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View From Section U: If You Can Play, You Can Play

I want to take the opportunity of my first View From Section U column of the season to publicly express my support for the You Can Play project.

For those who may not be aware, the You Can Play campaign was started by the family and friends of Brendan Burke, the former Miami RedHawk team manager who tragically died in a car crash in 2010.  Though he passed away at the young age of 21 he had already become a pioneer at the time of his death and the You Can Play iniative carries on Brendan’s mission; to fight against homophobia in sports.  The message is simple, if you can play, you can play.  Really, I think that says it all and to me it’s something that goes beyond just sexual orientation.

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As I said, it’s a simple message.  Therefore I don’t think I need to go on and on about why I think it’s important and worthy of my support.  The message speaks for itself.  I will note however that I happen to work in Canton, Mass, Brendan’s hometown, and I quite regularly will see the BB shamrock logo seen in the above video on cars around the area.  When I see them I instantly think of Brendan and his courage.  The courage it took to tell his father Brian Burke, the gruff general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the rest of his family that he was gay.  The courage it took to come out to his team, not knowing how such an admission would go over in the tough guy environment of a hockey locker room.  And the courage of going public with his story and taking on the role of an advocate for equality in sports.

My admiration for that courage and my belief in the values of equality and respect is what spurred me on to use my soapbox of Fear The Triangle to officially show my support for You Can Play.  While doing so I would like to call on the team and players that connect me to the sport of hockey, the UMass Minutemen, to do the same.  I’ve always been proud of the fact that hockey players from different locales and from different ethnic backgrounds have been able to come to Amherst and not only play hockey here but excel at it and become the very faces of the program.  And why shouldn’t they have done well at UMass because after all if they could play, they could play.  I would love to see UMass Hockey join these other college programs and professional players and organizations and support the You Can Play campaign to support equality and respect in sport.

I really enjoy this article by the Republican’s Harry Plumer about Kevin Czepiel being named one of UMass’ captains this year.  Part of the reason is that I love when UMass is able to bring in the local hockey talent from the valley.  It’s become a bit of a joke now but believe me when I decided to call Czepiel  with the moniker “Holyoke” in posts and social media early on in his freshman year it was because he does a great job representing that blue collar town in Western Mass as a total blue collar hockey player.  I think it’s really important for the UMass hockey team to not only represent the campus, but the entire surrounding area at the same time and Czepiel does a great job doing both at the same time.  Also interesting in that article is the fact that he was also recruited by Clarkson, Union, Providence, and Merrimack, something that did not come out when he was first recruited.

The USHL had this official release regarding transfer Ben Gallacher committing to UMass.  But at the same time I won’t have to update his stats from junior hockey for a while as the league suspended him ten games for a repeated cross-check in this past Saturday’s game.

I think I missed passing along the initial rankings, but CHN’s Scott McLaughlin has UMass as 7th in the league after this past weekend of Hockey East play.

Do yourself a favor and read this heartfelt tribute to former Merrimack coach Chris Serino by Mike McMahon.  Just want to reiterate that thoughts are with Serino’s family, including sons Anthony and Nick, two former UMass student-athletes.

The Boston Herald also had this in-depth bio piece on Serino.

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Gallacher To Transfer To UMass; Captains Named; Recruit Update

USHR reported yesterday that former Ohio State defenseman Ben Gallacher will be transferring to Massachusetts next fall.  He will be able to play immediately as he is sitting out this year by playing for Green Bay of the USHL.  Like UMass’ other transfer Rob Dongara, Gallacher will have three years of eligibility left when he starts next year.

Gallacher arrived in Columbus highly rated, a fourth round draft pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2010 NHL draft.  However by the time he got there the coach who recruited him, John Markell, was no longer there and Gallacher did not see eye to eye with the new staff.  So after scoring one goal to go with 11 assists with the Buckeyes, he left school last spring.  It was thought he would end up in major junior or even the AHL with the Panthers farm team.  Major junior seemed like a logical option since his father owns the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.  That didn’t happen though and he ended up in the USHL where he could retain his eligibility and look for another college.  According to USHR Boston College, Michigan, Western Michigan, and Michigan Tech were all interested in adding him as a transfer.  But this past Saturday he gave his commitment to assistant coach Joey Gasparaini who went out to watch him play after Friday’s win.

Gallacher, 5’11” 185lbs, gained a reputation as a skilled puck-moving defenseman in the AJHL playing for the Camrose Kodiaks.  His last year in his native Alberta he had five goals and 22 assists in 37 games.  This year for Green Bay he is pointless after two games in the books.  Overall this looks like a great pickup for the program and staff, their second addition to go with Dennis Kravchenko.   Gallacher will join Mark Hamilton as incoming defenseman next year.  Darren Rowe is the only defenseman who will be graduating this coming spring.  Interestingly Gallacher is the second tranfer from Ohio State for the program with the first being John Toffey who played for UMass from 2003 to 2005.

Hockey’s Future has this profile of Gallacher.

Here are some of his highlights from junior hockey:

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Here’s video of him talking about being drafted by the Panthers.

Before we get into the weekly recruit update, there is some other big news today.  Tonight on his radio show coach John Micheletto named seniors Kevin Czepiel and Rocco Carzo as this year’s captains.  Congrats to them both.  I thought Carzo looked very captain-like on Friday, so not much surprise there.  Czepiel is a little more surprising since he wasn’t mentioned in the earlier captain chatter.  But if you’re looking for someone that has worked hard to earn every minute of playing time he gets, Czepiel fits that mold.  That’s two straight years with a Western Mass native wearing the “C”, as T.J. Syner was a captain last year.  There were no mentions of assistant captains.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2013
5 GP / 1 G / 1 A / 2 Pts / 5 PIM / -1
No points for Gillespie in his one game this past weekend.

Mark Hamilton – D – Salisbury School Crimson Knights (NE Prep) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Hamilton is due to return to Salisbury again this season. Prep hockey will start up at the end of November.

Mike Iovanna – RW/C – Malden Catholic Lancers (MA High School) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
All signs point toward Iovanna returning to Malden Catholic this year.

Dennis Kravchenko – LW – Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) – 2013 or 2014
6 GP / 3 G / 3 A / 6 Pts / 4 PIM / 0
Kravechenko had a power play goal and an assist in a 6-5 win over Fargo on Saturday.

Casey Miller – C – Kimball Union (NE Prep) – 2014
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
It’s expected that Miller will return to KUA again after helping the Wildcats to a New England Prep championship last year.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
4 GP / 0 G / 1 A / 1 Pts / 4 PIM
Smith may be injured as he didn’t play again this past weekend and it doesn’t appear that he’s playing for their Empire team either.

Sorry to hear that former Merrimack coach Chris Serino passed away from cancer yesterday.  Serino also coached future Minuteman Mike Iovanna at Malden Catholic.  Chris is also the father of UMass baseball players Nick and Anthony Serino.

Congrats to Eddie Olczyk Sr. who was enshrined in the USA Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday.  ESPN has this article about what hockey means to the Olczyk family which includes quotes from Eddie Jr.

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