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Up To The Minute ▲ Jeszka Commits; Frozen Fenway & Other Scheduling News

I last posted exactly a month ago.  I did not expect to go so long between posts but first I went to Florida to drink a lot of Cigar City Brewing attend a wedding and when I got back I just couldn’t find the time and/or motivation to write.  But after some time to recover from the feverish rate of positing as the season ended and the subsequent coaching moves were made, I think I’m finally ready to start spending some time on UMass hockey again.

It’s the offseason so there isn’t a ton to catch up on, especially since the focus of Coach Carvel and his staff has likely been more on getting settled in Amherst than actual hockey stuff.  But there were a few major developments since the last post.

Carvel got his first commitment of his UMass tenure when left wing Griff Jeszka committed for this coming fall.  The Muskego, Wisconsin native played this past season for the Brookings Blizzard of the NAHL.  He was team MVP as he accumulated 15 goals and 38 assists in 59 regular season games.  The ‘95 birth year is listed at 6’1”, 195 lbs and is a left shot.

A little taste of Jeszka can be seen in this top ten highlight reel from November where he had the #9 play:

Beyond Jeszka, not much has been made public about the makeup of next year’s or the following years’ recruiting classes.  It does sound like there will be major changes due to the coaching change.  Defenseman Jake Massie has already switched his commitment to Vermont.  Though not confirmed, it does sound like defenseman Shane Bear and forward Niko Hildenbrand will still be coming to Amherst this fall.

Bear of course is part of a Brooks Bandits team that also includes UMass commits Cale Makar and Kyler Nachtigall.  At the end of April the Bandits won the AJHL championship by beating the Spruce Grove Saints, who were backstopped by UMass commit Matt Murray.  The Bandits also won the AJHL championship last season when their leading scorer was current Minuteman Austin Plevy.

As far as I know Murray, Makar, and Nachtigall are all still committed to UMass.  Murray and Makar were recently honored as the CJHL Goaltender and Rookie of the Year respectively, which covers all of Canada’s Junior A hockey leagues.  Nic Renyard won the CJHL Goaltender and MVP last season.

Ross Gienieczko of the Collegian had this interesting article on Carvel’s arrival where he talks everything from the need to reenergize the student fans to bringing former coach Toot Cahoon back into the fold in some unofficial capacity.

The Collegian had this article marking Athletic Director Ryan Bamford’s first year on the job which has some hockey mentions.  So does this similar piece on Masslive from Dan Malone.

The schedule for next season is starting to become public and the biggest news so far is that UMass will participate in Frozen Fenway this season.  Details will be forthcoming but per Mike McMahon the Minutemen will be playing Boston University on the Fenway ice in early January.  UMass played previously at the old ballpark in 2012 when they beat Vermont in overtime on a Mike Marcou gamewinner.

It was rumored that Frozen Fenway might return last season but for whatever reason, perhaps the fact that the NHL Winter Classic was announced for Gillette Stadium, it didn’t happen.  At that time the plan was for UMass to play UConn in a non-conference game, perhaps kicking off a tradition where the schools would play three games a year with a trophy on the line, as they do currently with Lowell.  In the end UMass is playing BU with McMahon reporting that Fenway Sports Group put together the matchups last month and wanted to avoid the Boston schools playing each other.  It sounds like the game will count towards the Hockey East standings and that UMass will lose a home game as a result.

I can’t say I’m overly enthused about the announcement.  The last Frozen Fenway UMass played in was fun in its uniqueness, but let’s face it Fenway is barely tolerable for watching baseball nowadays.  If you truly want to watch hockey, it’s terrible.  But if the league is going to insist on doing the outdoor hockey thing, I’m glad at least UMass has a chance to benefit with the exposure.  I just hope I have a better view than last time:

A piece of scheduling news that came out today is that UMass will participate in Minnesota’s Mariucci Classic this season, with the championship being played New Year’s Eve.  Mercyhurst and Alabama-Huntsville will be the other teams participating.  Matchups will be announced at a later time.  UMass didn’t do well the last time they played in the Mariucci, losing to UAH.  But that season ended with the Minutemen in the NCAA tournament, so it’s all good.

Some of the league schedule is starting to come together as well.  UMass will host Lowell on 1/14 and 2/18 while the Minutemen travel to the Tsongas Center on 2/11.  The 1/14 game will be the non-conference matchup against the sister school.  UMass will play a home and home with UConn on 11/4 (home) and 11/5 (Hartford).  UMass hosts Notre Dame for two on 12/2 and 12/3.  UMass will travel to Maine for two games on 1/27 and 1/28 and then will play the away game at BU the next week on 2/3.  UMass will travel to Northeastern on 2/10 and will finish the season with a home and home against Providence, just like this past season.  Senior Night at the Mullins Center will be Saturday, 2/25.

From a non-conference standpoint we already know UMass opens the season with two home games against Colorado College and will be travelling to Ireland for the Friendship Four with Quinnipiac, Saint Lawrence, and Vermont.

Nothing is official yet, but some other rumored games for UMass this season include a trip to Union, Army visiting Amherst, and games against Sacred Heart and AIC.

I’ll try to put together a tentative schedule page in the near future to keep track of what we know and what we don’t.

I’m writing this while watching former captain Justin Braun and his Sharks take on the Saint Louis Blues in the Western Conference Finals, which is tied at a game apiece.  In the Eastern Conference Finals another former captain, Conor Sheary, has helped the Pittsburgh Penguins take a 2-1 lead over Tampa Bay.  Could we have Minuteman vs Minuteman in the Stanley Cup Finals??

Meanwhile a couple former Minutemen travelled overseas once their pro seasons ended to represent their countries in the IIHF World Championship.  Frank Vatrano headed to Russia to help Team USA while Oleg Yevenko was over there to play for his native Belarus.  Vatrano and Team USA have made it to the semifinals.

Joel Hanley, who made his NHL debut this season for the Canadiens, had an excellent season for their AHL club in Newfoundland.

Former Clarkson coach Mark Morris will take over for Carvel at Saint Lawrence.

Vermont goaltender Packy Munson is heading to Denver after Mike Santaguida solidified his spot as Catamount starter this past season.

Sun Devils to the NCHC?

The WCHA is moving their entire playoffs on campus.

Two last things.

First, as part of the UMass Gives event I put my money with my mouth (typing fingers?) is and made my donation to the hockey excellence fund.  The fund is still a long way from its goal with only a couple weeks left.  Us UMass fans have complained for years that the school needs to show it is committed to hockey and get a quality coach to lead the program.  That has happened.  Now it’s time for us to do our part to help the program be competitive in Hockey East.  If we want to be a big time program in the conference, we need to support it as a fanbase like the big time schools do.  That means being loud in the stands and opening your wallets in the offseason.  If you can only afford to give $10, then give $10.  Every amount helps.

And lastly, good luck to the women’s lacrosse team as they head to the Elite Eight this weekend.  Go UMass!  Beat the Terps!

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5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  May 20, 2016

    kudos to umass women’s lax…..great coach…a game away from final four and playing without 2 major players who are hurt…..GO UMASS

    Like

  2. Mel

     /  May 20, 2016

    Thanks for the reminder on the excellence fund. I am in.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m in too- and looking forward to having a Blucy Lucy with Tater TOTS at the Blue Door in Minneapolis; perhaps washed down with a glass of Bell’s Oberon or a Summit EPA before the championship game of the Mariucci Classic!

    Like

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