View From Section U: FTT UMail

Time for one last session of UMail before we completely move on to the offseason mindset.  I have to say I think this semi-regular Q&A with readers is probably the best additions to the blog this past year.  I hope you feel the same.

With that, let’s get started.

Liz From Greenfield asks so it seems that UMass is the only all Division I school in Hockey East to not have a women’s hockey program. We have the facilities to support both. So will it ever happen?

This is a great question and a topic I’ve come really close to writing an entire View From Section U about previously but there has always been something more pressing to address.  Frankly, I am 100% in support for a varsity women’s hockey team playing in Hockey East for a number of reasons.  First of all, as you mentioned,  the school as the facilities, UMass has both a top notch hockey facility in the Mullins Center and practice facility.  Honestly I’m ignorant as to whether the practice rink could be used for actual games, but at the very least I would think the various schedules of hockey and basketball could be juggled enough to get a women’s team the venue time they need.  Secondly, the UMass women’s club hockey team has already established a tradition of excellence on campus.  They are regularly among the top women’s club teams in the country and this past season ended up as the #3 team in the country.  Thirdly,the team would automatically have a chance to play in Hockey East which is a quality league in terms of talent and more importantly fully one committed to women’s hockey.  Now the trick is finding funding.  I was hoping that UMass would be like UConn (wait, did I actually say that?) and fund the additional scholarships to go FBS football by adding the equivalent scholarships towards women’s hockey.  That didn’t happen and instead the school is planning on adding scholarships to existing sports like rowing, track, and such.  I consider that a missed opportunity.  So therefore I’ll make a drastic suggestion and likely alienate a section of the UMass fanbase and advocate dropping women’s basketball in lieu of women’s hockey.  I know women’s hoops has a long history but honestly attendance is nil and they haven’t had success in forever.  Why not replace a mediocre to failing team in the so-so conference that is the Atlantic 10 for a hockey team playing in top notch Hockey East?  UMass men’s hockey is the only sport at the school that says it plays in an elite conference in the country, why not double that number?  I didn’t exactly answer your question Liz, because frankly I have no idea if it will happen.  But hopefully I helped make the case for UMass women’s hockey.

Josh asks what is a realistic five year goal for the program?

That’s a tough one.  Five years is a lifetime in sports, especially college where you’re turning over your roster every four years.  Here’s what I see laid out before UMass though.  Maybe it’s because I spent the last few weeks watching, either in person or on TV, every available NCAA tournament game, but I really think the tournament is where UMass should be next year.  Yeah, they lose some good players to graduation, but on a college hockey roster three players isn’t much.  And this past season they showed, when they wanted to, that they could play with anyone.  So I would hope that next year they’re more consistent when they play all levels of teams and can play into contention for home ice in Hockey East and an NCAA berth.  Now that’s what I think they’re capable of, not what I predict, because I’ve learned predicting UMass hockey results is impossible.  A year after next they’ll still lose very little and I would think that should definitely set them up for hopefully what would be a repeat NCAA berth.  When that senior class, now sophomores, graduate it’ll be interesting.  At that point it comes down to recruiting.  In the past couple days we’ve seen what I think are some quality recruiting additions but there is obviously a ton more work to be done to replace the huge sophomore class that is currently on the roster.  After that is a crap shoot.  If UMass does make the NCAAs in the next year or two they might drop back when the Pereiras and Shearys on the roster graduate, but who knows at that point.  The toughest part is to leverage the season where they have success by bringing in top notch recruits.  In the past that hasn’t happened and after 2004 and 2007 the team took a considerable step back from previous program highs.

John asks what type of season does the team need to have for Toot to keep his job?

Certainly an interesting question.  First thing to keep in mind is that Toot’s contract ends following the season so if the school decides to go another direction there is no money owed to him.  Like I touched on in the previous question, if it was up to me I would set the bar at home ice in Hockey East and an NCAA berth.  Next year Toot will get to guide the team that he assembled through his own recruiting; an extremely talented to be junior class, plus two very good sophomore goaltenders.  That group this past year already showed they can play with the best of them.  Next year they have to do it consistently.  To me that would translate to at least an NCAA at-large berth and I think, given the 5 year drought since UMass’ last tournament appearance, that should be the trigger to extend Toot.  That said, and this is pure speculation, it would not completely surprise me if the powers that be have slightly lower expectations and, if Toot wants it, he gets an extension despite falling short of the NCAAs next year.  Personally I think it should be NCAA or bust.  Toot’s a great coach and I admire him a ton but I’ve been following this team a long time and just a single NCAA appearance in coming up on 20 years of play isn’t enough.

John also asked what happens first: UMass football wins a bowl game or UMass hockey wins a conference championship (either regular season or tournament)?

Honestly, I can see a Motor City Bowl or something similar in the future for UMass football before hockey can grab some kind of Hockey East title.  The sort of recruiting that BC and BU are doing right now just makes it extremely tough to capture a league title over those guys.  They’re absolutely stocking up on the best talent and they’re able to do it because they win titles and recruits will settle for being a third line forward on a champion versus a first line guy somewhere else.  It all comes down to recruiting.  Recruiting wise I think football is off to a great start.  I’m not sure if they’ve won a ton of recruiting battles but as my buddies over at Maroon Musket have relayed, UMass has been battling top notch regional and national schools for recruits.  In time I think charismatic coach Charley Molnar will win some of those battles and football will be competitive sooner rather than later.

Will asks what is your prediction for how the goalie situation plays out? Even if Kevin Boyle emerges as the #1, how much time do you predict Jeff Teglia or Steve Mastalerz to get?

I think the starting goaltender job will be completely up for grabs when the team takes the ice in early fall.  Boyle definitely played the best down the stretch but not enough to claim the position for good.  Both him and Mastalerz had huge games at different times in the season.  The funny thing is if I talk to different people close to the program they’ll equally proclaim one or the other of freshman goaltenders to be the better of the two.  Personally I’m not yet sure of who is better.  Obviously Teglia is at a disadvantage since he played less games than the others.  I still think he has the potential to be the guy for the Minutemen, but so far in his career things have not gone his way.  But overall I think the initial competition will come down to Boyle and Mastalerz and whatever happens I hope someone emerges from those two relatively soon to start the season.

Carson says I gave my thoughts on potential lines for next year, I would love to hear yours, especially with Tiefenwerth in the mix now.

For those wondering Carson originally laid down his prospective lines in one of the season recap posts.  They’re good but they’re top heavy with all the talent in the first line.  I think Toot showed this past season that he didn’t want to put all the firepower on one line and I’m not sure if I’d argue with him given the results offensively overall.  So in keeping with the mindset of having two impactful lines, here’s what I’ve sketched together at this ridiculously early moment in time:




So there we are.  Obviously if I wanted to have one all powerful line I would’ve put Pereira up with Gracel and Sheary, but I don’t think Toot will do that and honestly I think we saw this year why you don’t want to put all your scorers on just one line.  It pained me to take Carzo off of the third line that played amazingly well together in the second half of the season, but I think his experience and leadership will do well on the first couple lines.  That said, I think DeAngelo had a solid year and would fill in well between Pat Kiley and Troy Power.  The fourth line is tough.  Certainly Eddie Olczyk could be there as well as Zack LaRue, but I still like what I saw of Tegeler in the little we saw and think he may have the biggest upside of all current freshmen forwards.

Defense is a crapshoot.  It’s impossible to try to matchup up pairings.  I think Rowe and Busillo would be swapped out depending on the opponent and whether UMass is looking for more of an offensive or defensive presence.  I thought both held their own in the past season in particular situations and deserve the chance to prove themselves.  Obviously I’m not taking a stand at goaltender at this point.

So that’s it for this round of FTT UMail.  Thank you to everyone for their questions.  Certainly when I started this blog it wasn’t really my intention to just drone on and on about my thoughts of UMass hockey.  By no means am I a hockey expert and I appreciate the regular input from readers.  The FTT UMail segment is a chance to get commenters more front and center on the blog. I definitely appreciate everyone’s feedback.  A bunch of commenters are personal friends and I’m glad for their contribution.  At the same time there are fans that comment on an everyday basis like Will, Carson, George, and dozens of anonymous people among others that I don’t know personally and I am really grateful for what they share.  Thanks to everyone for making this a place where I can share my thoughts but you bring your own opinion as well.  Maybe someday we can plan to all meet up at the Hangar for some kind of FTT social to get to know each other.

Here are pictures and a video of former UMass star Greg Mauldin throwing out the first pitch at the Cleveland Indians game the other night.

Here is an interesting op-ed from a current Holy Cross player making the case for the Crusaders to join Hockey East.  I don’t think he adequately addresses the arena issue (Hart is too small, DCU is a dump) but overall it’s a good read.

Apparently if UConn were Hockey East they would automatically have Mike Pereira and Mike Busillo on their roster.  Something tells me those two would rather play in a hockey arena rather than a still warehouse filled with aluminum football bleachers surrounding bad ice, but who knows.

Again, please make sure to check back to FTT regularly.  This may be the offseason but I’ve posted for the last four days in a row and will continue to do so as long as there is UMass news or commentary to share.  The best way to keep up with FTT during the offseason is through the Twitter or Facebook pages.