Recap: UMass Suffers Another 3rd Period Implosion, Loses 7-5 To Notre Dame

I have done my best to give this Massachusetts hockey team the benefit of the doubt this season.  I’ve tried to remain optimistic through the struggles.  Early on it was tough to know what to expect considering the roster included so many players making their collegiate debuts.  They also didn’t have the easiest of schedules to start the season, so I urged fans to take that into account.  But we’re now two months into the season.  The young players are acclimated.  There are no tough plane or bus trips, only the short walk or drive to the Mullins.  In short, there is no reason why this team shouldn’t be improving.  No reason why it can’t at least be competitive.  But it’s not.  This team is just bad.  Historically bad.  After last night’s 7-5 loss to the Fighting Irish the team is now giving up 4.50 goals per game.  That is epically bad.  Last year Alabama-Huntsville gave up 4.37 goals per game, holding the last place spot nationally that the Minutemen now hold.  UMass hasn’t given up that amount of goals since the mid-90s when the team was restarted and thrust into Hockey East.

Like we’ve seen throughout the season UMass played well enough early on last night to take a lead into the third period, up 3-2 after 40 minutes.  But the team then gave up four goals, all at even strength, in the first 8 minutes of the final period and just like that the Irish led 6-3.  UMass would finally wake up with just a couple minutes left in the game to score a couple goals, but an empty netter sealed the game for Notre Dame.  7-5 final. It’s the first time this season that the struggling Irish squad has won a game after being down after two periods.  UMass has now given up 31 goals in the third period this season.  Providence, Vermont, Merrimack, and Boston University have given up less in all periods this season.

We’re now two and a half years into John Micheletto’s tenure at UMass.  For the first two years we were told that the poor results were due to the carryover players from Toot Cahoon’s regime not being a good fit for Mick’s up tempo style.  We were told we just had to wait until he got “his players” to Amherst.  Well the roster is now overwhelmingly his players.  We’re now 14 games into the season.  And the team is terrible.  The results are terrible.  And attendance is reaching lows we haven’t seen in 10 to 15 years.  Something has to change.  The saying of “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” comes into play here.  Mick’s style of play is not producing wins.  It’s producing some embarrassing results and putting UMass in such a deep hole in the Hockey East standings that they’ll need something drastic to happen to get out of it.  He has to be flexible and make adjustments.  He has to put more of a focus on defense.

This whole situation reminds me a lot of when Derek Kellogg arrived in Amherst and was insistent on running the Dribble Drive Motion.  The results were maddening, even after he got a few of his own recruiting classes into the program.  In his first three years he won 12, 12, and 15 games.  It wasn’t until year 4 when he dropped the DDM and its architect, Vance Walberg, that the program took off, winning 25 games and making the NIT semifinals.  Hopefully the success of the Mullins’ other tenant serves as a good example that changing things up to better suit the skills of your players can pay off.  At this point it seems like there’s no reason not to try something different.  After all, it really can’t get any worse.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Frank Vatrano
Though his line was on the ice for much of the third period problems, Vatrano did play some of his best hockey in a UMass uniform in the first couple periods.  In the first he scored with a nice wrist shot from high in the slot and in the second scored a shorthanded goal, giving UMass the lead at the time.

Recap, Box Score, and Highlights from UMass Athletics.

Recap from the Gazette.

UMass Athletic Director John McCutcheon is one of the finalists for the same job at UC-Santa Barbara.  Whether he gets the job or not I think it’s time for the school to move on from him.  The fact that he’s out there interviewing shows that he’s not committed to seeing the school through this critical time period where it’s looking to establish itself as an FBS program and secure a conference affiliation.  Let’s face it, McCutcheon has been mailing it in for years.  Many programs around campus, including hockey, are struggling to find consistent success they once had.  The motto for the recent football seasons has been “All In”.  If McCutcheon isn’t all in to make UMass athletics successful then he should leave.  Whether to California or anywhere else.