UMass to Forgo Exhibition Game

So Dick Baker confirms what I speculated earlier in the week, that Toot Cahoon will be skipping an exhibition against a CIS team in lieu of an intra-squad scrimmage.  Hopefully said scrimmage will be open to the public as I mentioned in my last post.  I’d actually be a little disappointed without being able to watch some kind of game in the practice rink to start the season.  Watching the team there is a lot of fun.  You can stand and actually have something to lean against.  You’re at great risk for losing teeth, which adds excitement.  You can hear everything on the ice.  And, everyone on the ice can hear what you’re saying.  It’s satisfying to be able to watch Tim Benedetto laugh at whatever good-hearted ribbing you send his way.

Herald HS Hockey guru and UMass alum Jim Clark reports that new assistant coach Blaise MacDonald will be one of the featured speakers at the Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association clinic.

FTT reader Amy pointed out that Chase Langeraap will be returning to the South Carolina Stingrays this season, the ECHL team that he signed with following the college season last year.  Pretty much all the UMass alumni you’d expect to sign or re-sign have, with the notable exception of Alex Berry.  How are AHL or NHL teams not clamoring for a guy who racked up 34 points and 150 PIM last year in the AHL?  Oh and he was also nominated for AHL Man of the Year for his work off the ice.

As a college hockey fan it’s incredibly sad and at the same time infuriating that with all the conference shuffling going on right now there’s no place at the table for Alabama-Huntsville and they may have to shut down their program.  Come on.  Somebody step up and do what’s best for college hockey in general.


Recruit Update; Q&A With Ryan S. Clark

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
39 GP / 20-16-1 / 3.02 GAA / .902 sv%
Boyle’s team was eliminated in the second round of the BCHL playoffs after he got injured. He did pretty well in the playoffs going 6-6-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack (AtlJHL)
41 GP / 8 G / 19 A / 27 Pts / 97 PIM
Busillo’s season is over as his Wolfpack were eliminated by Walpole in the first round of the AtlJHL playoffs. He had a goal in three playoff games.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
49 GP / 13 G / 42 A / 55 Pts / 76 PIM
Shattuck won the Tier-I Under 18 National Championship this past weekend in Simsbury, CT.  Gillespie was the 12th leading scorer in the tournament, netting two goals and three assists in the six games. 

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
LaRue’s season has come to a close as his Waxers lost in the first round of the playoffs. He had a goal and four assists in five playoff games, including a game winner and a shorthanded goal.

Joseph Manno – South Kent Cardinal (NE Prep)
24 GP / 16 G / 27 A / 43 Pts
South Kent was upset in the prep playoffs despite being the top seed.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union Wildcats (NE Prep)
35 GP / 24-7-4 / 1.63 GAA / .923 sv%
Mastalerz’s season is over after KUA lost in the first playoff game 4-3 in overtime.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
46 GP / 8 G / 7 A / 15 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh went scoreless in his one game this week.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko is currently suspended and hasn’t played since March 27th.

Here is a  Q&A I recently did with Ryan S. Clark.  Clark is a Maine grad (but we won’t hold that against him) who writes for the Fargo-Moorehead Forum where he covers the USHL’s Fargo Force and Minnesota high school hockey.  His blog, Slightly Chilled, covers all levels of amateur hockey.  I started following him on Twitter when the Force’s Oleg Yevenko committed to UMass and was able to get his thoughts on UMass’ towering recruit and other topics.  Much thanks to Ryan for his contribution.

Fear The Triangle: Yevenko is currently serving a multi-game suspension and was suspended at least one other time earlier this season. Since media coverage of the USHL is sometimes scarce, would you be able to shed any light on what transpired that led to the most recent or earlier suspensions?

Ryan S. Clark:  Sure. From what I gathered from talking to scouts, he used an elbow and that was enough to warrant a 6-game suspension. He’s got four more games left in the suspension. Oleg’s been suspended quite a few times this season. He’s been suspended twice according to the league’s transaction’s page. NHL and college scouts have both said what hurts him is the fact that he’s so tall that when his elbows move around, they are usually within distance of someone’s chest or higher and there are times where it could be something simple that turns into something worse.

FTT:  Yevenko obviously plays on the edge in terms of his physical style. Would you say his toughness is an asset overall to the Force or do the penalties and suspensions make him more of a liability?

RSC:  It is an asset for sure. Fargo is a physical team and it is no secret that they’re going to make a game tough just for the fact that they like to check and get gritty with people. His toughness would also be an asset because he’s so physically imposing. Coach Jason Herter has said about penalties in general that they are part of the game and that these things happen. With Oleg they happen a lot as he’s set the record for most PIMs in a career by a Force player.

FTT:  How would you describe the strengths of his game?

RSC:  Aside from size, he can actually move the puck pretty well. His shot is also pretty strong too. His shot is a hard one that when accurate can be tough to deal with. Another strength of the game is his positioning. He uses his frame to make sure he can cover the ice and get into the passing lanes. He can also block a shot too.

FTT:  What are the areas you think he needs to work on as he sets his sights on college hockey in a top conference like Hockey East?

RSC:  Speed. He sees a lot of it in practice and in the league, but speed is so killer in Hockey East to where it can be your downfall. He just needs to get faster or continue his adaptation into handling speed when it goes against him. I haven’t seen him get burned at all, then again, he wasn’t going up against the Da Costas of the world every weekend either.

FTT:  Do you know what, if any, other schools were also looking at Yevenko?

RSC:  To my knowledge, I am not sure if others were looking at him. Most players tend to be pretty quiet about all that just because they don’t want to burn bridges. But from what I gathered, other schools were indeed looking at him.

FTT:  How are the Force’s chances to win the Clark Cup?

RSC:  They’d have to be good but they also have to be consistent. The Force have a ton of talent and everyone around the league knows that. They just have to be consistent when it matters. The thing that helps them is that entering last weekend, they were tied for the most road wins in the USHL with 19. Bad news is, they have an average home record. If they can win those home games they can be back in the Clark Cup Finals for a third straight year.

FTT:  As someone who covers both the USHL and Minnesota High School hockey, how would you compare the level of play of the two?

RSC:  Great question. In truth, they are different. The USHL is a faster, physical league that relies on talent and/or systems to win games. That and the defense and goalies on this level are far better than what you see in Minn. HS. Another thing about the USHL that makes it different is the skill level. Take a guy like Force forward Joe Rehkamp for example. He played at Breck in Minnesota and kid was easily the fastest skater in the state. He comes to the USHL where he uses his speed to kill but it hasn’t translated into a lot of goals like it did in high school.

That said, Minnesota HS hockey is very good. There is talent there and it is a great place for recruiters to go. MNHS is like any high school sport where you have a balance of power and the power is pretty much with the schools in the Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul and its suburbs.) Schools like Eden Prairie, Edina, etc. are in locations where kids can train year round and go against the best competition whether it be in the fall with the Elite League or the regular season. Then there are outstate schools like Duluth East, Moorhead and Roseau that get respect and work hard too. They also have kids in the Elite League but they are few and far between compared to the Cities schools. There is talent that can make the jump from HS to college, but most of them need the USHL or any junior league for that matter to make the transition.

FTT:  UMass recruit Kenny Gillespie is playing for Shattuck St Mary’s in Minnesota. Have you seen him play at all and what do you think of his game?

RSC:  I have not had a chance to see him play but I have been following Shattuck because how can you not? They don’t play the public schools, which is something most people outside Minnesota do not know. But know this, if you are playing at Shattuck that is saying a hell of a lot because they don’t just let bums walk into that place. If UMass or any school has someone that is at Shattuck right now, congratulations. You know that kid is going to come in with talent but more than anything, work ethic.

FTT:  UMass recruit Shane Walsh is playing for the Dubuque Saints of the USHL. Have you seen him play at all and what do you think of his game?

RSC:  I’ve seen him a few times this year and he’s not a bad player at all. He’s got some speed about him, which is a plus. The times I’ve seen him, he’s been good but just has had a hard time getting scoring chances. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Dubuque has some monsters and one guy you’re going to hear about if you haven’t already is John Gaudreau, a Northeastern commit. He’s uber talented. Going back to Walsh, he’ll be a good addition for UMass because he can play defense and he doesn’t make a lot of dumb decisions. He’ll be a hardworking forward for them.

FTT:  Lastly, how in the world does a Maine alum end up covering amateur hockey in Fargo, North Dakota?

RSC:  My goal is to cover the NHL and you can’t say you want to do it covering Texas HS Football like I was doing before I moved to Fargo. The Forum had an opening and I told myself that if I was serious about getting back into covering hockey I needed to make this move. Things have worked out to this point and that’s why I am here. Fargo is great and I enjoy being here. But I know there is an end all goal and that is the NHL. I grew up a hockey fan and I always knew I wanted to cover it. I covered the women’s team at Maine for two years and Hockey East women for a year at while I was a senior. My last two jobs got me out of hockey but I really missed the game and covering it. So I made a choice. I don’t regret it at all. Coming to Fargo has been the greatest experience of my career and I know it’ll lead to bigger things. There’s an old African saying, "You can’t hide the sun with your hand forever." My time will come, I know that.

The UMass Athletics site has another entry to Chase Langeraap’s blog following his first journey into pro hockey.

Staying in the ECHL, former UMass captain Dean Stork was named runner-up for the league’s Coach of the Year award.  Stork, in only his first year as a head coach, led the Greenville Road Warriors to the second best record in the league. 

UMass Hockey Award Banquet News

I wasn’t able to make it to the team banquet yesterday, but luckily I got a first hand account from Brock Hines and Dick Baker has a nice writeup about the event, which included an emotional speech by Paul Dainton who received the team MVP award.

Here are the awards given out yesterday:

Team MVP – Paul Dainton
Rookie of the Year – Mike Pereira
Jack Canniff “Unsung Hero” – Doug Kublin & Chase Langeraap
Minuteman Spirit Award – Kevin Moore
Most Improved – Anthony Raiola

I can’t argue with any of those. Though personally I think Most Improved could have been shared between Raiola, who did a great job showing that he should be considered for an everyday spot on the blueline next season, and Danny Hobbs, whose production exploded this year.

Also announced at the banquet was that T.J. Syner and Hobbs will be co-captains for next year’s squad while Mike Marcou will keep his role as assistant captain.

Yesterday I mentioned that there’s a good chance UMass will be heading up to Canada to play regular exhibition opponent University of New Brunswick in a future year. Thanks to FTT reader Graham for bringing to my attention that the V-Reds, a powerhouse in the CIS, won the championship yet again. Graham also endeared himself to me by passing along beer suggestions, specifically Propeller Brewery in Halifax.

The Boston Herald has an article on ex-BU assistant coach David Quinn who is now coaching the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters where he names Greg Mauldin as one of the key leaders on the team.

Miscellaneous Monday

It has been a few days since my last post. I’ve been on a bit of a FTT sabbatical which ironically enough consisted of watching a lot of hockey and drinking some good beer. Time to catch up on what’s going on with UMass hockey and the rest of Hockey East.

Paul Dainton picked up his first professional win on Saturday night against the Worcester Sharks, stopping a 12 game winless streak for the Falcons.  Dainton had 39 saves and even picked up an assist in the effort.  He was able to keep former teammates Cory Quirk and Matt Irwin off the board and got the win over former Lowell goaltender Carter Hutton who got lit up for 4 goals in 11 shots before being yanked.

Chase Langeraap is writing a blog covering the beginning of his professional hockey career for the UMass Athletics site.

Alex Berry was named the Norfolk Admiral’s representative of the AHL Man of the Year.  Berry is being recognized for his participation in a variety of causes in the Norfolk area.  Truly he’s doing an excellent job carrying on the legacy of dedicated community involvement that we’ve seen develop in Amherst in recent seasons with the UMass program.  Berry is now up for the league-wide award for the AHL.  Congratulations to Alex, a great representative of the University of Massachusetts.

I likely would’ve been at Dainton’s first win in Worcester if I didn’t end up deciding to head up to Manchester for the Northeast Regional at the last minute.  I attended the games with my father, a Merrimack grad, who quite frankly has learned everything he knows about Warrior hockey from yours truly.  Still it was fun to bring him up there to watch his alma mater make their first NCAA appearance since 1988.  First off, we started the afternoon at the Strange Brew Tavern, which I recommend for those looking for a good place for a beer in Manchester.  They have an excellent selection of northern New England brews and I enjoyed some Smuttynose, Woodstock, and Trout River during my visit.  Saturday was my first visit to Verizon Wireless Arena, which I thought was a pretty nice minor league venue aside from what seemed like some narrow concourses.

I was certainly surprised by what occurred in the first game between UNH and Miami.  The Wildcats had a very solid year, but the way in which they shutdown a very talented Miami team was extremely impressive.  I had looked forward to seeing Hobey Baker finalists Carter Camper and Andy Miele for the Redhawks but they did not live up to their reputations that day.  Both showed good moves and hands but like the rest of their team were unable to put quality chances on net all night and UNH came away with the upset.

The stories of the second game was a great Merrimack crowd and how their team was killed by bad goals.  The Merrimack crowd was impressive, many sporting jerseys or specially made t-shirts.  They were spurred on all night by the University of Dayton hoop band which Merrimack had rented for the last three weekends.  They were energetic and entertaining but I found it sad that now even Atlantic 10 basketball foes can claim they have a better hockey band than UMass.  Anyway, onto the game, the Warriors played great.  Unfortunately Joe Cannata let in some soft goals as well as a couple flukes.  The softie from way out to cut Merrimack’s lead 3-2 was really the killer.  The game-winner in overtime was simply a great effort by Notre Dame.  I have no idea what Anders Lee thought would happen when he laid out and poked the puck towards the net, but it’s that kind of desperation and extra play that wins games.  Jeff Jackson’s timeout five minutes into an overtime period dominated by the Warriors was the smartest move I saw all day.

UNH could not continue their tough defense the next day against Notre Dame who moved onto the Frozen Four.  And with Boston College getting embarrassed in their first round game the Frozen Four will unfortunately be without any Hockey East representation after dominating the tournament for the last three years.

Hockey East has seen a flurry of early defections to join Maine’s Gustav Nyquist and BU’s David Warsofsky who signed with NHL teams last week.  Boston College will be without Paul Dainton’s newest teammate Cam Atkinson who signed with Columbus and Jimmy Hayes who signed on with the Blackhawks.  Eagle fans are likely worried that Chris Kreider may be leaving Chestnut Hill early as well.  Merrimack’s Stephane DaCosta has not signed as of yet, but  all reports say he’s on the verge of signing a free agent deal with any number of clubs and has already secured an agent.

Don’t forget, the Reverse Raffle is this Friday.  You cannot beat this event.  For $115 you and a friend can hang out with other fans, coaches, parents, and everyone else associated with the program, eat some good food, drink some good beer, win some cool prizes (I just kicked in a $50 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card myself), and maybe even walk away with $4,999.  Best of all, the program walks away with money too from this fundraising event.  Don’t you hate how BC, BU, UNH, and Maine always seem to have all the money and support in the conference?  Well here’s your chance to help level the playing field (ice?) for UMass hockey while having a good time as well.  Hope to see everyone there.

Dainton Signs With Springfield; Big Ten Makes It Official

Paul Dainton will not have to travel far to start his pro career as he signed an amateur tryout with the Springfield Falcons today.  Springfield also signed Northeastern’s Wade MacLeod.  The Falcons have nine games left and, as usual, will not make the playoffs.  You’ll remember that the Falcons also gave former goaltender Gabe Winer a chance after his UMass career, playing two games for them before hanging up the pads and heading off to law school.

Chase Langeraap scored his first pro goal in only his second game for the South Carolina Stringrays.

The Big 10 officially announced that they’ll be forming their own conference starting in 2013-14.  It seems that most of the college hockey community is meeting this announcement with dismay, although it’s been rumored for years and was essentially guaranteed ever since Penn State announced they were adding hockey.

I certainly understand some of the concerns coming out of the western programs.  Personally I think the WCHA will be fine with schools like North Dakota, Denver, and Colorado College carrying the flag for the league.  Even with Wisconsin and Minnesota having down years recently the WCHA hasn’t lost any of its national standing thanks to the emergence of Duluth and the additions of Nebraska-Omaha and Bemidji State.

The CCHA’s situation is a little more precarious.  Miami and Notre Dame have established themselves as annual NCAA participants, but the directional Michigans and other lesser schools in the conference are worried that crowds will suffer without annual visits from Michigan and Michigan State.  This could be a legitimate issue.  Or it might not.  One has to wonder if the non-Ivy ECAC schools were worried about the same thing when the New England schools split off to start Hockey East in the early 1980s.  It will also help that the new league is slated to play only 20 conference games and will have plenty of chance to schedule their old CCHA and WCHA foes.  Although that would also require teams like Michigan to actually play a non-conference game away from the friendly confines of Yost.

While there is some risk that schools like Bowling Green and Ferris State could struggle to survive, there’s also a good chance that college hockey could gain strong programs from existing Big 10 schools who look to create their own programs.  College hockey could use more stability and having the large, high-profile state universities (or Northwestern) in the Midwest could help provide that solid foundation in addition to grow the sport into already established college markets.  How great would it be open up those classic college towns like Bloomington or Champaign to the wonder that is college hockey?  Hopefully, that’ll be the consequence of today’s announcement.

The NCAA tournament field was officially announced yesterday.  Boston College will be heading west as a #1 seed.  Merrimack and New Hampshire are both Manchester bound as a 2 seed and 4 seed respectively.  Check back later this week as I make my tourney picks.

Langeraap to the ECHL; Dennehy Stiffed

Congrats to Chase Langeraap who has signed on with the South Carolina Stringrays of the ECHL.  He already dressed for their first game last night out in Kalamazoo against the K-Wings (one of the random pro teams I’ve seen to before).  Former Minuteman Stephen Werner played a couple seasons with the Stringrays from 2006 to 2008.  Nice to see Chase taking his game pro.

Hockey East announced their major award winners last night.  As I predicted earlier this week, Mike Pereira lost out to BU’s Charlie Coyle for Rookie of the Year.  However, that was just a minor difference of opinion compared to the epic snub that was Mark Dennehy somehow not being named coach of the year.  Listen, I have tremendous respect for Jerry York and consider him the best coach on the college level.  But he had his core group of players coming back off a national championship last spring and essentially has his pick of recruits every year.  On the other hand Merrimack has been an absolute joke for most of its Hockey East existence.  They played their home games in the equivalent of an MDC rink in front of a handful of fans.  When he took over the program a great number of Hockey East fans were actively campaigning for Merrimack to be kicked out of the league because they were a drag on the conference.  Five years later Dennehy has brought Merrimack to the Garden, got them home ice in the Hockey East playoffs, and for a period this season had them in the top five in the country.  No matter what happens tonight or tomorrow they will be heading to the NCAA tournament.  This isn’t a great turnaround story of this season.  This is one of the most amazing turnarounds in the history of college hockey.  Yet, somehow in Hockey East’s eyes, Jerry York did the better coaching job this year.  I’ve seen some major screw jobs in my many years of Hockey East on the ice, but this off ice one may be the worst.  I’m flat out astounded.

In a more minor surprise I thought the voting for player of the year to be suspect as well.  It doesn’t bother me that UNH’s Paul Thompson won.  While he wasn’t my pick he did have an amazing season and is a worthy winner.  But the runner-ups were John Muse and Kieran Millan?  Millan?  Seriously?  The guy was 4th in the league in goals against and win percentage.  How was Cam Atkinson not a runner-up?  He’s a Hobey Baker finalist after all.

Here’s the Hockey East major awards.  And here are the various All-Star teams.

Saturday Recap; UMass’ Season Comes To An End

Empty net goal notwithstanding, it’s fitting that UMass last game of the season ended up being another one goal loss.  Again UMass went toe to toe with one of the conference’s and nation’s best teams but fell just short and the 2010-2011 season has come to a close.  Boston College, behind a hat trick from Jimmy Haye,s will move on to the Hockey East Semifinals next week.

UMass did something that we haven’t seen in a while, jumping out to a lead just 21 seconds into the game on an unassisted goal by Chase Langeraap.  This was exactly what UMass needed if they were going to have a chance so it was great to see at the time.  But from there on out there were a lot of missed opportunities and penalties that ended up being UMass’ downfall.  The two too many men penalties were just killer, especially the second one which occured in the second period where UMass spent way too much time killing penalties.  As a result of all that time in the box they only had three total shots on the period (I believe all occuring on the power play).  And of course BC tied the game on that too many men penalty as well.   If UMass is able to generate 30 shots against BC, this game could’ve had a very different result.  But 20 shots makes it tough to beat any time, especially someone like BC where you’re trying to match their high offensive output.

Paul Dainton had another great game in net, coming up big when needed to keep his team in the game.  The team in general moved the puck pretty well, especially considering Brendan Gracel did not dress due to reasons unknown (to me).  It was good to see Mike Marcou tie the game at 2-2 in the second.  It’s certainly been a tough year for Marcou between injuries and disappointing play, but he had one of his best games of the season last night and I’m glad to see him head into the offseason on a positive note.  The defense as a whole had another good game and should be commended on limiting BC’s chances in the series.

Not much else to say.  Usually I use these recaps to highlight positives or negatives for the team to build off or correct for the next game.  But unfortunately there is no next game.  I would like to say a final thank you to seniors Shawn Saunders, Brian Keane, Chase Langeraap, Doug Kublin, Mike Lecomte, Marc Concannon, and Paul Dainton.  It was clear the guys who were able to dress this weekend were not going to let their UMass careers end without a fight and absolutely played their hearts out.  Thanks guys and good luck in the future.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Chase Langeraap
Turning a BC turnover into a goal just seconds into the game set the tone for the night and immediately gave UMass a legitimate chance to win.  He didn’t stop there though playing good defense and also leading the team in shots with five.  He made his last game one of his best.

The team is done but I’m not.  Some of the recruits are still playing, a few of the seniors will likely be signing professional contracts, and of course Hockey East and the NCAA both have to crown champions.  So make sure to keep checking here for all that.  I’ll also be writing some season recap posts in the next few days as well.

Dick Baker says the team left everything they had on the ice in his recap.

Dainton says they knew if they scored first they’d have a chance to win in the Gazette recap.

Here’s the story from the Boston Herald.

Joe Meloni of College Hockey News has a piece on Dainton and the state of the program that’s a must read for all UMass fans.

Friday Recap

This team is slowly but surely understanding just how good they could potentially be.  The problem is, by the time they learn just what they’re capable of with a full effort and better execution the season will be over.  UMass played good, but not great, through the first two periods last night, doing well defensively but really being unable to challenge Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan with any real quality chances.  Some excellent goaltending on the part of Paul Dainton helped keep UMass in the game and only down a goal going to the third period.  That’s when things flipped.  UMass suddenly found their offense and scored three quick goals to get back in the game but their defense and goaltending failed them at that point and Maine was able to squeak out a win.  Last night marks the 6th one goal loss in UMass’ last 7 games.  If UMass had just had some of the fire they showed in the last 10 minutes in the rest of the game however, it might’ve been very different.

There were some great individual performances last night.  Adam Phillips continues to come up with big goals, his wrister got the torrid scoring going in the last part of the third.  It came off a great pass from behind the net from Marc Concannon, who frankly I was surprised to see out there after blocking a Maine shot with his lower leg earlier in the game and going to the bench.  It was good to see Mike Pereira put in a goal, coming just 7 seconds after Danny Hobbs’, after going the entire month of February without one.  UMass did a good job of staying out of the penalty box, taking just 3 penalties total.  Conor Allen is really starting to play some good hockey and might have had the highlight of the night when he levelled a Maine player skating with his head down through the neutral zone.  It would be a huge benefit to the team to see him continue to play physically like that.  He was also asked to step up on the power play and when Dainton was pulled at the end of the game with Joel Hanley out for the year.

This team is more than capable of winning regularly against good teams.  The last 7 games has taught us that.  But playing less than a complete game every night is killing them.  Maine was ripe for the taking last night but it took a full 50 minutes for UMass to be able to get passes on sticks and to really challenge Dan Sullivan in the Maine net.  They cannot wait around to desperation time to turn it on.  This teams needs to play hard when it’s 0-0, not wait until they’re down 0-3.  The final seconds of the season are ticking down.  It would be great to see the team do what the coaching staff and fans can see they’re capable of.  Win.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Chase Langeraap
Langeraap only had an assist last night, Danny Hobbs putting home one of his rebounds, but I thought he was the best player on the ice for the entire game.  He was active on offense, putting a total of 6 shots on net to lead the team.  He played physical and did well on defense as well, taking the puck away from the Black Bear players on a number of occasions.  Hopefully we see a repeat performance tonight when he and the other seniors are honored.

With Providence losing last night that means that UMass will make the playoffs if the Friars lose or tie or UMass wins or ties.  7th place is still within reach with Vermont tying Lowell.  A Catamount loss and a UMass win will put UMass into a tie with UVM, with the Minutemen the owners of the tie breaker.  The Hockey East regular season title is on the line when Boston College and UNH meet in Durham tonight.  A BC win or tie gives them the title.  BU still has a chance to finish ahead of the Wildcats in the standings.

Unfortunately it sounds like Brian Keane has played his last game for UMass after getting hurt in practice this week.  When Concannon went down after blocking that shot I thought we could potentially be honoring three seniors in street clothes tonight.  Luckily he came back in the game later.

Dick Baker says the back door to the playoffs is still open for the Minutemen.  I really hope it doesn’t come to that and the team gets a win on senior night in front of their last home crowd of the season.

Another missed opportunity says the Gazette.

Here’s how the game looked from the Maine point of view.

View From Section U: Thank You Seniors; Busillo Commits

Another Senior Night is upon on which means it’s time to say goodbye and thank you to another class of players who have pulled on that UMass sweater for the past four years.  This graduating class was perhaps the first to hit campus with some pretty high expectations as UMass was just coming off their first NCAA appearance the spring before.  Unfortunately, the team hasn’t made it back there since.  And even more unfortunately this class has had to endure three losing seasons and one in which they finished .500.  However, despite the overall wins and losses, this set of seniors includes some who, in my opinion at least, can be considered among UMass’ best ever.  It also includes guys who truly give it their all each and every shift, guys who battled through injuries for the good of the team, and others who developed slowly but are now playing big roles as the squad tries to make something of this season coming into its final week.  The 2010-11 UMass Minutemen might be remembered more for their freshmen, specifically the sheer number of them, than anything else.  But the poise and progress that those young players have shown as of late is due in some part to these seniors and the leadership they’ve and the examples they’ve provided.  And with that, let’s remember each one of them who will take the Mullins ice for the last time on Saturday night.

#9 Shawn Saunders
Saunders played sparingly his freshman year but made a big splash in his debut when he scored the game-winning goal against UConn in what was a much closer game than it should’ve been.  From the start it was apparent that he possessed great speed and the inability to take a shift off.  I’ve seen very few players that give their all for an entire game like Saunders does.  And that dedication has made him a fan favorite among those who follow the team closely.  While he played a majority of games his junior season, he has only played in a handful this year which also saw him sit out with some medical issues along the way.  Personally, I’ve always thought he should’ve seen more ice time in his career here.  It always frustrated me to see him as a healthy scratch in the stands while “more talented” players were in uniform sleepwalking through their shifts on the ice.  Give me the effort guy who wants it more every time.  And that’s exactly what Shawn was in my eyes during his time here.

#15 Brian Keane
Keane came to campus with some high expectations after being a regular participant in a lot of the USA Hockey events while in juniors.  I think that always made it tough for him here because he wasn’t able to live up to what fans thought he would be, but at the same time maybe they’ve overlooked what he was doing to contribute all along.  This year however he has looked much more comfortable in his abilities and the role he was able to lend to the team.  That’s been one of a key defender who has also been able to throw the body around here and there during games, adding a physical dimension sorely lacking on this year’s squad.  He certainly had some highlights in his Minuteman career, like the overtime winner he tipped in against Maine his sophomore year just 11 seconds into the extra frame.  With such a large freshman class coming in I wondered at the beginning of the season if someone like Keane would see playing time.  But he’s made his case to be an integral part of the team and his effort on defense will be missed in the coming years.

#17 Chase Langeraap
Langeraap is another Minuteman who came to Amherst with high expectations.  But that’s what happens when you put up 60 goals in 98 junior games.  Unfortunately inconsistency and injury through the years didn’t allow him to put up those kind of numbers.  In fact he went without a goal in his junior year, his second season shortened by nagging injuries.  However, like Keane, he has probably saved his best season for last.  This year he has shown a lot of leadership, lifting the inexperienced Minutemen with key goals when needed.  His 8 goals this season matches the amount he had scored in his previous three seasons combined.  He has become a player that both fans and his teammates look to offensively and they’ll being doing the same this weekend against Maine.

#18 Doug Kublin
If this season has taught us anything it’s that freshmen will make freshman mistakes.  Especially on defense.  Adam Phillips, Joely Hanley, Colin Shea, and Conor Allen have all had their share of flubs, which isn’t a indictment on them specifically, it happens to all freshmen blueliners.  Except Doug Kublin.  From the first day he hit the ice as a Minuteman he’s been amazingly reliable.  I have no qualms in saying he’s one of the best pure defensive defensemen in UMass history.  Good defensemen are sometimes like referees, if they’re doing their job correctly you hardly ever notice they’re there.  And that’s certainly happened with Kublin who is surely taken for granted by the casual fan.  But every once in a while he’ll remind you of his constant presence with a key poke check, sacrificing his body in front of an opponent’s slapshot, or even playing goaltender when Paul Dainton is caught somewhere out of the net.  Though the team has been outscored greatly in his four years here he’ll be leaving with a very respectable +/- rating.  Also, it should be noted that UMass has never lost when Doug Kublin scores.  Here’s hoping he scores in every game he has left.  It’ll be strange not to see Dainton in the crease next year.  But it’ll be equally as strange not to see Kubby standing in front of it either.

#21 Marc Concannon
Concannon’s combination of speed and grit has played a key role in all four years he’s played here.  If the puck is caught up somewhere along the boards, he’s the player I want to see battling to get it free and out to a teammate.  Amazingly, my lasting memory of him will be one of skill though, rather than the grinder we’ve seen night in and night out for so long.  Coco hasn’t scored a lot of goals in his career, but surprisingly a number of them have been anything but the garbage goals you’d expect with his style of play.  The one that sticks out the most in my memory was in Providence his sophomore year when he skated in on the goaltender and roofed the prettiest wrist shot you’ve ever seen up into the top corner of the net.  The Friar goaltender had absolutely no chance and us UMass fans in attendance stood almost too dumbfounded to celebrate.  He has repeated those types of finesse plays in the years since to the point where we now know it’s not a fluke.

#25 Michael Lecomte
Unfortunately Lecomte’s story is one of what could’ve been.  He was well on his way to a good career at UMass after his two first years when injuries struck in his junior year, derailing him right when he was beginning to have a huge impact on the team’s results.  After missing this past fall recovering from surgery he appeared to be the missing ingredient on this year’s squad when he scored 2 goals in his first four games back.  But in the fifth game back he got banged up and unfortunately saw his last action as a Minuteman the next game against Vermont in Burlington during January.  Would this second half of the season have played out differently if Lecomte was still playing?  Most definitely.  For a team that has lost as many one goal games as this squad to have another guy who can find the back of the net could’ve been a difference maker.  Mike had one of his best games in what was probably the pinnacle for this senior class when he scored a goal and picked up an assist as UMass beat #4 Colorado College to win the Lightning College Classic in Tampa.

#31 Paul Dainton
What I personally want out of a goaltender is for them to go into every game and play well enough to give their team a chance to win.  Sure it’s nice to have a guy like Jon Quick who’s able to play well enough so you can win despite how good or bad the guys in front of him are playing.  But those Vezina candidate type guys don’t come around very often.  No, I just need a guy who is dependable, trustworthy, and keeps his team in the game.  In other words, I just want a Paul Dainton.  Dainton will leave campus playing in the most games, accumulating the most minutes, registering the most saves, winning the second most (or most?) games, and being behind only Quick for save percentage and goals against average in UMass history.  First or second in every major career goaltending record in UMass history.  Why?  Because he has gone out there every night, from his freshman year on, and been a damn solid and reliable goaltender.  Every.  Single.  Night.  What’s just as remarkable  as Paul Dainton the goaltender is Paul Dainton the person.  Last night on the radio show they remarked that they wanted him on the show since he just broke Brian Regan’s save record last weekend, but he couldn’t attend.  Why?  Oh yeah, he was busy teaching psychology.  In addition to his studies he has given back to the surrounding community by taking part in the Big Brother-Big Sister program, something that got him nominated for the Hockey Humanitarian Award this year.  The captain’s “C” can look a little out of place on a goaltender’s jersey during those rare times you see it in the sport of hockey.  But those who have watched Paul play and had the chance to hear him speak will tell on his jersey, it’s well deserved.

Ladies and gentlemen, those are your 2010-2011 UMass Minutemen seniors.  Please make sure you do whatever you can to get out to Amherst on Saturday to thank in person these fine student athletes who have sacrificed their time, energy, sweat, blood, and so much more representing our state university for the past four years.

UMass has gained a committment from Mike Busillo, a 6’2″ 195lb defenseman currently playing for the Junior Wolfpack in the AtlJHL.  He’s due to arrive in Amherst this fall.  In addition to his decent size, Busillo has been the top offensive blueliner for his team with 8 goals and 19 assists in 41 games.  Busillo made the AJHL All-Star Squad this season.  He’s considered a bit of a late bloomer because he ended up playing high school hockey for longer than you usually see.

Here’s the press release from his junior team on his committment.

This December edition of USA Junior Hockey magazine has a feature on him where one of his coaches calls him a diamond in the rough and mentions he was being recruited by some of the top DI schools in New England.

I also got an email from a friend of the hockey program today who has seen recruit Steve Mastalerz play and had some positive things to say about him   And I trust this person’s opinion very much on this matter.  So legitimately we may have a three way battle for the goaltending spot, or goaltending rotation, next season.  It should be interesting to say the least and I still think competition for the goaltending spot is only a good thing.  The person was also nice enough to share some of Mastalerz’s stats for the prep regular season; goals against average of 1.63 (uh, that’s pretty good, huh?) and save percentage of .923.  I’m still not sure of his exact record but I do know Kimball Union went 24-7-4 with Mastalerz in net for nearly all of those games.  KUA played Kent tonight in the first round of the prep playoffs.  No information on how they did as of yet.

I’m behind on updating the recruit page with Mastalerz and Busillo.  Bear with me!

Dick Baker has an interesting post on the Mullins Center staff getting their asses in gear for the game (OK, he says it nicer than that).  It certainly was frustrating that they couldn’t get the scoreboard working since many of us were counting down until Dainton broke the saves record, but Toot had more reason to be pissed since his players couldn’t see when penalties were expiring.  From scoreboard malfunctions, to bad ice, to security staff who do nothing, to dirty (seriously dirty) banners hanging from the rafters, the operation of the Mullins Center has always left something to be desired.  They’d be best to take it away from the third party operators and at least give it to Isenberg’s sport management department to run.

Baker also says Gustav Nyquist is worth the price of admission.  Agreed.

People in the past have argued that Merrimack should be kicked out of Hockey East since they played in the equivalent of an MDC rink.  That’s not the case anymore.  People in the past have argued they should be kicked out because they, frankly, suck.  That’s also not the case.  I think some people will still argue that they should be kicked out because of this God awful youtube video.  They might be onto something.

Polls & Awards; Alumni Game; Demianiuk’s Biggest Battle

UMass’ next opponent, Merrimack, was the big mover in this week’s poll jumping five spots to #6 in the USCHO poll following their sweep of UNH.  Boston College remains at #1, UNH at #8, BU at #15, and Maine at #19.  The Terriers will likely fall after losing to four win Harvard in tonight’s Beanpot consolation game.  Merrimack cracks the top five of the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

Same goes for the INCH Power Rankings.

Merrimack was also named the Hockey East Team of the Week.  No UMass players were named award winners or top performers, but Paul Dainton and Chase Langeraap were mentioned in the Milestones section.

Saturday afternoon a host of former Minutemen took the Mullins Center ice for the annual alumni game.  The game featured players going back to the 1970s teams.  Here’s an incomplete list of some of the players that were on the ice; Steve Sullivan, John Riley, Mike Merchant, “P.F”, Tiger Holland (one of my favorite players from the triangle era), R.J. Gates, Keith O’Connell, Jeff Lang, Peter Trovato, Mike Warner, Tim Warner (who played as a skater), Brett Watson, Matt Walsh, Topher Bevis, Jordan Virtue, and a bunch of others.  I realized what a huge difference the video boards makes in terms of getting to know the players because we now know what they all look like underneath the helmet.  Before then they were just names and numbers.  Dan Meyers was also there but didn’t play as he is still recovering from some surgery he had over the summer.  Tom Dougherty, also coming off surgery, mostly played the role of referee/master of ceremonies.  The goaltending matchup featured Mike Buckley, current goaltending coach, against one of the student managers whose name unfortunately I didn’t catch.  And last but not least I’m sure it surprises pretty much no one to know that Will Ortiz scored the game winning goal.  It also may be one of the few games I’ve watched where he didn’t end up in the penalty box.

It was great to see all those guys on the ice, having fun, and back to support their alma mater.  Most stuck around for the game and got a good hand from the crowd when they were introduced between the second and third periods. 

Another player who came back to campus and on the ice playing in the alumni game was Dusty Demianiuk.  Dusty came to UMass in 2001 and immediately was a huge physical presence on the ice but his overall defense was so-so to start with and he ended up only playing partial seasons for his first two years.  But he worked really hard while on his game and by the time he was a senior he not only was playing all the time but was one of the more reliable defensemen in the league, all while maintaining that physical play.  In my years of watching UMass hockey there are few players that have progressed so far as a player in their four years in Amherst as Dusty.  He went on to have a good career in the ECHL with the Phoenix Roadrunners before being selected as one of the winners on the NESN reality show “Be A Bruin”, gaining an invite to training camp with the Boston Bruins.

This past spring Dusty got his leg checked out, thinking he had an old hockey injury that had healed incorrectly.  Unfortunately it ended up being stage 2 soft tissue cancer and to make matters even worse the diagnosis came on his sister’s birthday of all days.  He spent the spring and summer enduring surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy, crediting his years of hockey with helping him endure through the adversity of battling cancer.  But endure he did.  He’s currently cancer free, returned to work in the fall, and even got married in October (he made sure to mention that his wife is also a UMass alum).  And on Saturday he returned to the ice for one of the first times since his battle with cancer.  He may have looked a little thinner than his time at UMass and of course wasn’t able to display that prowess for hard hits that we may remember since there wasn’t any checking, but it was still great to see him out there playing the solid defense we’d come to expect of him.

The Collegian has their weekend recap as well as a wise story about how it’s important for the team to shoot a lot and score ugly.

I meant to mention this is my recap yesterday, but Coach Cahoon acknowledged that the power play is broken in Saturday night’s postgame press conference and will work to change the overall power play strategy.  Dick Baker has the story and makes the case that Darren Rowe may be the solution to the extra man woes.