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Florida College Classic Championship Recap

In recent weeks UMass proved that it can compete with, and defeat, the best of the ECAC. After tying Harvard to begin the month, the team beat #17 ranked Yale before break, and then took out the top team in the league in Cornell to open up the Florida College Classic. However last night shows us that the team still has a lot to do to be able to win in its own conference as they fell to the Black Bears of Maine by a score of 5-2.

The difference in the game was penalties. Essentially, UMass took too many of them and when they did they weren’t able to kill off the resulting power play. The Minutemen simply cannot afford to take penalties since their penalty kill is absolutely horrid. The team’s penalty kill percentage is about to drop below 70% and is currently third worst in the country. But instead of staying out of the box to avoid that obvious weakness, the team is 11th in the country in penalty minutes. 25 of the 60 goals the team has given up this year have come on the penalty kill.

It wasn’t just the amount of penalties the team took yesterday or the inability to kill them, both of which allowed Maine to go 3 for 7 with the extra man. it was the timing of them. After an horrendous first period that saw the Minutemen get outshot 14-1, they came out strong in the 2nd period and T.J. Syner’s goal seven and a half minutes in cut the Maine lead to 2-1. But less than two minutes later Mike Marcou goes off for roughing and 20 seconds after that it’s 3-1 Maine. Same thing happens later in the game. Conor Allen scores eight and a half minutes into the third to cut the score to 3-2, but Branden Gracel gets called for high sticking 30 seconds later and is sent to the box. UMass kills the resulting power play but just 8 seconds after leaving the box Gracel gets called for a charge, Maine scores with him in the box, and the game is essentially over at that point. UMass is not talented enough defensively to continue to take those kind of stupid penalties on a regular basis. On the other side of special teams, UMass was futile on the power play. The team was unable to convert on any of their five opportunities, including a five minute major chance.

While it would’ve been nice to continue the recent streak of success and add some hardware to the trophy case, the good news is this game against Maine does not affect the Hockey East standings. It also would’ve been nice to come into this absolutely critical week on a bit of a roll. UMass must get four points this week. It won’t be easy as they’ll spend today traveling back to campus and then will face Providence on Thursday and then overcome all the pomp and circumstance to get a win on Saturday when they take on Vermont at Fenway Park. It’ll be a fun and historic week for the UMass hockey program, but it’s essential that the Minutemen make up some of the ground they lost in the first half of the season in this very first week of the year. 2011 was not a very enjoyable year for UMass fans. Let’s hope 2012 brings a bit more joy right from the start.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
Getting outshot 14-1 to start the game is a recipe for disaster, from which most teams don’t recover. But UMass hung in there and was able to come back within a goal a couple times due mostly to the fact that Kevin Boyle’s play kept them in the game in that first period. It’s tough to be too critical of the four goals he gave up as Maine took advantage of their seven power plays to generate 12 shots and 3 power play goals.

Here’s the recap from the Republican where Coach Cahoon expresses his disbelief that the team could play so badly in a championship game. Conor Sheary was named to the All-Tournament Team.

The local Naples Daily News has their game story.

Here’s how the Black Bear win looked for the Bangor Daily News.

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Florida College Classic Championship Live Blog

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Don’t forget due to the basketball game hockey can be heard on www.wmua.org.

Cornell Recap

The games were over three weeks apart but with their 5-2 win tonight UMass has now beaten ranked ECAC teams in consecutive games.  On December 7th it was a 3-1 win over #17 Yale team but the win tonight over #13 Cornell is much sweeter.  The Big Red are in first place in the ECAC and came into the game on a hell of a streak, 6-1-1 in their last 8 games with shutouts in 5 of those.  UMass will now face familiar foe Maine for the Florida College Classic Championship tomorrow night.

UMass came out in the first a little flat, which you don’t like to see in a normal game but it makes you very nervous when it comes after such a long layoff.  But they bounced back in the 2nd and really did a good job controlling play throughout the last two periods of the game.  Of course everyone will point to the play of Conor Sheary and the other goalscorers, but one thing that was evident was that the team as a whole played well.  Once again the Minutemen got solid goaltending from Kevin Boyle who took up right where he left off a few weeks ago and saved 27 shots.  Especially evident from the radio broadcast was how active the fourth line of Kevin Czepiel, Troy Power, and Pat Kiley were.  Not only were they doing a good job against the Cornell forwards but it sounded like they did well possessing the puck and even creating some of the better scoring chances against Big Red goaltender Andy Iles.  Mike Marcou had a couple of assists and was praised by Brock Hines for his defensive play as he finished at a +3.  Mike Pereira and Stephen Guzzo continue their strong play with a goal each tonight.

It was good to see the special teams improve as the team went 2 for 4 on the power play, though they’re still struggling on the penalty kill giving up 2 goals on 5 chances.  And while I don’t have the stats in front of me, it sounded like the team improved in the faceoff circle as well.

Tonight’s win was important for the team for a number of reasons.  First, they start the second half of the season on a good note.  Second, while not a true away game, the team picked up their first win away from the friendly confines of the Mullins Center.  Third, they put up 5 goals on a really good goaltender and one of the top defenses in the country.  And so they’ll play Maine, a team they tied last month, in a non-conference game tomorrow.  UMass has played Maine in the championship game in this tournament before, back in 2002, and lost 8-3.  The Black Bears are coming off an impressive win against Clarkson in the tournament opener where they won by a score of 6-1.  The game included 40 infractions for 112 penalty minutes.  With UMass’ struggles continuing on the penalty kill they’ll have to be careful not to be goaded into bad penalties by the likes of Joey Diamond and the rest of the Black Bears.  Cornell tried to goon it up towards the end to get back in the game but for the most part UMass didn’t bite.

Overall tonight’s win was pretty important and for the most part unexpected (the dudes at USCHO didn’t even include it in their weekly picks).  But now UMass has a great opportunity to beat a team they’ll be seeing again in a couple months and pick up some hardware while doing so.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
Conor Sheary had two goals and assisted on T.J. Syner’s empty netter to seal it.  After going 7 games without a goal through November Sheary now has three goals in his last three games.

Here is the recap from the Republican.

And how the upset looked to the local paper.

Keep in mind that because of the basketball game tomorrow the game can be heard on WMUA, 91.1 or WMUA.org.  Also the live blog was very successful so be sure to join in on the fun, starting at 7pm with pre-game.

New England Hockey Journal gives the Minutemen a D for their first half performance.

USCHO takes a look at what Hockey East teams have to do to be successful in the second half.

UMass vs #13 Cornell Live Blog

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Florida College Hockey Classic Preview

 

#13 Cornell Big Red  7-3-1 (6-1-1)  1st ECAC

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Massachusetts Minutemen  5-7-4 (2-6-3)  9th Hockey East

The UMass hockey team finished the first half of the season with a couple of decent showings against Harvard and #17 Yale from the ECAC.  To kick off the second half they’ll have to take on the team that is currently atop that conference’s standings in #13 Cornell.  It will present quite the challenge for the Minutemen as the Big Red are 6-1-1 in their last 8.  What’s amazing is they’ve let up a grand total of just six goals in those eight games, registering five shutouts.  The only loss in that time period came to Boston University at Madison Square Garden in a game that was not without controversy.  Against common opponents with the Minutemen (BU, Harvard, Yale, and Quinnipiac) Cornell is 3-1, winning by a combined score of 16-5.

For UMass to win, they must find a way to overcome Cornell’s defense and goaltending.  As you can imagine with five shutouts in the last eight games, they’re pretty good.  In fact they’re better than good, they’re the best in the country currently, giving up just 1.65 goals per game.  It starts with goaltender Andy Iles who has played every minute for his team this season and has a 1.62 goals against to go with a save percentage of .930.  Iles is technically the third goaltender for Team USA up at the World Junior tournament but only on an emergency basis.  Which it appears means he will be in Florida.  It isn’t just him though as the defense in front of him, led by senior Kier Ross and junior Nick D’Agostino, have allowed just 23 shots a game on Iles.

D’Agostino, a Penguins draft pick and assistant captain, isn’t only performing well in his own zone however, he also leads his team in both goals (7) and points (13).  Five of those goals have come on the power play which is converting at a rate of 21.6%, among the top 20 in the country.  A couple freshmen are scoring for the Big Red as forward Brian Ferlin has notched five while defenseman Joakim Ryan has four.

It doesn’t appear that UMass will have to pour a ton of shots on Iles to gain the win, after all in their losses Cornell has only given up an average of 23 shots in regulation.  But obviously they’ll have to be quality shots.  As usual Cornell has a lot of big players with 11 different players 6’2” or taller, so the Minutemen will have to try to use their speed to gain the advantage.  Unfortunately with Germain Arena’s 200’ x 85’ dimensions (same as Providence and Merrimack), that may be tough to do.

Clarkson Golden Knights 9-7-4 (3-4-2) T-4th ECAC

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Massachusetts Minutemen 5-7-4 (2-6-3) 9th Hockey East

If UMass ends up playing Clarkson in the second game of the tournament I think Toot Cahoon should lobby the ECAC for the Minutemen to be eligible for the conference’s regular season championship as it will mark the 5th game against an ECAC team.  UMass and the Golden Knights haven’t played a ton of times, only five, but they’ve all been pretty good ones.  In fact the last three meetings have gone to overtime, with one of those being the NCAA Tournament game in 2007 that was won by Kevin Jarman’s epic goal to send the Minutemen to the Regional Final.

While the Golden Knights’ nine wins are impressive, it should be known that six of those have come against Atlantic Hockey opponents including four against Sacred Heart and AIC.  Against common opponents Clarkson has lost to Harvard, tied Quinnipiac, beaten and tied Bentley, and shutout Holy Cross 5-0.  They also lost to Maine, who they’ll be playing again tomorrow.  Like Cornell, Clarkson has been winning games thanks to defense.  Their 2.05 goals against is good for 5th in the country.  Senior Paul Karpowich has played every minute for the Knights and has a goals against average of 1.93 and a save percentage of .938, second best in the country.  Clarkson has gotten some good play from a couple freshmen defenders in Kevin Tansey and James Howden.

Clarkson is led in goal scoring by Bruins draft pick Nick Tremblay who has netted 9 in 18 games.  A couple other seniors in Louke Oakley and Corey Tamblyn both have seven apiece.  Clarkson is scoring 2.80 goals a game versus UMass’ 3.12.  To win against Cornell and Clarkson the Minutemen will have to solve two very good defenses and two very good goaltenders.

Maine Black Bears 6-7-2 (5-6-1) 6th Hockey East

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Massachusetts Minutemen 5-7-4 (2-6-3) 9th Hockey East

The Black Bears haven’t done too badly since they tied UMass 2-2 at the Mullins Center before Thanksgiving.  Maine has gone 3-1-0 since then, beating Clarkson, sweeping Vermont up at the Gut, but then losing badly to BU at home just before break.  UMass of course had to come back in that previous meeting, trailing the Black Bears 2-0 after one period.  It’ll be interesting to see how Joey Diamond plays against the Minutemen if they meet since in that game he had 4 penalties for 19 minutes and was booted from the game in overtime.

While the Bears aren’t especially potent on offense, just behind UMass for 7th in the league with 3.07 goals a game, they’ve been deadly on the power play.  Maine is currently 7th best in the country and tops in Hockey East, scoring 24.3% of the time on the man advantage.  That is mitigated somewhat however by the fact that they’ve given up an astounding 7 shorthanded goals as well.  Diamond, Spencer Abbott, and Brian Flynn have done the lion’s share of the scoring for Maine so far and all three of them registered a point against the Minutemen earlier in the season.

Dan Sullivan has emerged as the starter in the Black Bear net, starting the last six games for Maine.  He goes to Florida with a goals against of 3.11 and save percentage of .894, good for 8th place in both categories among Hockey East goaltenders.  His 35 saves against the Minutemen are a season high.

Judging by the Twitter feed, it looks like the team is enjoying the chance to be on the Florida beaches at the end of December.  Which is great and well deserved.  But hopefully they realize they’re down there for a reason too.  I think most UMass fans can agree that what has transpired so far is a disappointment, but the good news is there is still a lot of hockey to play.  Florida just may be the place to get things going.  UMass has done well in the two Sunshine State tournaments they’ve played in.  In 2002 in this Everblade College Classic they made the tournament final after beating Ohio State in a shootout in the opener.  Of course they then got spanked by Maine.  But in 2007 they were crowned champions of the Lightning College Classic defeating #6 Notre Dame and #4 Colorado College, the only tournament title of the modern era of UMass hockey.  Hopefully that history can continue starting tomorrow in a tough, but important stretch that will see UMass play four games from Florida to Providence to Fenway Park in just 10 days.

Beer The Triangle

If you made the trip to Florida, it appears you’re in a virtual beer snob wasteland, though this place doesn’t look too bad.  But if you didn’t make the trip, just hit the packy on the way home from work, crack open your favorite brew, and log into the Fear The Triangle live chat while listening to John and Brock on the radio tomorrow.  Be sure to check back at game time then to join the chat.

Here’s a Black Bear view of the Florida College Classic.

Dick Baker of the Republican has his mid-season review in which Toot Cahoon says he’s “mildly optimistic” for the second half prospects.

College Hockey News has the second part of their first half look at Hockey East as well as a preview for this weekend.

The Burlington Free Press had an interesting look at Hockey East attrition rates in recent years.   Basically, unless you’re Providence or Merrimack you’ve been affected by early departures.

The ice is down in preparation for next weekend’s Frozen Fenway games.

Pre-Tourney Links

Ah, happily writing this from my hotel overlooking the beach in anticipation for Thursday’s Florida Everblades College Classic. Wait a second. No I’m not. I’m sitting at home on the South Shore while a cold rain falls outside. When news came out last year that UMass would be participating in this year’s tournament in Estero I immediately planned to go. I thought it would be an excellent chance to see family down that way during Christmastime while taking advantage of an opportunity to watch hockey while wearing shorts. So I watched the airfare and watched and watched as it slowly got within semi-reasonable range, but suddenly the prices skyrocketed by a hundred dollars and my plans to watch UMass in Florida went out like the Gulf Coast tide.

Speaking of the tournament the Naples Daily News goes into the history of how the tourney came about.

Here are a few mid-season reviews from the three major college hockey websites.

USCHO gives UMass a C- for their results so far.

College Hockey News has T.J. Syner as 1st Team All-Conference and Kevin Boyle on the All-Rookie Team thus far.

Inside College Hockey picks UMass as having the biggest upset in Hockey East so far. Not for their win over #1 Boston College, but for knocking off #17 Yale going into break.

Merry Christmas UMass Fans!

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Recruit Update

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2012
14 GP / 2 G / 3 A / 5 Pts / 23 PIM / +2
Gillespie has been out with an injury since Thanksgiving.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL/EmpJHL) – 2014
EJHL: 12 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 9 PIM
Empire: 19 GP / 6 G / 18 A / 24 Pts / 20 PIM
Smith did very well in the three Empire games he played recently, scoring a goal and picking up four assists.

Shane Walsh – LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) – 2012
20 GP / 5 G / 6 A / 11 Pts / 0 PIM / -6
It appears that Walsh is also injured and wasn’t able to play before the USHL went on Christmas break.  The league will return to action at the end of next week.

Other than that there’s not to much going on.  The team is spread out around North America spending Christmas with their families and are due back in Amherst for a December 26th practice.

Elsewhere around college hockey things are pretty quiet as well.  BU hasn’t even lost any players this week.  There were rumors that Adam Clendening could be joining Charlie Coyle and Corey Trivino on the Green Line out of town, but he says he’s not going anywhere.

Here are a couple more stories to pass along.

UConn has hired a consultant to evaluate its hockey program.  This is most likely due to the fact that Hockey East is eventually going to add another team and, geographically speaking at least, UConn would be a good fit.  For a number of other reasons though, namely that they built a hockey facility that is horrid by Hockey East standards and would have to figure out a way to go from zero scholarships to the full allotment, the Huskies are probably a longshot.  Here’s my post from earlier in the season weighing the pros and cons of UConn and what I think are some more deserving candidates to join Hockey East.

USA Hockey has named who will be representing the red, white, and blue in the upcoming World Junior Championships.  The tournament starts on Monday.

Lastly, just want to wish the Jewish members of the UMass hockey community a happy Hanukkah.  UMass has had a number of Jewish players make significant contributions to the program, including Gabe Winer who is second all-time for wins and Matt Burto who represented the USA in the 2007 World Jewish Ice Hockey Championships.

Polls & Awards

UMass did not win any awards or see any traction in this week’s polls, which was to be expected since the team spent the week taking finals and travelling home for a week of rest before heading down to Florida following Christmas.

But there are still polls and awards for those few teams that did have games this past week.  One team that had a game was Merrimack and they probably wish they didn’t.  The Warriors fell at home to Union and drop to 7th in the USCHO poll.  After reaching #1 in the poll Merrimack is now 1-3-1 in their last five.  There wasn’t much movement in that or the USA Hockey/USA Today poll since most teams were dormant this past week.

As the only two Hockey East teams in action Merrimack and Vermont split this week’s abbreviated Hockey East awards.  The Catamounts dropped a 2-1 decision to St Lawrence.

Hockey East has a .500 record so far against the ECAC, a rare season where Hockey East doesn’t have a winning record against its neighboring conference.  UMass also is .500 against ECAC teams, going 1-1-1 against Yale, Quinnipiac, and Harvard.  There are still a few more Hockey East-ECAC matchups, including UMass against Clarkson and Maine against Cornell down in Florida.  That could result in Clarkson against Maine and Cornell against UMass as well.  There will be other matchups between the leagues in January and finally Boston University and either Northeastern or Boston College will take on Harvard in this year’s Beanpot.

Unfortunately Matt Irwin was called up and sent down by the San Jose Sharks without being given the chance to make his NHL debut.

While Jon Quick is the mainstay in the Kings’ net and Justin Braun and Casey Wellman have both gotten callups to the NHL so far, I thought we should take a look at some of the other UMass alumni in the pros that aren’t getting as much attention.

Greg Mauldin in 2nd on the Lake Erie Lake Monster in scoring with 7 goals and 10 assists.  Unfortunately he’s been sick lately and may have missed a callup to Denver as a result.  Instead the chance went to former Terrier David Van Der Gulik.

Mike Kostka started the year with the Panthers’ AHL team in San Antonio but was traded to Tampa Bay earlier in the Month.  He’s gotten off to a good start with his new team, scoring a goal, gaining two assists, and registering a +2 in 7 games with the Norfolk Admirals.

Matt Anderson is second on the Albany River Rats Devils with 5 goals and 11 assists in 28 games.

Mark Matheson is leading the Chicago Wolves in +/- with a +8.

Paul Dainton is currently backing up Manny Legace down in Springfield.

David Leaderer is playing with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL where he has 8 points in 19 games.

Obi Aduba has 10 points in 23 games for the Quad City Mallards of the CHL.

P.J. Fenton, Cory Quirk, and Doug Kublin are all playing in Germany.

Miscellaneous Links

With the players finishing up finals and heading out of town this week there hasn’t been too much to pass along for UMass hockey fans.  However here are a few things I’ve come across.

The Boston Globe gave out grades to the Hockey East teams.  UMass gets a “C”.

Dick Baker asks an excellent question, where the hell is the Alumni Cup awarded to the winner of the regular season series between UMass and Lowell.  With a sweep last year of the River Hawks, UMass owns the cup currently.  I’ve said for years if you want to strengthen the rivalry between the flagship and satellite campuses the cup should be awarded after the third and final matchup of the year.

A couple of Hockey East power rankings, one from the New England Hockey Journal the second from College Hockey News.

It’s a tough week to be a Boston University Terrier fan.  After losing leading scorer Corey Trivino after he was arrested on some disturbing charges earlier in the week, they lost sophomore star Charlie Coyle yesterday.  Coyle is off to QMJHL after reportedly being unable to handle the academic rigors of BU.  I think Coyle was one of the more exciting players in the league and I absolutely hate seeing kids leave to go major junior, but if education isn’t a priority along with your hockey then major junior is the way to go.

UMass will not be the only Western Mass team to take the Fenway ice next month.  Springfield Cathedral will take on Rhode Island hockey powerhouse Mount St Charles on January 2nd as part of a high school hockey triple header.  The game will serve as a fundraiser to help rebuild Cathedral high school which suffered extensive damage in last spring’s tornado.  Minuteman Peter DeAngelo is a Mount St Charles graduate and was a star for them before moving on to junior hockey.

Matt Irwin is still up with the San Jose Sharks but has been a healthy scratch through the two games while he’s been there.  Hopefully he gets a chance tonight when they take on Edmonton.

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