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Recap ▲ UMass’ Season Ends As BU Sweeps In Hockey East Playoffs

The Massachusetts hockey team played some of their best hockey of the season this weekend against the #9 Boston University Terriers in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs.  Unfortunately it would not be enough to get them a win as BU swept the Minutemen out of the playoffs 2-1 and 5-4 to end UMass’ season.  In one of the more disappointing campaigns in recent memory the Minutemen end with a record of 8-24-4.

I was not able to follow Friday’s game, but by all accounts freshman Nic Renyard was the star for the Minutemen.  Renyard got the start for the playoffs despite not starting since 2/12 against Northeastern and the move paid off for coach John Micheletto.  Renyard had a career high 46 saves in a game that saw the Terriers attempt 96 shots in total.

UMass opened up the scoring 8:07 into the first period when Steven Iacobellis scored his 4th goal of the season.  The Minuteman captain had six of the team’s 29 shots on the night and the goal clinched his third straight season of 20 points or more.  That would be the only goal let in on the night by BU goaltender Sean Maguire.  The Terriers got all the offense they needed on the night from freshman Bobo Carpenter.  He would score his first early in the second on a centering pass from behind the net.  His second assured that UMass would not be able to repeat any overtime magic like in last season’s playoffs against Notre Dame, as he won the game with a rebound goal 9:34 into the first overtime.

The performance of the 12th seed Minutemen against the 5th seeded Terriers surprised a lot of people, especially since BU easily swept the season series by a combined score of 13-5.  The worry was probably that BU had taken the Minutemen too lightly in the first game and with the momentum of the extra time winner would romp on Saturday night to clinch the series.  Instead Saturday’s game was a hard-fought back and forth affair.  While Friday’s game featured stellar goaltending on both sides of the ice Saturday was more like the two team’s trading punches throughout the night.

BU got on the board first in game 2 with a goal 5:40 in by Jacob Forsbacka-Karlsson.  Dennis Kravchenko, who would have his first multiple point game since January, would find a loose puck in the slot and quickly pivot and put the puck behind Maguire to tie it at 1.  The game would stay 1-1 until the opening minutes of the second period when a Danny O’Regan slapshot would give BU the lead again.  Shane Walsh would take a Iacobellis feed from the corner and slip the puck between Maguire and the post to tie the game 2-2.  It would be the 18th goal of the season for Shane Walsh and unfortunately his last as a Minuteman.  Less than two minutes later however BU would take the lead again on Matt Grzelyck’s 10th.  UMass would tie it with a Kurt Keats power play goal late in the 2nd period but again would allow the Terriers to regain the lead almost immediate and BU would go into the final period with a 4-3 lead.

Austin Plevy  would put home a rebound early in the third period to tie the game 4-4 with just over 16 minutes left.  The goal gave Plevy double digits in goals for his freshman campaign.  Forsbacka-Karlsson opened the scoring on the night and would close it with a goal at 11:51 of the 3rd period.  The goal would be reviewed for goaltender interference but would ultimately stand.  Looking at the replay, Renyard loses his stick before the puck is shot, but it’s unclear if it’s knocked from his hands or if it just gets caught up with a Terrier who is set up in front of the crease.  The Terriers would clamp down on the Minutemen from that time onward and UMass would only manage three more shots on net as the clock expired on their season.  Though a higher scoring game, Renyard still played solid in net coming up with some big stops and totaling 38 saves.

The heart the Minutemen showed this weekend is admirable.  Not many, including myself, gave them a shot to even keep the games close much less have a chance to win both.  The weekend featured two very different kinds of game, a close goaltender battle and a shootout, and UMass was able to compete with a very good BU team in both situations.  It’s just too bad it took the prospect of the season ending for the team to display this kind of hockey.

The weekend marked the last in uniform for seniors Shane Walsh and Ben Gallacher.  Both performed well with Walsh tallying a goal and an assist and Gallacher putting up six shots on goal on the weekend.  I wish them well in their post-UMass careers.

Of course the weekend could also be the last for Micheletto behind the bench for the Minutemen.  The 8-24-4 record is the worst in his four seasons at UMass and for the second straight year the Minutemen finished in last place in Hockey East.  The overwhelming opinion from those close to the program is that the final year of his contract will be bought out in the coming days.  I can’t tell you how many “I talked to someone who talked to someone who said he’s gone” conversations I’ve had in the past few weeks.  But I have yet to get any specific confirmation from the decision makers at the university that a change will be made.  So until that time we wait.

There should be a change.  This was a talented team.  Though inexperienced, the team had too much skill to manage just two wins in league play.  Usually teams with a lot of underclassmen on its roster will start off slow and then be playing its best hockey towards the end of the season.  Instead what we saw was the team go nearly undefeated in the first month of the season and then struggle to stay close in games after that.  That’s a strong indication that something is amiss with the coaching.  Micheletto regularly points to injuries as being the reason things fell apart but the fact is the team was already trending in the wrong direction before the injuries hit in late December.  And the team should’ve had enough depth to not lose in the poor fashion they did nearly every night during the final three months of the season.

This will be an important offseason for UMass.  Perhaps the most important offseason since 1993 when the building blocks were first being laid to bring the program back into existence.  Under this coach the program has an established culture of losing, even the most hardcore of fans are abandoning the team, and booster activity seems non-existent.  UMass hockey cannot continue as is.  Even for one more year.  Another year under Micheletto makes the turnaround even tougher for the next coach to come in.  A change is needed and needed now.  The games are over but the most important aspects of the 2015-16 season are likely due to play out in the next few days.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game (Friday) – Nic Renyard
This one is easy.  Everyone who watched, listened, or followed the game on Friday seemed  unanimous that Renyard’s play is the main reason the game ended up going to overtime.  Hopefully this weekend gives the freshman some confidence and momentum going into the offseason.  He could be a big difference maker for UMass’ fortunes next season.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game (Saturday) – Austin Plevy
Plevy started the season with a four point night against Colorado College and ended it with three points against Boston University.  In addition to his goal to tie the game in the third period he also made a great pass on Keats’ score and assisted on the first goal of the night as well.

 

Friday’s Recap and Box Score and Saturday’s Recap and Box Score from UMass Athletics.

Here’s the Collegian’s recap from Friday as well as one from USCHO.  The Gazette had a game story as well.

The Collegian’s Saturday recap can be found here.  O’Regan’s play is featured in the USCHO story from Saturday.  The Herald article pushes the injury excuse again, despite that fact that only Callum Fryer was missing this past weekend.

I apologize for those who were looking for previews of this weekend’s series.  Family issues left me without a chance to write one.  But I don’t plan my usual extensive season recap posts in the coming days.  Of course any news of a coaching change out of Amherst will be covered extensively as well.  So keep reading.

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5 Comments

  1. Enough

     /  March 6, 2016

    Now we can start writing some positive comments!
    I fully expect a thorough, comprehensive search resulting in a legitimate coach/teacher coming to the flagship.
    I’m excited for the future, the quicker these last 4 years of frustration become a distant memory, the better.
    Bamford did the right thing, go Umass!

    Like

  2. Anonymous

     /  March 6, 2016

    Thank you for the recap. I was at a wedding all weekend. I made the mistake of clicking on the You Tube arrow. Makes me appreciate the broadcasters we have. Those guys are terrible.

    Like

  3. Anonymous

     /  March 6, 2016

    Greg Brown. Can someone please call him? He wasn’t even on the radar last time and we got the UVM jv squad. Please Mr Bamford step up this time. Thank you

    Like

  1. IT’S OVER: Micheletto Era Ends At Massachusetts | Fear The Triangle - UMass Hockey Blog
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