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View From Section U: Captain Picks; Marcou To OKC

If tradition holds true next year’s captains will likely be announced this coming weekend when the team holds its annual banquet.  So I thought I would take the opportunity of this week’s View From Section U piece to go through who I think should wear the letters next year.  Obviously I’m not at practices, I’m not in the locker room so my choices are made entirely by the leadership I see on the ice, when the players interact with the public, and from what I hear from those close to the team.

I don’t think there’s a clear cut choice for captain.  So instead I’ll just list who I think should be the three to be captain or assistant captains, starting with the senior.  That would be Rocco Carzo.  I’ve been impressed by Carzo’s evolution as a player.  As a freshman he was on a line with James Marcou and Casey Wellman and put up a ton of points.  After struggling a bit his sophomore year when he had a young team around him he started to become more of a two way player.  Last year he was a mainstay on the important third line that was great on defense and dangerous on offense.  Through it all I think he’s led by example and would be a good pick for captain or assistant captain.

We know though that the driving force with this team next year will be the junior class.  Specifically, I think mostly fans and players alike will be looking for Mike Pereira to contribute the most to the team’s fortunes.  For that reason alone, I think he’d make a logical pick.  Now Pereira had an issue this past season where the coaching staff thought he was not taking his defensive duties seriously enough and actually sat him a game because of it.  I thought he responded very well to that act and his improvement on the defensive end was certainly noticeable as the season went on.  It also said a lot that he didn’t pout or complain for getting sat down.  He publicly said he treated it as a learning lesson, improved the area of concern, and went on to have another strong season.  I think that shows a lot and I think demonstrates some good leadership abilities.

My last pick is, like Carzo, not too demonstrative on the ice but has certainly shown leadership skills so far in his career.  Like Pereira, Joel Hanley will be looked upon to make significant contributions to the team, helping to anchor the defense while also providing an offensive spark.  Hanley has already shown the ability to preserve through adversity in his career here at UMass and seems very well respected by the coaches and teammates alike.

Aside from these three, I think there are others who should be considered.  Eddie Olczyk seems like a great teammate in the locker room and I think, despite not playing in every game, has shown good leadership overall with the team.  Conor Allen has turned into an anchor on defense and is always one of the first players to stand up for his teammates and should be under consideration.  Kevin Czepiel has proven himself to be a hardworker in his three years at UMass and as a senior will likely be in the mix.  Lastly I think Conor Sheary would be a good choice, again someone who will be looked upon to contribute a lot and he has carried himself well on and off the ice.

So those are my picks.  We’ll see who gets picked to hopefully lead UMass back to a winning season next year.

Congratulations go out to assistant captain Mike Marcou who signed an amateur try out agreement with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL, farm team to the Edmonton Oilers.  He certainly worked hard to develop his game in his four years here and had an impressive bounceback senior season despite an unfair amount of criticism directed his way, so it’s nice to see him rewarded with a shot in the AHL.  I’m also happy for his parents, Jim and Diane, who became fixtures at UMass games over the last five years while watching their sons play for the Minutemen.  Near or far they’ve been there dedicated to supporting their kids and the program.

College Hockey News reported today that UConn will formally apply to join Hockey East and that league officials are set to tour the facilities on campus as well as the XL Center in Hartford.  The Courant however says that money is an issue.  I will reaffirm what I’ve said before.  At face value, UConn is a logical fit for Hockey East.  It works well geographically and obviously would be joining the other flagship public universities in New England who are already members.  For UMass it would add a relatively close opponent and a potential rival within the league.  But if UConn is going to join the league they have to do it right.  First up they’ll have to fund the full complement of scholarships and will have to find a way to likely do the same on the women’s side of their athletics program to remain compliant with Title IX (remember, UConn’s women’s hockey program was created to offset football scholarships when they upgraded).  More important than that though is where an upgraded Husky hockey program would play.  Freitas Ice Forum is frankly, a pile of crap.  It’s essentially a small amount (capacity 2000)  of aluminum football bleachers surrounding ice surface with little amenities or atmosphere.  I’ve been told it’s not much better for players as there is only one set of showers that must be shared between teams.  The team could potentially play at the XL Center 25 miles away in Hartford, but I don’t think this is a good long term solution.  UConn has made it work playing football away from campus but we’re talking 6 to 7 Saturdays every fall (and hopefully UMass can do the same).  College hockey is made great by the student support schools get.  Are UConn students going to want to pile into busses every Friday and Saturday night in the dead of winter for 18 times a season?  Even if they do, what kind of atmosphere can you create when you fill a cavernous 15,000 seat arena with 5,000 fans?  XL would work for a few years while they build an on-campus arena but the ability to build something in Storrs is the dealbreaker in my eyes.

I still think RPI is the most logical choice.  They’re good to go as is in terms of fanbase, arena, and bringing in a hockey tradition that includes national championships.

It was great to come home from work yesterday to find a package from UMass waiting for me containing the gameworn UMass Frozen Fenway jersey.  It’s a great addition to my collection.  I may even pull it out of the closet to wear to games here and there.  Just a reminder to contact the Minutemen Club if you’re interested in one as well.  I’m not sure how many they have left.

I want to mention a few other things going on in the realm of UMass sports.  First off, stick tap to Derek Kellogg the basketball team for a great season and an enjoyable run in both the Atlantic 10 tournament and the NIT.  Losing only one player to graduation means next year should be even better.  Secondly, I’m psyched that I’ll be able to stick around the valley following Friday night’s Reverse Raffle and check out the undefeated, #2 ranked lacrosse team in the country at Garber on Saturday afternoon.  I’ve been following the team closely but this will be my first chance to see them in person this season.  Lastly, congrats to softball pitcher Sara Ploude who broke Danielle Henderson’s school strikeout record this afternoon.  I won’t pretend to know a ton about softball but I do know of Henderson’s status as a UMass legend so obviously this is quite an accomplishment.

The Northeastern Husky Hockey Blog (via Twitter) reported earlier today that Jon Gillies, considered one of the better goaltender prospects in the USHL, has been released from his letter of intent to pursue other opportunities.  This is a huge blow to the Husky program who were looking to Gillies to battle for the starter’s job give the Huskies a strength in net for upcoming years.  This comes on the heels of losing sophomore defenseman Anthony Bitetto early to the pros.  Tough times on St Botolph Street.

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