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View From Section U ▲ UMass Freshmen By The Numbers

The Massachusetts hockey team has a very large, hopefully talented freshman class this year that could be the key to turning around the team’s fortunes on the ice.  Regular FTT readers have become acquainted with them through the regular Recruit Update posts and the recent player features as we count down to the Dalhousie game.  But each year I like to run down each freshman and compare their numbers against other recent Minutemen who have come out of the same junior leagues to see how they stack up.

Callum Fryer – D– Aurora Tigers (OJHL)
13-14  31GP / 2G / 3A / 5pts
14-15  41GP / 4G / 12A / 16pts
Other OJHL Defensemen:
Joel Hanley 50GP / 14G / 24A / 38pts
Mike Kostka  42GP / 9G / 27A / 36pts
As you can see UMass hasn’t had a lot of defensemen from the OJHL.  But the last two worked out pretty well as both Mike Kostka and Joel Hanley went on to have excellent careers at UMass and are doing well in the pros.  Both are more of two way defenseman so they’re tough to compare to Fryer, especially given that the OJHL is known as a high scoring league.  More recent OJHL players coming to UMass were Zack LaRue (33G, 36A in 50 games) and Steven Guzzo (29G, 41A in 46 games).  So maybe Fryer’s offensive stats are a bit inflated, but at the same time to be considered a good defenseman in that high scoring league you have to be very good.

Ivan Chukarov – D– Minnesota Wilderness (NAHL)
13-14  44GP / 4G / 8A / 12pts / 28PIM / +1
14-15  55GP / 12G /31A / 43pts / 63PIM / +31
Other NAHL Defensemen:
Jake Horton  60GP / 21G / 25A / 46pts / 62PIM / +19
We don’t have to go back too far to find a defenseman from the NAHL however.  Jake Horton joined UMass out of that league and did fairly was a freshman, grabbing 4 goals and 4 assists last year.  His –1 rating was the best among Minuteman defenseman.  Horton is more of a two-way blueliner than Chukarov, who was named to the All-NAHL team and will likely make more of a defensive impact next year than Horton did in his first year.

Austin Plevy – F– Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
13-14  19GP / 7G / 17A / 24pts / 8PIM
14-15  56GP / 29G / 63A / 92pts / 93PIM / +31
Other AJHL Forwards:
Riley McDougall  58GP / 30G / 31A / 61pts / 36PIM
Patrick Lee 58GP / 23G / 32A / 55pts / 34PIM
Branden Gracel 58GP / 38G / 56A / 94pts / 50PIM
Plevy was the scoring champion in the AJHL last year and his total compare favorably with Branden Gracel’s production in the AJHL.  In his freshman year Gracel scored 4 goals to go with 9 assists.  His production really picked up in his last two years at UMass when he scored 27 combined goals as a junior and senior.  During his junior season he averaged a point a game for the Minutemen.

Kurt Keats – F– Powell River Kings (BCHL)
13-14  51GP / 19G / 36A / 55pts / 77PIM
14-15  52GP / 31G / 34A / 65pts / 79PIM
Other BCHL Forwards:
Steven Iacobellis  35GP / 15G / 27A / 42pts / 46PIM
Eric Filiou  45GP / 12G / 15A / 27pts / 34PIM
Keats’ stats in the BCHL compare favorably with current Minuteman captain Steven Iacobellis.  You can see that Iacobellis only played a partial season in his last year in the BCHL, and while he was on a better points per game pace, Keats has the edge in terms of goal scoring.  Iacobellis has done well from a scoring standpoint in his first two years, including finding the net 11 times as a freshman.  I think fans would be happy to see a similar output from Keats this year.

Ryan Badger – F – Philly Jr Flyers (USPHL)
13-14  45GP / 18G / 41A / 59pts / 36PIM
14-15  48GP / 23G / 41A / 64pts / 55PIM
Other USPHL/EJHL Forwards
Dominic Trento  48GP / 25G / 44A / 69pts / 60PIM
Frank Vatrano 19GP / 13G / 9A / 24pts / 20PIM
Shane Walsh 10GP / 8G / 7A / 15pts / 4PIM
KJ Tiefenwerth 43GP / 30G / 47A / 77pts / 14PIM
Obviously it’s tough to make a comparison to Vatrano and Walsh since they played so few games in the EJHL (which later became the USPHL) and put up huge numbers in that short time.  But Badger’s numbers are very similar to those of Dominic Trento, who was a regular contributor on offense in the second half of his freshman year.  Trento ended the season with 5 goals and 5 assists in 23 games after missing some time with injury.

Carmine Buono – D – Powell River Kings (BCHL)
14-15  48GP / 2G / 24A / 26pts / 91PIM
Other BCHL Defensemen
Marc Hetnik 52GP / 3G / 8A / 11pts / 40PIM
Hetnik is the only BCHL defenseman that UMass has recruited recently.  Based on their numbers in the juniors Buono looks to have upside offensively and potential physically given the difference in PIM.  Hetnik had just a goal and an assists as a freshman for UMass when he played defense exclusively.  Last year he was moved up to forward at times and ended the year with 2 goals and 7 assists.

Joseph Widmar – F – Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)
13-14  54GP / 5G / 9A / 14pts / 8PIM / -5
14-15  60GP / 19G / 22A / 41pts / 46PIM / -10
Other USHL Forwards
Dennis Kravchenko 45GP / 13G / 33A / 46pts / 92PIM / +18
Keith Burchett 57GP / 18G / 24A / 42pts / 53PIM / +14
Ray Pigozzi  53GP / 8G / 26A / 34pts / 30pts / -6
Widmar had a breakthrough year with Des Moines compared to his previous year in the USHL when he split time with two different teams.  His numbers compare well against both Dennis Kravchenko (who played 15 less games in his last USHL season) and Keith Burchett.  Kravchenko of course led UMass in points last season with 33 (11G, 23A).  Burchett shined at times and finished with 2 goals and 7 assists.  Based on these comparisons Widmar could regularly contribute next year.

Nic Renyard – G – Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
14-15  30-8-3  / .924 sv% / 2.19 GAA
Other AJHL goaltenders
Paul Dainton 13-6-4 / .916 sv% / 2.42 GAA
The hope is Renyard will be the goaltender to give UMass the stability in net that they’ve lacked since Paul Dainton graduated.  So it’s fitting that it’s Dainton he’s compared against.  You can see Renyard, who was considered the best goaltender in all of Canadian Junior A hockey, had numbers considerably better than Dainton’s.  Dainton won 12 games as a freshman for UMass with a .911 save percentage.  He would go on to win 45 games total in his UMass career.

William Lagesson – D – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
14-15  52GP / 2G / 14A / 16pts / 79PIM / +18
Other USHL defensemen
Brandon Montour 60GP / 14G / 48A / 62pts / 36PIM / +35
Ben Gallacher 42GP / 4G / 15A / 19pts / 72PIM / +2
Adam Phillips 47GP / 1G / 11A / 12pt / 16PIM / o
Lagesson is a defense first player, so the comparisons to Montour and Gallacher probably aren’t a good fit.  Still, Lagesson was considered one of the best defensemen in the USHL this year and that in itself is a pretty good comparison considering that it’s the top tier of American junior leagues.

Michael Iovanna – F– Bonnyville Pontiacs (AJHL)
13-14  27GP / 6G / 8A / 14pts / 28PIM
14-15  14GP / 2G / 2A / 4pts / 10PIM
Other AJHL Forwards:
Riley McDougall  58GP / 30G / 31A / 61pts / 36PIM
Patrick Lee 58GP / 23G / 32A / 55pts / 34PIM
Branden Gracel 58GP / 38G / 56A / 94pts / 50PIM
Iovanna is a tough one to look at only because he hasn’t had a chance to play a full season of juniors anywhere.  He really is a wildcard when it comes to this freshman class.

We are just 10 days away from UMass’ exhibition game against Dalhousie.  Since I wasn’t able to post last night we have a couple of seniors to profile.  First up is #11 Ben Gallacher.  Gallacher, a Florida Panthers draft pick, transferred to UMass from Ohio State.  He did fairly well offensively in his first year with UMass, grabbing 11 points total.  But more often than not he tended to be a defensive liability on the ice.  Last season he seemed to improve in terms of play in his own zone and while the defense struggled as a whole, his mistakes seemed less glaring.  He was still a contributor on offense, gaining double digits in points for the second straight year.

As the lone senior on a defense that could potentially see the other five blueliners made up of four freshman and a sophomore, Gallacher will be depended upon to be a veteran presence to the group.

photo by Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics

The other senior to spotlight is #10 Shane Walsh, who will be key determinant whether UMass can be successful this coming season.  The Minutemen will have to find a way to replace the goal scoring of Frank Vatrano and Walsh seems like one of the logical choices to do so.

Walsh put in solid minutes in his first two and a half seasons with the Minutemen but wasn’t a big producer offensively during that time.  Walsh became a different player however once the calendar changed to 2015.  He scored a goal against UConn on January 2nd.  A week later against Maine he scored two more, the same amount he had scored in the entire first half of the season.  From that point on Walsh scored regularly, only once going two consecutive games without a goal.  He also developed a knack for scoring big goals, none bigger than the one in the fifth overtime against Notre Dame in the playoffs.  Was the second half of the season a fluke for Walsh or can the team expect that kind of production throughout his senior year?  There are few questions more important to this team than that one.


photo by Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics

Matt Vautour covered Hockey East Media Day for the Gazette, getting the team’s perspective of being picked to finish last in the league.

Conor Sheary is making a good impression in Penguins camp.  He was going through the power play routine with guys like Sergei Gonchar and Pascal Dupuis.

Like UMass, Colorado College, the Minutemen’s first opponent, is picked to finish last in their league.  But their 14 (yes, 14) freshmen looked pretty good in the team’s intrasquad scrimmage yesterday.

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