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Northeastern Recap

So UMass was THIS close to winning. Again. Listen, there are a lot of positive observations to take from tonight’s game, but forgive me if I lead with my base thoughts. Last year we, as fans, could deal with the losses. We could deal with the close losses. The ties. The wins turned into ties or losses at the end because we had an experienced squad that didn’t know how to win. But I was hoping we left that in last year.  I thought that with a year under their belt and the team no longer full of freshmen we’d have moved to the point where the team had a little more understanding and confidence to win the close games.  To step on an opponent’s throat when they’re carrying the play.  Apparently not.

UMass played very well last night. But bad penalties and letting Northeastern dominate play for the last ten minutes of the game allowed the Huskies to grab one of the Minutemen’s points tonight. Yes, the Minutemen’s points.  They were UMass’ points to lose. They played like the better team for most of the game and had the lead until just two seconds left in the game. Two seconds. Good teams find a way to hold on for two seconds. Looking at the result this team looks like a continuation of last year’s. And frankly, last year’s results is not going to be good enough this year.  I don’t want to make too much out of one tie to start the season, but the result and moreso the manner in which the result came about was very disappointing.  UMass was the better team, but in the standings UMass and Northeastern are now tied.

When looking at the play of the individual players, the team did well and showed why they should’ve won. I thought the defense played very solid overall, Kevin Boyle didn’t have to do play too much out of his capabilities in his first game and I think a lot of that was due to how well the defense played as a group. Especially good were Mike Marcou and Colin Shea. Marcou honestly played one of his best games in quite a while.  Though he almost made a costly mistake in overtime, that was really the only mishap he had.  Through the entire game he made some great defensive plays and also ended up with two assists.  Colin Shea looked very solid on defense, even threw his body around, and score the first goal.  I thought Conor Allen played excellent right up to the point of where he started to take some really unwise penalties.  Speaking on unwise penalties, Oleg Yevenko had a couple of them and one of which resulted in a power play goal for the Huskies.  This is exactly what a lot of UMass fans were worried about and hopefully we’ll see some smarter play in the future.  Beyond the defense one of the major positives was the penalty kill, which performed extremely well.  The Northeastern power play, which included a couple of two man advanteages, ended up just 1 for 6 on the night.  Even more impressive is that UMass kept them to just three power play shots.

Boyle himself looked very good.  He showed good positioning on shots and this helped not only to stop what was coming in from the Northeastern skaters but allowed his defensemen to clear the puck in front of him.  For a freshman making the first start of his career to open up the season and played very composed.  He did not seem to panic at all, even during the numerous scrums happening right in front of him.  Is he the goaltender of the future?  Who knows.  But he certainly made a great case for his abilities last night.

Offensively the team played well.  I was impressed by the play of the centers, specifically Brenden Gracel and Kevin Czepiel.  Both were extremely active and Gracel scored the second goal for the Minutemen, just seconds after the Huskies scored to go ahead.  A couple pleasant surprises were the play of Steve Guzzo and Peter DeAngelo.  Guzzo, who didn’t get to play in his true freshman year due to injury, showed speed and aggressiveness in going after the puck.  DeAngelo didn’t make much of an impression last year but at times was one of the most active palyers on the ice last night and did a good job of distributing the puck when he gained possession.

Emerson Auvenshine looked very good early but faded towards the end.  Actually, most players faded towards the end of regulation, but it was good to see UMass’ play pick up in  overtime and really grab the most chances to win the game during the extra timeframe.  T.J. Syner and Mike Pereira did their best to take on the scoring load, with Syner scoring a goal, especially given the absence of Danny Hobbs.

It’s sad to say that a tie on the road in a season opener is a disappointment, but it is.  When you outplay an opponent, are able to withstand a good number of the man advantages, and still have the lead in the waning seconds of the game, you should win.  Good teams find a way to win.  UMass, like last year, found a way to not win.  Whether it’s a mental issue or a conditioning issue where the team is gassed at the end of the game, it’s something that needs to be addressed.  And hopefully soon.

Fear the Triangle Player of the Game – Colin Shea
Certainly T.J. Syner, Brenden Gracel, and even Kevin Boyle deserve some consideration, but I really liked what I saw from Colin Shea tonight.  I mentioned in my season preview that there was an offensive aspect to Shea’s game that I saw in juniors that hadn’t seen yet at this level.  Well I think we did.  He scored his goal on a nice pinch in and wrister on the power play, set up by Brenden Gracel.  He nearly was able to use the identical move again later in the game that would’ve given UMass a 4-2 lead, but Chris Rawlings was just able to get a shoulder on the shot.  Beyond his offense, he did very well on defense.  He was always in the right position to stop a Northeastern skater or get in a passing lane and he was even able to hit a couple guys on the ice.  Overall, a great unexpected contribution tonight from Shea.

Toot says they team “cheated” in the third period in the recap from the Republican.

He says Boyle stood on his head in the third in the Gazette game story.

College Hockey News has a nice feature on Boyle and his play as well as a look at the play of Northeastern.

The Herald also recaps the game.

College Hockey News previews Hockey East and Joel Hanley is included on their watch list.

The Collegian has a ton of stories previewing the season.

Elsewhere in Hockey East Merrimack beat Maine 2-1 in Orono while Boston College pounded Michigan State out at the Icebreaker.  Meanwhile defending national champion UMD upset top ranked Notre Dame.

Off to McGuirk for some tailgating and hopefully something that resembles UMass football!

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