Polls & Awards

A sweep of Lowell helped Boston College consolidate their hold of the top spot on the USCHO poll and the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.  Merrimack is still undefeated and is at #7, BU’s three point weekend allowed them to move up a spot to #12, and Maine claimed the final spot at #20.

UMass will see a couple of the Hockey East Weekly Award winners this weekend in the form of BC freshman star Johnny Gaudreau and UNH’s goaltender Matt DiGirolamo.  UMass did not have any award winners or top performers named.  Steve Guzzo’s first career goal was mentioned in the milestone section.

Here’s how the weekend looked from the Terriers’ point of view.

UMass debuted new jerseys on Saturday at BU.  I’m not totally sure if they’re going to be the usual away sweaters or their just a 3rd jersey.  Obviously the fact that their solid in color allows both.   Here’s what they looked like, courtesy of Matt over at the Minuteman Nation blog.

 

For a number of reasons, I like them.  First I like that they’re the correct shade of maroon.  It seems like Addidas has had a lot of trouble getting UMass’ colors right.  Hex #881c1c.  Get on it.  If I can get it right for the blog, you can get it right for the sweaters.

Secondly, I love that is says Massachusetts.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the UMass moniker, as long as it’s not followed by a hyphen, but I love to see the school’s name spelled out as such.  It’s a reminder that the school doesn’t just represent the campus, Amherst, or Western Mass, but the entire state.

Thirdly, white on the shoulders.  Excellent.

If there was one thing I could do to improve it it would be to increase the size of the font of Massachusetts on the front.  Like last year’s Mini-Minuteman that adorned the thirds, it’s just a bit too small.

The jury is still out on the white helmets they wore on Friday night.   But if I see a few wins with them on is all that’s needed to sway my vote.

Saturday Recap Links

No true recap since I was not at the game last night. At first I was a little disappointed when my wife made plans for us up against a game that I could easily get to. I was really disappointed while checking scores during dinner to see UMass was up 3-0 early. But, in the end I’m very glad I missed this one. All the beer at mini-Sunset would likely not have been enough to wipe the memory of this collapse if I had witnessed it first hand.

Since I did not see or listen to the game I’m not going to comment on specific play. I will say that after my recap last week when I said this team had not improved from last year since they hadn’t figured out a way to win, I was told I was being overly negative. I was told my conclusions were premature. Well if this weekend didn’t solidify those observations, I don’t know what else would. The team had a 2-0 lead on Friday and a 3-0 lead last night and all they got for it was one Hockey East point. It’s nice to see that they can hang with good teams like BC and BU, but just hanging with good teams doesn’t get you trophies, banners, or a happy fan base.

I have no idea why we continue to see this type of play, these type of results year after year. UMass hockey has lacked a killer instinct needed to put opponents away for many seasons. This needs to change. Immediately. It’s early in the season, but these Hockey East games in October count as much as the ones in March. UMass will soon find themselves is hole they will not be able to climb their way out of in order to fulfill their goals for the season. Time for the team, coaches and players, to make the necessary adjustments, strategic or in how they approach the game mentally, to learn how to win. Otherwise it’s going to be another long and frustrating season in Amherst.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steve Guzzo
I’m giving this one to Guzzo as his first collegiate goal gave the Minutemen the early lead.  He ended the night a +2.

Dick Baker calls the loss “pathetic” and says it was a complete meltdown for the Minutemen.

Here’s the recap from the Herald as well as from the Globe.

College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni puts the loss in the context of the larger collapses and disappointments in recent seasons.

The Globe has a feature on Jon Quick where he says he had doubts about his decision to leave UMass when he found himself in the ECHL.  Obviously in the long run it was for the best.

Friday Recap

I want to get the negative stuff out of the way up front, because it’s completely outweighed by the positives in this game.  It’s a little disappointing that the team could not hold onto a two goal lead at home for the win, including a one goal lead in the third.  That’s especially disappointing since not once but twice Conor Sheary had a breakaway that could’ve helped put the game away.  The second missed breakaway chance directly led to the two on one that got BU its first goal of the night.  UMass has had numerous breakaway chances this season, from Sheary’s last night to T.J. Syner’s penalty shot, and they’ve had a tough time converting on them.

So there were some missed opportunities that prevented UMass from getting that extra point last night.  But overall fans should be very happy with what they saw.  The biggest positive was the play of the defense and Kevin Boyle.  This looked to me to be the best game by the defensemen on the season as they completely stifled one of the best offenses in Hockey East, holding them to just 23 shots total.  And when shots did get through, Boyle was there to stop them.  It’s tough to fault him on either goal.  He certainly could’ve played the puck better on the first goal, but I’m not going to hang a 2 on 1 on his shoulders.  On the second he couldn’t cover up the rebound and none of the defensemen around were quick enough to clear it out of the front of the net and BU was able to pounce on it and score.  Overall great defensive effort all around.  BU really turned up the pressure when they came out in the third and UMass did an excellent job limiting the damage.  Of course the penalty kill was perfect, stopping BU on all four of their chances and limiting them to only four shots with the extra man.

Offensively UMass generated a ton of shots, 35 total.  If not for some very good play from Kieran Millan, UMass wins this one in a blowout.  The top two lines were able to pressure BU all night and it was good to see a goal come from the second line.  That goal, scored by Conor Sheary, was created when Rocco Carzo had to athletically collect a pass with his knee, played the puck down to his stick, which he immediately fired in the direction of Millan where Sheary put it home.  The first goal came thanks to some excellent passing, first a nice pass down low by Joel Hanley to attack the net where Mike Pereira was able to put it across the slot onto the stick of T.J. Syner who put it home.  Overall I was impressed by the puck movement, which I believe led to the large amount of shots we saw last night.  It was nice to see the top three forwards get back on track after struggling last week.  Syner had a goal which was setup by Pereira and Danny Hobbs led all skaters with 8 shots on net.

It would’ve been nice to get the two points but it was still a positive showing against a ranked team.  It will be interesting to see who is in net.  I’m thinking it will likely be Jeff Teglia since he played well last week and has had success at Agganis previously, gaining a tie there last year.  Hopefully last night helps to give the Minutemen some confidence that they can not only play with a team like BU, but actually control play for the majority of the game.  The opportunity is there for three points tonight, let’s see if they can take it.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – T.J. Syner
Syner’s goal was key for a number of reasons.  It got the Minutemen on the board first and allowed them to dictate what occurred for most of the rest of the game.  It came just seconds after a disallowed goal and quickly dismissed any potential negative momentum that could’ve created.  And it came at the very end of a period and gave the team some confidence going into the locker room.  But the goal, thanks to a great setup by Pereira, isn’t the only reason why Syner was my player of the game.  In the third with BU controlling play and threatening to take the lead, Syner was all over the ice and had some great backchecking work that disrupted several BU rushes.  When people think of Syner they think of his speed and offense, but he’s also one of the better defensive forwards on the team.  That showed last night.

Here’s the recap from the Republican.  I have to say that only 5,300 for a Friday night against BU is very disappointing.  The students showed up, where are all the locals?

The Globe has their BU-oriented recap.

Here’s the Gazette’s game story.

Weekend Preview

#13 Boston University Terriers 2-2-0 (1-1-0) Hockey East T-5th

vs

Massachusetts Minutemen 1-2-1 (0-2-1) Hockey East 7th

This is, quite frankly, a pivotal weekend for UMass hockey.  The Minutemen have a chance to make a statement against a ranked Boston University team that, while talented, has not played consistently well on the young season.  In addition to playing a BU team with some weaknesses, the team will play tomorrow in front of what will likely be one of the better and louder crowds of the season, as Halloween has resulted in the student section at capacity in the past.  UMass absolutely has to find a way to channel the energy and enthusiasm the crowd contributes and at least come away with a split this weekend.

The Terriers have gotten off to a very inconsistent start to the season.  After giving up six goals in an exhibition loss they came out on opening night and shutout UNH 5-0.  That score seemed pretty impressive until those results became the norm for the Wildcats in the first few weeks of the season.  The next week BU dropped a game to Providence 5-3, a similar result to what UMass fans saw against the Friars the very next night.  The Terriers appeared to get back on track the next night when they beat Denver at home, preventing the Pioneers from ascending to the top of the college hockey polls.  But last week saw them get upset by Holy Cross, the first win for the Cruasders against a ranked team since they took out Minnesota in the 2006 NCAA tournament.

There are a number of areas where Jack Parker would probably like to see improvement from his team.  One is penalties.  The folks working the penalty box doors this weekend should get overtime pay as the home and home features the two most penalized teams in the league.  UMass is averaging 21 penalty minutes while the Terriers come in at 18.  Helping mitigate harm from taking all those penalties is the fact that BU’s kill has been good enough at 83.3%.  The other area where BU seems vulnerable is goaltending.  Kieran Millan has not looked good.  After gaining the shutout over UNH in the opener he’s allowed five goals in two of the last three games.  Add in another five in BU’s exhibition game and Millan is going to have to improve his game quickly if the Terriers want to accomplish anything this season.

One thing BU has had no problem with this season is scoring goals.  BU has scored an even four goals a game on the season, good for second in the league.  Half of those goals have come from Matt Nieto and Alex Chiasson who each have four apiece.  I consider Chiasson perhaps the most exciting player to watch in Hockey East, combining great scoring skill with difference making size.  Corey Trivino and Wade Megan have each contributed as well with multiple goals on the season.  A little surprising is that super soph Charlie Coyle has yet to get on the scoreboard, but that’s not to say he hasn’t done anything as he’s leading the team in assists.

It’ll fall on the UMass defensemen and goaltenders to do their job and keep the game close against such a potent offense.  I’m assuming/hoping Jeff Teglia will see at least one of the games this weekend as he had a strong game against BC and deserves to try to build off it.   Teglia has also played well against BU previously, going 0-1-1 against them last year with a GAA under 3.00.  I don’t think he’ll see the ice both games though, so look for Kevin Boyle to take one of the starts or I’m hearing it’s a possibility Steve Mastalerz is back in playing shape after recovering from an injury.  Whoever is in net, the defense in front of them has to get better.  Overall I thought the defense played well in the first two games, with Colin Shea standing out the most.  But in the last two it’s been tough to say anyone on the blueline has played that well.  That has to change quickly.  With the goaltending still working itself out a reliable defense would be a huge plus right now.

Offensively the guys need to bounce back from a disappointing game last week where the only goals were scored by a freshman making his debut and a defenseman late in the game.  I know there has been a lot of talk about lines and linemates during the week, from myself included, but that can’t be an excuse.  UMass has two lines worth of players, no matter how they’re mixed and matched, that can score goals in this league.  UMass still comes into this game with the 4th best offense in Hockey East at 3.50 goals a game.  The power play did fall quite a bit after going 0 for 7 and needs to get back on track.

In addition to finding their offense again, UMass needs to maintain discipline.  All the penalties taken thus far in the season hurts the team in a couple ways.  First, it puts a lot of pressure on the goaltenders and defensemen who are already vulnerable.  Second, it’s taking the best players off the ice.  The team needs guys like T.J. Syner, Adam Phillips, and Conor Allen taking their shifts, not in the box.

What may determine whether the Minutemen win or lose however, especially tomorrow, could be how well they tap into the intangibles.  This game will be televised live on NESN.  There’s a very good chance the crowd will be 7000+.  And expect the students to be wild and hopefully engaged.  If the team can harness the electricity in the air early and convert a couple scoring chances it could be all the momentum they need to pick up their first league win.  And even a split against a ranked Terrier team would be an enjoyable Halloween treat.

Beer The Triangle
It’s very unlikely I’ll be available for a trip to Commonwealth Ave and the nearby Mini-Sunset on Saturday, so my pregaming will be limited to the Hangar tomorrow afternoon.  Luckily I’ve taken the day off work so my quality time with Stoney’s offerings won’t be limited due to bad traffic like last time.  If UMass does pull off the sweep and you’re looking for a place to celebrate near Agganis, I recommend the Lower Depths in Kenmore Square.  An interesting sounding beer they’ve had on the last couple days is Geary’s 25th Anniversary Hudson Red.

The Collegian previews this weekend’s games.  They also mention, like I did above, that penalties have played a big role in UMass’ defeats.

Dick Baker has an interesting profile of Conor Allen.

An astute reader pointed out that Paul Dainton was sent down to Chicago of the ECHL.

View From Section U: The Gameworns

I have a lot of jerseys. Being a UMass fan for as long as I have I’ve gathered a bunch over the years as the styles have changed and I wanted a replica to go with whatever the team was wearing on the ice. It actually took me years after becoming a fan to procure my first jersey however. I think I actually ordered my first replica home triangle during the short time I was living in Michigan sometime around 2000. Since that time I also picked up a black/alternate “Massachusetts” variation they wore a few years back (one of the shine ones, before they switched to the matted look). I also have this odd ball maroon jersey with the block UMass logo right after they retired the loopy u logo. What makes it oddball is that the UMass logo is also maroon and the team never actually wore a maroon logo on top of the maroon material.

Somewhere along the way though I thought I it’d be cool to pick up a gameworn UMass jersey as well. For those that don’t know the gameworn jersey hobby is a huge part of the collecting business. eBay is filled with them and there are even regular trade shows where collectors and dealers show off and hock their wares.  I once went to one of these shows and was able to see the jerseys that Ray Bourque wore the night of the Phil Espisito retirement ceremony, both the #7 and the #77 that he exposed in a moment area hockey fans have seen thousands of times.

The first UMass gameworn jersey I was able to get my hands on was this Chris Capraro sweater from the 03-04 season:

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It has some great wear and tear to it, including this stick mark across the logo:

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Well after that I was hooked and looked for opportunities to get other gameworns of UMass players. At a trade show a couple years later I was able to purchase my one and only triangle gameworn. It’s the jersey of Warren Norris, UMass’ third leading scorer all-time, and you can see I’ve put it to use in helping to decorate the blog. Judging from all the rips and stitching, he must have worn it all four years.

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At the Pond Club golf tournament a couple years ago I not only had the chance to win a Brett Watson gameworn at the auction that accompanies the golf, but Brett was in attendance and nice enough to sign it and pose for a picture:

With a couple UMass jerseys in my possession starting with the Capraro and Norris I began to keep an eye out for all UMass player jerseys, even in the pros. So over the years I’ve also grabbed some unique post-UMass gameworns. The first was this Brad Norton jersey from when he was an LA King:

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I’d love to find a Red Wings Norton jersey, perhaps with the Yzerman retirement patch, but that would be a tough one to locate and then afford.

I was able to get this Greg Mauldin practice jersey from when he was with his draft team, the Columbus Bluejackets, for fairly cheap.

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Next up are a couple of Springfield Falcon jerseys. First one from one of my favorite UMass players and Springfield native Rob Bonneau:

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There have been a few former Minutemen to suit up for the local pro team, and one was defenseman Nick Kuiper:

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The most recent jersey I acquired was  a unique gift from my wife. Dusty Demianiuk was featured on the NESN reality show “Be A Bruin” and ended up winning a spot on the Bruins preseason training camp roster that season. Here is one of the jerseys he wore during camp:

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Which leads me to the pride of the collection. This one came the longest distance as well, all the way from Italy. Thomas Pöck’s Team Austria jersey worn during the Salt Lake Olympics:

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Over the years I’ve even branched out from UMass hockey and even added a UMass football gameworn (which made the trip all the way down to Chattanooga in 2006) and a Colorado football gameworn.  I don’t look to procure UMass gameworns nearly as much as I used to, mostly because it’s damn expensive and I don’t wear jerseys to games that often as I used to.  But I still do keep my eye open for opportunities to add one to the collection and almost added a Mike Johnson triangle over the summer (damn you Wardy).  The two I’d most love to find, my “grails” as it’s called within the hobby, would be a Rob Bonneau triangle and a very rare Thomas Pöck triangle, as he only wore it for his first season.  So far I’ve found digital evidence of it, but that’s it.

Anyway, that’s it for my collection.  For a while it was a bit of an expensive obsession, but overall I find it fun to have such unique pieces of of the team I follow so closely.  In the end they’ll look great on the walls of my future beer snob/sports bar I open in the Amherst area after I win the lottery.

Recruit Update

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL)
3 GP / 0 G / 1 A / 1 Pts / 2 PIM / +1
Gillespie didn’t register any points in his one game for the Lancers over the weekend.  He’s still only playing about every other game for Omaha so far on the season and I’m not sure exactly why.

Shane Walsh – LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
7 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 0 PIM / -3
Walsh notched his first goal of the season in a 4-0 win over Muskegon.

There’s not too much else out there in the world of UMass hockey, so I’ll leave you with a couple links.

How often have you see a 7 foot,  Stanley Cup winning pink bunny?

The talk around Hockey East today was this column in BU’s student paper calling for Terrier Coach Jack Parker to step down.  Aw, poor BU faithful for having to go a whole 30 months without an NCAA championship due to Parker’s incompetence.

This is the only response I have for “Scoops” Mazurek:

Polls and Awards; Farewell UAH

Boston College is your new unified top ranked team in the nation after they beat the Minutemen and Huskies over the weekend, retaining the #1 status in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll and vaulting to the top of the USCHO poll.  Interesting to see Ferris State getting first place votes after their sweep of Miami.

The Eagles and specifically Billy Arnold were also atop the Hockey East awards for the week.  No UMass players were award winners or Top Performers for the week.

In an opinion shared by myself and, it seems, many FTT readers, Dick Baker gives Toot Cahoon a thumbs down for changing up the lines for the Boston College game in a well thought out blog post.

Here’s the Collegian’s recap of the game.

Some alumni news to share.

Jon Quick is the hottest goaltender in the NHL right now.  After getting a shutout over Phoenix last week to earn his 100th NHL win he’s been unstoppable ever since, posting two more shutouts since then.  The effort earned him the NHL’s first star for the week.  The LA Times says he’s been humble while doing it.

Sitting at the British Beer Company in Walpole Saturday trying to forget a loss in perhaps the last ever football game with UNH, it was great to look up to the TV and see that the Sharks had brought up Justin Braun to play against the Bruins.  He finished the night even in 15 minutes of play.

Back in Worcester Matt Irwin had the gamewinner.

Dan Gordon is playing pro hockey on the Cape.

Sad news in college hockey today as the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers announced this will be the last season for the program at the DI level.  This is a disappointing product of challenging geography, a short-sighted administration, and the inability of the other college hockey schools to find a place for the Chargers who were left standing when the CHA disbanded and the conference realignment music stopped.  It’s still unbelievable that with all the upheaval, with all the shuffling, with conferences coming in and out of existence in the last couple years that no one found a slot for the UAH program.  It should be noted that the Chargers had won multiple national championships at the DII level and had more NCAA appearances than a number of other college hockey programs, including UMass.  But that wasn’t enough for the remaining schools and conferences and UAH was left to die on the vine.  There are not enough college hockey teams out there if you ask me.  It’s tough to see one with history and tradition, created in spite of its unique locale, disappear from the college hockey scene.

Edit – Here’s one of the more comprehensive reads on the demise of the Chargers.

BC Recap

Well, with four games under their belts, including one against the team that ended their season last Spring, there’s enough evidence to have an opinion on this year’s team.  And unfortunately my conclusion is that this team isn’t any better than last year’s.  The makeup of the team is a little different, but overall I haven’t seen anything through the four games to make me think they’ll be significantly better than last year.  Certainly what was seen in Conte Forum last night didn’t feel any different from what we saw last February or March.  Now obviously I didn’t expect with an offseason under their belts they were going in to beat an excellent BC team at home.  But I at least thought they would be able to compete with them a little closer than last year.  Instead they were dominated and for most of the time.

Now if there was going to be one weakness going into the game it would be goaltending, right?  After all, Jeff Teglia was making his first start of the year.  No.  In fact UMass got strong goaltending from Teglia.  What they didn’t get was offense.  For all the hype about how this UMass team was performing much better offensively, they looked just as anemic as last year.  They had only two shots during the entire second period.  The power play went 0 for 7 with just four shots on net.  And those that needed to score didn’t, with one goal coming from a freshman playing only his second shift in his UMass career and the second coming from a defenseman late.  Now some of the blame goes to the players who did not challenge BC goaltender Parker Milner.  They can also take the blame for taking way too many penalties.  Ten all in all, including 6 from the team’s co-captains.  That’s unacceptable.

But Toot Cahoon can take some of the blame as well.  After last weekend when the T.J. Syner/Danny Hobbs/Mike Pereira quickly established itself as one of the most productive lines in all of college hockey, he decided to split them up.  The result?  No goals, no assists.  Danny Hobbs who dominated last weekend generated just one shot.  I’m sure Toot was thinking he wanted to distribute the potent offense to more than one lines.  Instead he got four lines that cannot score at all.  If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  I was in total shock when I heard before the game that the lines were being split.  I actually had to flag down Dick Baker to confirm it via the line sheet.  Would keeping the top line together have made a difference tonight?  Who knows.  Probably not given that UMass had to play shorthanded so often.  But changing the lines tonight was totally unnecessary.  UMass split last weekend because of goaltending, not offense.  So why change it up except for the sake of changing it up?

The one moment for UMass fans to cheer was Andrew Tegeler scoring a goal in the early moments of his first every game.  The goal also marked the first point for Oleg Yevenko.  Overall Tegeler played pretty well and almost came up with another goal in the third.  Beyond that, there honestly wasn’t a lot to cheer about.  It wasn’t an entertaining game for anyone with the constant whistles as a result of two no-name Hockey East refs sending players from both teams off every couple minutes.

Back to the drawing board for UMass.  Like last year they seem incapable of playing an all around good game.  When the offense is working they get poor goaltending and lose.  When the goaltending is good they can’t score.  When they get both, they’re unable to do little things, like clear the puck, to seal a win.  It’s still early in the year but so far this one is looking like a repeat of last season.  The only difference is UMass had a relatively workable schedule early last year.  They don’t have that luxury this season.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Jeff Teglia

Seems a little odd that the player of the game goes to the guy who gave up four goals, but if Teglia doesn’t play as well as he did this game is easily 6-2 of 7-2.  There was really only one of the four goals that I thought was soft and that’s when Johnny Gaudreau caught Teglia leaning the wrong way and put it between the post and his skate.  The other three goals were because BC forwards worked for it or the UMass defense was caught watching, like the first goal.  No one on defense for UMass looked good last night and Teglia had to battle to keep the game close.  Overall Teglia looked good.  Good enough to get at least one of the games in net against BU next weekend.

Here’s the recap from the Republican.

The Herald recap says Billy Arnold was the star.

Joe Meloni of College Hockey News has his thoughts.

Boston College Preview

Massachusetts Minutemen 1-1-1 (0-1-1-) Hockey East 7th

at

#2 Boston College 3-1-0 (1-0-0) Hockey East 3rd

This early season game against the Eagles will be an interesting look at how this Minuteman team matches up against one of the game’s elite teams. Against middle of the pack teams UMass had mixed success, going 1-1-0. But this will be the first true test to see how the reacts and adjusts when facing some of the best talent in college.

There are two questions I’m eager to see answered. First, UMass has gotten off to a great start to the season offensively, mostly led by the top line of Danny Hobbs, T.J. Syner, and Mike Pereira which has scored 7 of the team’s 12 goals.  Through three games the team is averaging 4 goals a game, which compared to recent UMass history is unheard of.  In addition, the power play has done very well, converting at a 21% clip, good for 2nd among Hockey East teams.  But the newfound offense will have quite a challenge in front of them tomorrow.  BC may boast the best group of defensemen in all of college hockey.  The Eagle blueline can lay claim to four NHL draft picks and the two that aren’t, Ed Shea and Patch Alber, have been pretty dependable through their careers on the Heights in their own rights.  Brian Dumoulin just may be the best defensemen in the league.  And so far the Eagle defense, combined with Parker Milner, who goes from reliable backup to starter, have let in just 2.25 goals so far this season.  When in the crease Milner has allowed just over 2 goals a game.

The second question for UMass is, of course, how will the goaltending fare.  I will be utterly floored if Jeff Teglia doesn’t get the start tomorrow.  While not tested too much, he looked solid in relief of Kevin Boyle at Providence and saved all eight shots he faced.  Playing on the road against a top team is a challenge for any goaltender, but considering he already has games at Minnesota, at Wisconsin, at Boston University, and at UNH under his belt, he may already feel comfortable in such environments.  It wouldn’t hurt to get some help from his defense, which has looked up and down so far on the season.  I would say overall they look slightly better than last year, which is to be expected since most have returned and are a year older.  But they just have to make sure they’re focused every shift.  Have two or three off shifts against BC and you’ll find you’re suddenly down two or three goals.  BC may have lost some scoring last year, but they are still extremely dangerous.  And what’s scary is that not only is Chris Kreider putting up points from them, but they’ve gotten great production from their younger guys like sophomore Billy Arnold and John Gaudreau, who is an early favorite to be Hockey East Newcomer of the Year.

So on paper, BC should roll right?  Well you would’ve thought as much last year, and certainly on paper, it looked like it as BC went 5-0.  But the games were competitive.  After getting pounded in the first game between the teams 5-0, UMass played BC much closer in the last two regular season games, losing 4-3 and 2-1.  In the playoffs UMass again challenged BC and lost 4-1 (in a game that was much closer than the final score), and 4-2 (ENG).  While BC was obviously the more talented team last year, UMass did not play like they were intimidated by them.  A year older, hopefully they can take that next step and actually challenge them for the outcome of the game.

Beer The Triangle
Pregame will likely be spent at Cityside in Cleveland Circle, a nice bar with great food and a serviceable beer menu.  But if UMass can pull off the win you can bet you’ll find me down the street at American Craft or Publick House afterward for a celebration that will carry over to the tailgating activities planned for the next day at Gillette for the Colonial Clash.

Per his Twitter account, it appears that Eddie Olcyzk is injured and will not dress tomorrow.  In better news, Steve Mastalerz was due to begin skating today.

The BC student paper previews tomorrow’s game.

Dick Baker details UMass’ need to get better at faceoffs.

Stephen Werner will represent the US in yet another international competition.  This time it’s the Deutchland Cup.  Good to see Werner back at the top of his game after battling concussion problems in the past few years.

View From Section U: An Even Dozen

As I promised a few weeks ago when the Notre Dame to Hockey East news became official, here are my thoughts on a potential additional program which would bring the total to twelve. While having an even number of teams isn’t absolutely necessary, after all there were only nine teams between when UMass joined in 1994 until Vermont was added in 2005, it does make scheduling easier and more exciting. One of great things right now in Hockey East is that during the months of February and March every team is playing every night as they battle for the championship. If Notre Dame joins as an 11th team by itself someone will be sitting on the sidelines every Friday and Saturday during that time. Plus a 12th team will allow for all teams in Hockey East to participate in the playoffs, with the top four seeds getting an opening round bye as the bottom eight fight to move on.

Of course a program shouldn’t be added just for the sake of getting to twelve teams. That school should bring value to the conference and its members. While I wasn’t on board with the Notre Dame decision due purely to geographic reasons, the profile of the school and competitiveness of the program is a benefit to Hockey East. But what other schools would do the same? Here are my thoughts on the pros, cons, and (since this is a FTT post) the road trip/pre-gaming possibilities of each one. Speaking of which, did you know South Bend, Indiana is only 80 miles from Bell’s Brewery?

Looks Good On Paper, But…

UConn

Pros – UConn fits well into the current geographic footprint of the conference. Four of the other flagship schools from New England are already in the conference in UMass, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Though not for hockey, they’re a high profile school in general college athletics, specifically for basketball and more recently football. They’re from an area with a decent hockey tradition and could potentially tap into that (beyond just playing Brass Bonanza after goals).

Cons – Their hockey history sucks. Despite beating Lowell just last night, it’s unknown if they’d be able to make leap from perennial Atlantic Hockey also ran to Hockey East. Their facility is frankly, awful. It’s essentially a building right out of an industrial park with a rink inside surrounded by metal football bleachers. The really sad part is it’s a relatively new building right out an industrial park with a rink inside surrounded by metal football bleachers. UConn would have to build something new if they want to meet Hockey East standards. That’s major hurdle number one. Major hurdle number two is the fact that they don’t currently fund scholarships, or if they do it’s just a fraction of the full allotment that HEA schools do. They’d have to fund all the way up to the max to become a Hockey East program and then of course find money for to offset such increases on the women’s side of their sports, due to Title IX. Considering the school has shown exactly zero interest in doing what it takes to have a successful program even at the AHA level, I don’t see this happening.

Road Trip – Storrs is a pretty barren place in terms of anything to do. The first time I went there I had to pregame at the Hooters all the way in Manchester. Luckily the last time UMass played there I came across Willimantic Brewing company, a great brewpub located in an old post office with garlic fries that are so good they should be illegal.

The Contenders

Quinnipiac

Pros – It wasn’t long ago that Quinnipiac was in Atlantic Hockey themselves, but a large investment in the program has allowed them to elevate to the ECAC and still be somewhat successful. The school built a decently sized, impressive facility right near campus that would work for Hockey East. The school also demonstrated their willingness to improve the profile of the program by paying for some games to be televised on NESN. While the team hasn’t made the NCAAs since 2002, it has enjoyed 20 win seasons in 5 of the last 8 years. Specifically from a UMass perspective these teams have played each other for the last few seasons and enjoyed some memorable games during that time.

Cons – Not a lot here to tell you the truth, other than the fact that while they’ve shown they can compete in the ECAC, they haven’t demonstrated they can reach the NCAAs in a more competitive league. It’s also an unknown whether they could attract a casual fan following to their games. Although it’s interesting that the small private school offers more than the state’s flagship.

Road Trip – This one is actually a con. Last time UMass played at Quinnipiac we pregamed at Southport Brewing Company which is a chain in the area. Meh. Mediocre craft beer. Think Northampton Brewery without the deck. Decent pregaming would have to take place down the road in New Haven, where Prime 16 is one of my favorites.

Holy Cross

Pros – Holy Cross would be the best geographic fit for the current Hockey East schools, just a short bus ride for both UMass and the Boston area schools. Unlike UConn, Holy Cross has actually won something in Atlantic Hockey, with a couple conference titles to their credit. They also have one of the more storybook wins in NCAA tournament history when they topped #1 seed Minnesota in 2006. The fact that Holy Cross has the support of the city if they decide to move to Hockey East is a plus.

Cons – While Holy Cross’ rink is nice by AHA standards, it’s not good enough for Hockey East. The good news is the city would allow them to play at the DCU Center. The bad news is they’d have to play at the DCU Center. Now, DCU is one of the few area hockey arenas I haven’t been to, but I’ve heard nothing but horror stories about it during those times when NCAA regionals are held there. Is that the best place to showcase Hockey East? Also it’s an unknown how much support Crusader hockey would get from its administration and student population. For these reasons Holy Cross is probably a longshot.

Road Trip – Though it’s on the far side of Worcester from campus, Peppercorn’s, the home of Wormtown Brewing, would be a great addition to Hockey East, as I found out when I pregamed the pregame before football played Holy Cross this fall. Wormtown’s owner and head brewer is a UMass alum.

Dark Horses

Niagara

Pros – I guess this is probably the closest thing Notre Dame would have to a travel partner. While we are talking about an Atlantic Hockey team, they’re not one by choice. Niagara would love nothing more than continue to raise the profile of its program by offering close to or at the maximum for scholarships and making the team the flagship of its athletic department. Unfortunately when the CHA disbanded Niagara was forced to join the AHA to remain viable and adopt their myopic limitations on scholarships. Niagara wants out and wants big-time hockey, but has no where to achieve such dreams. The Purple Eagles have had success at the DI level with three NCAA appearances to their name.

Cons – The distance is an issue, for both teams and fans. The program would also very quickly have to invest in its facilities, scholarships, and try to make a splash in Hockey East. As UMass fans we saw the troubles of jumping right into an elite conference and the long term effects it can have. Another huge problem would be where would they play? Their current arena is inadequate and I’m not sure if the area has anything that could be used as an alternative, even if temporarily.

Road Trip – Pregame in the area best known for being the birthplace of the buffalo wing? Oh, OK. If I absolutely HAVE to..

RIT

Pros – If we’re talking about all these Atlantic Hockey teams, why not look to the current kings of that conference who went to the Frozen Four in 2010? It’s amazing to think that in 06-07, in just their 2nd year in DI and their first year in Atlantic Hockey, they won 21 games. And they haven’t looked back since. They would bring a very passionate fanbase who I personally witnessed take over the MDC rink that Bentley plays in a few years back. So we know they’ll travel. There’s talk about building a new facility on campus or as a backup is Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester, home to UMass’ biggest win.

Cons – Like Niagara, geography isn’t a perfect fit. They’d also have to invest in scholarships, facilities, and so on. It’s unknown if the school would be willing to put that much into their hockey program.

Road Trip – Dinosaur BBQ is located a slapshot away from Blue Cross Arena. I have to say I really enjoyed the time spent in and around Rochester for the NCAA tournament in 2007.

Syracuse

Pros – Here’s a high profile school that would fit well into the other institutions already in Hockey East. The trip to Syracuse is doable for most of the existing teams. The school just recently added DI women’s hockey.

Cons – The obvious one is that they’d have to actually start the program, fund scholarships, build a facility (unless they play in the War Memorial), etc…

Road Trip – Like Rochester, Dinosaur BBQ. Other than that I know nothing about Syracuse, having only driven through it. Beer Advocate has a number of interesting looking spots in town however.

Rhode Island

Pros – The school itself would be a natural fit in the conference, in terms of geography and the fact that it’d be the fifth flagship school from New England. They would automatically have a bitter rival in Providence. There are rumors the Ryan Center could be retrofitted for hockey, but I’ve yet to see them confirmed. The school has long had one of the better club teams in the country. Their AD, UMass’ own Thorr Bjorn, already has a relationship with Hockey East and was involved with running the Minuteman hockey program.

Cons – Like Syracuse, they’d have to start a program. Unlike Syracuse, which is now rolling in ACC money, URI is hurting. Citing lack of success and budget problem, they’re actually cutting scholarships and dropping their football program to the Northeast Conference. Probably the only way this could work is if they cut football all together and reallocate that money to hockey.

Road Trip – Honestly, I’m not seeing much down there. Anyone?

My Choice

RPI

Pros – Personally I think RPI fits best. Geographically they’re located just outside the New England footprint. Amherst to Rensselaer 100 miles. Amherst to Newton 89 miles. Beyond proximity, they have tradition. Houston Field House is a quintessential college hockey barn. It’s capacity of 5,000 fits well with Hockey East. Inhabiting HFH are some diehard fans, a great hockey band, and of course Puckman. This is a team on the rise. Seth Appert is considered one of the better coaches in college hockey and he’s brought some good talent to the capital region in his tenure. In the last three years RPI’s win total has gone from 10 to 18 to 20. Of all the schools mentioned as an addition to Hockey East, this is the only one that has national championships to its name.

Cons – It had been a long time since they found themselves in the NCAA or atop the ECAC before last season. 1994 to be specific. It’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain at that level.

Road Trip – Brown’s Brewing is a brewpub I try to hit when in the area, located just down the hill from campus. Thirsty on the way back to Amherst? Moe’s Tavern in Lee is Berkshire County’s premiere beer bar and UMass alumni owned and operated.

There you have it. Address the invite and get a stamp on this thing. I’d love for Hockey East to jump on this so both schools could enter at once.

Dick Baker takes a look at the ease Friday’s game will mean to the Shea family with both their sons playing each other. I noticed last year at the pregame at Cityside that the Sheas had taken a page from the Pereira family and constructed a half UMass-half BC jersey. Although it kind of turns my stomach to see my beloved maroon and white attached to a BC logo, I do appreciate the thrill it must mean for them to see both their sons compete at the same time on the ice at the highest level of college hockey.