The time has come for another crop of players to grace the Mullins Center ice one last time.
#11 Danny Hobbs ▲ Shawville, Quebec ▲ Psychology
It’s never easy to be an NHL draft pick in a program that traditionally has had few. But that was the situation when New York Ranger pick Danny Hobbs walked into as a freshman four years ago. While he didn’t put up huge numbers in the USHL it was known that he was on one of the weakest teams in the league (which is now no longer in existence) and was still seen as someone who would come into the program and make an impact right away. He didn’t. Despite playing 24 games that first year he registered exactly one point and one goal for the entire season. He had better numbers the next season, scoring 3 goals to go with 9 assists but often he looked a stride slow and played without much confidence. He rarely seemed to take advantage of his strength. But it didn’t matter too much. Those teams had guys like James Marcou, Casey Wellman, Will Ortiz, Matt Irwin, and T.J. Syner to put up points and could make due without Hobbs’ contributions. But then Ortiz graduated and Marcou, Wellman, and Irwin all left early for the pros and UMass was left with very little in terms of returning scorers.
UMass was also left with few leaders and three juniors were picked as alternate captains to assist captain Paul Dainton. Danny Hobbs was one of them. With the A on his chest and the team looking for players to shoulder the scoring load he had a breakout year. By New Years he had already equaled his goal total from the prior two years combined. He finish the year with 28 points total, leading the team. His 12 goals and 5 power play goals would tie for the team lead. On a team that only won six games, he had one third of the game winners. Hobbs’ breakout was probably the best storyline on a season that had few. At the start of the season it seemed a little odd that coach Toot Cahoon would choose an underachieving junior over seniors on the roster for part of the team captaincy. But Hobbs grabbed hold of his leadership role and became the player that we had hoped to see in the prior two years. An annoying groin injury that has plagued him all season has prevented him beating the stats he put up last year, but he has still been able to battle through his physical issues and be one of four Minutemen with double digits in goals. I think the Hobbs emergence as a legitimate leader and impactful player from two years of disappointment is one of the better stories in recent UMass history and it’s also a lesson to remember when touted freshman come in and don’t make a splash right away. After two seasons some fans may have given up on Danny Hobbs. But he certainly didn’t give up on himself.
#14 T.J. Syner ▲ Springfield, Massachusetts ▲ Finance & Operations Management
Western Massachusetts has had some excellent players make their way from the valley to Hockey East; from Bill Guerin to Barry Almeida. UMass has gotten a good share of the local guys to make the short trip to Amherst, but they’ve missed out on a lot too. T.J. Syner is one I’m really glad they didn’t miss out on. In addition to giving UMass four solid years of effort and contribution, he has been a lot of fun to watch. I first got to see Syner play two seasons before he ever put on the maroon and white, during the time he was playing for the Springfield Junior Falcons in the EJHL. As I watched him in the frigid Rockland Ice Arena I had two thoughts. He’s tiny and goddamn he’s fast. Given the ease he was skating past, around, and through the other junior players on the 85’ by ‘185 ice in Rockland, I couldn’t wait to see what he could do on the expansive Mullins surface. UMass fans would have to wait one more season as he headed west to the USHL after playing for the Falcons, but it was worth it. In his first couple years Syner’s contributions were overshadowed by those of fellow classmate Casey Wellman. But while Wellman’s time at UMass was fleeting Syner stayed at home in the valley for his entire college eligibility.
All the hometown hero has given UMass is four years of double digit points, two years of leading the team in assists, two years of leadership, some amazing breakaways and odd man rushes, and an amazing knack to score empty net goals from his own zone. He’ll leave UMass as, at the very least, the fastest to wear that maroon and white that I’ve ever seen. He has also been a very stand up individual for the team on and of the ice. With his leadershis responsibilities he has often had to speak to the media after bad losses and he has always done so directly and honestly, never trying to deflect blame or make excuses. Flat out, T.J. Syner has been one of the most exciting players to watch in my many years of watching UMass hockey. I’m glad that we have at least a couple more games to get to see him on the ice. Who knows what we’ll get to see.
#22 Michael Marcou ▲ Kings Park, New York ▲ Psychology
I’ll be completely honest, when UMass brought Mike Marcou on as a recruit and I did some research on him I pretty much chalked it up as a move to keep his brother happy and hopefully in Amherst. The latter didn’t happen but a funny thing happened along the way, Mike Marcou turned out to be a legitimate Hockey East defenseman. Unfortunately with that he laso became one of the most maligned Hockey East defenseman in the minds of some of his own fanbase. While he struggled at times in his career Marcou ignored his detractors, kept fighting to prove he deserved to be out on the ice every night, and as a result is having a senior season to be proud of.
Marcou showed up to campus as a freshmen with very little expected of him. He ended up playing 20 games that first year and proved that he could in fact play defense at this level. As a sophomore he played every game and suddenly showed that he go do more than just contribute in the defensive end and put in 7 goals that season, equaling Matt Irwin and just one behind Justin Braun. However, his focus on offense caused his defense to lapse a bit and he ended the season –9 and the criticism of his play began. Last year Mike Marcou was chosen as an alternate captain and become a go to guy on defense, playing a ton of minutes, and perhaps it ended up being too much for the guy who came to Amherst with little expectations. Though he still made solid contributions on offense his defense suffered horribly and a vocal portion of the UMass faithful put much of their frustration from a six win season squarely on his shoulders. Some players wouldn’t have been able to recover from the insults and poor performance. Marcou responded by having a great senior season. So far he has scored 6 goals to go with 12 assists. And that once dreadful +/- rating? +5, good for sixth on the team. Marcou has never been the most athletic player on the team. His skating is average (on a good day) and he’s under six feet tall which doesn’t help as a defenseman. But he’s been able to establish himself as a legit college defenseman by playing smart and sheer hard work. And for that I hope the UMass fans make sure to give him a raucous thank you tomorrow night. Even the haters.
#30 Kevin Moore ▲ Belle Mead, New Jersey ▲ Journalism
I have the utmost respect for the time, effort, and sacrifice it takes to be a Division I athlete. To be able to balance the overwhelming workload of classes, studying, practices, conditioning, games, and road trips while actually trying to enjoy the college life now and then is not an easy task. But athletes take on the task and hard work for the chance at playing regularly and perhaps achieving hockey glory along the way. To be willing to undertake all that sacrifice, time and effort while knowing there’s very little chance of getting any minutes in an actual game is truly admirable. And that’s exactly what has undertaken for the past three and a half years.
In fact, he’s done more than that. He didn’t just go to the practices, do the required conditioning, sit on the bus, and cheer his team from the stands. He became a leader on this team, even as a third and fourth string goaltender. That’s impressive. When goaltender Paul Dainton was selected as captain last year Moore was dubbed as basically a locker room captain. With Dainton busy doing whatever it is that goaltenders do to get ready to throw themselves in front of hard chunks of rubber, Moore took over some of the gameday captain duties. He undertook those duties, like everything else he’s done as a member of the team, with class. He has immersed himself in the team. He’s even done all the work of the player and leader of the team while also putting together his own video features and even writing recaps to be regularly sent out to Pond Club members, honing his journalism skills for a future career. For all that hard work he has seen three minutes 40 seconds of ice time in mop up duty of an embarrassing 11-2 blowout. But he hasn’t complained. He hasn’t done anything different. When it comes to anything UMass hockey he continues to be front and center, representing the team with pride. You cannot say enough about that kind of dedication.
The hope obviously is that circumstance allows him to see the ice again this weekend, preferably Friday when the seniors are honored at home. He’s so well-liked by his teammates maybe they’ll be motivated enough to find a way to get enough pucks behind Joe Cannata that Moore and the UMass fans who have been yearning to see him play will get their reward. But if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t take away from what he has accomplished on this team, even if so much of it was out of the public eye. Besides, if the situation doesn’t allow him to get between the pipes he’ll always be able to say his college career was no less than perfect.
Thank you to this year’s senior class. Thanks for all your hard work and thanks for representing our great university with class. Good luck in whatever the future holds for you.
Mike Pereira was a runner-up to February’s Hockey East Player of the Month Award.
Dick Baker makes a plea to the students to come out and support YOUR team. Seriously, the crowds last weekend were sad.
UMass sticks at #8 in CHN’s Hockey East Power Rankings.
The Northeastern student radio station again does a nice job explaining what the Huskies need to do to grab that last playoff spot over UMass.
Believe it or not, UMass winning or losing will make a big difference to some of the top teams in the country.
Hockey Night In Canada Radio featured an interview with former Minuteman Paul Dainton where he says a lot of good things about his time at UMass and touts the opportunities that NCAA hockey offers. The Falcons have a “Getting To Know Paul Dainton” video on their Facebook page currently.