View From Section U: 2012-13 Schedule Thoughts

With a huge game looming in just a couple days against a ranked Boston College squad it seems weird to switch gears and write about next season, but I want to make sure to pass along some timely information and thoughts so here you go.  For those that missed it next year’s non-conference schedule was announced on last night’s radio show.  Without further adieu, here it is:

at Yale
vs UConn
vs Quinnipiac
vs Colgate (x2)
Ledyard Classic at Dartmouth vs Bemidji State and winner of Dartmouth/New Hampshire (aka The Old Man in the Mountain Face-Off)

At first glance, it’s not too exciting, a sentiment echoed last night by a few FTT readers who listened to the show live and relayed the news.  And I can’t blame them.  You have Yale, which is a good team recently but one that Massachusetts has seen a couple times in the last three years.  Quinnipiac and UMass have had some very exciting games and are starting to create a nice little I-91 rivalry, but again a familiar team.  UConn, an Atlantic Hockey team few care about.  Even in Storrs.  Colgate though is certainly interesting to see on the schedule.  The Minutemen and Raiders, despite being relatively close in proximity, haven’t played since 2000.  If you’re wondering why UMass is playing an ECAC for two consecutive games, Coach Cahoon mentioned that as they begin to schedule for when Notre Dame and perhaps a 12th team join Hockey East they’ll have many more non-conference games to account for (since league teams will only play each other twice) so you’ll see these kind of weekend pairs a lot more.  He also mentioned that UMass will return the trip to Colgate the following year which is a trip I’m looking forward to since Starr Rink is an arena I haven’t been to.  In fact the only time I’ve been to Hamilton was for that god-awful blizzard football playoff game in 2003 which ended up being Mark Whipple’s last at the helm of the Minutemen.  Playing in Dartmouth’s tournament against a WCHA team doesn’t bother me so much.   The Minutemen and Beavers met in Hanover in 2008 in the same tournament with Bemidji coming out on top.

So initial thoughts are that it’s a  little disappointing.  No big name western teams on the schedule either at the Mullins or away.  In fact, UMass will not leave New England during the regular season.  A number of readers mentioned that this type of schedule, similar to this year’s, is not enough to get UMass the credibility it needs.  I understand the sentiment, but I’m not sure that’s the case when look deeper into it.  Next year’s schedule looks very much like this year’s of Holy Cross, Bentley, Cornell, Yale, Quinnipiac, Harvard, and Maine (or Clarkson if that had been the case).  When that schedule first came out it looked like a Pairwise killer to.  But that hasn’t been the case.  According to the latest RPI UMass thus far has played the 13th toughest schedule in the country and the 4th toughest among Hockey East teams.  The league schedule, as always, helps that but those non-conference teams haven’t hurt either as Cornell is now #9 in the country and Yale, Harvard, Quinnipiac, and Maine are all getting votes in the rankings.  Looking towards next year Yale and Quinnipiac will be back and hopefully still be decent and you add Colgate, currently ranked #12, for two.  Bemidji is currently 22nd in the RPI and potentially having UNH for an extra game might provide beneficial if the ‘Cats bounce back from whatever has been ailing them this season.

So strength of schedule-wise, that slate probably won’t be too bad.  What’s missing is newness and some kind of name recognition.  Believe me, I love to see those heavyweights from the WCHA and CCHA when the schedule comes out.  But at the same time, I’m kind of glad they’re not there next year.  I loved the opportunity last season to head out to Madison and see the team take on the Badgers and would welcome the prospect to see the same in the Twin Cities, Ann Arbor, or a similar city.  But that’s the problem, it’s always the Minutemen making the trip.  Last season UMass flew west twice for two games in Wisconsin and two at Minnesota and what did they get for it?  Four losses and no return games.  Screw that.  Until those type of teams want to grace us with their presence in the Bill, one of the largest and sometimes craziest Hockey East venues,  it doesn’t bother me not to see them on the schedule.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t mind seeing at least some western representation on the slate however. Certainly the more mid-tier and less picky about where they travel teams like the St Cloudd or Minnesota States of the world would be good to see.  Hell, even national champion Minnesota-Duluth played Providence in the Coffin this year and that’s not exactly a college hockey mecca.  Some other teams I’d like to see on the schedule would be UMass’ new MAC brethren, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, and Miami.  Top WCHA teams Colorado College and Denver have made the trip to Amherst before, I wouldn’t mind seeing them again.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.  The schedule doesn’t have the splash that maybe we would like, but at the same time it may give the Minutemen the course needed to be successful, but only if they make the most of it. And, fans can save on gas and not have to deal with predatory airline pricing!  Plus for those that missed it last time it gives UMass fans the chance to check out the legendary Lou’s in Hanover.  I’m not even that big a fan of breakfast food and thought it was a pretty cool place.

UMass recruiting target Doyle Somerby, who I wrote about yesterday, is ranked as the 127th best North America skater in Central Scouting’s Mid-Season draft rankings.  Unfortunately injuries this season have not helped future Minuteman Kenny Gillespie and he did not make the list.  When I was scanning the rankings after they were published this morning I was frankly very surprised to see the name Jaynen Rissling on the list at #165.  I was confused since I was pretty sure Rissling, being UMass’ first triangle-clad captain back when the program was reinstated in 1993 was too old for the draft.  Then I was a little depressed thinking that a guy who was a freshman when I was a freshman had a son old enough for the draft.  Not the case though, I heard it from the source through Twitter today that  Jaynen Rissling is in fact the nephew of the former UMass defenseman.  So I still have a few more years until I officially feel old.

Congrats to Mike Marcou, this week’s top UMass Athlete.

Conor Sheary is the subject of an interesting article in his hometown paper. (warning: hyphens)

Here’s the latest Hockey East power rankings from College Hockey News.

Dick Baker has some interesting Fenway-centered tidbits in his weekly Baker’s Dozen post.

NESN is currently asking which Hockey East arena has the best atmosphere.  The Bill is holding up pretty well in early voting.

Hats off to the Lowell marketing staff.  They already had Lord Stanley’s Cup at the Tsongas and then recently announced Fridays with the Bruins.  Although if you’re going to the River Hawk-Huskies game next week, watch where you step.

The Gazette ran this piece about photographer Dennis Pause who passed away just before UMass took the ice at Fenway on Saturday.  One of Pause’s sons is currently a UMass student.  NESN also mentioned him on their website.

Lastly, just wanted to pass along this website I found which is a great way to keep up with UMass alumni currently playing professionally.  It’s amazing to see names like Blair Manning and Toni Söderholm out there.