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.