To start off previewing the 2012-13 season, it’d probably be a good idea to introduce Massachusetts hockey fans to the new faces they’ll see on the ice this year. If you read FTT regularly the names are probably familiar as I’ve kept up with their recruiting and performance in juniors. But even for those who read religiously, this should be a good refresher on who the incoming players are, what they’ve done already in their careers, and perhaps what we can expect from them in their debut season as Minutemen. Let’s start with the forwards.
Evan Stack – RW – 6’1” 185lbs
Stack has played the last two years for the Merritt Centennials in the BCHL, the most recent season as the team’s captain. He’s considered a bit of a late bloomer (he’ll come to campus already turning 21), but put up good numbers in juniors. Last season he had 32 goals and 29 assists for 61 points in 60 regular season games. He was 15th in the league in goal scoring. He continued that production in the playoffs, scoring four goals and three assists in nine games. He was named MVP for his team following the season and was BCHL Player of the Week once. His age and maturity in itself should allow him to contribute right away. It’s a bit unknown as to how his skill level matches up with the rest of Hockey East, as his age may have helped him put up numbers against younger kids in juniors. Regardless, it sounds like he has good skills in front of the net and could give the team a physical presence in that regard.
K.J. Tiefenwerth – C/W – 5’9” 160lbs
Originally Tiefenwerth expected to be at Boston College this fall but the Eagles reneged on giving him an opportunity to play after offering him a scholarship and so began the string of events that have landed him in Amherst. He had been recruited by Boston University and New Hampshire as well before committing to the Eagles. Though small in stature his skills were enough to get him an invite to New York Islanders prospect camp during the last two summers. He’s said to have great vision and hands and is equally adept at shooting and passing the puck. Those attributes have made him one of the top players in the EJHL in the last two seasons while playing for the Junior Bruins. This past year his 30 goals and 47 assists for 77 points in 43 regular season games was good for 3rd in the league in terms of scoring. His goal total was good for 6th. The previous season he was named the league’s Rookie of the Year after a campaign that saw him score 26 goals and register 31 assists. He had five gamewinners that year. Prior to the EJHL he played on a line with Mike Pereira at Avon Old Farms, helping the Winged Beavers win the New England Prep Championship. Tiefenwerth is certainly the most highly regarded recruit in the class and hopefully will help the Minutemen make up for the loss of T.J. Syner.
Shane Walsh – LW – 5’10” 170lbs
Walsh appears to be a talented two way forward who should be able to grind as well as put the puck in the net. He has spent the last few years between playing with Tri-City and Dubuque of the USHL, helping the Saints to a league championship in 2010-11, and the South Shore Kings of the EJHL. Last season in the USHL he had five goals and 7 assists in 23 games before coming back to play closer to home mid-season due to family matters. He made the most of it as he scored eight goals to go with seven assists in his 10 games back. In his previous season in the USHL he had nine goals in 49 games. Walsh was also an all-star player for Catholic Memorial before heading to the juniors.
Connor Doherty – D – 6’2” 190lbs
Doherty is the only defenseman in the class, and a good sized one at that. He was a teammate of Tiefenwerth’s on the Junior Bruins. His solid performance for the Junior B’s gained him a place in the league’s All-Star game. He had 4 goals and 14 assists this past season in 35 games. UMass has had success with blueliners from the Bruins as Topher Bevis, David Leaderer, and current Minuteman Colin Shea were all Junior B defensemen. Doherty will battle with the likes of Darren Rowe, Mike Busillo, and Anthony Raiola for the regular spot in the lineup that has opened up with Mike Marcou’s graduation.
So those are the new names you’ll be seeing on uniforms this coming season. Like past seasons I also plan on doing some statistical comparisons between how these players did versus past Minutemen in their respective junior leagues.
Get to know UMass’ new addition to the coaching staff, Joey Gasparini, via this article by Harry Plumer. Head coach John Micheletto cites Gasparini’s age, energy, and family pedigree as reasons that led him to offering him the position.
Merrimack has begun construction on their new practice rink. When I keep writing that UMass has less and less of an advantage when it comes to facilities, this is what comes to mind. Nearly every school has made significant upgrades in recent years to facilities. UMass has not. There are also rumors, which first popped up over the winter, that Providence is set to announce a major overhaul of Schneider Arena. I’ll post details when the become available.
Colgate is also looking to build a new arena, but luckily not before UMass visits their current one, Starr Rink, next season.
Kevin Sneddon has filled the positions at Vermont that opened up when Micheletto and Gasparini headed south. Ironically Kyle Wallack was considered a top candidate to fill the assistant position at UMass after Blaise MacDonald left but before Toot Cahoon stepped down.
Boston College is looking for a new Athletic Director. Hopefully whoever it is knows enough to just let Jerry York do his thing with the hockey program.