainton is covered by Blue Jackets blog Fire The Cannon.  Dainton will be heading to Columbus and then Traverse City, MI as part of their rookie camp.

Doug Kublin tried out for EV Fussen of one of the German leagues.  According to his Twitter account, it appears he was able to secure a spot over there.

Meanwhile, I heard that Cory Quirk, who played in Worcester last year, has signed with Rosenheim in Germany.

Lastly, Colin Shea and his brother Ed, a senior at BC, aren’t the only athletes in the family.