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Vermont Preview

Vermont Catamounts 5-16-1 (2-12-1) Hockey East – 10th

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

While this game will lack the buzz and pageantry of when these teams last met two weeks ago at Fenway Park, that doesn’t mean the game itself is any less important.  Mike Marcou’s overtime goal in that game gave UMass the win, but due to a lackluster up in Burlington during Thanksgiving Week the season series is tied  at one game apiece and tomorrow night will be the decider.  It’s unlikely that a tiebreaker will come into play with the Catamounts but it would be good to take another season series after picking up one last weekend and as always the two points on the line are huge in terms of keeping pace with the rest of Hockey East.  Especially considering all other teams in the league play two games this weekend while the Minutemen and their UVM foes only play one.

Two games have been played between these teams with each winning by the narrowest of margins.  The Cats won in November 2-1 while UMass took the Fenway game 3-2 in extra innings.  An easy way for UMass to give themselves an advantage in tomorrow’s game is to stay out of the penalty box.  Three of Vermont’s four goals against the Minutemen this season have come on the power play.  In fact, in the roughly 125 minutes of play between these teams UMass has racked up 41 minutes in penalties.  That’s not good.  Vermont is the worst scoring offense in Hockey East by a long shot, averaging just 2.35 goals per game.  But their power play is 8th in the league (better than UMass’) so there’s no need to be giving them an extra man advantage.

The big storyline for Vermont this season has been injuries, of which they have a ton.  They already have a number of players who are out for the season but the one that matters most right now is their star sophomore Connor Brickley who is out indefinitely with a leg injury suffered during the World Juniors.  Brickley is still 2nd on the team in goals despite missing 7 games so far for the Catamounts.  With him out UMass will have to key in on Sebastian Stalberg who has either scored or assisted on 23 of the teams 51 goals, including 3 against UMass.  Freshman Kyle Reynolds has been one of the few bright spots for UVM, scoring 8 goals on the season, 3 coming against the Minutemen.  Defenseman Drew McKenzie adds some offensive power from the blue line with 6 goals and 9 assists so far.  In net will likely be Rob Madore who has the worst statistics for a starting goaltender in Hockey East with a 3.67 goals against average and .873 save percentage.  It’s tough to tell how much of that is his play versus the team in front of him.  He’s been able to solve UMass so far though giving up just four goals to the Minutemen in over 120 minutes of work.

Who will be in net for the UMass?  Whoever had the best week in practice would be my guess.  Jeff Teglia has faced the Catamounts twice so far with pretty good success, giving up just two goals in each of the games.  Perhaps his familiarity with the team will lead him to get the start.  In looking at what has made UMass successful in this 4-1-1 stretch they’re on it’s that the seniors have really stepped up.  Altogether co-captains T.J. Syner and Danny Hobbs and assistant captain Mike Marcou have scored 9 of the 25 goals in that time.  But  in addition to bringing just their offensive game, they’ve gotten the job done defensively too.  Syner has been a +7 in those games, Hobbs a +8, and Marcou a +7.  UMass has been a very good scoring team all season, but it hasn’t been until they’ve really stepped up their defensive play that the scoring led to wins.  The seniors are leading the way on that front and hopefully the younger players are following in their footsteps.

Beer The Triangle
The Hangar was due to put a barrel of Green Flash Double Stout on tap earlier this week which I’m very interested in trying.  They also had a hard to find Founders that was to go on soon but I’ll be damned if I can remember which.  Double Trouble maybe?

College Hockey News takes a look at the weekend ahead in Hockey East.  They also have an interesting piece on the rise of hitting from behind penalties in the game.

New England Hockey Journal takes a look at UMass’ success at home so far.

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View From Section U: Massachusetts Hockey; Bay State to the Sunshine State

So I was looking at some old UMass rosters on HockeyDB tonight and got wondering to where UMass has gotten the majority of its players since the program was restarted.  How much does the program emulate University of Minnesota which primarily draws its talent from in-state?  What amount of Canadians have wore the maroon and white?  Has there been an influx of Sun Belt hockey players in recent years?  Well some copying and pasting and some excel magic and I had my answers.  Here are, with a few exceptions where the data wasn’t present, a breakdown of the home states all UMass hockey players since 1993.  Now please keep in mind this is only as good as the data on HockeyDB and I honestly have no idea where they get their data from.  It doesn’t necessarily matchup with the players’ hometowns when the played for UMass.  Case in point, it currently lists Paul Dainton as being from Nova Scotia.  Now when he got to UMass his was listed as being from British Columbia and then during his senior year changed to Nunavut when his family moved there.  He also played junior hockey in Ontario and Alberta for a while. I have no idea where Nova Scotia comes from.  So that being said, here’s the breakdown of the 173 players they have data for:

Massachusetts – 70
Ontario – 16
New York – 12
Connecticut – 10
Minnesota – 6
Alberta – 5
British Columbia – 5
Quebec – 5
Rhode Island – 5
Illinois – 4
Michigan – 4
California – 3
Finland – 3
New Jersey – 3
Pennsylvania – 3
Maine – 2
New Hampshire – 2
Saskatchewan – 2
Alaska – 1
Austria – 1
Belarus – 1
England – 1
Florida – 1
Latvia – 1
Manitoba – 1
Maryland – 1
Newfoundland – 1
Nova Scotia – 1
Sweden – 1
Utah – 1
Vermont – 1

There you have it.  Some interesting things to note.  40% of all the UMass players come from in-state.  21% of players have come from Canada.  Eight players have come from outside of North America, including Matt Smith who was born in England and played for the Minutemen in the late 90s.  UMass has had incredible success recruiting players from Finland as all three made a big impact on the program.  Markus Helanen is still seen as one of the top goaltenders in the program’s history, Toni Soderholm was a captain and great defenseman, and Sami Jalkanen was a solid defenseman for UMass for three seasons before leaving to play professionally back in Helsinki.  But UMass has had mixed success in the other countries, picking up All-American Thomas Pöck from Austria and current Minuteman Oleg Yevenko from Belarus but at the same time adding the very forgettable Dmitri Vasiliev from Latvia and Anders Lusth from Sweden.  North of the border UMass didn’t have any players from Quebec in the 90s but most who have played since then (Nick Kuiper, Martin Nolet, Mike Lecomte, Danny Hobbs, and Eric Filiou) have made significant contributions to the program.

It’s interesting to see that UMass has had as many players from Rhode Island as Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont combined.  Even more interesting is that three of them were named Shaw.   UMass hasn’t had a ton of players from non-traditional hockey states, only five combined coming from California, Florida, and Maryland, but those players have for the most part been very good.  Casey Wellman and Troy Power both come from California while Stephen Werner is the lone player from Maryland.  Kenny Gillespie who joins the team will add a new state to the list, North Carolina.

When looking at just Massachusetts, the team has gotten the most players from Framingham, five total, with the best being Will Ortiz.  Four Minutemen have hailed from Medford, including Chris Capraro.  UMass has done well recruiting in the valley, with four players really good players coming from Springfield in Tom O’Connor, Rob Bonneau, P.J. Fenton, and T.J. Syner.  Add to that total Kevin “Holyoke” Czepiel, goaltender Rich Moriarty from Wilbraham, Mike Waidlich from Miller Falls, and transfers John Luszcz and Dominic Torretti from Ludlow and Western Mass is pretty much covered.  Recruit Willy Smith will add to that local list in 2014

Speaking of Paul Dainton, in the goaltender shuffling that occurs in the minors to try to get guys playing time it appears he’s been assigned to the Reading Royals of the ECHL.  Spending time between the pipes in Reading isn’t a bad thing however.  It worked out quite well for former Royal Jon Quick.

UMass is moving up in the College Hockey News Power Rankings.

Lastly, Doyle Somerby who has been offered by UMass and I wrote about last week, is reportedly close to making a decision according to USHR.  They report that he has also been offered by Maine, New Hampshire, St Lawrence and is due to visit Boston University tomorrow.

Recruit Update

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2012
15 GP / 2 G / 3 A / 5 Pts / 23 PIM / 0
Gillespie unfortunately appears to be injured again, or at the very least he did not appear in any games for the Lancers this past weekend.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL/EmpJHL) – 2014
EJHL: 15 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 11 PIM
Empire: 19 GP / 6 G / 18 A / 24 Pts / 20 PIM
Smith played for the EJHL club, registering 2 PIM in the couple games. Smith also represented the Pics in the Empire League Futures Game that took place yesterday (no record of how he did).

Shane Walsh – LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) – 2012
23 GP / 5 G / 7 A / 12 Pts / 0 PIM / –8
Walsh was held without a point in the one game he played in over the weekend, a 4-1 win over Sioux Falls.

USCHO has a great story about everything Scott Crowder is doing to expand the game of hockey, in scope and opportunity, since leaving UMass.

Joe Meloni has a UMass player on each side of his Three Up, Three Down feature.  I think it’s safe to say that Mike Pereira has not reacted as Coach Cahoon had hoped when he made him a healthy scratch against Vermont before Thanksgiving.  He was averaging 1.2 points per game prior to that game, since then he’s only averaging 0.5.  He has dropped from 3.1 shots per game to just 2.4 in that time.  Still the team is 4-2-2 since then as other players around Pereira have stepped up their game.

Matt Vautour highlights the Mullins Magic™ the basketball and hockey teams are enjoying this year.

The awards continue to come in for Steve Mastalerz following his shoutout of BC as he and point guard Chaz Williams were named UMass Co-Athletes of the Week.

 

Awards & Polls, Mastalerz Named Defensive Player of the Week

His 35 save shutout of #4 Boston College earned Steve Mastalerz recognition in the form of Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week honors, shared with Merrimack’s Joe Cannata.  Conor Allen, Peter DeAngelo, and T.J. Syner were named Top Performers for this part in the upset last weekend.

BC’s loss to UMass and narrow win against Northeastern didn’t hurt them in the USCHO poll however.  In fact they moved up a spot to #3.  The other team tied for first place in Hockey East, Boston University, leapfrogged the Eagles and are now ranked #2 in the country behind Minnesota-Duluth.  The Terriers defeated Northeastern and Harvard this past week.  A win and tie over Maine sent Merrimack up a spot to sixth.  Lowell dropped three spots to #14 after losing in overtime up at Vermont.

Looking at the Hockey East standings, UMass finds itself in 7th place, two points behind Lowell, which still has two games in hand on the Minutemen, and three points behind Providence in 5th place.  Maine is currently sitting in the last home ice spot, four points ahead of UMass but having played two more games thus far.  Missing the playoffs is still very much a possibility for the Minutemen with UNH just a point behind of UMass in 9th and Northeastern two points back, out of the playoffs.  After beating Lowell on Friday Vermont lost to Providence yesterday and still sit firmly in last place.

I told myself I wouldn’t give the Pairwise rankings my attention until UMass was at least at .500, which occurred with this past weekend’s win.  UMass currently sits tied with Maine at #23.  There is still a long ways to go to get to 15th, which is what is needed assuming the Atlantic Hockey winner only sends their automatic qualifier and there are no major upsets in the conference tournaments.

Joe Meloni at College Hockey News says Steve Mastalerz’s win makes the goaltending situation more interesting.  Honestly what is happening is nothing more than a continuation of what we expected out of training camp.  The only difference is Mastalerz wasn’t healthy at this point.  But so far all three goaltenders have made their case that they’re good enough to start in Hockey East.  While not ideal, t’s a great problem to have.

Expectations have changed with the win says Dick Baker.

Boston College Recap

As word got around the Mullins Center that freshman Steve Mastalerz, not Kevin Boyle or Jeff Teglia, would be making the start in this huge opportunity to take the season series from Boston College pretty much anyone and everyone I knew was asking me “Why?”. I of course reassured them that Mastalerz, despite only starting 3 games and his one win coming against Holy Cross, was more than up to the task and gave the Minutemen the best chance to win. OK, maybe not. Maybe like them I just scratched my head, threw up my hands, and hoped this decision to play an untested goaltender would not join similar decisions to start Dan Meyers and Mike Waidlich against good teams which ended in disaster. Disaster, it turns out, is the furthest word possible to describe what happened last night.

Steve Mastalerz more than rose to the occasion, which is surprising given the importance and pressure of the occasion and his relative inexperience, but he came into the season with just as much of a shot at the goaltending job as the other two. Some close to the program thought he may even be the better of the three. It was only injury that kept him from getting his fair share of games from the very start of the season. Last night he was (to ruin the surprised of the FTT Player of the Game) the most important player on the ice. It’s easy to quickly look at the score and see 4-0 and think that UMass just rolled in this one but it wasn’t that simple. BC hit the ice and for a good part of the first were the dominant team. Shots initially were 6-0 in favor of the Eagles and at one point increased to 12-2. Mastalerz kept this one from getting ugly early. I thought he showed some really quick lateral speed and had a number of quality kick saves with his pad. He also showed his ability to move the puck, something Coach Cahoon specifically called out as one of his strengths, which resulted in assisting on the first goal of the game.

That’s not to say Mastalerz didn’t have a lot of help from the guys in front of him however. Prior to last night’s game I felt that the 4-2 over then top ranked BC in November was probably the best defensive effort against top notch competition on the season. Yesterday’s win took that fine defensive effort and brought it to another level. The team as a whole blocked 20 Boston College shots. Not only did they shut down the Eagles power play, killing all six opportunities, but they kept them to only 7 shots on net during that time. It was a great defensive all around but when asked about the improved penalty kill Cahoon specifically mentioned how Peter DeAngelo has taken it upon himself to become the team’s PK specialist and it paid off last night as he not only kept BC off the board but scored the team’s first shorthanded goal since 2009.

DeAngelo’s goal was one of three that came on odd man rushes. All three featured some great passing to get the scorers into position. T’.J. Syner’s first of two goals came thanks to a heads up play by Joel Hanley who, just out of the box, very quickly collected a loose puck caused when Tommy Cross whiffed on a shot and without hesitation turned and skated to create the rush. Syner’s second goal came when he and Conor Sheary drove straight to the net with the puck and though Syner was not able to get the shot off initially he was able to hold his ground in front of the crease and eventually put the loose puck behind Chris Venti. Conor Allen continued to show he has dangerous wrister when he gets to the faceoff dot and he unleashed a nice shot that got by Brian Billet that led to the first UMass goal. Allen also assisted on DeAngelo’s shorthanded goal. Though you obviously want to see the team produce more than 15 shots total in a game, it’s more important the team does something with the scoring opportunities given. UMass used their superior speed and skating to their advantage, made tape to tape passes on the rush, and buried their chances when they got them. Continue to do that and overall shot totals will not matter.

So UMass does not suffer from any kind of emotional letdown following the Fenway heroics of last week. They continue their successful streak that started at the beginning of December going 4-1-2 in that time. They pick up another two critical points, and probably a couple that people were necessarily counting on. Boston University beating Northeastern last night allowed UMass to move into 7th place all alone ahead of New Hampshire, the Huskies, and Vermont. The Catamounts upsetting #11 Lowell helps keep the River Hawks within reach, just two points ahead in 5th place (though Lowell has two games in hand). It also shows that next week’s opponent in the Catamounts, despite overwhelming amounts of injuries, are not down and out just yet. While taking the season series from BC will probably not come into play on a head to head basis, it could potentially help in the tertiary tiebreakers used at the end of the season. But more importantly it shows that this UMass team is continuing to improve as the season goes along and just may do some damage in the next few months of Hockey East play, especially if they get that kind of defensive effort from their goaltenders and penalty kill units.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
35 save shutout of 1st place and 4th ranked Boston College and even picking up an assists, the first for a UMass goaltender since Jon Quick in 2006, in only his 4th career start? Yeah, despite some great performances by Syner, DeAngelo, and Allen, this is a pretty easy pick. Mastalerz gives Cahoon the very pleasant problem of having three quality goaltenders to pick from each and every night the team plays.

Honorable mention for FTT POTG to everyone who came out last night and supported the team! Best January crowd I can remember in maybe forever.

So as loyal readers know I keep extolling the virtues and benefits of joining the Pond Club. Last night I got to enjoy another one of those said benefits and watched the game from the scorer’s box. It was an interesting perspective and you certainly get a new understanding of the speed of the game and operations of the bench. I also have new respect for the job done by MattyG and the timekeeper to be able to keep up with the quick pace of the game itself and the rapid fire PA duties. And thanks to Matty for the FTT shout out during the 2nd period!

Why did Mastalerz get the start last night? As Cahoon explains in the Gazette recap, he was the best goaltender in practice.

Cahoon credits assistant coach Blaise MacDonald for the improved penalty kill in the Republican game story. BC Coach Jerry York also says he didn’t think his players were looking ahead to this afternoon’s game at Fenway as most of them played there a couple years ago.

The Globe also has a story on the big UMass win.

Boston College Preview; Quick an NHL All-Star

#4 Boston College Eagles 13-7-1 (9-4-1) Hockey East 1st

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Massachusetts Minutemen 7-8-5 (3-6-4) Hockey East T-8th

I’d like to think that Boston College will come into the Mullins Center tomorrow for their game with Massachusetts as the top team in the league willing to overlook the Minutemen who are barely clinging onto a playoff spot.  I’d like to think that BC players will already have their minds on the spectacle and excitement that awaits them the following day when they get their turn on the Fenway infield to take on Northeastern.  I’d like to think that the BC bus gets stuck behind someone going 15 MPH on Rt 181 through Belchertown and arrive in a panic only seconds before gametime.  Those things probably are not happening though (well, that last one will, but to me as usual).  No, this is a Jerry York coached team.  He’ll make sure his Eagles are focused on the game at hand and not looking a day ahead.  He’ll make sure they take every opponent seriously, no matter the record.  And he’ll make sure they remember that they last time they walked into the building they were the top ranked team in the country and walked out 4-2 losers to the Minutemen.  If UMass is going to repeat that result they’ll likely have to fight for every minute of play and every inch of ice.

That win for the Minutemen was certainly their best and most unexpected of the season.  In the night prior to that early November matchup UNH put up 7 on the Minutemen in Durham.  But they shut down the high flying Eagles, limiting them to just a half dozen shots in each of the first two periods.  When BC cranked up the offense in the 3rd and unleashed 14 shots on Kevin Boyle he remained poised and turned back most of them and has for all accounts and purposes looked like the best Minuteman goaltender ever since.  It was UMass’ best and most complete effort all season.  Though, as they have for the entire season, they struggled on special teams, giving up two power play goals on five opportunities, they were stellar at even strength.  In addition to the game that solidified Boyle as a legit DI netminder, it was also a bit of a coming out party for Steven Guzzo who scored his second goal of the season and would continue to score regularly right up to the New Year.

BC came into that game with an 8-1-0 record and winner of six straight.  That game seemed to put them out of sorts however and they’ve had a tough time getting back on track.  While they’re still one of the best teams in the country, as evidenced by their ranking, they actually have a losing record beginning with that loss at the Mullins, going 5-6-1 in that time.  This past Sunday saw Merrimack come back from a 2-0 hole to gain a 2-2 tie in Chestnut Hill.

While the Eagles may look a little more vulnerable, they’re still dangerous.  Junior forward Chris Kreider is still considered one of the best players in the league and sophomore Billy Arnold is become one of the more exciting younger players.  They’re both tops on the team in goals with 13 and 11 respectively.  Not too far behind is Barry Almeida with 10.  Tomorrow’s game will mark the last collegiate homecoming for the Springfield native and maybe the last time he’ll play against his cousin T.J. Syner.  Freshman Johnny Gaudreau who was on fire when he played UMass earlier in the season has cooled off, scoring just two goals since Halloween.

Since the beginning of December Jerry York has settled into a rotation with his two goaltenders Parker Milner and Brian Billett.  No doubt he’ll use them both this weekend as well since they have a quick turnaround between tomorrow game in Amherst and Saturday’s 4pm puck-drop at the Fens.  If he sticks with the rotation Milner will get the start tomorrow.  He also has the most familiarity with the Minutemen, playing in the first two matchups this season.  One difference on the defensive side of the puck for BC is that Patrick Wey, who did not play against UMass in November, is back from injury.  That’ll make it a little tougher for UMass to get shots on whoever is in net for the Eagles.

For the Minutemen obviously they have to build off of what worked last time.  Primarily that centers around the the defensive effort.  The defensemen and forwards did a great job last time of disrupting BC’s offense and getting in front of shots.  Rocco Carzo and Eddie Olczyk especially had good games defensively.  Boyle did his part with a strong effort, especially as desperation hit the Eagles and they threw everything they could at him in the final period.  If UMass can do all that and perhaps knock in a power play goal to prevent the same on the other end they’ll have another big win under their belts and another couple points for the standings.  This is the only game of the weekend for the Minutemen so they can give all their focus to the Eagles and rest sore muscles Saturday and Sunday.  But Friday night, they’ll have to leave it all on the ice.

Beer The Triangle
It seems like forever since I’ve been to the Hangar, so I have no idea what I might find there!  Cannot wait!  Over at ABC, their ESB is on tap.  Extra Special Bitter is perhaps my favorite beer style.

The UMass hockey program officially has it’s first NHL All-Star to its name as Jon Quick was named to the squad today.  Remember when the Kings had Quick playing in the ECHL because they didn’t think he was taking things seriously enough?  Remember when he was only in LA as a stopgap measure until Jonathan Bernier, who was judged to be far superior to Quick, was seasoned enough to take over?  Well Quick has proved his doubters wrong and Bernier is accumulating splinters on the bench as his backup.  Congrats to Quickie, he’s an excellent representative of UMass hockey.

CHN takes a look at the week ahead for Hockey East.

NHL.com has a recap of the Fenway festivities.

When this year’s Frozen Fenway was announced many in the media said that outdoor games were becoming too commonplace and would struggle to draw interest.  Not so fast says USCHO’s Dave Hendrickson.

So in the course of a week I’ll go from watching the Minutemen a few hundred feet from the ice to just arm lengths away.  Tomorrow night I get to experience the game up close and personal while sitting with Matty Goldstein in the scorer’s box, an opportunity I won at a Pond Club fundraiser last Spring (I keep telling you people, you have to join the Pond Club!).  I’m really looking forward to it since it’s a perspective of hockey I’ve never experienced before.  I’m also looking forward to getting to know Tommy Cross better, since the I’ll likely be seeing a lot of the much penalized BC Eagle.

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.

Recruit Update; KAEO Doyle Somerby

Finally a Recruit Update where I can give an update on recruits.  Shane Walsh and Kenny Gillespie both returned to action this past week after spending over a month plus injured.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2012
15 GP / 2 G / 3 A / 5 Pts / 23 PIM / 0
Gillespie didn’t register any points in his return for the Lancers, playing in one game.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL/EmpJHL) – 2014
EJHL: 13 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 9 PIM
Empire: 19 GP / 6 G / 18 A / 24 Pts / 20 PIM
The Pics played in a Winter Showcase event in Marlboro over the weekend.  Smith ended up playing in four games total, two for the EJHL team, two for the Empire team.  He picked up two assists on the weekend, one for each level.  It’s an exhibition event though, so no updates to the totals above.

Shane Walsh – LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) – 2012
22 GP / 5 G / 7 A / 12 Pts / 0 PIM / –8
Walsh picked up an assist as he returned to the ice for the Saints for a couple games this past weekend.

Also on the recruiting front, I’ve learned that Massachusetts has offered a scholarship to Kimball Union defenseman Joseph “Doyle’” Somerby.  The biggest positive for Somerby is his size; 6’4” and 210lbs.  And given the fact that he’s only 17, that size could increase.  I think he would probably be a 2014 if he were to commit.  According to what I’ve heard he has a number of schools after him, including some Hockey East schools.  USHR reports that he’ll likely make a decision by the end of the season.  It might not hurt that he’s from Marblehead, Toot Cahoon’s hometown.

From the little research I’ve been able to do the scouting reports are really mixed.  I read one account that said he’s a poor skater.  But USHR says the opposite.  Overall though it appears his biggest positives are his size and his stick handling.  It seems that he has a lot to work on in regards to his game, but he also has time to do so.  He is considered a “Player to Watch” for the 2012 NHL Draft as a mid-level prospect.   Somerby is on a defensive pairing with Alex Carle, brother of NHLer Matt Carle.  Alex is expected to go to Denver like his brother did.

UMass has found quality players from the prep leagues before, but rarely at defenseman.  In recent years forwards like Mike Pereira, Conor Sheary, and Will Ortiz have all made huge contributions.  And the team has gotten quality goaltending from the preps in the form of Steve Mastalerz or some guy named Jon Quick.  But I can’t think of many defensemen coming to Amherst from the prep league.  That’s not to say they’re not there, Hockey East and the ECAC have gotten top defensive talent from New England preps.  It just seems the UMass coaches have gone for the other positions.

Co-Captain T.J. Syner, currently tied for third in points among Hockey East players, is UMass’ lone candidate in the fan voting for the Hobey Baker Award.  So, in honor of today’s New Hampshire primary, please feel free to vote early and vote often.

Speaking of voting, you’ll notice a new poll on the right of the blog.  To the frustration of some UMass fans, it does not appear that replica of the jerseys the team wore at Fenway will be made available to the public.  Instead the word at the game was that a select number of gameworn jerseys will be sold in a process to be determined later for a rumored price of $500 apiece.  As a UMass gameworn jersey collector, I have no problem with the jerseys worn by the players going for such a high price, assuming the demand will be there.  However I, like other fans posting on UMasshoops, think not offering more affordable replicas is yet another miss by the UStore or Licensing or whoever makes the decisions to create UMass things that people want to buy.  So I created this poll, mostly out of curiosity, to see how many people would actually want to buy a replica of the “M” jerseys.  I can’t promise anything will come of it, but it’s interesting to see.  Also, if you’re wondering why the answers are split around the $100 price point, that’s what Vermont is selling their replica Fenway jerseys for.  Regarding the jerseys themselves, while I thought they were a little loud and perhaps unoriginal when I first saw a picture of them, seeing them live and also on the replays I think they look spectacular in action.  I hope to see more of them in some way, shape, or form somewhere down the road.

Dick Baker notes that Danny Hobbs is back to being healthy.  And it’s making a big difference in his game. (That’s a really cool picture as part of his blog post)

In his “Three Things I Think” Joe Meloni doesn’t think much of UMass’ recent success.  Maybe he’s just over compensating so he doesn’t become the second UMass alum to gain the attention of the boys over at Ice is Life.

Speaking of other blogs, nice to see The Guys of the Fight Mass Show Starring the Fight Mass Guys are men of their word.

Halfway through the NHL season, Jon Quick is getting a number of accolades.  Quick is picked as the top Vezina candidate by Yahoo Sports’ Nichloas Cotsonika and the best NHL blog out there, Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, and is considered a finalist by NHL.com’s Dave Lozo.

College Hockey News has a must read piece on the major junior versus college debate in the wake of recent departures.

One last bit of news.  A few years ago I started Fear The Triangle to help distract me from a job I hated (and have since replaced with one I love) and combine my enjoyment of UMass hockey and writing, which I hadn’t done much since my college days as a history and polisci major.  My interest in the hockey team led me to do a lot of reading on not so readily available topics like recruiting and the pairwise.  So, I figured I might as well share all that UMass hockey news and info that was rattling around in my head with others who also had interest in the subject.  Thus Fear The Triangle was born.  But along the way, something strange happened.  People actually started reading this thing.  Not just my buddies in Section U.  But UMass fans, alumni, students, and parents.  And then fans from other schools and college hockey media folks started reading as well.  From there,  thanks to the blog, I’ve been able to meet a ton of people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.  I’ve been able to have excellent hockey conversations from Madison, Wisconsin to some of the finest sports bars in Boston.  I now find people addressing me as “Fear” or, in more formal settings, “Mr. Triangle”.  I’ve been able to stand side by side with real media members whose work I respect and read religiously.  And I even had a chance to attend an official press conference at Fenway Park as a member of said “media” (though I will always make sure to distinguish myself as a fan blogger versus the men and women who actually know what they’re doing).  That said, this week, like attending a press conference in hallowed grounds like Fenway, could bring something I never would’ve imagined myself doing just three years ago.  This Friday prior to NESN’s coverage of Boston University-Northeastern, I’m currently scheduled to join the pregame broadcast by phone to discuss that night’s UMass-Boston College matchup.  It is terrifyingly exhilarating for someone just writing a fanblog for fun.  I have no idea if it will actually come to be, but the prospect is something I never would’ve contemplated.  And of course I wouldn’t have been able to experience without all the loyal FTT readers.  So for that I thank you.

Awards & Polls; UMass named Co-Team of the Week

Massachusetts was named Hockey East Co-Team of the Week today for their 3 point week, sharing the honor with fellow Fenway winner Maine.  Mike Marcou and Danny Hobbs were named Top Performers.

Boston College will come into the Mullins Center Friday as the fourth ranked team in the USCHO poll after they tied Merrimack yesterday afternoon.  The Warriors remained at #7 despite the tie to BC and a loss earlier in the week to Boston University, who jumped four spots to #6.  Lowell only played an exhibition game last week but still moved up a spot to #11.  The River Hawks do crack the top ten in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

Since we’re officially in the second half of the season and standings become more important here’s a rundown of the current standings.  Comm Ave owns the top of the standings with BU and BC tied for 1st, both playing 14 games so far.  Only gaining one point means Merrimack is in third with 16 points, three behind the leaders but with two games in hand.  Maine has ahold of the last home ice spot with 15 points.  The Black Bears are followed by Lowell with 14 points and Providence in 6th place with 13 points, both those teams have played the least league games so far with 11.  UMass and Northeastern are tied for 7th, 3 points behind the Friars, both having played 13 games.  New Hampshire finds itself in the unfamiliar spot of being outside the playoff picture, one point behind the Huskies and Minutemen in 9th place.  Vermont still just has a win and tie to their name in Hockey East and are 6 points behind the Wildcats.

The Salem News has North Shore native Toot Cahoon’s take on the Frozen Fenway experience.

Just like the game time temperatures on Saturday, USCHO says the Minutemen are heating up.

According to the Herald college hockey could have four on four overtimes soon, mimicking what is seen in the NHL.  FTT reader “Will” recently started a discussion in the comments section regarding overtime, advocating the four on four and shootouts.  I think the four on four is a good idea and would add some excitement to overtime and hopefully decide more games than the current format.  Luckily the article says nothing about shootouts, which I am dead set against.  The idea of the outcome of a team game coming down to what amounts to an individual skills competition is bad for the game.  I always like to compare it to a home run derby being played after the 10th inning is baseball or NFL teams resorting to quarterbacks throwing a football through a tire to settle ties.  Hell, why not just bring out the radar gun and see which team has the hardest slapshot to win?  Are ties the ideal outcome?  Of course not.  But I’ll take a team effort resulting in a tie over some kind of individual showcase to settle who wins and loses.

Lastly, I knew I got the full “Hockey At Fenway” experience as soon as I got to my seat Saturday afternoon and found this to be my view of the ice:

Would’ve been a great view if I didn’t insist on seeing both nets and at least three of the four faceoff circles.  Luckily the rest of the Section U crew and I found some decent standing room spots directly behind the net.

Frozen Fenway Recap

It wasn’t a dominating win and at times the execution looked poor, but UMass did what they needed to do and got the win over Vermont 3-2 in overtime at Fenway Park.  The win lifts UMass into a tie with Northeastern for 7th place.  I won’t get too much into a game analysis as, not unexpectedly, I didn’t exactly have the best view to truly try to breakdown the game.  But overall there’s a lot to like about the win.  The fact that they fought hard to get it, that Jeff Teglia finally picked up his first career win despite strong performances in the past, and Mike Marcou was the hero with the game winner as he continues to improve his play in his last season at UMass.

UMass’ scoring was opened by Eric Filiou who got a goal just seconds after Vermont took the 1-0 lead on a power play with Filiou in the box.  Despite the couple penalties he picked up, he played very well, dominating in the faceoff circle in addition to picking up that goal.  Overall UMass held a large advantage in faceoffs, winning 39 to Vermont’s 25.  Danny Hobbs had a good game, turning a Vermont turnover into a quick goal by going five hole on Rob Madore. He finished the game with 6 shots and a +2, both team highs.

The team improved somewhat on special teams.  They went 1 for 4 on the power play, which is an improvement from recent trend.  The power play goal was of course the key since it won the game as Michael Paliotta went off for the Cats for a hit from behind.  UMass killed 5 of 7 power plays for Vermont, who seemed to get the benefit of a lot of calls from what’s probably the worst officiating crew in the league.  With no other Hockey East games scheduled how are Kevin Keenan and Jeff Bunyon the choice to officiate?  And is it fair to give UMass Bunyon twice within three days?  All in all Vermont had over 14 minutes of power play time and both their goals came with the extra man.  It is a positive that UMass didn’t give up any goals even strength.

That’s not to say that UMass didn’t deserve some of the penalties.  And once again Pat Kiley took another bad penalty at the worst possible time.  In the waning minutes of regulation his hitting from behind major and subsequent embellishment when UVM retaliated could’ve giftwrapped the win for Vermont.  Thanks to some quality penalty killing that held the Cats to just two shots during the five minute major, that didn’t happen.  Still, it showed that Kiley continues to be a liability for this team when he’s on the ice.  He’s second on the team in penalties and PIM despite playing in only half the games so far.  He plays well at times, including a nice setup earlier in the game on Filiou’s goal, but that doesn’t make up for the bad situations he puts the team in.  I hope Cahoon seriously considers whether having him on the ice is worth the risk.  Personally I don’t think it is.

Overall, it was a great experience.  I enjoyed seeing such a large contingent of UMass fans show up and be loud for their team.  I hope they enjoyed it enough to come see the team at the Mullins and on the road.  For the team I’m glad they were able to overcome the atmosphere and conditions and come away with a much needed win.  A loss, or even a tie, would’ve been devastating.  Instead they find themselves back in the playoff picture and having a record of 3-1-2 in their last six.  With the circus of the Fenway game behind them, it’s time to concentrate on a big matchup with #4 Boston College this Friday at home.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
Having a power play with just seconds left allowed Mike Marcou to crash the net and it paid off as he ended up being the hero of the game.  A target of much past criticism from parts of the UMass fanbase, Marcou is proving the haters wrong.  He now has 12 points on the season and his +5 rating is second best among defensemen on the team.

I’m sad to report that hockey photographer and UMass fan Dennis Pause collapsed on the field before the start of the UMass-UVM game and passed away.  I never met Dennis but I did interact with him on the FTT Facebook page at times, most recently being this last October when he shared pictures of some of his gameworn jersey collection.  My thoughts go out to his family and friends at this time.  For those who want to see his fine work, you can check out his Flickr account or galleries on Inside Hockey.  They held a moment of silence for Dennis prior to the start of the Maine-UNH game.

Matt Vautour points out it was a Yankees fan who ended up delivering for UMass at Fenway.  Plus he offers his thoughts on the Fenway experience itself.  It was very cool and I’m glad I was able to experience it, but truthfully I’ll be happy to be sitting in good old Section U come Friday.  The ballpark thing just leaves you feeling detached from the game itself.

Dick Baker says UMass lived out it’s own “Impossible Dream”.

Scott McLaughlin of College Hockey News has a feature on Danny Hobbs.  His CHN colleague Joe Meloni has one on the UMass-Vermont rivalry, making many of the same points I made over the summer when discussing rivalries.

The Burlington Free Press said the game added an interesting twist to the rivalry.

Toot relates Marcou’s gamewinner with a David Ortiz walk-off in the Globe’s recap.

Walkoff Winner is the headline for the Herald.

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