The Massachusetts hockey team released the schedule for the upcoming season. Following an exhibition game against Dalhousie on October 3rd the Minutemen will open the season on 10/9 in the shadow of Pike’s Peak for a two game series with Colorado College. The home opener will take place Friday, October 16th against Sacred Heart.
Much of the schedule was already known before today, including all of the team’s non-conference opponents. The only real surprise is that the Minutemen will have a chance to play an exhibition against the US National Junior Team before the squad leaves for the World Junior Championships in Finland. That means UMass fans will have a chance to see the best young American players on the Mullins Center ice on December 18th. Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanafin, Zach Werenski are just a few of the names we may get to see on that date.
UMass has hosted the US National Development Team squad a few times before but has never hosted the National Junior Team. You may remember last year Team USA played Boston University before heading overseas with Jack Eichel wearing the red, white, and blue instead of his familiar scarlet and white. That squad disappointingly finished out of a medal. UMass did played the Swedish National Junior Team in 2010 in an exhibition ahead of the champinships. One Minuteman who likely will not be playing in the exhibition against Team USA will incoming freshman William Lagesson, who played for Team Sweden in last year’s World Juniors and will likely be en route to Finland at that time to represent his country again. Lagesson will join Stephen Werner as the only Minutemen to play in the WJC
Other highlights of this year’s schedule includes the Capital City Classic in Trenton, NJ against Maine and the winner of Yale/Princeton. That tournament will take place Halloween weekend and will be the lone tournament during the season for the team. UMass will host ECAC teams Yale, Union, and Quinnipiac. The Bobcats will also host the Minutemen in what’s become an annual post-Thanksgiving home and home between the Connecticut Valley teams. UMass will travel to West Point to play Army the day after New Year’s, in a trip that I recommend to anyone who hasn’t made it before. Nothing beats the atmosphere and pagentry of USMA athletics. The last non-conference game of the season takes place Tuesday, February 9th when the team takes on the other DI program in the valley, American International College, at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield.
Gone from this year’s schedule are the mixture of non-conference games against Hockey East foes, with the exception of the Capital City tournament game against Maine and the annual third match with Lowell to decide the winner of the Alumni Cup. UMass opens up Hockey East play with a home game against New Hampshire on October 23rd. The final weekend of the season will be a home and home against national champion Providence with Senior Night falling on Friday, February 26th. Here’s the whole schedule:
This looks to be a pretty good schedule but a pretty tough for UMass. Let’s face it, this team and the coaching staff needs to show significant progress this year. They need wins and I’m guessing they need to at least be in consideration for a spot in the NCAA tournament otherwise there will likely be changes at the end of the season. This schedule isn’t staged to load up on wins against a lot easy teams. Even two of the three games against Atlantic Hockey squads are being played away from the Mullins Center. Plus, as hockey SID Jillian Jakuba pointed out, UMass will have to face all of the past four national champions (Providence, Yale, Union, Boston College) this season. Not to mention last year’s runner-up, Boston University who is reloading with arguably the top recruiting class in the nation. Add in the usual Best Conference In College Hockey Hockey East slate and this schedule can be a challenge. The good news though is if UMass can find success against these teams they’ll be in great shape in terms of the Pairwise.
The good news about the schedule is they’re playing some tough teams, but are not having to criss-cross the country to do so. They have to get on a plane opening weekend to face a Colorado College team that won just six games last season. Their longest bus trip takes place at the end of the first month of the season when they go to Trenton for the tournament there. In early December they have to get on a plane again to visit Notre Dame for two games. After that the furthest west they travel is West Point. The furthest east is Boston. South, Providence. North, Lowell. Only 7 of the 17 games following December 5th will take place away from Amherst and one of those is the game in Springfield against AIC. Just six true road games after early December. That schedule for a team that will still be on a the young side and will likely have some learning curves in the fall is set up for a very strong finish in January, February, and hopefully March.
Captain Troy Power signed with the Manchester Monarchs who are rebuilding their roster after transitioning from the AHL to the ECHL.
The Hockey Writers predict that Conor Sheary will make his NHL debut with the Penguins this year and score 20 points.
THW also did this extensive preview of the 2016 NHL Draft where they list recruit John Leonard as a prospect to watch. Their #1 ranked prospect? Auston Matthews who will be at the Mullins Center on December 18th!