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Recruit Update

Last week’s odd schedule of games on Sunday, Tuesday, and Saturday along with a major holiday in the middle prevented me from posting a recruit update last week.  So there’s a lot of catching up to do.  Be sure to scroll down to an interesting article on Patrick Lee.

Ben Gallacher – D – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) – 2013 (transfer)
5 GP / 1 G / 0 A / 1 Pts / 30 PIM / –2
I now understand why Ohio State fans were worried about Gallacher’s penchant for taking a lot of penalties.  Gallacher, injured to start the season, played just two games before being hit with an eight game suspension by the USHL for an infraction.  He comes back and then three games later is now suspended another eight games for a cross-check.  Certainly this type of play is something that hopefully he learns from and gets away from before he ever gets to Amherst.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2013
19 GP / 5 G / 3 A / 8 Pts / 35 PIM / -1
Gillespie has been pretty quiet since we last checked in with him, only one assist in his last five games.

Mark Hamilton – D – Salisbury School Crimson Knights (NE Prep) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Salisbury is scheduled to play their first game this week.

Mike Iovanna – RW/C – Malden Catholic Lancers (MA High School) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Malden Catholic’s first game is on 12/15

Dennis Kravchenko – LW – Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) – 2013 or 2014
19 GP / 10 G / 11 A / 21 Pts / 28 PIM / +5
Kravchenko continues to contribute regularly for his team, grabbing two goals, including a shorthander, and two assists in his last five games.  He’s currently 11th in the league in goals and 8th in points.

Patrick Lee – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2014
24GP / 10 G / 12 A / 22 Pts / 6 PIM / 0
Lee has had a goal and two assists in his last five games.  This article from the end of October regarding Lee trying out for the Canada West junior team gives us a little more info about his recruitment.  It seems UMass beat out Ohio State and Minnesota State for his services.  It also mentions that Lee is a 2014 recruit, not a 2013 as originally thought.  Lee did not end up making the roster for this year’s junior championships however.

Casey Miller – C – Kimball Union (NE Prep) – 2014
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
KUA plays its first game this week.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
8 GP / 0 G / 1 A / 1 Pts / 4 PIM
No points for Smith in his recent games

Frank Vatrano– LW/C – Junior Bruins (EJHL) – 2013
11 GP / 8 G / 4 A / 12 Pts / 12 PIM
Vatrano had three goals and two assists in his last three games.  He’s leading the Junior Bruins in goals despite only having played a little more than half as many games as the rest of the roster.

Branden Gracel was named a UMass Co-Player of the Week, shared with football’s Rob Blanchflower.

The Collegian has this feature on former Minuteman captain T.J. Syner and how he’s faring in the pros.  Syner was one of the more exciting players in recent UMass history and it’s great to see him get a chance to play AHL hockey and perhaps beyond (if Gary Bettman and Jeremy Jacobs ever decide we get to have NHL hockey again).

A couple videos to share.  First here’s a look at what the UMass hockey team members are thankful for this Thanksgiving.  Personally, I’m thankful that Joel Hanley is thankful for Dunkin’ Donuts, because so am I.

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You can see that a lot of players are thankful for their mustaches.  Here’s why:

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Be sure to support Coach Mick this Movember to help battle prostate cancer.

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Vermont Recap

Many of the circumstances that surrounded Sunday’s drubbing at the hands of Lowell existed last night as well.  You had a game being played on a day when the team usually does not have to worry about playing.  Due to that, the Mullins would be filled with a small, unenthusiastic crowd.  And they were playing a team that may be near the bottom of the standings that had some extra motivation.  For the Catamounts I think wanting to prove something to their former staff that now resides on the home bench at the Mullins Center was a motivator.  However, they were able to overcome all that and beat Vermont in convincing fashion in the annual holiday tradition game by a score of 3-1.

I won’t comment too extensively on the game since I was not able to make it out there, for good reason.  But I was able to watch the video stream of the game while listening to Brock and Adam (who I think are doing an excellent job so far in their new roles).  There are two main takeaways I think from last night’s game.  First, the team did another good job defensively after giving up a touchdown and two point conversion against Lowell.  I think a lot of this improved defense had to do with the return of Kevin Boyle and Mike Busillo.

It’s obvious that Boyle is the team’s number one goaltender and has given them nothing but solid, consistent play.  Boyle is statistically the second best goaltender in the league and save for injury or some kind of implosion there’s no reason he shouldn’t be in net every game.  Mike Busillo returned to the lineup and by all accounts played well.  He finished with a +2 rating and led the team with three blocked shots.  While it doesn’t always tell the story of defensive play, his +5 rating is tops on the team.

The other main takeaway is that it was the key players who UMass needs to rely on who stepped up offensively.  Branden Gracel had two goals.  Mike Pereira and Conor Sheary both had a couple nice assists to set up goals.  Pereira has now had six points in the last five games after going without any in his first five.  I also thought he played exceptionally well on defense last night, an area of his game he continues to focus on.  Sheary now has registered a point in eight of his last nine games.  While I hope we start seeing some more goal scoring from him, as he only has one on the season,  he has been able to make a positive impact on offense consistently.  The other goal was scored by Conor Allen who continues to be perhaps the top all around player for the Minutemen, given his contributions on offense and defense so far.  He’s currently 7th among the league defensemen in scoring.

Thanksgiving dinner should taste a little better for the players after last night.  Losing, or really even tying the Catamounts, would’ve made for a disastrous last five days.  The team needed a win after managing just a point against a struggling Maine team and then getting blasted by an underachieving Lowell team, and they got it.  With the win UMass now finds themselves tied for 5th place in Hockey East and just a point behind Providence for home ice.  That’s certainly something to be thankful for.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Branden Gracel
Gracel’s two goal game last night was the first of his college career.  Both came due to hustle and heads up play.  His first came when he was pressing Vermont in the attacking zone and was able to jump on a puck and then skate in for the score.  On the second it was Mike Pereira who took the puck away from the Catamounts and made a great cross ice pass to a streaking Gracel.  Gracel also got things done in the faceoff circle, winning 15 of his 20 chances.

Last night’s highlights from UMass Athletics

The Gazette’s recap highlights the sequence where UMass was able to kill a 5 on 3 as the key play last night.  The penalty kill has improved nearly 10 points to 85% from where it finished last year.

Here’s the game story from the Republican.

The Collegian recap highlights the defensive and goaltending efforts.

UMass drops to #7 in the College Hockey News Hockey East power rankings.

Boston University Preview; Patrick Lee Commits

#13 Boston University Terriers 1-1-0 (1-1-0) T-3rd Hockey East

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Massachusetts Minutemen 1-1-0 (0-1-0) T-7th Hockey East

This will be a key weekend for Massachusetts who looks to bounce back from a very disappointing performance last Friday that saw them drop a game to Boston College despite having a two goal lead late. This is more than just trying to gain some momentum and confidence however. UMass must pick up points this weekend to avoid finding themselves near or at the bottom of the standings just three games into the conference schedule. It won’t be easy though as they’ll have two games against #13 Boston University, including one at Agganis Arena where the Minutemen have traditionally struggled.

BU has a win and a loss on the early season, topping Providence 4-2 in the season opener but losing 4-1 in Durham last week to UNH. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in net for the Terriers this weekend. Freshman Matt O’Connor started the first game and did well only allowing the two goals. Last week against UNH fellow freshman Sean Maguire got the nod but was pulled after 32 mins and four goals. O’Connor came in to relieve him and was perfect for the remainder of the game.

So far the Terriers are getting their scoring from all around as their five goals have been scored by five different players. A couple of those names aren’t unexpected, like Wade Megan and Garrett Noonan. But they’ve also gotten some good production from a couple of sophomores like Evan Rodrigues who has three assists so far and Carson Hohmann who as a goal and a couple assists as well. None of their heralded freshman class has tallied a goal to this point, but it’s probably only time until someone like Sam Kurker or Danny O’Regan puts one in th enet. BU will look to improve upon their power play and by improve I mean score. So far the Terriers are an uncharacteristic 0 for 7 on the season with the extra man.

UMass on the other hand will look to continue their impressive work on special teams. They’ve scored three power play goals on 13 chances thus far on the season, good for 23.1% and second among Hockey East teams. On the other side of things they’ve killed 11 of 12 of their opponents’ power play chances. That’s an excellent start for a team that struggled mightily on the penalty kill last year.

There shouldn’t be a lot of adjustments for the team to make as they’re playing pretty good hockey so far. They looked a bit rusty against UConn but played well enough to get the easy win. And they dominated the defending national champion for 40 minutes last week before a shortened bench caught up to them at the end. Even in that third period the team didn’t necessarily play poorly, BC just had a step on the Minutemen who simply ran out of gas. The one glaring thing the team will need to change from the first two games is the amount of penalties they’re taking. Double digit penalties like occurred against UConn absolutely cannot happen and losing Joel Hanley to an early misconduct ultimately became the difference maker last year.

While UMass has usually not done well at Agganis they did upset the then top ranked Terriers there last year. The veterans will look to rekindle whatever drove them to the win there tomorrow night before coming home to what should be another good crowd on Saturday. Not to sound like a broken record but it is imperative for UMass to scratch and claw for any points they can get early in the season. It doesn’t get any easier after this weekend as next week brings a white hot UNH team to town and an early season rematch with the Eagles. Two or three points against a good BU team would pay dividends in the long run for the Minutemen.

Beer The Triangle
No trip to Agganis is complete without a visit to mini-Sunset across the street. Last year we were lucky enough to be able to celebrate UMass’ big win with Alchemist Heady Toppers there. Now I’m lucky enough to be drinking a Heady as I write this preview. A look at Sunset’s menu shows a rarely seen Anderson Valley Cerveza Crema, a Green Flash/St Feullians collaboration, and a Southern Tier 2X Milk Stout. Saturday I plan to deviate from the usual pregame plans at the Hangar and hangout with friends and alumni for Homecoming festivities. Part of those festivities will be drinking some Bell’s Brewing that the legendary Flag Guy, veteran of the UMass student section, will be bootlegging from Pennsylvania.

As first relayed by Matt Vautour this afternoon, UMass picked up a commitment from forward Patrick Lee. Lee is currently playing for the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The 5’9” 155lb Lee is a native of Calgary. So far this year for Brooks he has eight goals and seven assists in just 13 games, that’s good for 17th in the league for goals and 20th for overall points. He’s already well ahead of his pace of last year when he scored nine goals to go with 23 assists in 51 games with Brooks. UMass has had luck with forwards coming out of the AJHL before, the most recent being Branden Gracel.

Here’s a goal of his last season, complete with Chelsea Dagger:

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Lee has already been picked AJHL Player of the Week once this year. Lee was also recently invited to the selection camp to represent Canada West at the World Junior Championships. No word on when Lee is coming to Amherst, but one would have to think it’d be for 2014 since there are already five and perhaps six player committed for next fall.

Matty V previews the game and adds that Mike Pereira is 100% good to go.

Harry Plumer has his game preview where Coach Mick says fatigue is not a worry, despite last week’s late game collapse. Plumer also had this feature on Gracel and Stephen Guzzo earlier in the week.

Michael King of College Hockey News has this story on the team trying to bounce back from last week’s loss. CHN also has their look at the weekend ahead as well as their Hockey East power rankings with UMass sticking at #7.

NESN has a preview of the home and home with BU where they predict Kevin Boyle will start on Friday.

The Collegian had this look at the student fan support in last week’s game.

Coach Mick was a guest on the Slap Schotts podcast this week, which provides excellent coverage of the ECAC.

Hockey’s Future has this profile of Conor Sheary.

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