View From Section U: State of the Triangle; Recruit Update

Last week was dedicated to recapping the season and addressing the state of the Massachusetts hockey program.  I thought it’d be worth it to recap sort of my own season as well as the state of the blog.  From my own perspective the season ended in disappointment, another quick quarterfinal sweep at the hands of the Eagles, but there were some great highs for us fans.  Certainly the win over top ranked Boston College in October was amazing, especially since I was basically ready to give up on the season after getting embarrassed by UNH the night before.  Watching UMass take the season series from the Eagles from the scorer’s box thanks to a Steve Mastalerz shutout later in the season is something I’ll always remember.  After going a few years without taking the T ride in to Agganis I returned in February and had zero hope that UMass would somehow pull off the upset over the #1 Terriers.  After all, they hadn’t won a game on the road ALL YEAR.  But they did and that was the happiest I’ve walked out of an opponent’s arena in a long time.  I’m also glad during this season that I was able to return to perhaps my favorite place to watch hockey in the league, Alfond Arena.  Of course the Minutemen made it worthwhile to make the trip and sit through the horrific first game by taking a weekend split.  And lastly seeing UMass play in the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park, a place I’ve treasured for as long as I can remember, is something I’ll take to my grave.  But seeing the much maligned Mike Marcou get the game winner was only icing on the cake for that game and perhaps the season.

Of course with the games comes the pregaming and the road trips.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to knock off any arenas on my list to visit (unless you count Fenway).  I’m still due a trip to Sacred Heart to finish off the DI rinks in New England and trips to Colgate and Princeton to close out ECAC barns.  Yet, I still got to see hockey all over in some great atmospheres and locales.  A return trip to Quinnipiac meant a major upgrade in the pregaming as I explored the excellent beer choices at Delaney’s Tap Room and in New Haven and Mikro just down the hill from the Bobcats’ enjoyable TD Sports Center.  I finally found a more than suitable upgrade to the Pizzeria Uno near Northeastern in Bukowski’s Tavern just a few blocks away by Boylston.  The upset over #1 BU was celebrated with cans of the absolutely divine Alchemist Heady Topper at mini-Sunset across the street.  I’ll no longer make jokes about the lack of anything to do on trips to Maine after being astounded by the excellent beer choices at Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor as well as enjoying Orono’s own Black Bear Brewing at the Bear Brew Pub in the middle of town.  Of course for home games in Amherst Stoney and Caleb treated me well at the Hangar, providing me with some of the best craft beer in the country to wash down the best damn wings ever.  Ever.  Amherst Brewing became a regular postgame spot with their move to University Drive and the ability to enjoy the fine ABC beer and some amazing guest beers.  Drinking Dogfish 120 Minute at ABC was by far the best postgame of the year.

Again this year it was humbling to meet and get to know readers of Fear The Triangle and other UMass hockey fans.  I certainly have to mention a couple groups of student fans I go the chance to talk to quite a bit.  One is the infamous “Flag Guy” and his crew.  I’ve seen these guys regularly at games from Amherst to Burlington to Orono over the years and it’s amazing to see that type of dedication that’s near impossible for students to swing while still in school.  While I may take some credit for at least making them aware of it, it was damn cool to see these guys start showing up to games in old school Mallen-era jerseys, embracing the hideous beauty that is the triangle.  I also got to meet the students that make up the Bench Crew, the driving force behind the #freemoore campaign that was able to gain support on social media from NHL players and beyond.  When senior Kevin Moore got in on Senior Night I was thrilled for his opportunity, but I was also happy that the Bench Crew got to see their movement come to fruition.  UMass’ student section sometimes unfairly gets a bad reputation, but it has some amazing student fans.  In addition to these two groups I also enjoyed talking to long time fans, other bloggers, opposing fans, and am always flattered that so many hockey parents use FTT as a way to follow their sons’ hard work representing UMass.

For the blog, it was a good year.  Just last week FTT hit it’s 300,000th page view.  The FTT social media sites hit milestones with the 700th follower on Twitter and 300 likes on the FTT Facebook page.  The fact that 700 people care what I have to say about anything, much less hockey, is mind-boggling.  But I thank you.  Traffic on the blog was up roughly 20% for the season and I really enjoyed the regular commentary and and discussions with readers during the year.  My whole thought process was to have FTT a UMass hockey blog by a fan, for the fans, so I certainly thank everyone for their contributions during the year, whether we saw eye to eye or not.  Started as just a hobby the blog has continued to take me places I never dreamed of.  Again this season, thanks to SID John Sinnett, I was able to attend postgame press conferences at the Mullins.  While I’ll leave the real game recaps and the quotes that come out of those sessions with the media guys, this opportunity gives me great insight into the game itself which I then try to pass on to you readers in my recaps.  Beyond that I’m thankful for two tremendous opportunities that I was afforded this past year.  First, I attended a press conference at Fenway Park for the announcement of the Frozen Fenway game.  Humbling to say the least.  And if that wasn’t enough I was lucky enough to land a semi-regular spot on NESN’s Hockey East Face Off Live as their UMass Correspondent.  My earliest memories of NESN are watching Ned Martin and Bob Montgomery call Red Sox games in the mid-80s so to be associated with that network in any way is a tremendous honor.  A thrilling and initially terrifying honor.  I certainly want to thank NESN’s Jamison Coyle and Justine Pouravelis for the opportunity as well as my talented sportsbiz brother who got the FTT url in front of the right eyes initially.  Again, this is all just a hobby so for a social science major from UMass who ended up in Finance to somehow make it onto NESN is beyond anything I could’ve imagined.

So the blog is already well beyond whatever I may have imagined when I first started it.  But I still want to improve it and make it better for you readers.  I love these weekly “View From Section U” columns because it makes me think of something new to explore with the hockey team every week and I plan to continue  this as much as possible, even over the offseason.  Beyond that my mission is still to provide you readers with links to UMass hockey news from around the web, original news and commentary, game previews and recaps, the scoop on recruiting, all while suggesting some decent beers and bars along the way.  I would say my number one idea for next season is to hook up with a photographer to help bring pictures back to the site, something that FTT has been without since Karen Winger decided to take her talents to Lake Michigan.  Certainly if there is anyone out there who would like to provide UMass hockey photography in exchange for whatever free publicity I can muster, please let me know.  I have a few other ideas to spruce the website up and am contemplating a mini-relaunch of the blog before next season, though I’m not sure to what extent.  You may have also noticed some “graphical additions” to the page (sorry, I’m not supposed to write about them) that may help me at least recoup some gas money (oh, who are we kidding; beer money).  I’m still just testing these out and am very conscious of such things getting in the way of readers’ ability to get what they want out of the site.  As always if you have any problems with the site feel free to comment or contact me.  Other than that I look forward to tackling the offseason and am hoping next hockey season comes as soon as possible.  I’ll be passing along any news I can get out of next week’s Reverse Raffle and the golf outing which usually takes place in June.

Thank you very much for another season of reading and interacting.  I have a lot of fun doing this by itself but it’s that much more motivation knowing that people are coming to Fear The Triangle to keep up with their favorite college hockey team.  So if you have an opinion, question, or even complaint feel free to share.

Go UMass!

Kenny Gillespie is the only committed recruit still playing, though Willy Smith did participate in the Beantown Classic last week, probably the biggest showcase tournament in the country.  Unfortunately I’ve been unable to come up with any opinion or stats from his performance.  Assistant coach Len Quesnelle was in attendance for UMass, scoring points from your truly for signing in being from “Massachusetts”.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2012
31 GP / 4 G / 5 A / 9 Pts / 47 PIM / -2
Gillespie did not make it into the scoring in his one game this past week.  College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni, who helped me out a ton with last week’s recruit post, did tell me that a source in the USHL compared Gillespie favorably with BU’s Yasin Cisse, a Winnipeg draft pick who had 2 goals and 3 assists in a freshman season where he battled some injury problems.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL/EmpJHL) – 2014
EJHL: 21 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 28 PIM
Empire: 22 GP / 7 G / 18 A / 25 Pts / 24 PIM
Will Smith’s season is over as the Pics were eliminated in the Empire League playoffs. You can’t blame Smith though as he was the leading scorer for the Pics with a goal and three assists in the two playoff games.

Shane Walsh – LW – South Shore Kings (EJHL) – 2012
Dubuque (USHL): 23 GP / 5 G / 7 A / 12 Pts / 0 PIM / –8
South Shore (EJHL): 9 GP / 7 G / 6 A / 13 Pts / 4 PIM
Walsh’s Kings were eliminated by the New Hampshire Monarchs in the EJHL semifinals. Walsh had 2 goals in six playoff games. Next stop for him: Amherst.

College Hockey News has their Frozen Four picks.  I put out my tourney picks earlier this week.  You’ve probably noticed that I’ve favored College Hockey News’ coverage this year.  I really think that CHN has been the best and most unbiased of the handful of college hockey sites out there.  I think they still have a little ways to go to make their site more user friendly and intuitive but their content is by far the best.  Inside College Hockey has sadly become almost irrelevant and USCHO covers whatever it is they think is important to cover.  But CHN has become my primary source for college hockey info.

I really enjoyed this piece out of New Hampshire suggesting that UNH fans should root for Maine.  Dogs and cats living together.  Mass hysteria!