Submit Your Questions For FTT UMail

Tomorrow for my View From Section U piece I’ll be answering readers’ questions, which is a feature that seemed to be pretty successful when I did it earlier in the season. So if there are any topics you’d like to see me address, from UMass hockey past or present to the rest of Hockey East to my favorite beers to homebrewing to road trips or just about anything, this is your chance. I’ll select the best and most interesting ones submitted by tomorrow evening and post my responses later in the night.

To submit a question, you can leave it as a comment to this post, send it to the FTT email, or post on the FTT Facebook page.


Recruit Update

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2012
17 GP / 2 G / 3 A / 5 Pts / 33 PIM / -1
Gillespie played in one game for the Lancers over the weekend, not picking up any points but did get two trips to the box.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL/EmpJHL) – 2014
EJHL: 20 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 28 PIM
Empire: 19 GP / 6 G / 18 A / 24 Pts / 20 PIM
Smith played in three games for the EJHL Pics but didn’t find his way onto the scoresheet.

Shane Walsh – LW – South Shore Kings (EJHL) – 2012
Dubuque (USHL): 23 GP / 5 G / 7 A / 12 Pts / 0 PIM / –8
South Shore (EJHL): 3 GP / 2 G / 1 A / 3 Pts / 2 PIM
Walsh continues to excel in his homecoming, picking up the game winning goal for the Kings in his lone game this past week.  Old news, but Walsh did sign his LOI to UMass during this past fall’s signing period.

Another article on UMass and how taking too many penalties is killing their chances to win games, this time from the College Hockey News’ Michael King.

CHN’s Joe Meloni mentions Steve Guzzo in his Three Up, Three Down feature (unfortunately it’s not on the good side).

On another note, is College Hockey News just going to be renamed the Daily Collegian soon or what?  UMass journalism is dominating on that site.

Matt Irwin played in the AHL All Star Game last night, but didn’t get on the scoresheet in a loss for his East squad which was unable to solve game MVP Ben Bishop.  Irwin looked solid in the parts of the game I was able to watch however.  Irwin has adjusted to the pro game much quicker than I expected when he left UMass after his sophomore year.

UNH hockey, just one point behind the Minutemen and in 9th place, is in survival mode says the Seacoast.

Polls & Awards

Hockey East represents three spots in the nation’s top five teams in this week’s USCHO poll with Boston University #3, Saturday’s opponent, Merrimack, coming in at #4, and Boston College at #5. With their sweep of UMass, Lowell moved into the top ten at #9. Maine is the last league representative in the rankings at #15. Much the same in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll

Deservingly, UMass did not have any award winners or top performers this past week in Hockey East. Northeastern’s Cody Ferriero, who UMass will see Friday, was Player of the Week

The Daily Collegian reminds us that UMass needs to improve on the penalty kill (or stop taking penalties altogether, which gets my vote)

Dick Baker has his non-published thoughts on Saturday’s disappointing loss.

If Casey Wellman wants to deliver nasty hits along the boards he may want to learn how to fight.

Saturday Recap; Somerby To BU

After the officials inserted themselves into Friday’s game and prevented UMass from having a fair shot at gaining the win at home against Lowell, the hope was the team would be fired up as a result.  Certainly using that outcome as motivation to go out last night and prove that they deserved a better fate than the night before is not out of the question.  But as I mentioned in my recap of Friday’s loss, it was apparent the team would come out and give Lowell the season sweep.  The comments and body language of the team immediately after Friday’s loss foretold Saturday’s result and brings up the question, while this team has talent, does it have the mental toughness to be successful in this league?  I don’t think so.  The team had an opportunity to split the key weekend series, prevent the first season sweep by Lowell since 97-98,  and exact some kind of revenge for the screw job of the night before.  Instead the team looked like they wanted to be anywhere else in the world but at the Tsongas Center.  And by the end of the game, so did those UMass fans who made the trip.

The start this one looked very similar to the last one played in Lowell.  The team managed just a handful of shots in the first period, five total to be exact.  A strong second allowed the Minutemen to tie it, but too many penalties in the third killed any ability to complete the comeback and handed Lowell the easy 5-2 win.  There’s a lot to be critical of in the game but I’ll just hit on a couple of things that stand out.  Obviously UMass had too many penalties on the weekend, some deserved and some not, but this has been a problem all season long and either coach Toot Cahoon doesn’t feel like addressing it or is unable to.  Either way you’ll be hard pressed to find a team that’s able to win games when they take 15 penalties in a weekend.  Secondly, where were UMass’ skilled forwards last night?  The Minutemen put up a respectable 30 shots on net, but taking a closer look you had Conor Allen taking 4 and Pat Kiley taking 5.  Steve Guzzo had 2, Danny Hobbs had 3, T.J. Syner 2, Mike Pereira 2, Conor Sheary 1, Branden Gracel 1.  11 shots total for your top two lines.  That’s not enough.  Lastly, UMass won just 19 of 52 faceoffs.  Kevin Czepiel and Steve Guzzo went 6 for 21 combined.  Faceoffs were a big issue earlier in the year but it had seemed like the team had made some progress in that area.  Obviously not as much as hoped.

UMass had a huge opportunity in front of them these past two days.  Building off the momentum of recent weeks a successful weekend could’ve lifted them into the fight in the middle of the Hockey East standings.  Even when outside forces helped lead to a loss on Friday, a win yesterday would’ve at least allowed them to prevent the weekend from being a total washout while keeping Lowell within striking distance in the standings.  Instead, there’s little chance of catching up to the River Hawks who are now eight points ahead and have leapfrogged Merrimack into 4th place.  The best UMass can probably hope for at this point is to try to catch Providence in 6th place, three points ahead and with the tiebreaker still to be determined.  But a zero point weekend has allowed the teams behind UMass to gain ground.  Northeastern is now tied in 7th place with UMass and New Hampshire, and the prospect of missing the playoffs entirely, is just one point back.  The loss also drops the team to below .500 on the season.  Lowell obviously has a great team this year and is on their way to their first NCAA tournament appearance in seemingly forever, but not taking any points from them should’ve been deemed an unacceptable prospect for this team.  Instead last night’s lackluster effort and undisciplined play late assured  the Minutemen of that fate.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
It’s tough to pick the best player in a game where there was little to celebrate but Pat Kiley played well, scoring a goal, leading the team in shots, and ending the game even.  And what has been nice to see about his play of late is that he has gone four games without taking a penalty.

Lack of discipline sinks the Minutemen according to the Republican recap.

Here’s the Herald’s game story.

Kimball Union defenseman Doyle Somerby who I’ve been writing about in recent weeks committed to Boston University this weekend.  Somerby also had offers from Maine, New Hampshire, and St Lawrence, in addition to UMass.

Dick Baker blogged about Friday’s horrendous officiating by Dave Hansen and Jack Millea yesterday.

The Springfield Falcons are out of the basement in the standings thanks to three straight wins by Paul Dainton.

Jon Quick lived up to his name at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition.

Friday Recap

The way I see it there were four factors that most contributed to Friday’s 4-2 loss to Lowell, ending UMass’ unbeaten mark at home.

First was Doug Carr.  Obviously Carr has played against UMass before, with success, but tonight was really the first chance I’ve had to really evaluate his game.  I’m impressed.  He’s not the most athletically gifted goaltender from what I can tell, but he’s very smart.  What stood out was his positioning.  I thought UMass actually moved the puck really well tonight and were able to get passes onto the sticks of players in great scoring positions.  But when those players got the shot off, Carr was there to block off most of the net.  His positioning was excellent all night long.  Not only did he excel at anticipating the shot, he was able to anticipate the pass before the shot as well.  He only made one or two really tough saves on the night, not because UMass didn’t challenge him, but because too often he was already in position and made the save look easy.  Why did UMass lose last night?  Because in the second period they peppered Carr with 17 shots and he saved all 17.

Secondly, I have to admit something.  I love to complain about officials.  Why?  Because it’s fun, it’s part of being a passionate fan, and Hockey East has a lot of guys who have no business being NCAA officials.  That said, I absolutely hate to blame the officials for the outcome of a game.  And usually, no matter how horrible the officiating may be, it’s not the determining factor in the game.  That said, after Carr, the refs had way too much impact on last night’s score.  I believe at one point I referred to the officiating as achieving clown shoes status, and not the good Clown Shoes being the wonderful beer brewed in the equally wonderful town of Ipswich.  Those who follow the blog or the FTT Twitter account know that I’m especially critical of Jeff Bunyon among the Hockey East officiating circles.  The bad thing about Bunyon is he’s incompetent.  But the good thing is he’s equally incompetent for either team.  He’ll make bad calls or miss a call altogether but in the end it generally evens out between the teams.  That was not the case with Dave Hansen and Jack Millea last  night.  Lowell got called for four penalties, UMass for nine.  Lowell had 7 power plays, UMass had 2.  Lowell had 12 and a half minutes of power play time on the night, UMass had three and a half.  But it’s not even the wide discrepancy that’s the problem.  It was the quality of the calls.  Even the few instances where Lowell got called for a penalty it ended in complete ridiculousness.  Half way through the first Kevin Czepiel skates towards the net, Derek Arnold grabs ahold of him and drives him towards the net.  Czepiel, pushed by Arnold, makes contact with Carr and the net is knocked off.  The referees correctly call Arnold for the hold and yet somehow peg Czepiel for goaltender interference, even though a River Hawk held him and guided him into their own goaltender.  Fast forward to 14 minutes into the 2nd.  Conor Sheary is hooked by Malcolm Lyles, falls to the ice, immediately pops back up and STILL HAS THE PUCK ON HIS STICK.  Lyles is correctly called for the hook yet somehow Sheary is called for embellishment.  Why would someone intentionally diving immediately get back on his skates and maintain possession of the puck?  I won’t lie to you, UMass has had its share of divers in recent years.  Conor Sheary is not one of them.  The officiating by Hansen and Millea was so egregious in tonight’s game it should be looked into by the league.  It won’t be.  It’s a good ole boy network at Hockey East headquarters and Joe Bertagna is too busy worrying about mesmerizing us by adding superstar programs from the midwest or getting his mug on NESN instead of actually improving the play on the ice by instituting some kind of accountability for officials.  Officiating in Hockey East has steadily gone downhill in recent years.  Just last week Maine was robbed of a victory at Merrimack due to some phantom whistle and Lowell lost their chance at a Hockey East championship a couple years back for pretty much the same reason.  If Bertagna really wanted to improve the quality of Hockey East he would fix what’s broken before worrying about adding teams that would subsequently be frustrated with said poor officiating anyways.  Or at the very least if you’re going to employ bad officials, make sure they’re equally bad both ways.  That I can at least live with.

I tweeted earlier that the three factors in the loss were Carr, Tweedledee and Tweedledum Hansen and Millea, and poor execution in the third.  As I thought about it, poor execution or effort didn’t really describe what I was trying to grasp.  But in talking to Dick Baker briefly after the game, he completely nailed what I was trying to say.  The team in the second half of the game was way too tentative to be able to win. Yeah it was nice when Conor Allen scored his goal, his third in three games, but the team looked afraid to shoot, afraid to finish checks, and too disorganized to successfully mount a comeback.  Maybe the hesitancy was a result of the overwhelming amount of penalties being called on the Minutemen, but regardless it severely limited their ability to get back in the game.  They needed an urgency that never came.  Hell, they couldn’t even gain control of the puck at the end to allow Steve Mastalerz to leave the net for the extra attacker.  It was the exact opposite.  UMass was so flat at the end they actually gave up a goal in the waning seconds, giving Lowell the insurance goal.  The team battled the River Hawks and the zebras in the first two periods but seemed to give up in the third which was tremendously disappointing.

The last contributing factor to UMass’ loss was the presence of thundersticks.  Enough said.

Luckily for UMass Boston College beat UNH tonight and the Minutemen remain in 7th place.  But a huge opportunity to gain ground on the River Hawks has been lost.  5th place is a whole 6 points away.  Northeastern won which means both the Huskies and Wildcats are now breathing down UMass’ neck in the standings.  UMass desperately needs a win at Lowell later today.  But, as we know, this team has yet to win on the road.  And, judging by the comments and body language of the players after the game, combined with Coach Cahoon’s total exasperation postgame, I get the feeling UMass has already lost tonight’s game.  At this point I can only hope to show up and be pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
The two goals that Conor Allen scored in the previous two games were both game winners.  That wasn’t the case tonight, but it was still good to see him jump on the chance to attempt a UMass comeback.  All in all he had four shots on net and ended the night even.

UMass’ unbeaten streak ends thanks to frustration and officiating so says Dick Baker.  Baker has covered hockey in the valley for a very long time and has an old school attitude toward the game.  For him to call out officiating  not only in the game story but the headline itself says something.

Wow, the Gazette posts their recaps sometime earlier than 3am.  Who knew?  Unless you’re still up at this insane hour with visions of Dave Hansen’s arm constantly in the air that is.

A Canadian paper explores the emergence of American goaltending, including Jon Quick.

Lowell Preview

#11 Lowell River Hawks 14-7-0 (9-6-0) Hockey East 5th


Massachusetts Minutemen 9-8-5 (5-6-4) Hockey East 7th

Honestly I’m not really sure what to expect in this weekend’s home and home with Lowell, but I will make one prediction;  there’s absolutely no way the Minutemen can possibly play any worse than they did when these teams met in November.  That game saw UMass get shutout 4-0, but honestly it wasn’t even that close.  Lowell dominated what looked to be a completely disinterested UMass team and held them to a meager 16 shots total, including only two in the entire first period.  Only Mike Pereira (4), Eric Filiou (2), and Branden Gracel (2) had multiple shots on net, the rest of the team was held to a single shot or none at all.  Conor Sheary did not register any shots on goal.  The River Hawks went 2 for 5 on the power play while the Minutemen didn’t capitalize on any of their 5 chances, registering only 4 shots on net.  Only Steve Mastalerz could be said to have a good game, making 30 saves despite the lackluster effort in front of him.

What added to the disappointment of that game was that UMass actually had a little momentum going.  They were unbeaten in the four games leading up to the Lowell matchup, going 3-0-1 in a stretch that started with the upset of #1 Boston College.  Then with that loss to Lowell they dropped three in a row and didn’t win again until they played Yale on the eve of the Christmas break.  As we know the team is on another good stretch again, going 5-1-2 in their last eight.  It would be sad to see the team’s recent rise flop with another dismal performance to Lowell.  That fact is not lost on the players however as when asked about the recent success last week, Conor Allen specifically mentioned how they let momentum get away the last time they had a good stretch going.

That game also started a streak for Lowell as they would win the next four after beating Massachusetts and have gone 8-3-0 overall since.  One of those losses came this past Tuesday to Providence where the Friars were able to pull off the upset by the 1-0 score.  It was a rare shutout of a potent River Hawk offense that is currently third in the league with 3.38 goals per game.  They’re being led by the current favorite for Hockey East Rookie of the Year, Scott Wilson, who has 11 goals and 20 points total on the year.  He’s first on the team in goals despite only being 9th in shots, scoring 29% of the time he puts it on net.  Helping carry the offensive load is sophomore star Derek Arnold with 10 goals, half of which have come on the power play.  Defensively UMass will have to worry about Doug Carr who is the only Hockey East starting goaltender with a sub-2.00 goals against average at 1.80.  Of course he has already shut out the Minutemen once this year.  Not like they don’t already have a tough time as it is, but UMass will have to overcome the 2nd best penalty kill in the league if they want to take advantage of power play opportunities.

My advice for the Minutemen is skate, skate, skate.  Skate because last time they played the River Hawks they did very little skating at all.  At least none that seemed that productive.  UMass has been able to score 8 goals in their last two games by skating.  Both of the last two games saw a number of odd man rushes that UMass took advantage of.  And in the Vermont game activity in front of the net helped push through another couple goals.  Another reason for UMass to keep skating all weekend is that they’re well rested.  The Minutemen played just one game this past weekend with Friday’s tilt against Vermont.  Lowell on the other hand will have to play five games in eight days as they faced Northeastern in a home and home last weekend, travelled to Providence on Tuesday, and will roll into Amherst tomorrow before heading back to the Tsongas on Saturday.  If there is one clear advantage for UMass this weekend it’s that they have fresh legs.

It’ll be important for the Minutemen to take advantage of whatever small edge they can find against this young but talented River Hawk squad since there is a lot riding on the games this weekend.  UMass is just four points behind 5th place Lowell in the standings and of course there will be that exact amount of points up for grabs.  Also on the line is the season series and the tiebreaker that goes with it.  And last but not least let’s not forget that the Alumni Cup is at stake.  Maybe this year someone will finally think to actually present the thing on the ice following Saturday’s game.

Beer The Triangle

Of course a trip to Lowell means a trip to Lowell Beer Works.  January is Belgian month there and, if memory serves, I’m especially fond of the Double Vision, a red dubbel, and Houblon Rouge, their Belgian IPA.

Dick Baker previews the weekend by focusing on Adam Phillips’ improved play as of late.

The Collegian points out that the team is winning despite taking a ton of penalties.

College Hockey News takes a look at the weekend in Hockey East.

Paul Dainton performed well in his return to the Falcons, making 37 saves and picking up the win.  One of the two goals he gave up in the 4-2 game was to former teammate Matt Irwin.  Dainton has a nice shoutout to UMass goaltending coach Mike Buckley in the recap.

Jon Quick is named to The United States of Hockey’s Mid-Season All-America Team.  Quick will be playing on Team Alfredsson with a bunch of other Senators in this weekend’s All-Star Game.

Lastly, led by Minnesota native Anthony Raiola, the UMass team has been showing their support for the injured high school hockey player Jack Jablonski by writing his name on their equipment.

View From Section U: Don’t Miss Out On That Other Mullins Team

As we know the hockey team has yet to drop a game in the Mullins Center this season, going 7-0-3 in the games there so far.  But it may have escaped your notice that the UMass basketball team is also undefeated at home, going 10-0 to date.  Unlike the hockey team, which is still looking for it’s first true road win, the hoops team has done pretty well away from campus and is 15-5 overall.  That’s good enough for a 2nd place tie in the Atlantic 10 with Xavier and a #65 ranking in the RPI.  On the season they’ve picked up key wins against St. Joe’s and Davidson, while laying  a gratifying 32 smackdown of Boston College.

Yet, it doesn’t appear too many people know that basketball is back in Amherst.  Their games have been attended by an average of only 3134 a game so far.  Compare that to hockey’s average attendance of 4473.  Certainly I’m not complaining about that number or trying to discourage people from hockey, but it’s disappointing that the team that inhabits the Mullins that is closer to an NCAA bid is drawing so much less.  Not only that, but it’s hardly drawing any type of student crowd to speak of.  Needless to say, that’s exactly the opposite from when I was a student in the mid-90s when my buddies and I would wait hours in the snow on Thursday mornings for hoops tickets but would be able to breeze into the Mullins right at faceoff and have Section W all to ourselves.  Obviously a lot has changed in those years.  Hoops peaked with those amazing NCAA runs, was nearly destroyed by Steve Lappas, and then took a hit when Travis Ford left for LSU Providence Kentucky Oklahoma $tate.  Hockey in the meantime wallowed for a while longer in the Mallen Era, had some success within the conference when Coach Cahoon was hired, and made it’s first NCAA tournament 5 years ago before crashing back to the bottom of Hockey East in recent years.  Along the way students stopped going to basketball and became hockey fans, with a bunch of them even learning a thing or two about the sport.  More amazing still, the students still flock to watch hockey even as the team has struggled to win games this the past few seasons.  But students, why limit yourself to being maniacs in the Mullins once or maybe twice a week?  As someone who rushed the court when the Minutemen beat Temple for the A10 trophy, had no less than 15 items of clothing with “Refuse To Lose” on it, and maybe even once drunkenly dabbled in some pregame face painting, basketball games can memorable to say the least.  There’s no reason why students can’t carry over the energy they bring to hockey to support Derek Kellogg’s squad while having a good time doing it.

And what a squad Kellogg has assembled.  It took a few years for the former Minuteman point guard to get the right players and the right staff onto campus, but he has built a team that is doing damage in the A10 and beyond for this year and future years.  New point guard Chaz Williams is one of the best and most exciting point guards I’ve seen in sometime and Raphiael Putney is only getting the team onto the Sportscenter Top 10 thanks to plays like this one.  I’m really envious of those who are able to regularly attend games.  I reluctantly gave up my basketball season tickets when I moved from the valley to the Boston area a few years back, unable to juggle the trips to Amherst for hockey, football, and hoops (and even an occasional lacrosse game).  But luckily I have been able to catch a game here and there.  This year’s team is one I really wish I could see on a more regular basis.  So for those of you who are just a short drive or even walk away from seeing the resurgence of Minuteman basketball, do yourself a favor and head over to the Mullins this Saturday afternoon as the team takes on 4th place St Louis and see for yourself just how great this team is.

Providence beat Lowell last night in a rare Tuesday Hockey East game.  That puts #6 Providence ahead of the Minutemen by three points while the River Hawks remain four points ahead and will likely be very perturbed when they face the flagship campus for two this weekend.

Here’s a piece from the Junior Hockey News regarding a Red Wing scout who has been following Adam Phillips since juniors.

UMass moved up to #6 in CHN’s Hockey East Power Rankings.

Minnesota State Moorhead is getting closer to Division I hockey.

Recruit Update; Walsh Returns East

A bit of recruiting news tonight.  Recruit Shane Walsh who has spent the last 1 1/2 seasons in the USHL has left the Dubuque Saints and returned to his native Massachusetts.  It was an up and down career for him in the USHL.  He contributed to last year’s USHL championship for Dubuque but was never able to consistently produce in the league, something that wasn’t helped by a long recovery from a broken leg suffered in the Spring before he first arrived last year and being traded just 11 games into that same season.  He had already eclipsed his 11 point total last year with 5 goals and 7 assists this season before coming back.  It didn’t take him long to find somewhere to play after returning however as he already suited up for his previous team the South Shore Kings of the EJHL over the weekend with good results.  Overall I’m not too worried about his return.  You figure it has to be tough for these players to leave home and go play in the USHL.  While the competition in the EJHL won’t quite be the same, I’m sure he learned a lot in the year and a half he spent in the Midwest.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2012
17 GP / 2 G / 3 A / 5 Pts / 29 PIM / 0
Gillespie played in both Lancer games over the weekend, which is good since he’s been injured in the past couple months.  While he didn’t pick up any points, he did have 6 PIM in a game that featured 39 total penalties.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL/EmpJHL) – 2014
EJHL: 17 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 28 PIM
Empire: 19 GP / 6 G / 18 A / 24 Pts / 20 PIM
Smith played for the EJHL club but did not pick up any points.  He did get kicked out of the second game after picking up an instigator and a game disqualification.

Shane Walsh – LW – South Shore Kings (EJHL) – 2012
Dubuque (USHL):  23 GP / 5 G / 7 A / 12 Pts / 0 PIM / –8
South Shore (EJHL): 2 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 0 PIM
Walsh had a power play goal in his first game back in the EJHL.

A couple of All-Star related stories on Jon Quick.  The first is a feature from the Kings’ website on Quick’s selection to the team.  The second is from Pro Hockey Talk and has his thoughts on the fantasy draft process and where he thinks he may go.

Paul Dainton has returned to the valley, via Chicago, and Florida, and Reading Pennsylvania.  He tweeted something last night about the airline suggesting he should cut his sticks in half to avoid fees but hopefully he found a way around that as he’ll likely be in net against Worcester and Matt Irwin tomorrow night.

Polls & Awards

Remember a couple weeks ago when everyone (including myself) thought Boston University was likely heading to the middle of the Hockey East pack after they lost a couple key players in a matter of days?  So much for that.  With their recent winning ways BU is starting to gain some first place votes in the USCHO poll which sees them as the 2nd ranked team in the country.  Merrimack moved up to #5 after splitting with New Hampshire over the weekend.  Maine’s sweep of Boston College sends the Eagles down to #7 while the Black Bears reenter the poll at #20.  UMass’ next opponent, Lowell, moved up three spots to #11.  BU is picking up first place votes in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll as well.

UMass moved down a spot from last week at this time in the most recent Pairwise ranking, sitting at #24.  Success this weekend against the River Hawks would help that as they currently sit at #3.

The Minutemen find themselves in 7th place in Hockey East, same as last week.  That’s actually a good thing since all the teams around them had two games while UMass and Vermont played just the single match on Friday.  Maine’s four point weekend however means home ice is now 6 points away.  Lowell is four points ahead of UMass in 5th place, however that could change as they take on Providence tomorrow night.  The Friars currently sit just ahead of UMass by one point while UNH is just behind in 8th place by a single point.  UMass has a four point lead on Northeastern who sits in 9th place, out of the playoffs.

Conor Allen, Danny Hobbs, Steve Mastalerz, and Mike Pereira were all named Hockey East Top Performers for their efforts against Vermont this past weekend.

The Daily Collegian has a couple of catch-up articles after returning from break.  The first covers the Florida trip, Frozen Fenway, and the upset of BC while the second is a story on the goaltending situation.

Here’s an interesting article out of Alaska regarding the future of the WCHA that suggests Iowa State, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Minnesota-Moorhead may be looking to upgrade their hockey programs.

Vermont Recap

Two things I mentioned in my preview were penalties and how the play of the seniors have led UMass during this recent stretch of success.  Both of those things came into play in a big way again last night.  Penalties nearly cost the Minutemen the game, again.  At even strength UMass was by far the better team during the game.  Unfortunately through the first two periods there was little time at five on five for the team as they took 7 penalties for 14 minutes through the first forty.  Vermont was even able to take the lead 2-1 in the second on one of the five Minuteman penalties in that period.  But in the third, trailing by a goal, they played disciplined and smart, stayed out of the box entirely in the final period, and scored three goals to gain the 4-3 win.  UMass absolutely must stay out of the box.  On the season they’ve scored 3 more goals than their opponents, but at even strength that number increases to +15.

So while penalties were a factor the team was able to overcome, a lot of that had to do with the play once again of their seniors, led by Danny Hobbs’ hat trick.  It was a very disappointing first half of the season for Hobbs, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that the nagging groin injury he was battling really affected his play.  In the games leading up to winter break Hobbs had four goals and three assists and missed three games entirely with the injury.  In the six games since he had the Christmas break to heal up he has five goals and four assists.  Without a 100% healthy Hobbs in the lineup UMass is unable to get that strong in front of the net presence that he brings.  That was the difference last night.  Fellow seniors Mike Marcou and T.J. Syner both chipped in with an assist each and finished the game with a +2.

Conor Allen got his second game-winning goal in the last two games after a heads up play where he jumped on a puck that Catamount goaltender Rob Madore was unable to control.  That brings Allen’s goal total on the year to six, very good considering even in the USHL he only scored 7 in his 48 games.  After writing about his lack of production mid-week, I thought Mike Pereira had one of his best games in some time.  He had a couple of assists, the first which setup Hobbs’ first goal and came on a spectacular pass from behind the net.   He also had a few other really nice setups that his teammates were just unable to finish on.  In addition he made some key defensive plays including a textbook backcheck where he took the puck right away from a Catamount who was rushing into the UMass zone.  Steve Guzzo had a great game with an assist and winning 11 of 15 faceoffs.  Steve Mastalerz got the start again and while he wasn’t quite as sharp as last weekend against BC he had a solid 35 save effort.  He came up big especially in the second period when, thanks to three power plays, UVM poured 14 shots on net.

Well, they weren’t the prettiest of games and the team is probably still kicking themselves for not getting the win up in Burlington, but it’s good to see UMass take a season series from a Hockey East opponent for the second consecutive weekend.  All three games between the two teams were decided by a single goal.  If there was ever a time to start scoreboard watching on the season, today would probably be it.  Originally UMass and Vermont were to play today but that game got moved to Fenway.  As a result all the other Hockey East teams are in action today while the Minutemen sit idle in Amherst.  With UNH knocking off a suddenly mediocre Merrimack team it means they stay a point behind UMass in the standings in 8th place.  The Wildcats can move ahead if they beat the Warriors in Durham tonight.  Lowell’s win over Northeastern keeps them two points ahead of the Minutemen.  Those teams will face each again tonight.  Lowell has a pretty busy eight days.  After the home and home with Northeastern they’ll face Providence on Tuesday before travelling to Amherst on Friday and then back to Lowell for the series finale on Saturday.  For UMass they’ll have all week to prepare for the surprise Hockey East team of the season.  This will be the first chance to gain a tiebreaker that could potentially come into play at the end of the season.  But to do so UMass will have sweep both games from the satellite campus.  Not an easy proposition since the River Hawks haven’t lost consecutive games since October.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
Quite obviously this goes to Danny Hobbs who notched his first career hat trick.

Coach Cahoon says the team is making good progress on the season in the Gazette recap.

Here’s the game story from the Republican.

UVM Coach Kevin Sneddon blames his team’s lack of toughness in front the net for the loss in the Burlington Free Press recap.

CHN’s Michael King’s takeaways from the game.