I’m looking forward to revealing the annual Fear The Triangle awards in tonight’s post as well as make my own picks for Hockey East awards. But first I just wanted to touch on the news Dick Baker reported last night that coach Toot Cahoon will in fact be retained for next year, the final year of his current contract. Cahoon goes on to say that he’s motivated by the level of competition of the current team and is looking to stay on even longer.
I’ll be completely honest, I have mixed feelings about this. First of all I have a lot of respect for Cahoon and am very thankful for the places he has taken UMass hockey. Beyond his accomplishments he’s also a great person and am grateful to have him as a representative of my alma mater. For all he has done for the program and his personal qualities I’m glad he’ll have the chance to go out on his own accord or even have the opportunity to extend his UMass career if the pieces fall into place.
That said, I’m really scared we could be in for another disappointing season in the mold of the last five years and frankly, I’m not sure I can take another losing season. In my 19 years of following UMass hockey at varying levels of hockey fandom (from neophyte to insane blogger) fans have been treated to exactly 4 winning seasons, three trips to the Hockey East semifinals and one NCAA berth. And one of those seasons was the rebirth year for UMass hockey when they spent the season in transition and beat the likes of Fitchburg State and North Adams. Three winning seasons in 18 years of DI hockey. Needless to say I’m out of patience and can no longer tolerate the words “wait ‘til next year.” But what is done is done and I can say with everything ounce of my soul that I hope Cahoon is so successful next year it makes the last five years worth it and he’s able to stay on a few more years.
One last comment, the article also mentions that the coach is going in for surgery next week on his troublesome hip so I wish him well in that endeavor.
▲ Fear The Triangle Player of the Year
So without further adieu let’s talk awards. For the past few years I’ve announced the Fear The Triangle Player of the Year Award for the Minuteman who has garnered the most FTT Player of the Game awards throughout the season. Past winners have been Paul Dainton and James Marcou. I actually do not keep track of the standings as the season progresses, so I enjoy going through all the game recaps at the end of the season and seeing how it all shakes out. In a testament to how deep this team was the first 10 games saw 10 different players named FTT POTG. All in all 15 different players were named FTT POTG at different points in time. I also named University Drive the FTT Player of the Pregame for the excellent work done by the Hangar and Amherst Brewing and named the Bench Crew as FTT Fans of the Game for their work on the #freemoore revolution. But for the players it ended up being a four player race and one player came out on top by being named POTG five times. That player was sophomore Conor Sheary.
It may come as some surprise since Sheary was tied for third on the team in goals and finished second in assists. But he led the team with a +15, besting 2nd place Joel Hanley by three, which showed that when there was a goal to be scored, he probably had a part in it. I can’t say enough about the progression Sheary showed from last year to this year. You could tell as a freshman he was one day going to be able to impact games on a regular basis but I thought it would take him until his junior year to really develop into a star. Nope, scoring goals in four of the first seven games while putting up points in six of those games showed that he hit the ground running for his sophomore season and a new UMass star was born. That only means we expect more for next year however. Maybe even the 20 goal/20 assist season I’ve heard predicted around the streets of Melrose.
In the end, here is the final tally for the FTT POTGs
▲ Fear The Triangle Rookie of the Year
When I made my preseason pick for Newcomer of the Year it came with the caveat that I thought one of the freshman goaltenders could end up being the one but I didn’t know which it would be, so I went with Zack LaRue. First off, LaRue wasn’t even the best freshman forward, Steven Guzzo and his double digits in goals was. Secondly, it did end up being a goaltender who was the true Rookie of the Year. Kevin Boyle is my choice for the award. Just on stats alone he had a strong year, ended up with a winning record (on a losing team), settling in at an even 3.00 goals against average and a .895 save percentage. Obviously those numbers have to be improved upon next year but when you add in the fact that he already owns two wins over top ranked teams, he did enough to garner the award. I’m fairly certain Toot Cahoon will go into next season with another goaltender competition for the opening night starter, but Boyle played well enough, especially down the stretch, that he should get the net first on that first day of practice.
▲ Fear The Triangle Comeback Player of the Year
I believe in past years I kept it at those first two awards but I wanted to expand it this year. Comeback Player of the Year is just my pick of someone who came back from some kind of adversity to have a strong season. Last year this would’ve gone to Chase Langeraap who wasn’t expected to be a factor after a few disappointing years and ended up giving the team solid minutes every night. This year I want to give the award to Mike Marcou who has taken three years of some over the top abuse from fans and in the end had an excellent senior year. This past year was by far Marcou’s best all around season and when put up against his junior year really deserves some recognition. To say he struggled last year is an understatement. Though he scored four goals and had 11 total points his –18 plus minus was by far the worst on a team full of freshmen defensemen. He entered this season with just about everyone either complaining about his play or flat out calling for him to be benched. In the end he scored 6 goals to go with 15 assists, 9th best in points among Hockey East defensemen, and finished the year a +6. Plus minus isn’t always the best stat but in the extremes we’re talking about it shows the tremendous progress Marcou made. In the end his key play during this season not only was able to silence his critics but allowed him to come out from his brother’s shadow and really make a name for himself in UMass hockey.
▲ Fear The Triangle Breakout Player of the Year
Last year as a freshman Conor Allen did a serviceable job for the team. He wasn’t spectacular but for the most part he did his part and when he struggled he didn’t seem to struggle any more than the other dozen freshmen on the team. But as this year progressed he started to look like a very different player. Not only did he improve defensively, turning a –11 plus minus last year into a –1 this year, but offensively he was able to make a huge contribution. His two goals and four assists his first year seemed more like circumstance than a true strength. But this year his seven goals tied Joel Hanley for tops among UMass defensemen and his 14 points was 9th best overall for the team. Not bad for someone who looked like a stay at home defenseman last year. I also thought his skating and puck movement improved greatly from last year. There were numerous occasions where he either led a rush into the opponents’ offensive zone or found himself to be an effective trailer in such a situation and his passing was quite impressive. I’m very much looking forward to next season to see how Allen builds off this year.
▲ Fear The Triangle Pregaming Locale of the Year
I certainly had some fine pregaming (and postgaming) this year. Obviously the home games were dominated by two places, the Hangar and Amherst Brewing. For my home Pregaming award I have to give it to ABC. Though I’m still not completely sold on the new location, only because you’d never know it’s a brewpub (why can I no longer see the fermenters?!?), I do like what the new location brings. One of those things was Dogfish Head 120 Minute on draft which probably put them over the top for this award. For away games I hit a lot of familiar places. The short list includes; The Abbey, Cityside, Roggies, Lowell Beer Works, mini-Sunset, Pat’s Pizza, The Tap, and the Publick House. But I also got to try a lot of places I’d never experienced before like Baseball Tavern, Delaney’s Tap Room, Mikro, Bukowski’s Tavern, Liberal Cup, Great Lost Bear, and Bear Brew Pub. But my pick for best away pregame locale is Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor. The fact that Bangor even has a top notch beer snob bar is impressive, but this place was good enough for any town. It didn’t hurt that it was full of Allagash taps when I went (twice). But it also introduced me to Nøgne Ø brewery out of Norway, for which I’m very happy. They also had a damn good homemade pretzel.
So that’s it for my FTT awards. Let’s move onto the league as a whole.
First up, my All-Hockey East Teams
F – Spencer Abbott Sr, Maine
F – Joey Diamond Jr, Maine
F – Barry Almeida Sr, Boston College
D – Brian Dumolin Jr, Boston College
D – Karl Stollery Sr, Merrimack
G – Parker Milner Jr, Boston College
Listen, I hate putting Diamond on this list as much as you hate reading it, but in between being a complete douchebag, the guy scores goals. Lots of them. 20 of them during league play which is 3 more than anyone else. I had a tough time going between Almeida and his teammate Chris Kreider for first team. In the end Almedia’s edge in goals put him over the top. The picks for defensemen and goaltender were pretty easy. Milner had a .842 winning percentage, more than .150 better than anyone else. Oh he also boasted the best goals against average in league play.
F – Brian Flynn Sr, Maine
F – Chris Kreider Jr, Boston College
F – Matt Nieto So, Boston University
D – Garrett Noonan So, Boston University
D – Joel Hanley So, Massachusetts
G – Doug Carr So, Lowell
The first two forwards were easy. The third one was a little tougher given the performances by guys like Scott Wilson and others. In the end it was Nieto’s knack to come up big in key situations gave him the edge. Noonan and his 11 goals were easy as the first defensive choice here. For the second slot certainly guys like Adam Clendening and Chad Ruhwedel deserved consideration. But I thought Clendening struggled defensively and felt Ruhwedel benefitted a lot from the players around him. In the end I thought Hanley was most deserving for his rock solid two way play (though I guarantee that spot goes to an Eagle or Terrier when awards are announced tomorrow…see Charlie Coyle, 2011 Rookie of the Year over Mike Pereira).
F – Scott Wilson Fr, Lowell
F – Derek Arnold So, Lowell
F – Billy Arnold So, Boston College
D – Adam Clendening So, Boston University
D – Chad Ruhwedel So, Lowell
G – Joe Cannata Sr, Merrimack
These were all easy picks.
F – Scott Wilson Fr, Lowell
F – Johnny Gaudreau Fr, Boston College
F – Ludwig Karlsson Fr, Northeastern
D – Alexx Privitera Fr, Boston University
D – Zack Kamrass Fr, Lowell
G – Casey DeSmith Fr, New Hampshire
The only tough choice on this one was the second defensive spot. UNH’s Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Merrimack’s Dan Kolomatis had solid seasons but Kamrass was just a little better defensively.
Hockey East Rookie of the Year
Scott Wilson, Lowell
Very easy pick on this one. A dozen goals to go with 16 assists in league play to go with numerous weekly awards.
Hockey East Coach of the Year
Norm Bazin, Lowell
What a great story. The former player comes back to his alma mater and turns a 5 win embarrassment into 23 wins and an NCAA berth. Nothing short of miraculous. When I asked someone close to the program the difference between last year and this year I was told Bazin just tells them to go out, skate hard, and shoot the puck often. Sometimes the simplest strategy is the best. This should be just the first of multiple accolades for Bazin
Hockey East Player of the Year
Spencer Abbott, Maine
There aren’t many goals on Maine’s season that Abbott hasn’t had some hand in. Simply put, he is a point machine.
Unless something crazy pops up, that’s probably the last of the extensive season recap posts for the time being. But there is still more I want to write about. Tomorrow will be dedicated to catching up on recruiting, both how our current commits are faring as well as relaying some news on a couple recruiting targets. Next week I’ll probably take a deeper look into the performance of the freshmen and what we may expect from them next year. Was this season’s freshman class a disappointment? That’s the question I want to answer. So while the season is over, keep checking back. I’ll keep posting as long as either news is coming out or I can think of something to write about.