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Hockey East Preview: #6 Maine Black Bears

Hockey East Preview: #6 Maine Black Bears

2011-12 Storyline: Maine returns to the NCAA tournament after a four year absence; Black Bear fans still unhappy with the coach

2012-13 Storyline: Too many losses up front relegates Maine to the bottom half of Hockey East in 2012-13

Player To Watch: Joey Diamond F (25-22-47)

Player Missed Most: Spencer Abbott G (21-41-62)

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Devin Shore F

Random Fact: Much maligned head coach Tim Whitehead is signed through 2013-14

Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: I’m going to give a shoutout to Oxbow Brewing, which can be found in Newcastle on the way up 95 to Orono.  I first was introduced to their Loretta last winter at the Great Lost Bear in Portland on the way home from a road trip to Alfond.  However by chance I ended up meeting one of the co-owners/brewers in Santa Rosa, CA at the legendary Russian River Brewing over the summer.  Give these farmhouse fiends a try.

Team Outlook:

Maine had some of the top offensive players in the country last season in the form of Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn, and Joey Diamond.  Unfortunately they only return one of those three, and that’s why I think the Black Bears will take a significant step back this season.  The pesky Diamond is coming back, but it’s unknown if he can match his 25 goal, 22 assist effort from last year without the ultra-talented Flynn and Abbott by his side.  The Black Bears will need significant contributions from Adam Shemansky and Mark Antoine to keep pace with what they were able to accomplish last year.

Maine will have some significant holes to fill on defense as well.  Gone are the constants of Will O’Neil and Ryan Hegarty as well as defenseman/forward Matt Mangene who signed a pro contract rather than return for his senior year.  They won’t be entirely without experience though as Nick Pryor is more than capable of holding his own in the league.  Fellow seniors Mike Cornell and Mark Nemec will look to build off of strong seasons last year as well.

Dan Sullivan’s play last year solidified his standing as the go to goaltender in Orono as he had a 2.59 GAA and the third best winning percentage in the league.  This was a huge step up from his freshman season where neither he or Martin Ouellette did much to distinguished themselves.  Sullivan will have to be at the top of his game from the start as the Black Bears will be looking to work a lot of newcomers into the defensive crew in front of him.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Diamond can’t get near his prior year’s total without his old linemates.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: Shemansky and incoming freshmen such as Drew Shore and Will Merchant are able to contribute to the scoring effort from the get go.

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
1. ??
2. ??
3. ??
4. ??
5. ??
6. Maine Black Bears
7. Massachusetts Minutemen (preview upcoming)
8. Merrimack Warriors
9. Northeastern Huskies
10. Vermont Catamounts

Here’s an interview of Coach Micheletto by UMass hockey radio’s Brock Hines from Media Day.  Coach Mick talks about general stuff, captains, and goaltending.  As I expected, it’ll be an open competition in net:

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Speaking of the venerable Brock, it’s come to my attention that there will be a bit of a change for the hockey broadcasts this season.  Don’t worry, Brock will be returning for his…wait for it…20th season of bringing UMass hockey to the masses.  But he’ll be doing so as a play by play announcer, moving over from the comfortable color chair.  Adam Frenier, who did well last year broadcasting from ice level, will be the new color commentator.  With that news I want to thank John Hennessy for his dedication to UMass hockey over the last few years.  Hennessy arrived in Amherst with a wealth of hockey knowledge and I always enjoyed the times I got to interact with him.  I admired the fact that he’d drive all the way from his home in New Jersey to Amherst every weekend.  And for trips to basically anywhere else in Hockey East, that was only the beginning of a very long journey as the voice of Minuteman hockey.  Thanks for everything John and I wish you well in the future!

Matt Vautour has his coverage of yesterday’s Hockey East media day, focusing on the coming changes to the league.

Elsewhere around college hockey, Minnesota is the favorite in the WCHA, Union is picked to repeat in the ECAC, and Air Force is tops in Atlantic Hockey.

Alabama-Huntsville surprisingly replaced their head coach just weeks before the season.  Though it looks like got a qualified replacement in the form of former Providence Friar Kurt Kleinendorst, it does not signal good things for a program that is still without a conference and struggling to make things work.  I really hope a conference invite is coming soon though.  The program has done remarkable things in a completely foreign environment and, in my opinion, have proven their legitimacy within college hockey.

Boston College lost Frank Vatrano, one of their top freshmen for this coming season, for what’s being reported as NCAA clearinghouse issues, meaning he had not completed the minimum requirements to be considered a college student.  According to Mike McMahon Vatrano has rejoined the Junior Bruins of the EJHL.  Since he gave up an opportunity in the QMJHL to played with the Junior Bruins, I guess this means he’ll look to hook up with another college program next year.

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UMass Picked To Finish 9th By Hockey East Coaches; Recruit Update

Today was Hockey East Media Day at the TD Garden and while it gives writers a chance to get all the coaches and top players in a room at once to get material for their previews, it also means the release of the coaches’ pre-season Hockey East picks.  This year the collective thought was that UMass will finish 9th in the league and out of the playoffs, something they haven’t done since 2002.  Here’s the predicted order of finish:

1)  Boston College (9)
2)  Lowell
3)  Boston University
4)  New Hampshire (1)
5)  Maine
T6)  Northeastern
T6)  Providence
8)  Merrimack
9)  Massachusetts
10)  Vermont

UMass finishing without a post-season matches with the Hockey East Media poll that I shared yesterday.  I’m not going to comment on the pre-season poll too much, as I’m in the middle of writing up my own previews anyway.  Plus, as I revealed in last night’s preview of Merrimack, I’m picking the Minutemen to finish 7th in the league.  So obviously I’m not on the same page with the coaches.

Here’s an interview with Coach Micheletto from today starting at the 7 minute mark:

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The Republican’s Harry Plumer has a number of stories out of Media Day.  The first is this one with Coach Mick sharing his early thoughts on the team now that he’s had the chance to work with them on the ice.  Captains have yet to be named.  Mick will stress puck possession and turnover avoidance as part of his philosophy.

His second story has Mick and the other coaches commenting on this year’s rule changes.

Lastly, here are the other coaches’ views on the newest coach of the UMass hockey program.

In other news UMass will be on TV quite a bit this year, mostly on the local CBS3 channel.  A couple away games will be picked up by WBIN while the team will make a single appearance on NESN, coming away against Merrimack.

I suspect we’ll be seeing more coverage from the Hockey East media event in the days to come.

Time to check in on the recruits including the newest one, Dennis Kravchenko:

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM / 0
The regular season will start for real this Friday for Gillespie, but he’s already off to a good start getting a goal and an assist in five preseason games, the goal coming shorthanded.

Mark Hamilton – D – Salisbury School Crimson Knights (NE Prep) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Hamilton is due to return to Salisbury again this season. Prep hockey will start up at the end of November.

Mike Iovanna – RW/C – Malden Catholic Lancers (MA High School) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
According to this post from ESPN Boston, it does sound like Iovanna will return to Malden Catholic this year.

Dennis Kravchenko – LW – Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Kravchenko had a goal in four pre-season games for the Stampede.

Casey Miller – C – Kimball Union (NE Prep) – 2014
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
It’s expected that Miller will return to KUA again after helping the Wildcats to a New England Prep championship last year.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
3 GP / 0 G / 1 A / 1 Pts / 4 PIM
Smith picked up his first point of the season over the weekend.

Kravchenko Commits To UMass

Well just a couple hours I wrote about Dennis Kravchenko and stated that it was very likely he would commit to the Massachusetts hockey program.  Little did I know just how close he was to making his choice.  Kravchenko tweeted this just a short time ago:

Please see my post from earlier tonight to learn more about the newest Minuteman.

Overall I like this pickup, the first of the Micheletto era.  Kravchenko has shown to be a player with offensive skill who put up great numbers in the preps, but one that can equally play with toughness despite his small frame.  It’ll be interesting to watch how his season transpires in the USHL and how he stacks up against the other players in that elite junior league.

Hockey East Preview: #8 Merrimack Warriors; KAEO Dennis Kravchenko

Hockey East Preview: #8 Merrimack Warriors

2011-12 Storyline: Despite reaching the #1 ranking early in the season Merrimack fails to make it back to the NCAA tournament in March.

2012-13 Storyline: What happens to Merrimack hockey post-Cannata?

Player To Watch: Mike Collins F (10-15-25)

Player Missed Most: Joe Cannata G (17-12-7, 2.18, .925)

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Ben Bahe F

Random Fact: The Merrimack roster has a dozen players who played their junior hockey in Western Canada.

Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: Alts are one of my favorite beer styles but are pretty tough to find.  Luckily for us Haverhill Brewery’s GestAlt is one of the best around and is brewed a short drive from Merrimack’s campus.

Team Outlook:

This will be an interesting season for the Merrimack Warriors who are coming off two historic seasons for the program.  Two years ago the Warriors returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the late 80’s.  Last year they reached the top ranking in the polls in November but fell off as the season went on and could not return to the post-season.  This coming season and the next will show if the recent success can be built upon or whether Joe Cannata ends up being truly irreplaceable for the program.

Trying to fill the shoes (skates?) of Cannata will be a couple of sophomores.  First vying for the spot is his backup of last season, Sam Marotta.  Marotta did well in very limited action, not letting in a goal on the way to a 1-0-0 record in 64 minutes of action.  Also competing for the position will be Rasmus Tirronen, a goaltender out of the NAHL who sat out last year due to NCAA reasons but was allowed to practice with the team.

One thing that favors the inexperienced goaltenders is the fact that Merrimack has one of the better defensive units in the league.  Senior Kyle Bigos and junior Jordan Heywood lead the defensive corps that also includes Brendan Ellis and a couple sophomores in Mike Wills and Dan Kolomatis, with both seeing significant minutes last year.

Who will score for the Warriors is almost as big a question as who will be in net.  The team returns just one player who had double digits in goals last year, Mike Collins who netted exactly 10.  Beyond that they’ll have to look for significant increases in production from the likes of sophomore Connor Toomey and Josh Meyers, who scored five goals after joining the team at New Years.  Freshmen Ben Bahe and Vinny Scotti will also have to contribute for the team to be successful.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: The young goaltending implodes or no one steps up to score or both.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: The defense puts the team on their shoulders and carries them up the standings.

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
1. ??
2. ??
3. ??
4. ??
5. ??
6. ??
7. Massachusetts Minutemen (preview upcoming)
8. Merrimack Warriors
9. Northeastern Huskies
10. Vermont Catamounts

So you can see where I’ve slotted the Minutemen in my predictions, but I’ll expand on why I see them 7th in my in-depth season preview in the near future.

So as I mentioned yesterday former UVM recruit Dennis Kravchenko is currently on campus for an official visit.  From what I’ve heard it is very likely that UMass will land the 5’9” forward who recently visited St Cloud as well.  Therefore, let’s get to know him better.  Kravchenko split last season between the NAHL and USHL.  He started out with Wichita Falls of the NAHL putting up nine goals and nine assists in 30 games before moving onto Cedar Rapids.  In 34 games with the RoughRiders he had eight goals and 13 assists.  This coming season he’ll be playing for Sioux Falls as he was traded to the Stampede over the off season.

Prior to heading west to play juniors, he was at Kimball Union in the New England prep league, playing aside current Minuteman Steve Mastalerz.  Kravchenko’s family is Russian, but he grew up in Southern California before heading east to play at KUA.  In his last season of prep he had 16 goals and 42 assists, good for 5th best in total points for the league.  The year before he did well also, scoring 19 goals and accumulating 54 points total.  What’s interesting is that this compares pretty favorably with current Minutemen Conor Sheary and Mike Pereira’s totals that season in prep, their last year before coming to Amherst, netting 71 and 64 points respectively.

It’s not just points he’s accumulated in his career.  He put up 142 PIM last season combining the time between the USHL and NAHL:

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Here’s an interesting article out of Cedar Rapids, calling Kravchenko “fearless”.

The Western College Hockey Blog predicts he’ll be the top scorer for Sioux Falls this season.  He scored a goal so far in four preseason games for the Stampede.

UMass was picked to finish 9th by the Hockey East media.  Including this guy:

Feel free to petition our beloved alma mater to get his degree revoked.

College Hockey News’ Scott McLaughlin shares his thoughts on the poll.

Mike McMahon of the Lawrence Eagle Tribune has UMass finishing 6th in his latest season preview.

The first national poll is out in the form of the USA Today/USA Hockey variety with Boston College sitting at #1, right were we left them last spring.  Lowell comes in at #7 while Boston University was picked 13th.

Tomorrow is Hockey East media day so we’ll have a lot more polls and predictions to mull over tomorrow night.

Hockey East Preview #9: Northeastern Huskies

Hockey East Preview: #9 Northeastern Huskies

2011-12 Storyline: Northeastern sees significant success out of conference in 2011-12 but cannot win enough against Hockey East foes to gain the playoffs

2012-13 Storyline: Is the Huskies’ goaltending and defense strong enough to return them to the post-season?

Player To Watch: Ludwig Karlson

Player Missed Most: Anthony Bitetto

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Kevin Roy

Random Fact: Prized recruit Kevin Roy and his brother Derek were very late signees after being committed to Brown as late as mid-July

Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: I like to try all the rare and crazy craft brews out there, but Harpoon IPA is one of my go to beers.  Love those Cascade hops.

Team Outlook:

Not much was expected out of the Huskies last year after a rough offseason and having to adjust to a new coach who had not been behind the bench that that capacity in decades.  But Northeastern ended up surprising most, especially in their non-conference schedule where they gained wins over the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Minnesota.  They did have a bit tougher time in league and finished the season out of the playoffs after losing the tiebreaker to UMass.

Even with junior Steve Quailer leaving after last season, scoring shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the Huskies who return Vinny Saponari, Cody Ferreiro, and super soph Ludwig Karlson.  Added to that mix will be Kevin Roy, the USHL’s leading scorer who was added to the commit list late in the summer.

Defense and goaltending is where Northeastern’s success will ultimately be decided.  The biggest loss for the Huskies during the offseason was Anthony Bitetto signing with the NHL.  Luke Eibler deciding to transfer closer to home in Michigan didn’t help either.  Drew Ellement is the only defenseman with multiple year experience on the blueline.  They’ll also have to rely on sophomore Josh Manson who played solid in his freshman season, but after that it’ll be all freshmen or inexperienced players.

Husky fans were for the most part frustrated with the play of starting goaltender Chris Rawlings last season and were looking forward to the prospect of him moving on and handing the reigns to highly rated recruit John Gilles.  In the end though Rawlings ended up staying and that was enough for Gilles to bounce to Providence where he’ll have a chance to play right away.  As a result, you may find Rawlings hearing it from his own fans if he plays with inconsistency.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: The inexperience at defense is too much to overcome and Rawlings’ play continues to descend

They’ll Finish Higher Because: Rawlings returns to the type of play we saw in earlier seasons and the offense makes up for any defensive deficiencies

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
1. ??
2. ??
3. ??
4. ??
5. ??
6. ??
7. ??
8. ??
9.   Northeastern Huskies
10. Vermont Catamounts

Per his Twitter account, former Vermont recruit Dennis Kravchenko will be on an official visit to UMass in the next couple days.  I wrote about the prospect of Kravchenko following the UVM coaching staff to Amherst earlier and will write more about him in the next couple days.

College Hockey News highlights K.J Tiefenwerth in this piece on the recruiting classes of Hockey East.

They haven’t played a game yet, but North Dakota’s season is already getting off to a rocky start.

Hockey East Preview: #10 Vermont Catamounts; Recruit Update

Hockey East Preview: #10 Vermont Catamounts

2011-12 Storyline: Catamounts end up in the conference cellar, gaining just three wins in Hockey East and six total

2012-13 Storyline: After a tumultuous offseason that saw UVM lose their leading scorer, best recruit, and most of their coaching staff, can they possibly finish anywhere but last?

Player To Watch: Connor Brickley

Player Missed Most: Sebastian Stalberg

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Jonathan Turk

Random Fact: New Catamount assistant coach Kyle Wallack was reportedly a front-runner to replace Blaise MacDonald in Amherst until Toot Cahoon stepped down, but ended up in Burlington after John Micheletto and Joey Gasparini moved on to UMass.

Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: Hill Farmstead Edward is damn good but Alchemist Heady Topper is divine

It’s tough to say last season could’ve been any worse for the Catamounts as they won just six games total, finished out of the Hockey East playoffs by a mere 16 points, and managed to score a meager 2.15 goals a game. But then the offseason started and things continued to be rough for Vermont fans. First, junior Sebastian Stalberg left town, taking his team leading 12 goals and 19 assists with him. Then, prized incoming recruit Zemgus Girgensons signed with the Buffalo Sabres, the team who had earlier taken him 14th overall in the NHL Draft. And shortly after head coach Kevin Sneddon found himself having to replace two assistant coaches and a director of hockey operations as his former staff relocated to Amherst.

There will be a lot of weight on the shoulders of Kyle Reynolds and Connor Brickley to improve the woefully bad scoring this coming season. Reynolds had a solid freshman year, gaining double digits in both goals and assists. Brickley was on his way to a breakout season until he was injured during the World Junior Championships and ended up missing about a third of the season. Incoming freshmen Jonathan Turk, coming off a 30 goals season in the juniors in Alberta, and Michigan transfer Jacob Fallon will be looked upon to contribute right away.

Nick Bruneteau is the most experienced defenseman coming back, but it’ll be interested to see how NHL Draft picks Nick Luukko and and Michael Paliotta fare in their second season for the Cats. Paliotta was an everyday player last year while Luukko was giving the team solid minutes until he went down with injury at New Years. Even before Rob Madore’s graduation the goaltending situation was fluid for UVM. That’s the case again this year where senior John Vazzano will likely battle freshmen Billy Faust and Brody Hoffman. Both put up solid numbers in the Western Canada junior leagues.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Luckily for them, they can’t finish any lower

They’ll Finish Higher Because: Brickley morphs into an elite Hockey East forward and the coaching staff turnover results in a whole new approach to the scoring challenges

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
1. ??
2. ??
3. ??
4. ??
5. ??
6. ??
7. ??
8. ??
9. ??
10. Vermont Catamounts

In addition to our first season preview today, we also have our first recruit update, a weekly FTT feature ever Tuesday during the season.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM / 0
The Fall Classic will kick off the USHL season this week. Gillespie will look to build off a five goal and eight assist season last year with Omaha.

Mark Hamilton – D – Salisbury School Crimson Knights (NE Prep) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Hamilton is due to return to Salisbury again this season. Prep hockey will start up at the end of November.

Mike Iovanna – RW/C – Malden Catholic Lancers (MA High School) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
According to this post from ESPN Boston, it does sound like Iovanna will return to Malden Catholic this year.

Casey Miller – C – Kimball Union (NE Prep) – 2014
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
It’s expected that Miller will return to KUA again after helping the Wildcats to a New England Prep championship last year.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
1 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Smith was kept off the scoresheet as the EJHL season got underway this past weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how he does this season where he’ll likely spend the entire time with the Pics’ EJHL team, no longer splitting time in the Empire league.

Merrimack’s new practice rink and other upgrades could help the area get an USHL franchise. I’d love to see the top American junior league expand to the northeast. It certainly would make my recruiting updates a little easier.

Up To The Minute 9/17

Just a few stories to pass along today.

College Hockey News had this piece on the transfer of Rob Dongara to Massachusetts.  The report says that Dongara could’ve moved on from Northeastern to other Hockey East schools or teams “out West”.  Coach Micheletto has some good things to say about the newest Minuteman.

The Republican’s Harry Plumer has the story on the captains practices that have been occurring since the players returned to campus, despite no officially designated captains.  No news on when captains will be named.  It’ll likely be sometime after Micheletto sees the players in team settings, which just started this past Saturday when he was allowed to practice with small groups of players on the ice.

Whether UMass will enjoy the same sort of new coach bounce that Lowell and Providence saw last season is one of New England Hockey Journal’s can’t miss storylines of the season.

Minuteman fans will have a chance to meet Coach Micheletto (and as an extra bonus, Derek Kellogg) during an evening reception on October 3rd at the UMass Club in Boston.

NBC Sports has announced the Hockey East portion of their schedule this year and again it’s only made up of Boston College, Boston University, Maine, and New Hampshire.  No problem, because those are the schools that finished in the top four in the conference last season, no?

Reminder; I want my plate.  Get on this or I’m keeping my Beer The Triangle suggestions to myself this season.

Hockey East Previews will be starting tomorrow (Wednesday at the latest).

Dongara Transfers In; UMail

Before we start in on your questions, there is a bit of semi-bigish news today.  College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni confirmed via Twitter this morning that Northeastern’s Rob Dongara has transferred to UMass.  He’ll have to sit out a year as a transfer but is allowed to participate in practices and team activities this season.  He’ll have two years of eligibility at UMass.  The rumors about Dongara being Amherst bound have been circulating since before Toot Cahoon stepped down.  However the attention then swung towards Toot leaving and the coaching search that followed.  In the time since I was able to confirm that he enrolled at UMass but never could find out if he truly had a spot on the roster under the current staff.  It ends up he does and as of today was officially added to the UMass roster.

So Dongara is now in Amherst and will hopefully be an important part of UMass hockey’s future.  His effort and energy made him a fan favorite at Matthews Arena and the 6 goals and 14 points he accumulated as a freshman help his support among the crowd as well.  But last year he ended up, for lack of a better term, in the dog house under new coach Jim Madigan and played only 15 games and scored just once.  UMass fans will hope that his decline in product and playing time had more to do with the change of coaches on St Botolph Street and not Dongara’s play.

Personally I don’t exactly know what to think of the move.  I have a lot of respect for Dongara’s high effort game and what he was able to do in his first season at Northeastern.  But at the same time you can’t help but question if the roster spot would be better used on a skill recruit.  Time will tell and I am hoping his time in Amherst goes well, if only so I can make it a topic of discussion during my regular visit’s to TKO Malley’s Sports Bar in Scituate, his hometown.

Here is the Husky Hockey Blog’s coverage of Dongara leaving the school last spring.  At the time they wrote it was expected he’d transfer to Atlantic Hockey or DIII.  Ouch.

On to UMail!

Regular comment contributor George asks, “Have we heard anything about CBS3? Is their secondary channel carrying home games again? And after rereading your post, can I assume it’s the same broadcasting team coming back?”

Excellent question regarding CBS3 and I’ll tell you that I have no idea.  I haven’t heard anything either way as UMass hasn’t come out and said if they’ll be covering any sports this year.  If I can find out an answer, I’ll pass it on.  Regarding your second question on the broadcast team, I’m glad you asked.  Honestly when I first read the release regarding the radio deal two things stood out to me.  First, it was only a one year deal.  Rewad into that however you’d like.  Second, there was no mention of the broadcast team.  I will tell you that there’s a good chance the team of Brock Hines, John Hennessy, and Adam Frenier returns next season but as far as I know it has not been totally decided.  Barring an invite from the PGA Tour, I’m think we can bank on Brock Hines coming back for another season or 30.  But the rest of the details are still being finalized.  Remember, UMass has handed over the management of all broadcasts to Nelligan Sports Marketing, so in the end they’re the ones making the call.  I wouldn’t have a problem with all three of them coming back.

Anonymous asks, “Rob Dongara. Great name or the greatest name?”

Are you kidding?  It’s not even the best Dong-based name.  That belongs to Long Duck Dong.  However I do think we should send a contingent of Mullins Maniacs to Boston to see what it will take to procure the “The Dong House” banner from the balcony of Matthews.

The infamous Wardy asks, “What renovations would you make at Mullins and bring it to a level matching other HEA rinks? Its neither new or historic.”

Three things:
1)  New weight room/training facilities for the team.  Everything I’ve heard from those around the team is that UMass’ weight training facilities and things like whirlpools used for post-game and injury recovery are among the worst of the league.
2)  A compressor or compressors that can adequately service both the Mullins Center and the practice rink.  UMass has had some of the best skaters in Hockey East in recent years but that advantage has been diminished due to slushy conditions.
3)  Bring the trophies downstairs from outside the Massachusetts Room.  The concourse at the Mullins is entirely too sterile.  UMass has a ton of athletic history, let’s bring it to the masses.  One of my favorite pieces in the trophy case is an old Blackhawk-style Redmen jersey.  Seeing that type of hockey memorabilia along with all the accolades won by the basketball team would gives Minuteman fans a better appreciate of the school’s rich traditions.

Greg asks, “Do you feel as if some college hockey writers have overlooked UMass?
After all, we are returning the core of our team with only a few
losses.”

It seems like the previews are just now starting to make their appearance, so I don’t think we’ve seen enough to conclude how writers are leaning at this point.  I did notice this one came out from College Hockey Weekly picking UMass 9th.  I also regrettably checked out the USCHO boards this week and saw that most posters have UMass out of the playoffs this coming season.  Honestly, this happens every year.  Most writers or fans predict UMass won’t make the Hockey East Playoffs, yet they always do.  They’ve made it to the quarterfinals every year since 2002.  But obviously the coaching change will temper any postive expectations that there may have been surrounding this team, despite the fact that the bulk of the talent comes from the junior class and the goaltending should only get better as players mature.  But don’t expect UMass to get the benefit of the doubt.  They never have.  At the very least Mike McMahon, arguably the most knowledge writer covering Hockey East, did tell me that he’s picking the Minutemen to finish at least as high as 7th, so they’ve got that going for them.

Thomas asks, “Will there be any updates in the jerseys into this year, and will we know what they look like before October 12?”

Good question.  I’m pretty sure the team will be using the same jerseys this year, but I don’t know that for certain.  I hope that includes the third “Massachusetts” jerseys as well.  I can tell you we won’t see the Frozen Fenway jerseys again as those were sold off as part of a fundraising effort and I know that Joel Hanley will have to personally fight me to get his back (OK, he’d win, but still…).  But no, as far as I’ve heard there won’t be any uniform changes this year.

Scott, my homebrew mentor, asks “What is the appropriate beer to drown one’s sorrows after a tough loss?”

The de facto answer is anything from Amherst Brewing Company.  Why?  Well, that’s the usual post-game spot nowadays.  That works well because after a loss I’m looking for something high alcohol yet sippable to help me forget about whatever I just watched.  Between their own stuff and their expanded guest list I can usually find a nice barleywine or imperial something-or-other to do the trick.

However, the real answer is whatever beer is closest.

Carson asks, “Which players are you expecting to make the most progress this coming year? Who do you think is most likely to fill the holes left by Syner, Hobbs, and Marcou?

I’ll answer your first question with either Rocco Carzo returning to more of an offensive role or Andrew Tegeler having a breakout season.  I think Carzo is capable of being a much larger part of the offense, which is why I have him on the second line in my line projections.  Carzo has had his ups and down in his career at UMass, excelling as a freshman playing with Casey Wellman and James Marcou, struggling as a sophomore, and then being a huge part of an impactful third line last year.  Something tells me his roller coast career will end on the upswing as a senior.

As for Tegeler, I really enjoyed his combination of size and skill last year and frankly wished he had played a lot more.  Fans will have to remember that he was the youngest player on the roster last year.  I think that a season under his belt will pay off a ton in this coming year.

Who will fill the holes left by the graduating seniors?  Well I think UMass has the guys to take the place of T.J. Syner and Danny Hobbs.  I’m most concerned about finding that everyday person to be the sixth defensemen.  Anthony Raiola, Darren Rowe, Mike Busillo, Connor Doherty.  It could be any of those guys, but I don’t see any of them as a lock at this point.

Mrs Triangle asks, “When is Mr. Slice coming back?”

For those who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Slice, he was the Dominos mascot in the form of a slice of pizza who kids/students/drunk people would shot on in between periods at hockey games.  There’s something very surreal about watching comfort food stonewall would be scorers wearing sneakers on the Mullins ice.  Anyway, I don’t think Mr. Slice will ever be back unfortunately.  However I’d love to hear the word’s “Mr. Slice OWNS you!” ring out from the Mullins crowd at least one last time.

Matt from Fight Mass asks, “Everyone talks about players that can break out in the new coach’s system, what player is likely to drop off without Toot.”

An interesting question.  I’m not sure if I can say someone will drop off “without Toot”.  However I can tell you that Pat Kiley is a player who I’m interested to see if he can build upon his success last year.  I don’t think too much was expected of Kiley going into last season and he had problems being effective early due to too many trips to the penalty box.  But by the end of the season he had four goals, eight points, and some huge minutes on that key third line.  I wasn’t a huge believer in Kiley early on in his career, but after seeing what he’s capable of when he’s playing his best last year I’m interested to see if we see the same this season, perhaps something even better, or if he falls off and ends up battling for playing time.  One thing’s for sure, thanks to his play he’s made a lot of fans of those who follow the team closely.

Josh asks, “Realistic 5 year goal under coach Mic?”

Honestly, I expect no less than returning to the Garden in his second year when much of the core of the team are seniors and then returning to the NCAA tournament no later than year four.  I’m not sure whether that’s considered aggressive of conservative against the average fan’s expectations, but given the team he has inherited and just the base expectations of an NCAA coach, I don’t think that’s a big stretch.

Thanks to everyone for their questions!

This is a big weekend for UMass running back Mike Cox as he returns to the Big House where he once took to the gridiron wearing the legendary maize and blue for the Wolverines.  However, before those times he was actually a hardcore hockey player according to this story from the Michigan Daily.  Interestingly, after he moved on from hockey he played football at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut, the prep school that has provided UMass with the likes of Jon Quick and Mike Pereira.  Hopefully hockey fans will see him in the stands this winter with the other students cheering on the team.

For those UMass fans making the trip out to Ann Arbor, here’s my quick Beer The Triangle preview for you.  First off, go to Jolly Pumpkin.  They’re one of my favorite breweries.  Perhaps in my top 5 and that’s saying a lot.  Second, Arbor Brewing is very good as well.  Thirdly, go to Ashley’s just a few block north of the Michigan Student Union and drink a lot of Bell’s. Lastly, go to Blue Tractor Brewery.  Their beer is ok, but the frosted strip on the bar designed to keep your beer cold is perhaps the greatest technical advancement of our generation.

It sounds as if Merrimack is exploring a DI women’s hockey program.  The Warriors also broke ground on their significant facility expansion and upgrade project.

Submit Your Questions For FTT UMail

Within the next week I’ll be starting up my Hockey East and Massachusetts team previews but before doing so I figure we’re overdue for a mailbag post as the last one came way back in April.  Nothing has really changed with the hockey program since that time, right?  So feel free to submit your questions in the comments of this post, email them, or you can even post them to Facebook or Twitter.

I’ll probably defer any questions about where I see the team finishing as that will be covered in my season previews, but you can ask about the end of last season, everything that transpired over the summer, recruits, my NorCal beercation, or whatever else you’re wondering about.  I’ll pick the best/most answerable and address them in my post tomorrow night.

Never Forget

Projecting The Lines

The roster is out and updated. I’ve done my best to quantify the potential impact of this year’s freshmen. So I figure it’s time to speculate on potential lines we’ll see this coming season. To be honest, it’s incredibly hard to guess what the lines will be. First, I have no idea what sort of combinations Coach Micheletto will want to use. When I projected lines last Spring I projected them to what I thought we would see based on Coach Cahoon’s history and tendencies. I have no idea what Coach Mick’s tendencies are. Does he like to split up his stars like Cahoon did or make one top power line? Does he always like to put right-handed shots on the left wing and vice versa or does he just put the best players together? I have no idea. We’ll find out. The second thing that makes it so hard is the fast that the roster is so large. There will be 17 forwards trying to be one of 12 that dress, nine defensemen for six slots on the blueline, and three contenders to start in net. Third, not only are the freshmen a big question mark, due to lack of playing time last year, a lot of the sophomore forwards are as well. Can an Andrew Telgeler or Zack LaRue come in and have a break out season? Definitely. I just can’t predict if it happens or who it may be. So with all that said here we go:

Pereira-Guzzo-Sheary
Carzo-Gracel-Tiefenwerth
Kiley-Filiou-Power
Olczyk-Czepiel-Tegeler

Hanley-Phillips
Allen-Yevenko
Shea-Raiola

Boyle/Mastalerz

When I was playing around with potential lines last Spring I had Rocco Carzo and Branden Gracel on the top line with Conor Sheary. This was driven by the fact that I thought Cahoon would continue to want two equally deep lines and therefore would split Sheary and Pereira, as he did in the second half of last season However, no longer having to project to the thoughts of Cahoon, I’m putting together the lines as I would. And I like the idea of those two together. I have Guzzo at center because I thought he was on the same page as Pereira quite a bit last year. This allows me to move Gracel down and pair him up with the senior Carzo where the two of them will help provide some experience to a line that also features freshman K.J. Tiefenwerth. This line will be successful only if Carzo evolves his game a little more offensively, going back somewhat to what we saw earlier in his career after having a solid season on the third line last year. Overall the first line above scored 39 of UMass’ 114 goals last year while Gracel and Carzo contributed 9 and Tiefenwerth netting 30 in juniors.

Pat Kiley and Troy Power stay on the third line with Eric Filiou replacing Carzo at center. However, given how he improved during the year, we could see Power on the second line this coming season as well. This line had 8 goals last year. For the fourth line I have Eddie Olczyk returning to an everyday role, never fully understanding why he went from 21 games his freshman year to just 16 last year, Kevin “Holyoke” Czepiel returns to center, while Andrew Tegeler will get the last wing spot. I think Tegeler has tremendous upside between his size and the skills he showed at times, but the fact is all these players, especially those on the bottom lines, will have to practice hard to get in the lineup. In no particular order Zack LaRue, Evan Stack, Shane Walsh, Peter DeAngelo, and Emerson Auvenshine will all be gunning to dress everyday as well. The fourth line of Olczyk-Czepiel-Tegeler had four goals last year. The returning players I have on the bench scored three goals, all by DeAngelo.

For defensemen I believe getting three solid pairings with players who compliment each other is the best methodology. Joel Hanley and Adam Phillips should be able to play decent defense, but at the same time both move the puck well and would be a significant scoring threat. Now befing on the first pairing would require Phillips to bounce back from a tough sophomore season that saw him miss a number of games as a healthy scratch. This pairing was a combined +10 last year. The second pairing of Conor Allen and Oleg Yevenko would be a bruising one and I think this would be a beneficial matchup of Allen, who at times was the anchor of the UMass defense last season, with the still developing potential of Yevenko. These two combined for a –2 last season. Lastly I have Colin Shea and Anthony Raiola in the last pairing, finished even combined last year, however truth be told it could also be Mike Busillo, freshman Connor Doherty, or Darren Rowe here. No matter who it is next to him, Shea’s consistency should help solidify the third pairing.

Just as last year, UMass fans have no idea who will be in net on opening night. Kevin Boyle had the best season statistically and ended up starting both playoff games against Boston College, doing fairly well both nights. Steve Mastalerz had a number of good games as well, including a shutout of #1 BC in January. I think the goaltending job will come down to one of these two and frankly I have no idea what the new coach’s thoughts are on goaltender rotations so it may be both. However, don’t be surprised if junior Jeff Teglia is in the mix again as well. It probably doesn’t hurt that he had his best games last season against Vermont and his now coaching staff.

That’s my guess for lines, feel free to share how you’d put them all together in the comment section.

The coaching staff is now complete as Dan Lupi will serve as Goaltending Coach this coming season. Lupi works with former goalie coach Mike Buckley at Buckley’s GDS Goaltender school. Lupi played in net for Assumption College, holding school records in a number of categories.

The Athletic Department posted this video with Mike Pereira and Conor Allen on their pre-season activities as they prepare for the season. The more I see of Allen the more I think he may become a candidate to be a captain or assistant this coming season:

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There are a couple jersey number changes reflected on the roster. Andrew Tegeler will go from #23 last year to #14 with T.J. Syner graduating while Troy Power takes #22 instead of #20. As for the freshmen, Shane Walsh will be #15, Evan Stack #20, Connor Doherty is #23, and K.J. Tiefenwerth goes with #28.

Not a big surprise but Danny Hobbs did officially sign with the Connecticut Whale, AHL team to the Rangers who held his draft rights. Hobbs’ hand injury suffered in the playoffs last year prevented him from joining the Whale after the season ended.

More details came out late last week surrounding the report on Boston University’s hockey program. I understand that there are similar problems like this that occur on campuses all across the country, but some of the quotes in that article are appalling. One of the players saying, “you don’t ask [permission for sex] when you are drunk” and a female student describing being groped without permission as “that’s just what [BU hockey players] do,” is, frankly, disgusting. I really hope this sort of stuff doesn’t go on with the UMass hockey team. While I totally realize at the end of the day these guys are college students and will do a lot of the same stuff we all did as college students, a lot of what is described in the BU report goes above and beyond the usual campus craziness. Say what you will about Toot Cahoon’s time here, but for the most part UMass has avoided this kind of negative press because he recruited character in addition to skill.

As most thought, Hockey East will be moving to a playoff format in the future that will have all conference teams making the playoffs. This will start next season when Notre Dame joins the league. I’m pretty neutral about this. I personally thought the current format makes the regular season that much more important and made for some excitement at the bottom of the standings down the stretch. But at the same time there’s nothing wrong with more hockey on more campuses come March.

Lastly, when I’m not trying to plan my next FTT post during the fall I’m usually planning tailgates. Some fellow loyal UMass fans and I have being doing our best to have the best tailgate at the football games. Or, at the very least, the tailgate with the best beer selection. So it was very cool to have our tailgate (and my homebrew) featured with others by Matt Vautour on Saturday when the Minutemen made their FBS debut. The Republican even gave us some pictorial love. Understandably, it will take a few years for the product on the field to reach the FBS level, but the action in the parking lots outside the stadium is already well on its way. I highly recommend catching a game or two this season if you aren’t already planning to.

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