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View From Section U ▲ Minutemen Look To Reverse Second Half Struggles

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the challenges ahead for the Minutemen in the second half of the season in terms of schedule.  Half of their 16 games left on the season will come against teams at the top of the KRACH and USCHO rankings.  With the team currently at 6-8-4 on the season it’ll be a tough road for UMass to get back to .500 or better.  But it’s not just the opposing teams that the Minutemen have to contend with.  UMass has historically done poorly in the games that come after the holiday break.

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Recruit Update ▲ Bear, Makar Win Gold At World Junior A Challenge

Future Minutemen Shane Bear and Cale Makar, both currently playing together for the Brooks Bandits in the AJHL, won gold this past week representing the Canada-West team at the World Junior A Challenge.  Canada-West beat Russia 2-1 in the championship game. Makar had a goal in the tournament, and hit a post in the championship, while Bear did not register a point.  Makar was named to the tournament all-star team.

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News ▲ UMass Falls To Team USA 4-0; Vatrano, Sheary Shine In Bruins-Penguins Matchup

The Massachusetts hockey team played their final game of 2015 on Friday night in an exhibition game against the US Junior National Team, falling by a score of 4-0.  The game was the conclusion of Team USA’s evaluation camp ahead of their trip to Finland to compete in the World Junior Championships.  I think there are positives and concerns to take away from the exhibition loss and probably highlights the team’s most glaring area of improvement heading into the second half; offense.

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News ▲ Brian Williams Commits To UMass; Minutemen Face Team USA Friday

The Massachusetts hockey team picked up a commitment from forward Brian Williams (insert exaggerating newscaster joke here) today.  The news was first reported by Over The Boards on Twitter:

Williams later took to Twitter to announce his commitment as well:

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Midseason Review ▲ Looking Ahead To The Second Half

In last night’s midseason review post I took a look at how the season has played out so far for the Minutemen, from their hot streak in October to start the season to the current nine game winless streak heading into winter break.  Now it’s time to look ahead to the games remaining.  The team is not trending well right now, but there’s still a lot of hockey to be played and with the team currently tied for seventh in Hockey East they’re still within striking distance of a number of achievements.

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Midseason Review ▲ After Hot Start To Season Minutemen Limp Into Winter Break

The Massachusetts Minutemen play an exhibition hockey game this Friday against the US Junior National Team, but for all intents and purposes the team is on winter break, having played 18 of its 34 regular season games this season.  So this is a good time to reflect on what has transpired so far in the first half of the season.  Maybe it makes sense to split that half in halves again, because there were two distinct phases of the season and one could almost say the Minutemen were two distinct teams in those two time periods.  In the early part of the season UMass surprised everyone, jumping out to a 6-2-1 record and finding itself just on the outside of the USCHO rankings.  But the Minutemen have not won since grabbing that sixth win on November 7th, going winless in their last nine games and losing their last five straight before break.  The sum of the two performances leaves UMass holding an overall record of 6-8-4 with their 2-4-4 league record leaving them in a three-way tie for 7th place with New Hampshire and Vermont.

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Weekend Wrap-Around ▲ UMass Heads Into Break Tied For 7th In Hockey East

There were only two Hockey East games on the schedule this past weekend as most of the league’s teams played against non-conference opponents as the Massachusetts hockey did or were idle.  But the two league games there were ended up being pretty entertaining and and perhaps a little surprising.

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Recap ▲ UMass Loses To Union In Final Seconds Of OT, Extends Winless Streak To 9 Games

There were numerous times in Friday’s contest against Union where it seemed like the Massachusetts Minutemen were on the verge of securing their first win in eight games.  UMass had the lead and momentum very early on thanks to a breakaway goal just 49 seconds into the game.  They had the momentum again late in the game when they roared back with two 3rd period goals to tie the game and had the chance to play the final four plus minutes of the game with a power play.  But in the end the continued offensive problems and defensive breakdowns hurt the Minutemen’s chances to head into winter break with a win and one final lapse handed the win to Union with under 10 ticks of the clock left.

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Preview ▲ Union Comes To Amherst To Close Out First Half Of Season

Union College Dutchmen 5-6-4 (2-5-1) ECAC T-10th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 6-7-4 (2-4-4) Hockey East T-6th

I’m not sure I’d reach into the bag of clichés and call Friday’s game against Union a “must-win”, especially since it’s versus a non-conference opponent.  But, it would be a big positive for the Massachusetts hockey team to head into winter break with a win, especially since they’ve gone winless in their last 8.  A win would bring the Minutemen back to .500 for the season, a position not many people around college hockey thought they’d be at this point in the season.

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View From Section U ▲ 2015: The Year Of Walsh

Friday marks the last Massachusetts hockey game of 2015 and there is likely no one who will be more sorry to see the year end than Minuteman senior Shane Walsh.  To say the West Roxbury native had a breakthrough performance during the calendar year would be an understatement.  Walsh has not only gone from a grinder, third-winger type to one of UMass main offensive contributors since last January, but he’s now one of the top goal scorers in all of college hockey.  That transformation 12 months ago was nearly instantaneous and simply spectacular to watch, especially since he has a knack to score right when the team needs it most.  As the year comes to a close it’s worth taking another look at Walsh’s amazing exploits.

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