View From Section U ▲ UMail

It’s been a while since I sat down and wrote a View From Section U piece and even longer since I did a UMail session.  I have some ideas for some future View From Section Us in the near future, so I’ll try to do a better job posting material beyond the usual previews, recaps, and recruit updates.  And the reader response for this UMail session was pretty good so maybe I’ll try to do another right before the stretch run in early February.  Without further delay, let’s get to the questions.



Dongara Transfers In; UMail

Before we start in on your questions, there is a bit of semi-bigish news today.  College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni confirmed via Twitter this morning that Northeastern’s Rob Dongara has transferred to UMass.  He’ll have to sit out a year as a transfer but is allowed to participate in practices and team activities this season.  He’ll have two years of eligibility at UMass.  The rumors about Dongara being Amherst bound have been circulating since before Toot Cahoon stepped down.  However the attention then swung towards Toot leaving and the coaching search that followed.  In the time since I was able to confirm that he enrolled at UMass but never could find out if he truly had a spot on the roster under the current staff.  It ends up he does and as of today was officially added to the UMass roster.

So Dongara is now in Amherst and will hopefully be an important part of UMass hockey’s future.  His effort and energy made him a fan favorite at Matthews Arena and the 6 goals and 14 points he accumulated as a freshman help his support among the crowd as well.  But last year he ended up, for lack of a better term, in the dog house under new coach Jim Madigan and played only 15 games and scored just once.  UMass fans will hope that his decline in product and playing time had more to do with the change of coaches on St Botolph Street and not Dongara’s play.

Personally I don’t exactly know what to think of the move.  I have a lot of respect for Dongara’s high effort game and what he was able to do in his first season at Northeastern.  But at the same time you can’t help but question if the roster spot would be better used on a skill recruit.  Time will tell and I am hoping his time in Amherst goes well, if only so I can make it a topic of discussion during my regular visit’s to TKO Malley’s Sports Bar in Scituate, his hometown.

Here is the Husky Hockey Blog’s coverage of Dongara leaving the school last spring.  At the time they wrote it was expected he’d transfer to Atlantic Hockey or DIII.  Ouch.

On to UMail!

Regular comment contributor George asks, “Have we heard anything about CBS3? Is their secondary channel carrying home games again? And after rereading your post, can I assume it’s the same broadcasting team coming back?”

Excellent question regarding CBS3 and I’ll tell you that I have no idea.  I haven’t heard anything either way as UMass hasn’t come out and said if they’ll be covering any sports this year.  If I can find out an answer, I’ll pass it on.  Regarding your second question on the broadcast team, I’m glad you asked.  Honestly when I first read the release regarding the radio deal two things stood out to me.  First, it was only a one year deal.  Rewad into that however you’d like.  Second, there was no mention of the broadcast team.  I will tell you that there’s a good chance the team of Brock Hines, John Hennessy, and Adam Frenier returns next season but as far as I know it has not been totally decided.  Barring an invite from the PGA Tour, I’m think we can bank on Brock Hines coming back for another season or 30.  But the rest of the details are still being finalized.  Remember, UMass has handed over the management of all broadcasts to Nelligan Sports Marketing, so in the end they’re the ones making the call.  I wouldn’t have a problem with all three of them coming back.

Anonymous asks, “Rob Dongara. Great name or the greatest name?”

Are you kidding?  It’s not even the best Dong-based name.  That belongs to Long Duck Dong.  However I do think we should send a contingent of Mullins Maniacs to Boston to see what it will take to procure the “The Dong House” banner from the balcony of Matthews.

The infamous Wardy asks, “What renovations would you make at Mullins and bring it to a level matching other HEA rinks? Its neither new or historic.”

Three things:
1)  New weight room/training facilities for the team.  Everything I’ve heard from those around the team is that UMass’ weight training facilities and things like whirlpools used for post-game and injury recovery are among the worst of the league.
2)  A compressor or compressors that can adequately service both the Mullins Center and the practice rink.  UMass has had some of the best skaters in Hockey East in recent years but that advantage has been diminished due to slushy conditions.
3)  Bring the trophies downstairs from outside the Massachusetts Room.  The concourse at the Mullins is entirely too sterile.  UMass has a ton of athletic history, let’s bring it to the masses.  One of my favorite pieces in the trophy case is an old Blackhawk-style Redmen jersey.  Seeing that type of hockey memorabilia along with all the accolades won by the basketball team would gives Minuteman fans a better appreciate of the school’s rich traditions.

Greg asks, “Do you feel as if some college hockey writers have overlooked UMass?
After all, we are returning the core of our team with only a few

It seems like the previews are just now starting to make their appearance, so I don’t think we’ve seen enough to conclude how writers are leaning at this point.  I did notice this one came out from College Hockey Weekly picking UMass 9th.  I also regrettably checked out the USCHO boards this week and saw that most posters have UMass out of the playoffs this coming season.  Honestly, this happens every year.  Most writers or fans predict UMass won’t make the Hockey East Playoffs, yet they always do.  They’ve made it to the quarterfinals every year since 2002.  But obviously the coaching change will temper any postive expectations that there may have been surrounding this team, despite the fact that the bulk of the talent comes from the junior class and the goaltending should only get better as players mature.  But don’t expect UMass to get the benefit of the doubt.  They never have.  At the very least Mike McMahon, arguably the most knowledge writer covering Hockey East, did tell me that he’s picking the Minutemen to finish at least as high as 7th, so they’ve got that going for them.

Thomas asks, “Will there be any updates in the jerseys into this year, and will we know what they look like before October 12?”

Good question.  I’m pretty sure the team will be using the same jerseys this year, but I don’t know that for certain.  I hope that includes the third “Massachusetts” jerseys as well.  I can tell you we won’t see the Frozen Fenway jerseys again as those were sold off as part of a fundraising effort and I know that Joel Hanley will have to personally fight me to get his back (OK, he’d win, but still…).  But no, as far as I’ve heard there won’t be any uniform changes this year.

Scott, my homebrew mentor, asks “What is the appropriate beer to drown one’s sorrows after a tough loss?”

The de facto answer is anything from Amherst Brewing Company.  Why?  Well, that’s the usual post-game spot nowadays.  That works well because after a loss I’m looking for something high alcohol yet sippable to help me forget about whatever I just watched.  Between their own stuff and their expanded guest list I can usually find a nice barleywine or imperial something-or-other to do the trick.

However, the real answer is whatever beer is closest.

Carson asks, “Which players are you expecting to make the most progress this coming year? Who do you think is most likely to fill the holes left by Syner, Hobbs, and Marcou?

I’ll answer your first question with either Rocco Carzo returning to more of an offensive role or Andrew Tegeler having a breakout season.  I think Carzo is capable of being a much larger part of the offense, which is why I have him on the second line in my line projections.  Carzo has had his ups and down in his career at UMass, excelling as a freshman playing with Casey Wellman and James Marcou, struggling as a sophomore, and then being a huge part of an impactful third line last year.  Something tells me his roller coast career will end on the upswing as a senior.

As for Tegeler, I really enjoyed his combination of size and skill last year and frankly wished he had played a lot more.  Fans will have to remember that he was the youngest player on the roster last year.  I think that a season under his belt will pay off a ton in this coming year.

Who will fill the holes left by the graduating seniors?  Well I think UMass has the guys to take the place of T.J. Syner and Danny Hobbs.  I’m most concerned about finding that everyday person to be the sixth defensemen.  Anthony Raiola, Darren Rowe, Mike Busillo, Connor Doherty.  It could be any of those guys, but I don’t see any of them as a lock at this point.

Mrs Triangle asks, “When is Mr. Slice coming back?”

For those who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Slice, he was the Dominos mascot in the form of a slice of pizza who kids/students/drunk people would shot on in between periods at hockey games.  There’s something very surreal about watching comfort food stonewall would be scorers wearing sneakers on the Mullins ice.  Anyway, I don’t think Mr. Slice will ever be back unfortunately.  However I’d love to hear the word’s “Mr. Slice OWNS you!” ring out from the Mullins crowd at least one last time.

Matt from Fight Mass asks, “Everyone talks about players that can break out in the new coach’s system, what player is likely to drop off without Toot.”

An interesting question.  I’m not sure if I can say someone will drop off “without Toot”.  However I can tell you that Pat Kiley is a player who I’m interested to see if he can build upon his success last year.  I don’t think too much was expected of Kiley going into last season and he had problems being effective early due to too many trips to the penalty box.  But by the end of the season he had four goals, eight points, and some huge minutes on that key third line.  I wasn’t a huge believer in Kiley early on in his career, but after seeing what he’s capable of when he’s playing his best last year I’m interested to see if we see the same this season, perhaps something even better, or if he falls off and ends up battling for playing time.  One thing’s for sure, thanks to his play he’s made a lot of fans of those who follow the team closely.

Josh asks, “Realistic 5 year goal under coach Mic?”

Honestly, I expect no less than returning to the Garden in his second year when much of the core of the team are seniors and then returning to the NCAA tournament no later than year four.  I’m not sure whether that’s considered aggressive of conservative against the average fan’s expectations, but given the team he has inherited and just the base expectations of an NCAA coach, I don’t think that’s a big stretch.

Thanks to everyone for their questions!

This is a big weekend for UMass running back Mike Cox as he returns to the Big House where he once took to the gridiron wearing the legendary maize and blue for the Wolverines.  However, before those times he was actually a hardcore hockey player according to this story from the Michigan Daily.  Interestingly, after he moved on from hockey he played football at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut, the prep school that has provided UMass with the likes of Jon Quick and Mike Pereira.  Hopefully hockey fans will see him in the stands this winter with the other students cheering on the team.

For those UMass fans making the trip out to Ann Arbor, here’s my quick Beer The Triangle preview for you.  First off, go to Jolly Pumpkin.  They’re one of my favorite breweries.  Perhaps in my top 5 and that’s saying a lot.  Second, Arbor Brewing is very good as well.  Thirdly, go to Ashley’s just a few block north of the Michigan Student Union and drink a lot of Bell’s. Lastly, go to Blue Tractor Brewery.  Their beer is ok, but the frosted strip on the bar designed to keep your beer cold is perhaps the greatest technical advancement of our generation.

It sounds as if Merrimack is exploring a DI women’s hockey program.  The Warriors also broke ground on their significant facility expansion and upgrade project.