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15-16 Preview: Massachusetts Hockey Points Lost/Returning

As we continue to shift focus to the coming season one of the main ways to analyze the prospects of the Massachusetts hockey team is to take stock of what they’ve lost during the season and what they have coming back.  As we know there were a number of key seniors who graduated, such as captain Troy Power and Zack LaRue.  But the biggest departures of course were underclassmen Frank Vatrano and Brandon Montour who following the season signed contracts with the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks respectively.  However, there are still some key contributors coming back, like Dennis Kravchenko who will be looking to build off of a tremendous freshman season.  Let’s take a closer look at what the departures and returners mean on a number basis.

Games Played Goals Assists Points
2014-15 Totals 694 99 167 266
Graduating Seniors 179 14 25 39
Frank Vatrano 36 18 10 28
Brandon Montour 21 3 17 20
Total Lost   236 35 52 87
% Lost 34.0% 35.4% 31.1% 32.7%
% Returning 66.0% 64.6% 68.9% 67.3%

The above table quantifies exactly what the departures mean on an offensive basis.  For context, it’s important to remember that last year’s Minuteman squad scored 2.75 goals per game during the season, which was 9th best among all Hockey East teams.  If they want to maintain that level of offense they’ll need to find a way to replace over 35% of the goal scoring while also needing to fill in for 31% of assists.  The team also loses over 1/3rd of its games played from last season with Vatrano, Montour, and the seven seniors moving on.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who watched last year that from an offensive standpoint the loss of Vatrano has the biggest impact.  His 18 goals are more than the graduating seniors plus Montour combined and represented a whopping 18.2% of the team’s total goals last season.  Montour, despite playing in only 21 games, still had the second most assists on the team with 17, representing just over 10% of the team’s total assists during the year.  Not to play the what-if game too much, but if this team was returning both Vatrano and Montour heading into this October they would’ve lost just 14% of their total scoring to graduation and 15% of their points.

When we look at what’s returning, it really comes down to two players, Kravchenko and senior Shane Walsh.  Of the 64.6% of goals coming back this year Shane Walsh’ 14 represents over a 5th of that.  When you combine Walsh’s goal output with Kravchenko’s 10 goal you’re talking about 24 of 64 returning goals, or 37.5%.  Kravchenko plays a bigger role when it comes to total points due to the 23 assists he accumulated last season.  In terms of total points Kravchenko’s 33 represents 18.4% of all the points returning this coming year.

OK, so the team has to replace roughly 1/3rd of their game experience, goals, and total points, how does that stack up against the rest of the league?  Luckily, Mike McMahon of The Mack Report has already looked at that (McMahon did a great job displaying the data graphically so make sure to click the link).  For the most part UMass is right in the middle of the pack in Hockey East in terms of offense lost.  Their 35 goals lost is 6th most in the league while their 52 assists is 8th most.  In terms of % of total points lost UMass’ 32.7% is the 5th most.  That’s a lot, but not as bad as Boston University or New Hampshire who will be looking to replace over 37% of their point production.  Going back to the what-if for a second, with Vatrano and Montour back in the fold UMass would’ve had the highest percent of points returning of any team in the league, even more than Lowell’s 84.1%.

It would’ve been nice to get those guys back and return pretty much the entire offensive firepower to a team that hopefully will have a noticeable improvement defensively with the additions of goaltender Nic Renyard and defensemen William Lagesson and Ivan Chukarov.  But, maybe needing to replace that 35% of goal scoring isn’t out of the question with a skilled class coming in filled with players who put up big totals in juniors like Austin Plevy and Kurts Keats.  After all, look what happened last year.

Coming into last season UMass was faced with the prospect of needing to replace over 56% of its points after Conor Sheary, Mike Pereira, Branden Gracel, Joel Hanley, and others graduated.  With the addition of Vatrano, Montour, Kravchenko and players like Walsh upping their output the team was not only able to replace those lost points but improved their goals scored per game from 2.24 to the 2.75 last year.  I’m not sure if it’s fair to compare the loss of a Frank Vatrano, perhaps the best pure goal scorer the Minutemen have had since Greg Mauldin, to that of Sheary, Pereira, etc.  But, last year did show us that newcomers can have an immediate impact and upperclassmen can find another level of production when departures open up opportunities.

UMass does not need to up their scoring output by a half a goal like we saw from 2013-14 to 2014-15.  What UMass needs to do is significantly improve upon the league high 4.22 goals per game they allowed last year.  And for reasons mentioned earlier, that hopefully will happen.  If it does and UMass can get the needed offense to at least match last year’s output, that should translate to more wins.

It was a disappointing showing for the U18 USA Hockey team over at the Hlinka Memorial Tournament as the Americans didn’t make it into the medal round.  Still, UMass recruit and Amherst native John Leonard had an impact for the team.  Despite playing on the 3rd and 4th lines for the squad he had a goal and an assist in the four games and didn’t take any penalties.  Next up for Leonard he’ll be heading out to Green Bay to begin his USHL career.  A number of other UMass recruits, like Nick Jenny and Justin Dixson, have recently settled into their new Midwest towns and high schools to do the same.  Weekly recruiting updates are not too far away at this point.

The Portland Press Herald had an interesting article on Maine athletics’ recruiting, which includes a recruiting budget comparison to other nearby schools, including UMass.  Coach Micheletto and his staff spent $79,000 on recruiting in 2014 according to the article, ahead of Vermont ($72,000) but behind the $83, 243 that Red Gendron and the Black Bears spent.  I wouldn’t read too much into those numbers since there are a lot of factors to consider, including proximity of major airports to campus and other potential cost efficiencies/variances.  It’s an interesting article nonetheless.

Of course, one way to keep program costs down for UMass would be to load up the roster with Massachusetts natives.  That would keep recruiting expenses low but also mean scholarships would only need to cover in-state tuition versus out of state.  Yet, according to this SBN College Hockey article, there are only 3 Bay Staters on the incoming roster.  In an ideal world I would love to see a Minuteman roster stocked with the best that the commonwealth has to offer.  But that’s not easy to do, especially when the higher profile and more successful programs end up landing the top talent.  Hopefully that changes in the future and UMass lands more local blue chippers.  But at this point I’m happy to welcome anyone from anywhere who will help UMass win.  Oh, you’re from Siberia and can go end to end and beat the goaltender high glove?  Welcome to Amherst.

North Dakota beat writer Brad Scholssman has an interesting article looking at potential conference reconfiguration with Arizona State joining Division I.  The scenarios include Notre Dame bolting Hockey East to the NCHC or Big Ten.  I was never a fan of the Irish’s inclusion in the New England conference anyway, so this wouldn’t bother me in the least.  Frankly, I’d be happy to see someone like Quinnipiac take their place.

Speaking of the NCHC, they’re the first college hockey conference to adopt 3-on-3 overtimes.  3-on-3, 4-on-4, 5-on-5, ties, it all sounds good.  I’m for whatever keeps shootouts out of the sport.

Hopefully everyone had a chance to check out last week’s Q&A post with new AD Ryan Bamford.  I had the chance to meet Bamford at an alumni event hosted by UMass hockey supporter Mike Kelley last night and I continue to think he’ll help lead the hockey program and the department as a whole to great success.  Why?  Well I think UMass lacrosse All-American Jack Reid, who was also at the event, probably had the most astute observation:

Uh, yep.

I’ll close out tonight’s post with this great tweet from Assistant Coach Ryan Miller highlighting the deep history and tradition of UMass hockey that is too often forgotten:

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5 Comments

  1. Nate

     /  August 21, 2015

    UMass needs to target and hire Mass/Boston Head Coach to secure greater talent locally & throughout New England…………- Look at what UConn did and the future they’ve tied up in the region.

    Like

    • Their top recruits (Gendron, Thompson, Masonius, Letunov) are all from outside of New England though. It’s nice to get the top local recruits, but not totally necessary. I think it’s more important just to have a staff that can identify and land top talent in general.

      Like

  2. Anonymous

     /  August 21, 2015

    MERRIMACK went to h/east finals , I believe, with mostly western Canadian players and a player from france…we need to beat bu and bc head to head to gain respect from the most local talent…..

    Like

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