View From Section U: Wanting More Than The Box Scores

Let me go on record as saying I think Friday’s game against American International, just the fourth time the schools have met in the modern era of UMass hockey, is a great thing for Western Mass hockey.  It’s amazing the Minutemen haven’t played their down valley neighbor more often, but it sounds like this game could be an annual or semi-annual affair in coming years with some games potentially being played at the MassMutal Center in Springfield.  Western Mass only has two Division I hockey schools so it makes sense to have them play more often.  Add in the fact that the Yellow Jackets pulled off the major upset last year and you have quite a few storylines going into Friday’s game.  Too bad it’s unlikely you’ll be able to read about how AIC is going to try to duplicate the heroics or how the Minutemen are looking for revenge leading up to Friday in the area’s largest newspaper, the Springfield Republican or its online partner, Masslive.  You likely won’t be reading a game recap on Saturday morning either.  You may find a box score in your paper, but I make no promises.  That’s because the area’s largest news outlet has decided Massachusetts hockey isn’t worth covering anymore.

Long time FTT readers know that I do my best to link to any and all news stories relevant to the UMass hockey program.  In prior years those links included stories written by Harry Plumer or Dick Baker usually multiple times a week.  Baker, a Western Mass hockey expert, especially had excellent coverage of the team for almost two decades.  No more.  The Republican/Masslive hasn’t posted one thing about the team since the season has started.  Not one.  Plumer’s successor Dan Malone wrote some features over the summer on prospects and returning players but there’s been nothing since as he concentrates on his quality coverage on the basketball and football programs.  Baker in the meantime is available and eager to cover the team, as he has for years, but has yet to get the green light from the Republican and/or Masslive.

I honestly don’t know why they’ve decided to pull the plug on UMass hockey.  It’s probably a combination of things.  Let’s face it, the newspaper industry is not in the greatest shape and tough decisions have to be made about allocation of resources.  And if they think their UMass hockey articles aren’t getting enough hits, they won’t put time and money towards producing them.  It doesn’t help that the program has struggled to stay relevant in recent years and interest has waned.  Still, this is a local team playing in the top conference in the country, regularly taking on the elite college hockey teams every weekend on the season.  Nearly 55,000 fans packed the Mullins Center last year to watch the team despite their dismal record (by comparison 69,000 fans paid to see UMass football play their home games in 2013, also with a dismal record).  Certainly that level of interest in a program playing the assorted powers of college hockey makes the program worthy of coverage?

Other outlets continue to cover the team.  Matt Vautour has written some decent articles about the team sporadically in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.  But he’s the only dedicated UMass beat writer there and understandably his time is consumed by basketball and football.  I know the Greenfield Recorder has had George Miller at some games at least, but their stories are behind a paywall and therefore inaccessible to most who don’t want to pay just to read a game recap every few weeks.  I personally rely on and relay the team coverage by the students writing for the Collegian.  UMass has been lucky to have some excellent up and coming writers on the hockey beat and I’m thankful to be able to read and share their stories over the years.  Besides that you have whatever coverage College Hockey News and USCHO have, which is usually pretty minimal unless UMass is playing one of the bigger teams in the country.

Unfortunately I don’t know what the solution is for this one.  In my opinion there are enough UMass hockey fans out there that would enjoy regular coverage from the largest media outlet in the area.  It seems most, if not all, of the other Hockey East teams have dedicated beat writers.  But I don’t know what the options are to get that kind of coverage back.  You would hope that maybe the athletic department could put some pressure on the Republican to cover the program better.  But can you picture John McCutcheon caring about hockey coverage enough to make that call down to Springfield?  No, neither can I.  So I guess it comes down to the solution to cure all the other ills surrounding the program currently.  Just win, baby.  If Mick can get the program turned around, get the some wins, hopefully some big wins against high profile opponents, then the fans will be back and the Republican will be forced to take Baker up on his offer to cover the team.  Until then, I guess to get your UMass fix you’re stuck with FTT.

I wasn’t able to get to recruit updates this week.  I’ll have two weeks worth of updates next Tuesday.

The Collegian had this article saying the freshmen are contributing, but the team needs more out of its veterans.

Blueshirts United had this video interview with former UMass captain and current Ranger Mike Kostka.

The HockeyRecruits4U blog has a post comparing the number of in-state players at state schools like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and UMass.  Personally I think it’s unfair to compare UMass to those big state schools because their programs have been around forever and they don’t have higher profile schools already in state like UMass does with BC, BU, etc.  It is interesting though that other Hockey East schools outside the state like Maine and Providence have more Massachusetts players than UMass does.  Toot Cahoon for a time tried to focus in on getting the commonwealth’s best talent to Amherst but had trouble consistently landing top Bay State players.  There are a number of advantages if a UMass coach is successful with that approach, with a main one being financial given the difference in scholarship costs between in and out of state.  Ideally, yeah I’d love to see the best of the state wearing the maroon and white every year.  But at this point I’ll just take players who can make UMass a winning program again, I don’t care where they’re from.

AIC is a main topic of the weekly Atlantic Hockey piece from USCHO.  More on the Yellow Jackets in tomorrow’s preview.

Alaska Fairbanks was hit hard with NCAA sanctions today due to using ineligible players a few years ago.  If they want to take away scholarships and forfeit historical games, fine.  But I think it’s unfair to punish the current players who had nothing to do with the infractions but banning them from their conference and national postseasons.

And this just in, UConn beat #3 Boston College in their first home Hockey East contest tonight.  It just goes to show, on any given night you never know what can happen in this conference.

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  1. Mel

     /  November 6, 2014

    UConn beats BC! Thank God all 12 teams make the Hockey East playoffs. You know what I mean?


    • We’ll see how UConn does long term, but its an amazing debut for them. I’ve been really impressed by what’s going on in Storrs. After ignoring their hockey team for years the athletic department, media, and fans are really rallying around this move to Hockey East. Just goes to show what a little leadership can do. And unfortunately we just have McCutcheon.


  2. Robert Vogel

     /  November 6, 2014

    This season I’ve watched A.I.C. at HOLY CROSS in a (2-2 OT) tie, watched their two losses at home to CANISIUS, where game one of that weekend was 0-0 with 10 minutes left in the third, and then penalties ruined A.I.C., and watching the two wins at NIAGARA leads me to believe they have a very good chance again this year of defeating the Minuteman.
    One thing A.I.C. has demonstrated is that they have VERY good goal tending, and when it comes to scoring they are very opportunistic. They are frequently out shot, but seem to be able to usually score their share of goals on limited shots.
    MASSACHUSETTS appears to have a goal tending problem, and the defense is not getting the job done. Especially their senior leaders. A Minuteman bright spot is they’ve shown to this point that they are not quitters, but unfortunately, it’s been to no avail. It’s very demoralizing to have a week end like the one they just had in Maine. Five goals one night and three goals the next, the blown lead, leaving with no points is unacceptable.
    Over the last few years I have emailed and spoken to the coaches of both teams regarding a yearly game between the two teams with A.I.C.’s home game being at the Mass Mutual Center, but there’s always scheduling problems, and a lack of desire to play because of “Pairwise ranking considerations” at play off time. However over the last few years A.I.C. has won some good games. They beat the Minutemen last season, The year before that they shut out BROWN University and beat QUINNIPIAC at QUINNIPIAC before the Bob-Cats went on their long 20 game winning streak. They tied at DARTMOUTH 3-3 in OT, and lost by one goal at MICHIGAN TECH. and lost 1-0 at MINNESOTA STATE.
    Seeing how I like both these teams may the best team win.


    • Good observations on both teams. Sounds like we’ll be seeing these teams play each other a lot more often going forward.


  3. George

     /  November 6, 2014

    I called the Republican and cancelled my subscription and they wanted to know why and I told them basically what you said, in a Readers Digest version. They said they would “look into it”. Trust me, I exhaled.
    One by one you’ll see these papers fall. You are far more relevant and knowledgeable than the Bakers and the Vatours (whether they cover us full time or not), who through no fault of his (Matt) because of what his bosses say, covers UMass hockey at his/their convenience.

    Still boggles my mind how the Gazette and Recorder haven’t merged. Franklin and Hampshire County high schools play each other in sports, national news is national news, just maybe change the “local” insert to Franklin or Hampshire, much like the Springfield paper does. Seems like a lot of duplicate work.

    Again, I’m going to get more from this blog then any paper. I know the schools (not UMass maybe) like their appearance in a paper version of news, but it’s the way it’s going, much like it’s sister, radio. Who listens to 1400 or 1240??? The few souls that are trapped in their cars. They’re listening on the net or smartphone unless they’re over 50 or 60? No one has a radio on their kitchen table or a stereo in their living room.

    FTT and the web. 2014. It’s where it’s at.

    Oh and concerning last night, I just opened my car window so I can wave as the UConn hockey program passes us by. We had a real rink first, they’ll have NCAA appearance far quicker than us. Bank on it.


    • Wait, you cancelled your subscription recently or today?

      Thanks for the nice words about FTT but Baker, Malone, and Matty are absolutely needed. As a fan I rely on their work because it’s informative and insightful. As a blogger I rely on their work because I don’t have the time or access they do to get first hand info on the team. I don’t think FTT is competition to their work but more of a way to consolidate and supplement it.

      Regarding UConn, I hope you’re wrong but things need to change quick if UMass wants to keep up with them and the other teams in the league.


  4. Mel

     /  November 6, 2014

    I fear George is right. I think we will finish 12th this year despite the fact this is UConn’s first year in the league. The UMass program has become the laughingstock of the league. Hope I am wrong.


  5. RDW

     /  November 6, 2014

    Coach Micheletto reminds me of FB Coach Morris-nice guy, but unqualified. Can’t coach, recruit, so he spends his time with stupid things like Movember, compliments other coaches and sports teams. We are stuck with him, but let’s face it, if he continues to fail, he will be done in 2016. Providence and UConn coaches have made more progress in similar timeframes, so stop with the give him time excuses. He is the main problem, not McCutcheon. They only thing they have in common is that they both screwed up. With McCutheon hiring a second rate assistant, and Micheletto proving he is a second rate assistant. The fact that people are speculating AIC is better says it all.


  1. Game Preview: Minutemen Look For Payback Against AIC | Fear The Triangle - UMass Hockey Blog
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