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View From Section U: Net Gains; Recruit Update

Coming into the season there was a lot of worry that the limited experience at the goaltender position could limit UMass’ ability to win.  Jeff Teglia had only played a handful of games last season and of course Kevin Boyle and Steve Mastalerz are in their first years in Amherst.  Certainly through the first seven games of the season it seemed that UMass would have to find a way to overcome some poor goaltending in order to gain success on the year.  In those games the Minutemen goalies gave up 4.14 goals per game and had two games, at Providence and at UNH, where the play in net was, frankly, horrendous.  They only saved 86.3% of shots during that time.  That UNH game that closed out that first seven game stretch and saw the Minutemen give up 7 to the Wildcats with neither freshman goaltender able to stop much of anything.

But since the debacle in Durham UMass has had significantly improved play in net from all three of their goaltenders.  In the last 7 games the team is .500, going 3-3-1.  But more importantly, the goaltending statistics have undergone a dramatic transformation.  The goaltenders since that point have only allowed 2.63 goals per game and have a save percentage of .910.  With three losses in a row the team itself isn’t on the kind of trend that fans are entirely happy about.  But it is good to see that all three goaltenders are making progress as the season goes along, perhaps a little quicker than could’ve been expected.

Of course none of this means the goaltending picture is any clearer as all three goaltenders have had their ups and downs so far this season and improved during recent games.  Coach Cahoon reiterated in yesterday’s radio show that he knows he can’t go with a three man rotation for the season and still expects to make some kind of move, either to make one player the starter or at least settle into a two man rotation, sometime after the Florida tournament.  However it’s nice to see all three guys are doing their best to made it a tough decision for him.

The weekly look at the future Minutemen.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2012
14 GP / 2 G / 3 A / 5 Pts / 23 PIM / +2
Gillespie netted his second goal of the season in an overtime loss to Dubuque and future teammate Shane Walsh.  In fact both goals for Gillespie have come against Walsh and the Saints this year.  It wasn’t enough for his coach Bliss Litter to save his job however, as he was fired today despite having a winning record.  Litter also coach Troy Power, Jeff Teglia, and Brett Watson and was discussed in last night’s UMass Hockey radio show.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
11 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 9 PIM
The EJHL is currently in the middle of an extended Thanksgiving break from games.

Shane Walsh – LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) – 2012
17 GP / 5 G / 6 A / 11 Pts / 0 PIM / -5
A rare pointless weekend for Walsh.

Cahoon mentioned that both Danny Hobbs and Mike Pereira are day-to-day in yesterday’s radio show.  He did say that Boyle is back skating and available for this weekend after recovering from an injury and an illness.

I want to extend my congratulations to John Sinnett who is being promoted from Hockey/Soccer Sports Information Director to Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations.  He replaces Jason Yellin who left for the bright orange pastures of Rocky Top earlier in the year.  As a fan blog written by someone with no journalistic training the athletic department certainly has no obligation to even acknowledge Fear The Triangle.  But Sinnett has been nice enough to extend to me some of the same access as the real media members, which in turn hopefully makes this a better blog for you, the readers.  So it’s good to see him get rewarded for that kind of extra effort and insight he has brought to his job.

A couple things to be aware of for Friday’s game against Harvard.  First, it’s Local Heroes night at the Mullins and all military, police, fire, ambulance, and teachers can buy $6 tickets.   Also, it’s Toys for Tots night, sponsored by the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, so don’t forget to bring a toy to donate (though I usually do just that two out of every three years).

UMass is 9th in College Hockey News’ Hockey East Power Rankings.  Can’t really argue with that.

Fear The Bee.

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Polls & Awards

Hockey East owns the top two spots in the weekly USCHO poll with Merrimack strengthening their grip on the top spot and Boston College moving up to #2.  Boston University is also ranked, coming in at #13.  This week’s opponent, Harvard, received one vote.  Future Hockey East team Notre Dame claims the runner-up spot on the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

No weekly awards to the Minutemen, no Top Performers, not even any milestones or who’s hot.  Instead the Hockey East release just gives us this gem; “After averaging nearly 3.5 goals per game in the first 11 games, UMass has averaged just one per game in the last three.”

Player of the Month honors will go out this month and Steven Guzzo will likely compete with Lowell’s Scott Wilson and Northeastern’s Ludwig Karlsson among others for Rookie of the Month.  Guzzo has 4 goals, including the game winner against Holy Cross, and two assists on the month.  On the season the team is .500 when he registers a point.

The Collegian takes a look at the weekend that was.

Dick Baker has a blog post where he says that the team was not ready for Quinnipiac’s strong first period, despite the fact that the coaching staff specifically warned them of such.  How?  How does that happen?  It’s bad enough that the team was flat after losing two straight against conference foes.  But the fact that the Bobcats get off to a quick start is referenced but still not addressed?  I don’t understand how that happens.  I hate to say it, but it’s beginning to sound like the players are starting to tune out the coaching staff, something rumored to be a problem with past UMass squads.  I really hope the team gets its act together soon because, as you can see from the comments here on FTT and other places where UMass fans gather, the frustration level among the fandom is reaching epic proportions.  Even among those not named Mel.

Quinnipiac Recap

Too little, too late.  It’s nice that once the third period rolled around UMass decided to give it it’s all and begin to mount a comeback, but after sleeping through the first two periods just playing for 20 minutes isn’t going to cut it.  It boggles my mind that this team is not out and ready to play from the get go right now.  Six and a half minutes in the team is already down 2-0, which ends up being the Bobcat margin of victory.  Ten and a half minutes and Quinnipiac is up 3-0.  This UMass team is desperate for some kind of win and momentum and they again come out flat and execute poorly to start a game.  How does that happen?

There were a lot of things that went wrong for the Minutemen yesterday.  Until the third period we saw the lack of offense that has become the trademark for this team in the last few weeks.  They generated only five shots in the first and just five again in the second.  Ten shots total to QU’s 21 in that time.  Overall UMass finished with 21 shots on net, but most of those came from T.J. Syner with 5 and Mike Marcou with 4.  Other guys have to generate some shots on offense.  Mike Pereira and Conor Sheary only had two shots apiece.  Branden Gracel had zero for the game.  And Darren Rowe who played his first game of the season, inserted into the lineup as a forward, also had zero shots.

UMass finally broke their power play streak, but it took 5 chances and a five on three to do it.  Overall the Minutemen finished 1 for 7 on the power play with just 7 shots, four of those coming on the 5 on three.  They had two separate power plays lasting the full two minutes with no shots and two others that lasted over a minute with no shots.

But the biggest factor in yesterday’s game was faceoffs.  UMass was absolutely dominated in the faceoff circle, only winning 16 of 51 chances.  That’s 31% for those scoring at home.  You can’t generate offense if you don’t have the puck.  But possession wasn’t the only problem.  If you watch yesterday’s “highlights”, you’ll see that the first two goals for the Bobcats come immediately off of faceoffs.  You’ll also notice that a Bobcat player is sitting all alone in front of the net to put home the rebound from the initial shot.  Why?  Because on the first goal Oleg Yevenko never picks up his guy following the faceoff.  On the second it’s Conor Allen who does the same thing.  Again, those two goals, coming early in the game, end up being the final margin.

Poor execution and lack of any real sense of urgency to start the games is killing this team.  I think it’s safe to say this team is officially in trouble.  The team is still somewhat young, but even for young teams it’s around this time in the season where you begin to see progress being made.  You see little things that were a problem to start the season no longer become issues.  That’s not happening.  To start the season this team was scoring goals.  A lot of them.  Now they’re unable to manage more than two.  They’re getting solid goaltending, as obviously it’s tough to blame Teglia for those first two with the QU player’s allowed to sit in front of the crease, but they’re not taking advantage of it.  It falls on the coaching staff to address both of these issues.  Locking up guys off the faceoff, faceoff technique, and figuring out the power play has to be the primary focus of practices.  Off the ice they need to figure out what’s going on in the players’ heads that’s leading them to come out onto the ice and coast through large stretches of it.  Hopefully some progress in these area will be seen in the last two games of this ECAC swing.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Joel Hanley
Hanley assisted on both UMass goals and finished the game a +1.

Here’s the recap from the Republican.

Quinnipiac Preview; KAEO Rick DeRosa

Quinnipiac Bobcats 7-6-2 (1-4-2) ECAC T-9th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 4-6-3 (2-6-3) Hockey East T-8th

Once again UMass will take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats of the ECAC in a post-Thanksgiving tilt. Previous matchups have resulted in some pretty exciting games, such as the epic 5-4 overtime game in 2009 where UMass came back from a 3-0 deficit only to fall in the extra frame. Last year’s win over the Bobcats by the Minutemen could be considered the best win of the season that saw very few of them.

Quinnipiac has done a very good job against their non-conference opponents thus far. They’ve gone 6-2-0 against non-ECAC teams including a win at Ohio State. They also beat Bentley and Holy Cross by similar margins as UMass when they faced those two Atlantic Hockey teams. Against league teams they’ve struggled though, gaining just one league win so far, against Princeton on the first day of the month. That’s also the last time they’ve won a game, going 0-4-2 recently.

Statistically, the team looks very good. Their 3.20 goals per game puts them in the top third of college hockey teams. Junior Jeremy Langlois is far and away their best player on the team, scoring 10 goals so far on the season. No one else on the Bobcat team has more than four. Connor Jones has helped get Langlois the puck on many of those goals, putting up 11 assists to go with four goals. Sophomore Kellen Jones and freshman Matthew Peca round out the other top offensive players. Despite having a healthy offense, Quinnipiac is only converting at a rate of 16% on the power play.

The Bobcats have also been strong on defense, allowing just 2.07 goals per game. They’ve done so with a goaltender rotation of senior Dan Clarke and junior Eric Hartzell. Clarke has the better record at 5-3-0 versus Hartzell’s 2-3-2, but Hartzell has the edge in goals against average with 2.06 versus 2.20. Both goaltenders faced the Minutemen last season with Hartzell getting the start but being lifted after the first period giving up 2 goals on 7 shots. In relief Clarke came in and gave up 3 goals on 13 shots. They’ll be helped out by defensemen Loren Barron and Mike Dalhuisen. The Bobcat penalty kill is a respectable 86.4%.

UMass now has three non-conference games against ECAC foes to try to recapture what was working for them when they won three in a row at the beginning of the month. Since then they’ve completely lost what was working for them offensively. In the last three games UMass has averaged only 20 shots per game and have gone a dreadful 0 for 16 on the power play. As a team UMass must get back to the basics. Even strength it’s about maintaining puck possession and peppering the opposing goaltender. On the extra man they have to get back to executing better passing and try to move the puck from the corners in instead of having everything coming from the point.

That’s what UMass has to do as a team. Individually it’ll be interesting to see how a couple players perform tomorrow in Connecticut. Mike Pereira was controversially a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s game in Vermont for not doing enough on defense. Personally I would not be surprised to see Pereira have a huge game tomorrow. He’s seems the type who will be motivated by the coaching staff’s decisions plus this game will be played not far from where he grew up in Connecticut and he’ll likely have a good number of friends and family in the stands. Adam Phillips also sat for the UVM game. With him it’s not so much as getting back on track, but getting going at all. Fans had high hopes for him after last season where he had 10 goals, 5 of which coming on the power play. So far this year he has only scored one even strength goal and is last among the regular defensemen in plus/minus rating with –2. It’d be great to see Phillips have a breakout game tomorrow.

These non-conference games are the perfect time to tweak things and get the offense back to where it needs to be so the team can hit the ground running when January starts. It’s also a great opportunity to build back some confidence and poise which has been completely lacking in the last couple weeks. For all the worrying about goaltending, it has actually been decent as of late with UMass goalies giving up just two goals per game in five of the last six games. Now it’s time to get them some goal support.

Beer The Triangle
Last time we went to Quinnipiac the BTT selection was one of the Southport Brewing locations that are found in that area on Connecticut. The mediocre beer had during the visit has left me looking for other alternatives. When speaking to one of the hockey parents earlier this season they suggested, if memory serves, the Side Street Grille which looks like a good, pub type place. However I think the first place to check out before the game will end up being Mikro, a craft beer bar right in Hamden. I see a few favorites on the list like the Dogfish Burton Baton and Rodenbach Grand Cru.

– OK, looks like Mikro opens at 4, so that’ll be a place to hit on the way out of town.

Dick Baker of the Republican has a lengthy piece examining UMass’ road woes in recent seasons.

According to this article UMass has shown interest in Rick DeRosa out of the NAHL along with a number of other schools from various conferences.

Seems to have some good moves:

Recruit Update

A late weekly recruit update what with the Tuesday game and all.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2012
10 GP / 1 G / 3 A / 4 Pts / 23 PIM / +2
Gillespie had an assist in three games for the lancers this past week.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
11 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 9 PIM
Smith was kept off the board in a couple games for the Pics this week.

Shane Walsh – LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) – 2012
15 GP / 5 G / 6 A / 11 Pts / 0 PIM / -4
Walsh continues to put up points for the Saints, scoring a goal and adding an assist in three games this week.

Here is Dick Baker’s recap of last night’s game.  Obviously one of the major storylines is the fact that Mike Pereira and Adam Phillips were healthy scratches for the game.  Phillips has flat out looked gassed in the last few games, so I’m honestly not sure if it was more to make a point or to just give the kid a night off.  With Pereira, the quotes from Toot Cahoon suggests that he benched him because he’s not doing enough in the “other facets” of the game besides offense.  Honestly, he has a point.  For all of Pereira’s offensive prowess, he too often is unseen on the defensive end.  I don’t want to pile on Pereira, because he’s a great player who I watch playing. But it says something that he’s 1st on the team in goals with 8 but tied at 6th with a plus/minus rating of +1.  Meanwhile, T.J. Syner, Conor Sheary, and Steven Guzzo are all +4 or better.  He absolutely has to get better defensively.  But, from my limited exposure to him, Pereira seems like a smart and very level-headed person.  He genuinely seems like the type of player who will absorb the moment, learn from it, and move on from it for the better.  For those who may criticize Cahoon for benching his leading goalscorer for this game, I disagree.  Too often in the past few years when the team was in one of it’s annual swoons the rumors has been of a “inmates running the asylum” mentality surrounding the team.  Too often you’ve heard that the coaching staff has coddled the team.  Obviously that didn’t work.  Well, that’s not happening now, is it?  I’m sure with Pereira in the stands the message has been gotten across.  As for the charges that he benched his star player for these “key” Hockey East points, come on.  The team was playing Vermont.  If they couldn’t win without Pereira against Vermont it just showed there are much bigger problems with this team.  Which exactly seems to be the case.  Listen, I’m not happy with the performance of the team recently and the coaching staff shoulders a lot of that responsibility, but I won’t criticize Cahoon for not waiting for a more convenient time to send a message to the players.  Don’t give it your best offensively and defensively and you’ll be in the stands in a shirt and tie.

Seriously I don’t want to pile on Pereira, because he’s a great player who I watch playing.  But it says something that he’s 1st on the team in goals with 8 but tied at 6th with a plus/minus rating of +1.  Meanwhile, T.J. Syner, Conor Sheary, and Steven Guzzo are all +4 or better.

Here’s how yesterday looked from the Catamount viewpoint.

Lastly on the Catamounts, they’ve unveiled the retro jerseys they’ll be wearing for the game against UMass at Fenway.  It’s still unknown if UMass will be wearing special jerseys for the occasion, though Toot did openly ponder the idea at this summer’s press conference announcing the event.  Hmm, if only there was some kind of old school, unique to UMass, jersey design that they could wear for the game and that would be instantly recognizable to the hardcore fanbase that go to a certain blog, named after just such a jersey design, for their UMass hockey information.  Oh well.  I’m sure they’ll come up with something.

UMass drops to 9th in the College Hockey News Hockey East power rankings.

With tomorrow’s holiday, let me wish all you FTT readers a Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope you’re able to spend it with the family and friends who make your lives more enjoyable as I will be.

Vermont Recap

As mentioned in my preview, statistically Vermont is a horrible team.  It’s not as though those stats were accumulated over just a couple games, the Cats have played almost a third of their season already.  But in the face of those statistics, up against a more than struggling Vermont team, coming after a listless loss at Lowell on Saturday, the UMass hockey team gave the Cats their first Hockey East win of the season.

Vermont came into the game giving up 4.44 goals a game.  UMass managed only one against.  Rob Madore was last in Hockey East in goals against with 4.60.  Again, UMass managed only one against.  It was the first time that Vermont held ANY TEAM to under four goals all season.  Not only could UMass not score, but for the second straight game they generated less than 20 shots.  But wait, it gets worse.  Vermont had the worst penalty kill among all college hockey teams at 65%.  UMass’ power play went 0 for 4.

This team is absolutely lost.  There were a few bright spots in this game and Saturday’s loss at Lowell, guys like Jeff Teglia, T.J. Syner, Eddie Olczyk, and Conor Sheary.  But even those guys are having a tough time playing cohesively.  Then when word comes out that leading scorer Mike Pereira was a healthy scratch for tonight’s game, you have to wonder what’s going on between the players and the coaching staff.

UMass is in a very bad spot.  With no other Hockey East games in the next few weeks and Maine and Vermont playing a two game series in a couple weeks it assures the fact that UMass will start 2012 in 9th place or at the very best a three way tie for 8th in Hockey East.  That’s unacceptable in my eyes.  This team has the talent to at least be in the middle of the pack in the conference.  There’s no excuse not to be.  The team is still young, but so are others.  The team’s youngest position, goaltender, certainly hasn’t been the problem in the last three games that has seen them score just three goals total and go 0 for 15 on the power play.  The team now plays three ECAC teams where they absolutely have to play well to get some momentum and confidence back before winter break.  Otherwise, this entire season could slip away by mid-January.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – T.J. Syner
Syner had the lone goal for the Minutemen and had most of their decent scoring chances as well.  Syner has registered a point in all but two games this season.

Vermont Preview

Vermont Catamounts 1-7-1 (0-6-1)  Hockey East 10th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 4-5-3 (2-5-3) Hockey East T-8th

 

Vermont is not good.  Not good at all.  The Catamounts are winless in Hockey East and have managed just one win on the season.  Not only are they found at or near the bottom of all major statistical categories among Hockey East teams, but among the worst in all of college hockey.  Quite frankly, if UMass wants to be seen as a team that has a legitimate chance of success this season then there is absolutely no way they can drop a game to Vermont tomorrow.

Offensively or defensively this Vermont team has major issues.  In terms of scoring the Catamounts are averaging just over 2 goals a game, almost an entire half goal behind Northeastern who is 9th in the league.  UVM has scored only 19 goals all season and 8 of those have come from just two players, Viktor Stalberg and Connor Brickley.  No one else on the team has more than two.  In terms of scoring margin they’re third worst in all of college hockey, behind only winless Sacred Heart and Alabama-Huntsville.  Their power play is second worst among Hockey East teams at 14.8%.  Of course the worst power play team in the league, Northeastern, has scored 75% of their power play goals against UMass.

As bad as Vermont has been offensively, they’re even worse on defense.  They’re allowing almost four and a half goals per game so far, only Sacred Heart is worse in the country.  Their penalty kill is dead last in the country at 65% (UMass’ is 4th worst at 72.5%).  It seems like a very long time ago when Rob Madore was putting up stellar numbers as a freshman.  So far this year he has a bloated goals against of 4.60 and a save percentage of .856.  While he has still played the majority of the games, there’s a chance he could sit out tomorrow since he played both games over the weekend.  If that’s the case expect to see sophomore Alex Vazzano in net who has a goals against of 3.61 in two starts on the season.

This is really a statement game for UMass.  While they’re only on a one game losing streak, they really haven’t played solidly since beating Holy Cross.  They were able to beat Northeastern despite not having a good game and then tied Maine this past Friday after allowing them a 2-0 lead.  But not being mentally ready caught up to them in a big way as they got spanked by Lowell 4-0 Saturday, managing just 16 shots on the game.  Playing the Catamounts will give them an opportunity to get back on track with what was a big asset to start the season, the power play.  After having one of the best in the conference in the first couple months they’ve now gone 0 for their last 12.  They have to be able to rectify that against the worst penalty kill in the country.  That means cycling the puck down low again and getting guys in front of the net.

Beyond that the improvement needs to happen between their ears.  I realize Friday was a physical game and affected them the next night but this is a long hockey season.  They have to figure out how to persevere through being banged up or tired.  There’s really no excuse for what happened on Saturday.  You can’t always depend on great execution, but the effort should always be there.  You absolutely cannot take nights off in this league.  The points are too tough to come by.  If they had found a way to compete and win against Lowell they’re in a much different place right now.  In fact they’d be tied for fourth.  Instead they’re tied for 8th and if they don’t pick up points tomorrow it’s very likely they’ll be starting the new year as the 9th place team in Hockey East.  For a team with high hopes to start the season and a win against top ranked Boston College under their belt, that would be tough to swallow.

Beer The Triangle
Anyone making the trip up should remove their hats and hold a moment of silence as they pass by Exit 10 on I-89.

Here’s the Collegian’s view of the weekend that was.

“The Minutemen aren’t a terrible team — after all, they did beat Boston College two weeks ago — but they sure played like one Saturday.”

Merrimack College.  Your #1 team in the country?  Wow, that does look weird.  Good for them though.

Not much to celebrate from this past weekend but Steven Guzzo and T.J. Syner’s recent performances were mentioned in this week’s Hockey East release.

Lowell Recap

There’s not too much to say about this game than to point out that UMass was pretty much dominated in all aspects.  Shots, special teams, faceoffs.  In every way the River Hawks were the better team.  And while hats are off to the Hawks for the win and their improved play on the season, UMass really has no one to blame for the loss but themselves.  After showing effort and resiliency on Friday night to come back and gain a tie against Maine, they showed neither of these things at the Tsongas Center last night.  The team looked tired, disinterested, and listless.

Just when you thought the team had turned a corner and was building towards something this weekend happened.  While it was nice to see them come back on Friday and gain the tie with the Black Bears that still doesn’t make up for the fact that they disappeared for long stretches in the first two periods that allowed them to go down by two goals in the first place.  This Maine team is pretty dysfunctional right now and there really wasn’t any excuse to concede a point to them.  In Lowell UMass looked like they didn’t even want to be there.  For the weekend we saw a power play, which had been among the best in the league, go 0 for 12 while mustering only 9 shots with the man advantage.  After putting up 37 shots on Friday they could manage just 16 last night, almost twenty less than the home team.

The team took two huge steps backwards this past weekend and has pretty much undone the good they generated in the prior two weekends.  It may not be Thanksgiving yet, but things are not in UMass’ favor when it comes to any kind of success in Hockey East this season.  Despite playing the second most league games so far the team is now in an 8th place tie with Maine.  Their power play has sunk from second best to 6th.  Team defense and penalty kill are second worst.  It might be a benefit that the team will get right back on the ice quickly after last night’s disaster.  Tuesday they’ll head up to Vermont to play the annual Turkey Tuesday matchup.  There they’ll look to show that this past weekend was only a hiccup.  If they end up giving the Catamounts their first league win however, I think a lot of UMass fans will be wondering if the three game win steak was more of a hiccup than the norm.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steve Mastalerz
It seems a little odd to give the POTG to a goaltender who let four goals in.  However he did make 30 saves in just his third game and unlike a lot of the guys in front of him, gave full effort for the entire 60 minutes.

Here’s the game recap from the Republican.

Maine Recap

Just a short recap since I have an early morning wake up call for the finalish tailgate at McGuirk. It’s tough to know what to say about this one. Maine controlled play enough in the the first couple periods that UMass is probably lucky they didn’t drop their first game at home this season. At the same time when you consider that the Minutemen had 7 power play opportunities, many at the hands of the either incredibly stupid or flat out punk Joey Diamond, it makes you think that UMass really should’ve won this game by a couple goals. So when you take those two things together maybe UMass really did deserve the tie.

It was certainly good to see the team come back from a two goal deficit. And with the way they played in the third and overtime, they really gave their all at the end for the win. Twice in the game the puck rolled behind Black Bear goaltender Dan Sullivan and just wide of the net. Sullivan played well overall and came up big when needed to stymie the Minutemen, including a stellar glove save in overtime.

In the UMass crease Jeff Teglia had another really solid game but unfortunately comes away still looking for that first win of his career. It’s tough to hang either of the goals on him as the first was on an excellent roof shot during the power play and the second somehow went through numerous people in front and found the back of the net. Teglia said he never saw the shot or the puck which I’m not surprised since from my angle I couldn’t even see Teglia through all the white, maroon, and blue. It’s still good to see Tegs playing well despite extended time on the bench. That may not be the case going forward as it was revealed that Kevin Boyle is currently injured and may be out for a bit. Who plays tomorrow in Lowell I have no idea.

It should be an interesting one at Tsongas. The River Hawks got spanked by UNH tonight, but that game was in Durham and Lowell did not have their top goaltender playing in Doug Carr. I assume that means UMass will definitely see him tomorrow. For UMass it’s less important to focus on who is in goal than to correct the problems from tonight. The passing was poor. The power play looked like last year’s with the team unable to successfully cycle down low. There were a few positives. The defense played well and as a team UMass blocked 20 shots. The penalty kill let in a goal in three chances but came up huge in killing off an Eric Filiou five minute major to being the third in what really became a momentum changer. They’ll need to build off those things and get the offense back on track in order to beat the new look River Hawks tomorrow.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steven Guzzo
Guzzo was able to knock home the game tying goal in a scrum in front of the net right on the heels of that big penalty kill. But he was putting together a good game well before that. In a short amount of time he’s turned into a goto player for the UMass offense.

Maine & Lowell Preview

Maine Black Bears 3-6-1 (3-5-0) Hockey East T-6th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 4-4-2 (2-4-2) Hockey East T-6th

For the second week in a row UMass will have a chance to face the opponents whom they’re tied with in the Hockey East standings.  Last week it was the Minutemen and Northeastern Huskies facing off to try to break the tie for 7th.  Now UMass finds themselves in a three way tie with this weekend’s foes, Maine and Lowell.  It’s a great chance for UMass to try to break away from these teams and try to begin to separate themselves from the bottom of the standings.  Before the season one probably looked at this weekend and saw games against a tough opponent and one not so much.  Now just a month and half in that’s still the case but the roles of the two teams have switched.

Maine comes into the weekend struggling.  They have only three wins in their ten games and were just swept at home by the Lowell River Hawks, something that hasn’t happened since the early 80s.  Maine has played a relatively tough schedule so far with a couple games out in North Dakota as well as games against Boston College and UNH, but so far they’ve only been able to pick up wins against Providence (twice) and Northeastern.  The early losses have only given the “Fire Timmy!” contingent of Maine fans more ammunition and for the first time I think it’s justified.

Maine has two players among the top ten in goal scoring in Hockey East, but the problem is they’re not getting offense from more than just a handful of players.  Not unexpectedly they’ve gotten goals from Joey Diamond, Spencer Abbott, and Brian Flynn, but aside from those three no one else has more than two.  As a result Maine comes into the game scoring under 3 goals a game at 2.80, 8th among Hockey East teams.  They haven’t scored more than 3 goals in their last 5 games.  Their power play isn’t helping much at just 17.4%, but what is really concerning for their fans is the fact that they’ve let in 5 shorthanded goals with the extra man.  Scoring just 8 power play goals while giving up 5 shorthanded will not lead to success.

Maine has been doing a better job defensively than UMass, allowing 3,30 goals per game to the Minutemen’s 3.60.  Still, that puts them in the bottom half in the league.  They’ve used both of their goaltenders equally, with Dan Sullivan and Martin Ouellette both getting 5 starts apiece.  If the Minutemen see Ouellette, perhaps Steve Mastalerz can give some pointers as he backed up Ouellette while they were both a Kimball Union Academy.  Statistically they’re both about dead even with roughly a 3.30 goals against average and .875 save percentage.  Senior defensemen Will O’Neil and Ryan Hegarty will do their best to keep the UMass forwards away from the Black Bear goaltenders.

Maine is struggling and has a week of tough practices and even player only meetings.  It’s likely that they’re fired up and will come out playing very tough in the first period on Friday.  It’ll be important for UMass to weather that initial rush and try their best to maintain puck possession to slowly control the pace of the game.  Judging by the fact that Toot Cahoon was very unhappy after the Northeastern win, it may not have been a fun week of practice in Amherst either.  For the most part his frustration came from the play at the end of the 3rd period where he felt mistakes could’ve led them to relinquish the lead.  UMass is undefeated so far at home and picking two points against a team that’s is spinning their wheels currently has to be a priority.  These games against teams near them in the standings, like last week with Northeastern, are absolutely critical.

Lowell River Hawks 5-3-0 (3-2-0) Hockey East T-6th

vs

Massachusetts Minutemen 4-4-2 (2-4-2) Hockey East T-6th

The River Hawks are one of the bigger surprises of the young college hockey season.  Winning just five games all last season they’ve already matched that total through eight games so far.  Like the Minutemen they enter the weekend on a three game winning streak that has included a sweep up at Orono and a 7-1 thrashing of Boston University.  In the friendly confines of the Tsongas Tsenter Lowell will look to break a five game losing streak to the flagship dating back two seasons.

Lowell has been getting the job done both offensively and defensively so far this season.  Thus far they have the top ranked offense among all Hockey East teams at 3.88 goals a game.  UMass is right behind them with 3.80.  Pacing the offense has been Riley Wetmore, one of the more exciting players in Hockey East, senior Matt Ferreira, and Scott Wilson, back-to-back Hockey East Rookie of the Week winner.  While last year’s Lowell team did not see a lot of success, their freshman class was highly regarded among recruiting circles.  That’s becoming evident with the emergence of guys like Derek Arnold and Joe Pendenza who have both contributed to the goalscoring as well.  They’ve been getting the job done at even strength and with the extra man as the Hawks are tied with Merrimack Valley neighbor Merrimack for the top power play in Hockey East.

While Lowell’s improved scoring has been impressive, it’s the progress they’ve made on defense that has really raised eyebrows so far.  After giving up a full four goals per game last year they’re allowing just 2.88 thus far.  The bulk of that improvement has been due to the play of sophomore Doug Carr.  His goals against of 2.20 is good enough for 2nd in the league while he’s third in save percentage with .913.  These are remarkable numbers considering his stats last year were 3.63 and .896.  Some of the credit has to go to the job done by the defense in front of him led by junior Malcolm Lyles.

If UMass has an advantage in this game it’s that nearly every one of the guys in Lowell sweaters was recruited by someone who is now a member of the UMass coaching staff.  Blaise MacDonald will be making his return to Tsongas on Saturday and is more familiar with the Lowell team than anyone outside current coach Norm Bazin.  I have not yet seen Lowell play, so I don’t know if they’re playing a fundamentally different style than they used to, but MacDonald should at least be able to pass along information to take advantage of players’ weakness and mitigate their strengths.  Depending what happens on Friday with UMass taking on Maine and Lowell visiting UNH, this could be one hell of a matchup between two teams on tremendous winning streaks already battling for leverage in the standings.

Beer The Triangle
Should be a good weekend beer-wise as well.  Tomorrow afternoon will of course be spent at the Hangar where I’ve been enjoying the Port High Tide, a fresh hop IPA, that has been on draft the last couple visits.  Perhaps a UMass win will lead to a trip to Amherst Brewing to try to grab one of the last pints of their Gone Postal IPA.  Saturday brings an early afternoon football game which means an early morning tailgate feature pancakes, bacon, and a special Beer The Triangle homebrew I brewed up especially for the last home game.  Farewell McGuirk is a Scottish wee heavy I made to honor the semi-temporary goodbye we’ll be saying to football on campus.  I’m still debating whether I’ll be making the trek from football down Route 2 to Lowell.  But if I do I’ll try to get over to Lowell Beer Works and one of their Accelerator Double Bock.

Dick Baker has a feature on Rocco Carzo and his transition to a more complete hockey player.

The Bangor Daily News says Maine’s goaltenders must be more consistent.

The Maine student paper claims Maine must right the ship at UMass.

Lowell could be a major player in the conference according to USCHO.

College Hockey News takes a look at the weekend ahead in the conference.

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