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View From Section U: UMass Hockey–The Essentials

Yep, I totally ripped off this idea from Puck Daddy, my favorite hockey blog out there on the interwebs. For those two don’t read it they’ve spent the back half of the summer putting up posts summarizing The Essentials, from players to traditions, for each NHL franchise. Here’s The Essentials for the Bruins as an example. So without further ado, let’s get going on the things that make UMass hockey, well, UMass hockey.

Player: Thomas Pöck

(photo by Karen Winger)

I know Jon Quick is probably the popular choice right now, what with winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe and all. But Quick simply cannot come anywhere close to the accolades that Pöck accumulated during his time as a Minuteman. Hobey Baker Finalist. All-American. Inside College Hockey National Defenseman of the Year. First Team All-Hockey East. Olympian. Pöck still holds most of the scoring records for a defenseman, which is pretty impressive considering his first two years in Amherst were spent as a forward. But the most important part is that he accomplished all this during the time he and his teammates were bringing UMass from their perennial spot in the conference basement to within a toe’s length of the Hockey East championship. Pöck is, simply put, the best ever to don on the maroon and white in my opinion. Plus, he had a wicked hahd slap shawt.

Season: 2006-07

UMass fans weren’t overly optimistic coming into the fall of 2006 regarding their hockey team’s prospects. The Minutemen had gone 13-21-2 the prior year and were losing some key players to graduation like Stephen Werner, Marvin Degon, and goaltender Gabe Winer. But the Minutemen did have some veteran leadership returning in the form of Matt Anderson, Chris Capraro, Mark Matheson, and Kevin Jarman. They also would be handing over the goaltending reins fulltime to sophomore Jon Quick, who had split duty with Winer the previous year and had looked good or better than average at times despite a dismal 4-10-1 record. Quick ended up being better than better than average or even good. Instead, he put up the best statistical season in the history of UMass hockey. By March of 2007 Quick had 19 wins, a .929 save percentage, and a goals against average of 2.16. On the offensive side of things it was goal scoring by committee as had five different players with double digits in goals but no one gaining more than 13. But they didn’t have to. They got contributions from whoever, whenever they needed them, from the seniors to Cory Quirk to guys like the unheralded Matt Burto.

Chances for a successful season looked slim at the New Year when the team was coming off an embarrassing loss to Alabama-Huntsville in the 3rd place game of the Mariucci Classic. But they battled in the second half and then kicked off a stretch of six straight wins to end the season and start the playoffs, including four straight victories against Maine, before falling in double overtime to New Hampshire at the Garden in the conference semifinals. However hopes for the program to make its first ever NCAA Tournament as an at-large choice seemed dim following the loss to the Wildcats as the following night saw Quinnipiac go up 2-0 on Clarkson in the ECAC Championship. Such a result would’ve knocked UMass out of NCAA contention. But Clarkson would dominate in the third period of that game, ultimately win the ECAC title, and as a reward for their win they got to face the Minutemen in the first round as they made their NCAA debut. What followed was one of the most intense and nerve-racking of games as the teams traded zeroes on the scoreboard and went to overtime scoreless. But not too far into that extra frame Kevin Jarman would find a Jordan Virtue rebound sitting in front of Golden Knight goaltender David Leggio and the rest, as they say, is history. Sure the team was knocked off the next day, unable to beat the Black Bears for a fifth straight time during the month of March, but to this day 06-07 is the season all UMass fans cherish and fondly look back upon.

jarman goal

Game: UMass vs UNH 2004 Hockey East Semifinals

First of all, I so much wanted to choose the UMass vs Maine game from 1994 as this game. The triangle-clad warriors, playing their first full season as a DI team, was able to knock off the #1 Maine Black Bears just two years removed from their national championship. This was an upset of epic proportions. Unfortunately not too many were there to see it, including yours truly as I was back on the North Shore to do laundry at the parents’ house after watching Maine trounce UMass the previous night. Instead for best game I went with the team’s win over UNH in the 2004 Hockey East semifinals. A year earlier after UMass inexplicably swept Maine in Orono to advance to the Garden and UMass fans and probably players alike were probably just happy to be there after the lack of success in the program’s first decade since its rebirth in 1993. But in 2004 they were back in Boston with a purpose. However, achieving that goal did not come easy. The first challenge was the fact starting goaltender Gabe Winer went down the week before with a bad back. In stepped backup Tim Warner who led a sweep of Lowell in the Quarters. He then went on to the Garden and the Semis, performed admirably, giving up just a couple goals to the Wildcats, despite making only his third ever start.

Despite Warner’s play UMass went down 2-0 early in the game and entered the third period still trailing 2-1. But UMass owned that final period. UMass would get goals from unlikely sources to ultimately take the game. The first came from Peter Trovato following a couple of key penalty kills to tie the game at two apiece. Then it was time for the other Warner brother to take the spotlight. Mike Warner sent UMass ahead 3-2 by putting home a rebound past Wildcat goaltender Mike Ayers. Thomas Pöck would extend the lead to 4-2 on his 100th career point. Mike Warner would wrap things up with an empty-netter and send UMass to its first ever Hockey East Championship game. UNH scored the first two goals of the game, yet after that improbable hero Tim Warner shut down the Wildcats while the guys in front of him scored the next five in a row, including his own brother with two.

Goal: Chris Capraro versus Sean Fields, 12/6/2002

Before UMass made it to the NCAA tournament, before they made it to the Hockey East Championship, in fact before they made it out of the quarterfinals at all they were busy battling to prove that under newly hired coach Toot Cahoon they were not going to be the perennial doormat in Hockey East that they had been since the program rebooted in 1993. That message was delivered, the hockey program’s Battle of Concord Bridge if you will, on December 6th, 2002 when Chris Capraro streaked into the Boston University zone and scored an overtime gamewinner against Sean Fields and the vaunted Terriers. BU had absolutely owned the UMass hockey program to that point in time. And even during the game they displayed their dominance by taking a 4-1 lead to the dismay of the roughly 4000 Mullins faithful who had shown up. But the Minutemen chipped away at that lead and were able to tie it up thanks to a goal from freshman Marvin Degon. In overtime BU pressed the Minutemen defense but Gabe Winer stood tall and kept the score as it was. Then with under a minute to go in extra frame Chris Capraro took away the puck from Terrier defenseman Jekabs Redlihs and came in on Fields, just able to get away a shot despite being hauled down from behind. Five hole. Goal. Game over. Mullins Center goes absolutely wild.

Given BU’s historical record against UMass to that point and time, this was the Washington Generals taking down the Globetrotters. There have been some amazing wins and unbelievable upsets in UMass hockey history, many of which I’ve been lucky enough to attend in person. Over a decade later I can still remember the feeling when Cappy’s shot hit the back of the net better than any other moment as a UMass hockey fan, and I suspect it will stay with me for a long time to come. It probably doesn’t hurt that the point it time was captured well in photography with yours truly in the background so I can refer back to whenever I want and revisit my emotions of that time.

Unsung Hero: Doug Kublin

This was a tough one because honestly there are a ton of UMass players who have made huge contributions to the program while not getting a ton of recognition. Paul Dainton comes to mind, but I feel he did at least get the spotlight he deserved from the UMass fans, though not necessarily from the college hockey community as a whole. UMass has had a ton of important grinding, defensive-minded forwards like Peter Trovato or Brett Watson that could be this choice. But I’m going with Doug Kublin. Kublin did not evolve much from a freshman to a senior during his time playing for UMass hockey. Usually that’s not a good thing, but in Kublin’s case it was because he came onto campus and from day 1 was one of the best defensive defensemen UMass has ever known. He was solid and he was reliable. Being a good defensive minded defenseman isn’t very glorifying. It’s tough to measure your worth in terms of stats and and the casual fan will only notice a defenseman in their own zone when they do something bad, usually resulting in a scoring chance for the opposing team. If you do your job well, if you’re in the right position, if you get in that little poke check, or maybe block a shot, it still might not register with the crowd in the stands. Kublin was that guy who put himself in the right position, got in front of the shot, shut down the passing lanes. Every game. Without fail. From 2007 to 2011 it was that much harder to get the puck on net for UMass’ opponents thanks to the work of Doug Kublin.

Program Villain: Jimmy Howard

I entertained the notion of going with Lowell’s Jerramie Domish for this pick after his elbow in 2004 left Minuteman star Greg Mauldin unconscious, bleeding, and concussed. Even his own coach Blaise MacDonald said Domish “lacked integrity” for delivering the cheap hit which kept Mauldin out for weeks and could’ve had a serious impact on the Minutemen’s chances for success that year. Instead I went for the villain who ended UMass’ 2003-04 season, Jimmy Howard. There was actually a time in Howard’s career where he did not fair so well against the Minutemen and UMass hockey fans were glad to seen him in net instead of his goaltender counterpart, Frank Doyle. But that dynamic changed as Howard got better and developed into one of the best goaltenders in college hockey. By the time UMass met him in the 2004 Hockey East Championship game he was at the top of his game.

As heartbreaking as it is for UMass fans to remember, that game is one of the best in the history of college hockey. Both goaltenders were amazing throughout the game. Gabe Winer, returning from injury and following Tim Warner’s heroics against UNH, made 59 total saves in the 109+ minutes of play, allowing just two goals. Unfortunately Jimmy Howard was just that much better, saving 63 total and only allowing one goal in regulation, though an opening period goal by Greg Mauldin ended up being called back in Howard’s favor because a fraction of Kevin Jarman’s toe was in the crease when it was scored. Howard never really looked back after that. Mauldin would eventually put home a puck on the power play to even things up, but Howard was cruelly dominant. Memorable, not in a good way, is Howard just barely snowconing a Thomas Pöck slapshot in the first overtime in what UMass fans thought was their ticket to the program’s first even Hockey East Championship and NCAA Tournament. After Pöck’s rocket the puck remained secured in Howard’s glove. Eventually the teams would move onto a third overtime in what was truly painful to watch as players had to will themselves up and over the boards at each line change.

Maine’s Ben Murphy would finally get one past an exhausted Winer and UMass captains Pöck, Nick Kuiper, and Mike Warner would have the unfulfilling task of receiving the runner-up trophy at center ice. Something closer to a human effort by Howard and UMass wins this game, takes the championship, and perhaps would have seen more consistent success in the years that follow. But Howard stood tall, made miraculous saves, and will forever be hated by UMass fans for it.

Fighter: Brad Norton

Now on the Puck Daddy version of Essentials the call is for “Best Fight”. Since fights are rare in college hockey, I had a tough time remembering one specifically well enough to choose. But that’s not to say they didn’t happen. And most of the fights I remember in regards to UMass hockey involved Brad Norton. Norton was a lumbering defensemen who joined the squad just after the program as they were starting in with Hockey East play in 1994. These were of course challenging transitional times and UMass had to play to their strengths to gain whatever advantage they could find over foes that were way more talented. Those strengths some of the time involved beating the other teams into submission. Norton exceled at this. True fighting is rare in college hockey, but I have definitive memories of Norton peeling off his helmet and dropping the gloves semi-regularly in his college career. He’s probably the toughest UMass player to take the ice and it worked out for him as he went on to be a pro hockey enforcer that made it all the way to the highest level. The first ever UMass Minuteman to make it to the NHL, he suited up for the Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, and Los Angeles Kings in his career. Ironically, for an NHL enforcer, his most famous “fight” may be this one:

.

Still, he is one of our own, so we salute him. So much so that I made a “knock you on your ass” beer last year and named it Norty.

Coach: Jack Canniff

Despite those who think that UMass hockey got its start in 1993 when the Mullins Center was built and its history is limited to the years since, that couldn’t be more wrong. The beginnings of Massachusetts hockey can be traced back to 1908 when the team played its games on the Campus Pond. From then to now only one UMass coach can say he brought the program a championship, Jack Canniff. Canniff was the coach from the late 60’s until the program went dark following the 1979 season. During that time he made UMass a Division II powerhouse and in 1972 was behind the bench as they were crowned ECAC Champions, or defacto DII Champions. The team went 19-7-0 overall that year, but played a number of DI teams during that season and were talented enough to almost knock off DI royalty Boston University (who had some guy named Toot Cahoon skating for them) during that historic season. UMass would fall to the Terriers 6-4. Canniff was more than a great coach though, he was a great person. And I’m confident in saying such, despite not knowing him very well, since I’ve heard it from many of his former players as well as my own wife who would end up getting to know “Mr. Canniff” when she was coming through the South Hadley school system with him as a teacher. Coach Canniff passed away in 2009 but as long as the 1972 ECAC Champions banner hangs in the Mullins Center his impact on the program will always be apparent.

Canniffbanner

Coach Canniff watches the 1972 ECAC Champion banner be raised to the Mullins Center rafters.

Broadcaster: Brock Hines

I like to consider myself a pretty hardcore fan of the program as I’ve followed UMass hockey in some way shape or form going back to 1993. I have friends who are just as loyal and have put in tremendous effort in their fandom during those years. I also have to recognize former players from that Triangle Era and earlier who have remained loyal to the program and followed it closely. But I would seroiusly doubt anyone has watched as many UMass hockey games or knows as much about UMass hockey as Brock Hines. Since that first game against Vilanova in 1993, Brock Hines has not only been around UMass hockey but has worked hard to allow others to enjoy UMass hockey from afar. Hines, someone who didn’t even attended the University of Massachusetts, lives and breathes UMass hockey year round and in my opinion is a tremendous ambassador of the program and school. He estimates that he has probably missed a grand total of four games in the last 19 years. Four. Games. If it was up to me the school would extend him an honorary degree for his contributions to the University of Massachusetts considering his service over the years. For being one of the best at his profession he was awarded the Joe Concannon Hockey East Media Award in 2010 in recognition of his years a color analyst for UMass hockey. When I want to get a grounded opinion on the goings on of UMass hockey, am looking for insight into the current plight of the team, or want to jog my memory of some obscure play from some obscure game in some obscure year of UMass hockey, Brock Hines is where I go for such things.

Arena Behavior: You Suck

When I thought about the great tradition that sets the Mullinsmaniacs apart from the rest of Hockey East, I couldn’t really think of anything. Well anything good at least. When I asked my Section U cohorts what came to mind for Mullins tradtions the response I got was what I wrote above, “You Suck!”. Frankly, that’s a tame example of what happens in the Bill. Let’s be brutally honest, the UMass crowd, dominated by its sizable student contingent, lacks any real traditions. Pretty much UMass crowds are known for their passion, crassness, and vulgarity. From the “See you a$$hole” during an opponent penalty to the random “F#ck (insert name here)” chants inserted whenever, UMass is known for a rowdy, vocal, and profane student section. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is. I still hold out hope that some season we’ll get a hockey band which will help focus the students’ energies into more original and witty chants and that we get some student leadership within the masses to develop some real traditions.

Arena Food: Baby Berk

I’ll be honest, outside of some free Goldfish or popcorn in the Massachusetts Room, I rarely eat at the Mullins Center, since I usually gorge myself on Hangar wings before ever setting foot into the arena on gamedays. So for an opinion of the best arena food at the Bill I went to a source that I knew would have extensive knowledge of the subject and one who I’d trust. I asked the guys from Fight Mass. Their answer was Baby Berk. It’s amazing to think that UMass now has one of the top ranked food options in the country considering I survived on nothing more than Smacks cereal and chicken pucks when I was a student. But times change and Baby Berk is all the rage around campus and the Mullins Center. I’m told that their burgers are the best choice, coming in five flavors appropriately named Black and Blue Wall, Worcester, Franklin, Hampshire, and Baby Berk, are the top choices. Given the reputation, I may have to limit myself to beer only during a pregame this season so I can partake in this culinary upgrade from the usual popcorn and dogs.

Swag: Triangle

Duh. There’s no better way to show off the fact that you’re a diehard UMass fan who has been around since before they ever saw 6th place, or at least honor that time period, than embracing the fact that UMass once had one of the more hideous sweaters ever in the history of college hockey. Cherish the Triangle. Fear The Triangle.

Good news on the radio broadcast front. It appears that initial reports were wrong and the Athletic Department has passed along the news that UMass hockey broadcasts as well as coaches shows will be available to stream via the Tunein app for iPhone and Android. As someone who is absolutely owned by his iPhone, this is excellent news.

Yesterday I mentioned former Vermont recruit Dennis Kravchenko being a potential target of the UMass coaching staff given the prior relationship when they were at Vermont. Today Kirk Luedeke, an excellent resource for amateur hockey and NHL draft information, tweeted the following:

Needless to say, I’ll be keeping a close eye on what transpires with Kravchenko. When I have a chance I’ll also do some more research into him and his talent level as a recruit.

So in case anyone missed it, the CHL, an entirely amateur league where players don’t get compensated anymore than education packages that few of them actually cash in on, is starting a players union. A union involving workers who are supposed to be amateur and supposedly are not paid to play? Yeah, that sounds plausible.

Lastly, I want to pass along this link to benefit the children of Major Thomas Kennedy, the former Army hockey player who was recently killed in action while serving in Afghanistan.

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21 Comments

  1. George

     /  August 23, 2012

    I don’t care if you stole this from Puck Daddy or P Diddy, this is one of your Finest pieces Mr. Rocks/FTT and it makes me want to respond in kind.

    Player–Pock. You’ll get your detractors who’ll insist Quick, but you’re not looking at this from the pro angle and this is a guy that at the NCAA level dominated games for FOUR years.

    Season–Has to be 2006-07

    Game–Going with the win over #1 Maine in 1995. This was a notice to Hockey East and NCAA Hockey that there was another major Massachusetts based D1 squad in the ranks.

    Goal–Agree Capraro. I’ll use this as this calling card that the “second generation” of UMass hockey is here and it’s basically Game part 2 extended from above. Second generation in that this was a team that would never quit. No Joe Mallen team could or would have been able to pull off that miracle comeback.

    Unsung Hero–Lots of worthy candidates as you mention Rocks. There is a trend here as I would have liked to use Kevin Jarmen for the goal. This is a guy I was told that was a quiet leader. A bull. Had the respect of all teammates and you’d never want to cross him. I remember asking Brock Hines at a coaches show one time what he thought of Jarmen, that he and Garrett Summerfield were supposed to be the second coming. He said something that always stuck with me: “Don’t ever underestimate Kevin Jarmen. He is the hardest worker I have ever seen. He’s either running the stairs or on the bike every time I see him. He’s struggling to score, but his hard work will probably pay off at a crucial moment for this team.” How prophetic.

    Program Villain–Jack Parker. There were many other goalies that had UMass’ number, Howard played a big game in a big moment. I’m going to look at the whole picture. Whether it was a Frozen Four bound team or a rebuilding year, it seems there was and still is no team that gets in the head of UMass when they look across the ice more than BU and it’s nasty leader. Boston College is just plain good, but an average BU team always has made this team look over it’s shoulder. Mallen couldn’t beat him (although he did beat BU minus Parker because of illness, I was behind the BU bench watching the whole game that night) and Toot in his later days would have success. But still, these are the Montreal Canadians of Hockey East.

    Fighter–Norton agree.

    Coach–Canniff. Hands down.

    Broadcaster. Three in a row agree, but let me add a little. Above is a little sampling of several conversations I’ve had with him. He’s always willing to talk hockey when I’m certain he’d rather be getting home. I appreciate that and his candor. What you two have in common Rocks is that if I understand both of your situations correctly, UMass is your secondary “job”. You both have careers. What you both have done is amazing if you’re putting 40+ hours into your careers. I challenge anyone to show me a blog, and I’ve read many, that is entertaining, thorough and unbiased as your’s. You are way beyond what any of the newspapers provide. Anyway, two decades of dedication and I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t respect his work. The Dean of UMass broadcasters, Jack Leaman, would approve of your comments.

    Arena behavior, food and swag are all agrees.

    What a great offseason read you provided to get me ready for another season. Loved it.

    Like

    • George, glad you liked the post and I enjoyed your feedback. Parker is a great choice for villain.

      Thanks for your comments regarding FTT as well.

      Like

  2. Anonymous

     /  August 23, 2012

    go umass – that howard goalie still haunts us…umass had that game “won” territorily in the ot’s w/ several point blank chances….inches from glory for sure…that was a great umass team w/ guts….umass big potential this year

    Like

  3. Anonymous

     /  August 23, 2012

    Player – Honorable mention should go to Pat Keenan (1970-1973). 66 GP, 105 G, 75 A. Just awesome… Other players like Tim Turner, Warren Norris, Rob Bonneau, and Stephen Werner deserve mention.

    Like

    • I’d like to see the school find a way to honor Keenan, still the program’s all time leading scorer, as well. He was the key player on that talented 1972 team.

      Like

  4. Anonymous

     /  August 27, 2012

    I liked the previous FTT format , now is ok , but the other way was better for me

    Like

  5. Chris

     /  August 27, 2012

    BTW: Linesman #47 in the Brad Norton “fight” video is none other than the new Director of Officiating for Hockey East.

    Like

  6. Anonymous

     /  August 28, 2012

    Lets get the season preview out!

    Like

    • Patience. We don’t even have an updated roster yet. September will be all preview all the time.

      Like

  7. Anonymous

     /  August 28, 2012

    This is your thing Rocks and I thank you for it .. I saw nothing wrong with the other, that’s all

    Like

    • Im honestly interested in any feedback. I want this to be as conducive to reading as possible.

      Like

  8. Carson

     /  August 28, 2012

    hey rocks any idea when the updated roster is coming out?

    Like

  9. Carson

     /  August 29, 2012

    also according to husky hockey news, rob dongara is/was looking to walk on for the minutemen…interesting

    Like

  10. Carson

     /  August 29, 2012

    Huh. He might be an interesting pick up. Obviously had a rough year last year but I think Madigan was never fond of him…the year before that he had a solid freshman season w 6g/8a.

    Like

  11. Anonymous

     /  August 29, 2012

    He will need to sit out a year though right? He would not be eligible to play this year since he was on Northeastern’s roster last year and in essence he would be a transfer.

    Like

  12. Kosty

     /  August 31, 2012

    You gotta give Norty credit….he’s married to Playboy Radio’s Tiffany Granath. Google her. You will like what you see.

    Like

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