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Weekend Preview

Massachusetts Minutemen 9-10-5 (5-8-4) Hockey East T-7th

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Northeastern Huskies 10-11-3 (6-11-2) Hockey East T-7th

You simply cannot overvalue the importance of tomorrow night’s game with Northeastern. You have the two teams currently tied for 7th place in Hockey East facing off with the New Hampshire Wildcats just one point behind hoping to overtake them and get back into the playoff picture. In addition, with a 1-0-1 record this season against the Huskies UMass will be looking to get another tiebreaker under their belt. I’ve already seen someone suggest that this game should have a playoff style intensity. I really hope that’s correct because first of all, it’s entertaining as a fan, and secondly it means that the Minutemen will actually be focused on the task at hand.

UMass has had success against Northeastern by pouring shots on Husky goaltender Chris Rawlings. They had 39 shots on net in the first game of the season against Northeastern (which went to overtime) and followed that up with 41 shots when the teams met in November. Branden Gracel and T.J. Syner were the big offensive factors in those games, scoring a goal in each. UMass could’ve been going for a season sweep this weekend if not for some poor defensive play late in the season opener that led Northeastern to tie the score up with just two seconds left in regulation. UMass dominated in the subsequent overtime, outshooting the Huskies 5-1, but were unable to come up with the game winner.

As we know UMass’ biggest failing this season has been taking too many penalties and then the inability to kill off the resulting power play. If there is one thing that will be in their favor to improve that trend tomorrow it’s that Northeastern is dead last in power play conversion among Hockey East teams, scoring just 11.5% of the time. The bad news is they’ve scored 25% of their power play goals on the season against the Minutemen. They’re doing a better job scoring goals even strength however and are averaging over three goals a game. It’s unknown at this point if junior Steve Qualier, tied for the team lead in points, will play after getting injured last weekend. Without him the Huskies will still have some firepower in Cody Ferriero, Braden Pimm, and Ludwig Karlsson, all of whom have nine goals apiece. In net UMass will have to contend with Chris Rawlings who is having another solid season with a GAA of 2.49 and a .923 save percentage. His loss to the Minutemen in November was the first at the hands of UMass in his three years on St Botolph Street.

It is absolutely critical that UMass wins this game tomorrow. After a complete washout of a weekend against Lowell they need the two points, they need the tiebreaker, and they need to try to break away from Northeastern. And when you consider that UMass will have a tough Merrimack team to contend with on Saturday, taking care of business on Friday is an absolute must. It’s amazing to think that the Minutemen were two seconds away from taking the season opener on the road in this building way back in October. If they had just been able to hold on for those two seconds they would’ve had a road win from day one, yet now we’re 24 games into the season and they’re still looking for the first true win away from the Mullins. Maybe it’s time to makeup for that early miscue.

#4 Merrimack College Warriors 14-5-5 (10-4-3) Hockey East 4th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 9-10-5 (5-8-4) Hockey East T-7th

First things, first. It is absolutely stupid for two teams to play the first of their three game season series on February 4th, in the 5th to last weekend of the season. That said, it might actually be to UMass’ benefit that they didn’t face the Warriors in October and November when they were on their way to going 9-0-1 to start the season. Since that time they’ve gone 5-5-4, losing games to 9th place UNH, Union, and Providence (twice).

The Warriors have struggled when they’ve been unable to score goals but have been consistent defensively because Joe Cannata has had no problem keeping the pucks out of his net. Cannata will head into tomorrow’s game against Boston University with a goals against average of 2.02 and a save percentage of .929, both among the national leaders. The players in front of him have been doing a decent job as well, keeping opposing teams to under 30 shots a night.

While the Warriors boast the top defense among Hockey East teams, their offense is towards the bottom of the league. In fact both teams that UMass is facing this weekend average 3.04 goals per game, 7th in Hockey East. The best way to keep the Warriors off the board? Don’t put them on the power play. With the extra man Merrimack has actually had good success, converting on over 20% of their chances. But five on five they have a tougher time. In fact just under one third of Merrimack’s total goals have come on the power play. It might be an impossible task with this Minuteman squad, but stay out of the box and UMass will have a good chance at the upset. Senior Jesse Todd is the only Warrior with double digits for goals with 10 (6 coming on the power play). UMass will also have to keep an eye on freshman Connor Toomey who has 7 goals and senior Ryan Flannigan who also has 7 scores and the team lead in points with 20.

Last weekend was about opportunity for the Minutemen. They had the opportunity to stay within reach of home ice, to catch up in the standings with Lowell, to take a season series, and to breakaway from the teams just trying to stay in the playoff picture. UMass, with a little help from the guys in black, white, and orange, took that opportunity and flushed it down the toilet. Now it’s all about survival. The groundhog says it’s February. That means there are just a handful of weekends left in the season and for some of these players, their college careers. Hopefully that’ll give them some extra motivation as we begin the stretch run in Hockey East

Beer The Triangle
I know I said this last time the team travelled to Huntington Ave and it didn’t happen, but Bukowski Tavern. No seriously this time! Although the prospect of finding a way to get out to the Publick House in Brookline and seeing if they have anything leftover from the first Hill Farmstead kegs to ever hit the state of Massachusetts is tempting.

Passing along some injury news it doesn’t sound like Rocco Carzo, who was injured last Friday, will play. Dick Baker also suggests that Eric Filiou might be banged up? (I actually don’t totally understand his sentence). A FTT reader also said that Toot Cahoon mentioned that Kevin Boyle was or is sick on this week’s radio show.

And another article about how penalties are killing UMass’ chances for success. How many is that in the last week? Three? Four?

Here’s the weekend in Hockey East from College Hockey News.

The Hockey East blog Beanpot Forum suggests it’s time for a new voice at UMass. I don’t agree with everything that’s written there, but I think it’s completely understandable that UMass fans are frustrated after so many finishes at the bottom of the standings and currently heading for the same.

Frozen Four in Toronto? This seems like an awful, awful idea. If teams like North Dakota, Clarkson, or St Lawrence, want to play regular season games in Canada, that’s fine. But why bring the crown jewel of the college hockey season to a country that doesn’t actually have any NCAA teams? I understand that there are a number of Canadian hockey players on college rosters, but the CFL is filled with Americans too. Should the Grey Cup be held in Foxboro? No, it’s Canadian football. Just like it’s American college hockey.

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8 Comments

  1. Jack

     /  February 2, 2012

    Merrimack still hasn’t played Lowell yet. They play next weekend, and they are right up the street from each other!

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  2. In a league that pays Hansen to do his, ahem, “job,” I cringe at every game preview that says UMass needs to avoid penalties to be successful.

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  3. paulie

     /  February 2, 2012

    Great article on UMass says it all about TOOT its time

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  4. 60MINUTEman

     /  February 3, 2012

    With 10 games left in the season, and each weekend oozing importantance, Umass faces their next challenge. Enough about last weekend, as it is now a lost cause, and a blown opportunity in many different, however intrinsic ways. Hopefully, the Minutemen and coach Cahoon were able to disect the mistakes that were made by the the players, as well as the coaching staff and move forward focused and poised for last weekends goal, 4 HEA points. In prepartion for this week, I would have liked to see if in fact the were any changes made to the style, line combinations and chemistry.I don’t feel sorry for Cahoon. In fact, I want him out, simply out of respect for not only the program, but a team that deserves more. In the mind of a coach, you have to have the intuition to know when to step down, but he’s behind the bench clearly for more reasons than simply “Building the Program.” This has been noted in various articles which have also displayed discontent for the “seasoned” urrr ummm “charred” head coach. At this point in the season, every underclassmen needs to step up for the seniors, and push hard to secure a HEA playoff spot, seeing home ice is far from striking distance (We all know how Umass has played away from the Mullins, and how well they have played at home). What baffles me the most, is we had, at the start of the season, a line of forwards I would put up against any top line in the in the nation, Syner, Pereira and Hobbs, who brought instant offense and delivered chemistry, that has since been unmatched. With the maturation of other players who have started to figure it out at this point the season, it would seem like a good time to go back to this trio and have a true top line other teams have to game plan and account for opposed to 2 mediocre scoring lines, a decent grinding line, and decent energy line. I hate to refer to our so called “top six” forwards as mediocre, but the chemistry just hasn’t been there, and guys like TJ Syner, Danny Hobbs, Mike Pereira, and Conner Sheary are better then the coined term. But we play with 5 and a goalie, not one individual player.Earlier in the season, Rocco Carzo, Steven Guzzo and Troy Power seemed to play with good chemistry and as a unit had their best scoring run through a 5 games stretch then any of those three have had all year, which eventually moved Guzzo ahead of Fillou to the second line. Since then, both Carzo who is a horse(although injured now) and Power have had trouble finding ways to contribute offensively. If its not broken, don’t fix it. I understand balance is important, but players have grown through experience.The powerplay needs some work, and although the penatly kill is improving, failed to show up in the third period in Lowell last weeked, when it was leaned upon the most. Heres an idea… Take Shea off the Powerplay and let Syner quarterback the point. He is the teams best playmaker, has the best on ice vision and the speed to defend should Phillips not be able to keep the puck in the zone, which he has failed at miserably this year, but was phenomenal last year. This gives you another forward to makes plays and draw attention, giving the point men more time to shoot or make plays. Syner is capable of handling these duties, and plays on the half wall anyway.I would bench Yevenko when playing certain teams. Yeah, hes big, however still lacks the quickness and footspeed to keep up with speedy HEA forwards. Start him against teams that like to bang like Providence, Vermont, Northeasternand Lowell who play that grind it out, wear you down dump and chase hockey because they are not skilled enough to go end to end. What happened to Darren Rowe? He led the team in goals for through the opening part of last season before somehow finding himself in Cahoon’s doghouse. Umass needs to play smart, stay out of the penalty box, compete for 60 minutes, and get timely saves due to defensive breakdowns and are still young (usually due to chances we have to take because we’re behind). If I’m coaching this team, my line combinationations are as follows

    Syner-Pereira-Hobbs
    Sheary-Gracel-DeAngelo
    Carzo-Guzzo-Power
    Kiley- Fillou-LaRue/Olczyk/?

    We’ll see how tonight goes, hopefully a win for the Minutemen

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  5. Anonymous

     /  February 3, 2012

    pathetic loss – 5 minute pp and no god damn shots on net….then a minor pp w/ 5 minutes to go…did they even take a shot?!!!
    n/e gives umass every chance to win and they don’t take it….shoot the damn puck
    no killer instinct at all
    re: post above – how many coaches would disassemble the leading scoring line in the nation? …apparently, only one

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    • 60MINUTEman

       /  February 4, 2012

      The Coach that needs to be CANNED!!! Im disgusted. The team played good enough to win that game…

      Like

  6. George

     /  February 4, 2012

    Although Groundhog Day was yesterday, the Bill Murray movie played out yet again tonight at Matthews Arena.

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