When judging how this past season played out, it’s probably important to ground yourself with the expectations coming in. Personally, I saw UMass as finishing in sixth place in Hockey East. Obviously that didn’t happen. For the second year in a row UMass had to battle just to make the Hockey East playoffs right up to the last weekend and for the third year in a row were swept out of the Hockey East quarterfinals by the Boston College Eagles. But that’s not to say that this team didn’t give fans some exciting times and huge wins along the way. The question is were those wins, some of the biggest in UMass history, a precursor of times to come or just an aspect of a frustratingly inconsistent season.
UMass would not pick up their first road win on the season until February but they almost picked up one in their very first game at Northeastern. Unfortunately they were unable to hold the late lead and gave up the tying goal to the Huskies with two seconds left. It was something we’d see more of as the season went on. Unlike the prior year when they had to wait until just before Thanksgiving for their first win, UMass was able to get that out of the way in the second game of the season against Bentley. But then things went very poorly. The team would drop games to Providence and BC and then came an incredibly disappointing weekend against BU. On Friday in Amherst UMass would have a 2-0 lead late in the second and outshoot BU 35-23 but the game would end in a tie. The next night UMass looked to be on their way to a significant upset after leading 3-0 after one period. But the team collapsed and ultimately lost 5-4 in overtime. The next Friday the team would get embarrassed by UNH 7-3 and with a record of 1-4-2 the Minuteman squad didn’t look much better than the six win team the year before. So of course they came out the next night and beat top ranked Boston College. The team had a bit of momentum from that win and would pick up two more wins and a hard fought tie with Maine. But then they went to Lowell and were shutout 4-0 followed by a loss to Vermont, giving the Catamounts just their second win of the season. Then it was time for the ECAC swing to the season. It started out poorly with a loss at Quinnipiac but then they tied a decent Harvard team. The team finished out the first half of the season with a solid win over #17 Yale. At that point the team still had a losing record at 5-7-4 but at least had closed out the first half on the upswing.
Their success against the ECAC would continue with a dominating 5-2 win over #13 Cornell in the opener of the Florida College Classic. But, in a pattern that came to define this team, they completely no-showed the next night in the championship against Maine. They improved again from there and went on a 3-0-1 stretch that included the dramatic win over Vermont at Fenway and a shutout of #4 Boston College. After beating Vermont again the next night the team looked to be a great spot to make a run and do damage down the stretch. They had a winning record at 9-8-5 and had just clinched two season series. The team’s Pairwise at that point was #24 with a lot of games to play. But that next weekend the team played extremely poorly in two losses to Lowell and were never able to regain any kind of momentum for the rest of the season. From there it seemed like they were just constantly struggling to keep their head above water. Sure there would be good games, like their defeat of #1 Boston University marking the first time in program history where the team beat a top ranked team twice and the first upset of #1 on the road. But that win, the sole victory in a 1-6-0 stretch, proved to be more of a source of frustration for fans that a point of pride. The team would split the final three weekends of the season and that last win would allow them to grab the last playoff spot over Northeastern by virtue of the third tiebreaker, record against first seed BC. The team would then face the Eagles for the third straight year in the Hockey East quarterfinals. They’d play tough and would have to battle a number of factors, like questionable officiating and injuries to key players, but ultimately their inability to finish would results in the third straight sweep at the hands of the Eagles.
There are a number of stats that show how frustrating this team was, how close they were to really doing something special if only they had been more consistent. Seven of the team’s 13 wins were against ranked teams. In the regular season the team was 7-7-1 against ranked teams and 6-9-5 against unranked teams. The team had a .500 (2-2-0) record against the #1 team in the country. Before the season a lot of UMass fans complained about a boring schedule. Well between the ranked ECAC teams they played and a strong year for Hockey East as a whole UMass’ strength of schedule currently is 10th in the country. Only BC, BU, and Northeastern had tougher schedules within Hockey East. Yet amazingly it was losses to unranked teams that kept this UMass team from doing anything special. An away record of just 2-13-1 did not help things either.
The team did improve greatly from the year before, which isn’t surprising as that was one of the most unsuccessful teams in UMass history. They jumped from scoring 2.51 goals per game in 10-11 to 3.17 this year. That 3.17 goals is the highest since 02-03 when the team narrowly lost to UNH in the Hockey East semifinals. The 3.28 goals per game allowed was an improvement from the 3.49 they gave up the previous year but was still second last in Hockey East. The power play made good strides from last year 18.2% compared to 12.5% and was regularly over 20% in the second half of the season. The penalty kill, which wasn’t that good last year at 77.8%, suffered without the likes of Paul Dainton and Doug Kublin and dropped to 76.1% on the year. What made that drop even worse was the team increased from an average of 14.1 PIM a game to 18.2.
A few thoughts on each player’s performance
Emerson Auvenshine Fr – UMass has never had a lot of players from the NAHL and I really didn’t expect too much from Auvenshine coming in. He didn’t make a huge impact on the scoresheet, registering just one assist in 15 games. But what impressed me was how hard he played every shift. It seemed like his skates just never stopped as soon as he hit the ice. He has some work to do to be a solid defensive player, but I think if he works on his game in the offseason as hard as he works on the ice he’ll be OK.
Rocco Carzo Jr – Carzo continued his evolution to more of a two way forward than the offensive player we saw his freshman year. For the most part I thought the evolution was successful. He worked hard to grind out plays along the boards and even had some of the best hits of the season. By the end of the year he developed a great bond with regular linemates Pat Kiley and Troy Power as the 3rd line became a big strength for the team down the stretch. He’s one of my picks to wear a letter next year.
Kevin Czepiel Jr – Holyoke had a career high three goals this season with two of them coming in key wins over New Hampshire and Merrimack. He played in all but two games this season, usually centering the fourth line. He will have to improve his defensive play though if he can be counted on every night as a senior as his –8 was the worst on the team.
Peter DeAngelo So – DeAngelo made some good strides this season after his freshman year that saw him play just 16 games, registering only 3 assists. He ended up with 3 goals this season, all coming in Minuteman wins, including the first shorthanded goal for the team in seemingly forever. Injury forced him to miss the last four weeks of the season. He’ll be expected to contribute regularly next season.
Eric Filiou So – Filiou also made some good progress from his freshman year. While he struggled to contribute when moved up to center the first and second lines, he did very well at other spots in the lineup. The team had a winning record when he registered a point and though not the biggest guy in the lineup he didn’t hesitate when things got physical. He played well enough to make a case for regular time next year.
Branden Gracel So – Gracel was a nice surprise as a freshman and made great progress as a sophomore. He improved from four goals and nine assists his first year to seven goals and 14 assists this year. He showed he has great vision and solid ability as a playmaker but I’d actually like to see him shoot more. The team was 5-1-1 when he scored a goal and he notched gamewinners twice. Obviously he’ll be the top center on next year’s squad.
Steven Guzzo RS Fr – I thought that Guzzo would be a bit of a wildcard this season, having the experience of being around the team a year but being unable to play due to injury. He really hit the ground running and made solid contributions all year long. He ended up 9th in the league in freshman scoring and was UMass’ most successful player in faceoffs. Getting double digits in goals is a great way to start his college career and he’ll be a key player next year.
Danny Hobbs Sr – Injuries limited Hobbs’ effectiveness through much of the season and then ultimately ended his season early when he took a slapshot off his glove and couldn’t play in the second playoff game. Still, despite being hobbled with a nagging groin injury he was able to match his career high of 12 goals and had an amazing five game winning assists on the season. In fact the team was 7-1-1 when he registered an assist. Through it all he did a fine job as co-captain. I was always impressed by his poise and honesty when speaking to the media after games, win or lose.
Patrick Kiley So – I probably criticized Pat Kiley more than any other player this season on the blog. It was easy to since for the first half of the season he was absolutely killing the team with penalties. In his first 10 games he took 11 penalties for 41 minutes. But, he got better and he played much smarter starting in January. In his final 16 games he had 3 penalties for 6 minutes. He deserved the criticism for taking the penalties and deserves all the praise for adjusting his game and making solid contributions for the back half of the season. He ended the season having an established role on the third line and did well finishing +2 on the season. I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays when next season starts.
Zack LaRue Fr – LaRue’s first season was probably a disappointment to those who followed him in juniors. There he scored a lot of goals and even led his league in shorthanded goals. He showed the speed needed for those shorties and has great size for the college game, but never made much of an impact playing sporadically in 14 games. I think he’ll be looked on to play a much bigger role on next year’s squad, perhaps helping replace some of the skill and size of Danny Hobbs.
Eddie Olczyk Jr – Olczyk again played in about half the games, serving as a key defensive forward when he did. After not playing in 16 games in the middle of the season he was able to give the team some solid minutes down the stretch. It’ll be interesting to see what his role is with the team. His defensive skills are unquestioned, but if the coaches are looking for a more two-way player for their third and fourth line he may struggle to crack the lineup again.
Mike Pereira So – Pereira went from freshman phenom to sophomore star. His 17 goals were tops on the team and among the top ten in the league. He did go through a tough stretch in the middle season, even getting benched a game for not playing defense, but I thought he responded well. He’d eventually regain his scoring touch while improving his play without the puck. During February when the team was fighting for their lives he scored goals in 5 of 8 games and registered a point in 7 of 8. With T.J. Syner and Danny Hobbs graduating Pereira becomes the star of the squad next season.
Troy Power So – Again, the third line with Carzo and Kiley really developed into something special. Power gave the Minutemen solid minutes regularly and was able to make an impact on the scoresheet in his second season as well, netting a couple goals to go with 7 assists. He plays with an intensity that really benefits the team.
Conor Sheary So – After his six goal, eight assist freshman year I wrote that Sheary had star potential. UMass fans got to see him bloom into that star just a year later as he put in a dozen goals and registered 23 assists, good for second on the team. Next year’s team will be built around Sheary and Pereira.
T.J. Syner Sr – Syner played some of his best hockey as a Minuteman in his final games in the maroon and white. In the final games of the season when the team needed someone to lead them into the playoffs and beyond the senior co-captain registered a point in 5 of his last 6 games. If there was one critique to his senior year it would be the amount of penalties he took, 21 in total. That said, he’ll go down as one of the most exciting and by far the fastest Minuteman ever.
Andrew Tegeler Fr – Tegeler is a player I wish we had seen more of during the season. He looked good in the preseason scrimmage and scored a goal against BC in practically his first shift. But the youngest player of the roster ended up in just five games on the season. Personally I thought he looked OK in all of those. I’m very interested to see what he can do next year when the lineup allows for more playing time.
Conor Allen So – Allen had a pretty good freshman year as a physical stay at home defenseman, but really improved into a huge impact player as a sophomore. Defensively he played much smarter. Statisically he improved from a –11 last year to a –1 this year and even took less penalties. Offensively he exploded for 7 goals including two game winners. He still has a ways to go but at times I found his play not unlike that of former Minuteman Justin Braun.
Mike Busillo Fr – I honestly didn’t have much expectations from Busillo before the season. Coming straight from Atlantic Junior Hockey I wasn’t sure if he’d even play. But he ended up dressing for a half dozen games and didn’t look out of place in any of them. I think he’ll be in the mix for many more games next season.
Joel Hanley So – Hanley was perhaps UMass’ best player on the blueline. He was one of the top scoring defensmen in Hockey East and really turned on that aspect of his game starting in December. From Thanksgiving on only once did he go consecutive games without points. He was also very good defensively and led all UMass defensemen with a +12 plus minus. Hanley will deservingly get some consideration for All-Hockey East Second Team (though he’ll probably lose out to some random Eagle or Terrier)
Mike Marcou Sr – I loved watching Mike Marcou play this season. First because he’s a good kid who has tried hard all four years here. Secondly, because he played well and it shut up his over the top critics. Like Hanley he was one of the top scoring defensemen in the league and scored perhaps the most dramatic goal of the season with the overtime gamewinner at Fenway. Defensively he bounced back greatly from two subpar seasons and finished with a +6. Like fellow seniors Syner and Hobbs he did well down the stretch, registering a point in 6 of his last 8 games and going +1 in that time.
Adam Phillips So – With so many sophomores on the roster at least one was bound to have a sophomore slump and that person was Phillips. After playing very well, especially on the offensive end, as a freshman his second year at UMass is probably one he’d like to forget. After scoring 10 goals to go with 5 assists as a freshman he scored just one goal to go with six assists as a sophomore. On defense he struggled mightily. Phillips will probably benefit from an offseason where he can put this year behind him and try to recapture what he had going on as a freshman.
Anthony Raiola RS So – I thought Raiola had a bigger role to play on this year’s team after some very solid play toward the end of his freshman year. He ended up playing just four games on the year and didn’t really stand out in any of him. It’s tough to see him playing a big role on the team next year.
Darren Rowe Jr – At one point late in the season Coach Toot Cahoon admitted that he didn’t really think Rowe would ever see regular time again as a Minuteman. But he credited Rowe’s hard work and determination in practice and late in January he was put back in the lineup on a regular basis. While he still had hiccups here and there on defense, he did make solid contributions, scoring a couple goals in the last couple months. It’ll be interesting to see if his hard work translates into regular ice time next season. Certainly his reemergence on the team was one of the better storylines on the season.
Colin Shea So – Shea had a bit of an up and down season, playing well at times but actually getting benched during February. However I thought he played alright when he made it back into the lineup and would be very surprised if he’s not an everyday defenseman on next year’s team.
Oleg Yevenko Fr – Yevenko ended up being a pleasant surprise on the season. As hoped he helped keep the other team honest and from taking liberties with UMass’ small forwards. And in the end he was able to keep the penalties to an almost reasonable level. He even ended up with the game winning goal that knocked off #1 Boston College. If there’s one thing for him to work on in preparation for his sophomore year it’s his skating. If he can improve that aspect of the game he’ll be a force in this league.
Kevin Boyle Fr – Boyle had the best season of UMass’ three headed goaltending monster. He finished with an 8-7-4 record and had a goals against average of 3.00. His play made him the goto goaltender down the stretch starting 8 of the last 12 games. What’s important beyond the stats is how he improved his play. Early in the season he struggled letting in goals between him and the post. By the end of the season that wasn’t a problem. Next up to address would be rebounds.
Steve Mastalerz Fr – Mastalerz had a memorable freshman season, highlighted by his shutout of #4 Boston College. He’ll have to work on consistency though if he wants to win the job next season. Only once, with the BC game followed by a win against Vermont, was he able to string two solid games together. Athletically he may have an edge on Boyle but in the end Kevin had a little more poise in net.
Kevin Moore Sr – 0.00 goals against average. 1.000 save percentage. #freemoore. Great team guy. Not sure what more I can say.
Jeff Teglia So – Teglia had some great games which unfortunately did not always translate into wins, like his November tie against Maine and the narrow loss against Vermont. He did finally get his first career win when Mike Marcou scored in overtime at Fenway. But overall it was a tough season for Teglia who struggled to establish himself as the #1 goaltender despite being the only returner with experience. The season ended on a bad note when he was injured in practice and unable to play for the final two months. Still, I think if he works hard next year he could still be in the mix for playing time.
That’s it for the first part of the season recap. Part II covering the coaching and my overall feelings about the season will come up tomorrow.
No awards or even top performers for UMass from the playoff weekend.
Here’s the Collegian’s coverage of the final weekend for hockey.
Dick Baker has more on the embarrassingly horrendous officiating by John Gravallese, Dave Hansen, Jeremy Lovett, and Matt Riegart on Saturday while T.J. Syner comments on the fact that he never enjoyed the chance to play at the Garden in his four years as a Minuteman.
Reverse Raffle! Get on this before your lucky number is taken!
Lastly, the Penguins’ Steve MacIntyre is a gutless bastard for taking on former Minuteman Paul Dainton when he couldn’t find anyone else to fight him. I hope someone rearranges his face. Soon. You also gotta love the other Penguins holding Dainton’s teammates back so they couldn’t come to his aid. I absolutely hate that organization.