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Polls & Awards

With their loss at Northeastern over the weekend Boston College will not be coming into the Mullins Center on Friday as the top ranked team in the country.  Instead they’ll be coming in as the third ranked team according to this week’s USCHO poll, but still a team receiving first place votes.  Either way they’ll still be a very formidable opponent for Massachusetts, who has a number of areas to work on after last Friday’s victory against UConn.

Half of Hockey East is currently ranked as Lowell drops to #10 after tying Vermont, Boston University is right behind them at #11, and Northeastern and New Hampshire join the poll at 14th and 15th respectively.  In addition Maine, Merrimack, and Providence are also receiving votes.  UMass still hasn’t gained back the votes they had prior to their unfortunate loss to….UMass in the pre-season scrimmage.

Minnesota is tops in the USCHO poll as well as the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

Quality wins over Merrimack and BC deservedly gave Northeastern a couple spots in this week’s Hockey East Awards.  How half-assed is the UMass representation on the linked release?  Brendan Gracel is rightly recognized as a Top Performer for his one goal and one assist performance, but not Steven Guzzo who had equal statistics and a highlight goal?  Only a single sentence devoted to UMass’ Team Notes?

The Collegian has some notes from Friday’s game to go with their recap which I believe originally ran Saturday.

The Collegian’s Nick Canelas is pulling double duty this season as he’s also contributing to College Hockey News, like with this piece on how this past Friday’s matchup will likely blossom into a conference rivalry in the near future.

So if you happen to be a UMass hockey fan in the Carolinas, the Bi-Lo Center has become Mullins South.  Masslive’s Harry Plumer noted on his Twitter account earlier today that with Danny Hobbs being sent down to the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors he’ll be reunited with someone he has skated alongside for the last four years with in Mike Marcou.  The coach of Greenville?  None other than former Minuteman captain Dean Stork.

Nice to see Nebraska-Omaha taking steps to bring Maverick hockey on campus.

I am shocked, SHOCKED, that one of the clown WCHA officials who threw Paul Dainton out of a game at Wisconsin a couple years ago was suspended by the conference for being incredibly stupid.  (I’m also mildly shocked that I incredibly remembered he was one of the incompetent refs in question from that game)

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Projecting The Lines

The roster is out and updated. I’ve done my best to quantify the potential impact of this year’s freshmen. So I figure it’s time to speculate on potential lines we’ll see this coming season. To be honest, it’s incredibly hard to guess what the lines will be. First, I have no idea what sort of combinations Coach Micheletto will want to use. When I projected lines last Spring I projected them to what I thought we would see based on Coach Cahoon’s history and tendencies. I have no idea what Coach Mick’s tendencies are. Does he like to split up his stars like Cahoon did or make one top power line? Does he always like to put right-handed shots on the left wing and vice versa or does he just put the best players together? I have no idea. We’ll find out. The second thing that makes it so hard is the fast that the roster is so large. There will be 17 forwards trying to be one of 12 that dress, nine defensemen for six slots on the blueline, and three contenders to start in net. Third, not only are the freshmen a big question mark, due to lack of playing time last year, a lot of the sophomore forwards are as well. Can an Andrew Telgeler or Zack LaRue come in and have a break out season? Definitely. I just can’t predict if it happens or who it may be. So with all that said here we go:

Pereira-Guzzo-Sheary
Carzo-Gracel-Tiefenwerth
Kiley-Filiou-Power
Olczyk-Czepiel-Tegeler

Hanley-Phillips
Allen-Yevenko
Shea-Raiola

Boyle/Mastalerz

When I was playing around with potential lines last Spring I had Rocco Carzo and Branden Gracel on the top line with Conor Sheary. This was driven by the fact that I thought Cahoon would continue to want two equally deep lines and therefore would split Sheary and Pereira, as he did in the second half of last season However, no longer having to project to the thoughts of Cahoon, I’m putting together the lines as I would. And I like the idea of those two together. I have Guzzo at center because I thought he was on the same page as Pereira quite a bit last year. This allows me to move Gracel down and pair him up with the senior Carzo where the two of them will help provide some experience to a line that also features freshman K.J. Tiefenwerth. This line will be successful only if Carzo evolves his game a little more offensively, going back somewhat to what we saw earlier in his career after having a solid season on the third line last year. Overall the first line above scored 39 of UMass’ 114 goals last year while Gracel and Carzo contributed 9 and Tiefenwerth netting 30 in juniors.

Pat Kiley and Troy Power stay on the third line with Eric Filiou replacing Carzo at center. However, given how he improved during the year, we could see Power on the second line this coming season as well. This line had 8 goals last year. For the fourth line I have Eddie Olczyk returning to an everyday role, never fully understanding why he went from 21 games his freshman year to just 16 last year, Kevin “Holyoke” Czepiel returns to center, while Andrew Tegeler will get the last wing spot. I think Tegeler has tremendous upside between his size and the skills he showed at times, but the fact is all these players, especially those on the bottom lines, will have to practice hard to get in the lineup. In no particular order Zack LaRue, Evan Stack, Shane Walsh, Peter DeAngelo, and Emerson Auvenshine will all be gunning to dress everyday as well. The fourth line of Olczyk-Czepiel-Tegeler had four goals last year. The returning players I have on the bench scored three goals, all by DeAngelo.

For defensemen I believe getting three solid pairings with players who compliment each other is the best methodology. Joel Hanley and Adam Phillips should be able to play decent defense, but at the same time both move the puck well and would be a significant scoring threat. Now befing on the first pairing would require Phillips to bounce back from a tough sophomore season that saw him miss a number of games as a healthy scratch. This pairing was a combined +10 last year. The second pairing of Conor Allen and Oleg Yevenko would be a bruising one and I think this would be a beneficial matchup of Allen, who at times was the anchor of the UMass defense last season, with the still developing potential of Yevenko. These two combined for a –2 last season. Lastly I have Colin Shea and Anthony Raiola in the last pairing, finished even combined last year, however truth be told it could also be Mike Busillo, freshman Connor Doherty, or Darren Rowe here. No matter who it is next to him, Shea’s consistency should help solidify the third pairing.

Just as last year, UMass fans have no idea who will be in net on opening night. Kevin Boyle had the best season statistically and ended up starting both playoff games against Boston College, doing fairly well both nights. Steve Mastalerz had a number of good games as well, including a shutout of #1 BC in January. I think the goaltending job will come down to one of these two and frankly I have no idea what the new coach’s thoughts are on goaltender rotations so it may be both. However, don’t be surprised if junior Jeff Teglia is in the mix again as well. It probably doesn’t hurt that he had his best games last season against Vermont and his now coaching staff.

That’s my guess for lines, feel free to share how you’d put them all together in the comment section.

The coaching staff is now complete as Dan Lupi will serve as Goaltending Coach this coming season. Lupi works with former goalie coach Mike Buckley at Buckley’s GDS Goaltender school. Lupi played in net for Assumption College, holding school records in a number of categories.

The Athletic Department posted this video with Mike Pereira and Conor Allen on their pre-season activities as they prepare for the season. The more I see of Allen the more I think he may become a candidate to be a captain or assistant this coming season:

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There are a couple jersey number changes reflected on the roster. Andrew Tegeler will go from #23 last year to #14 with T.J. Syner graduating while Troy Power takes #22 instead of #20. As for the freshmen, Shane Walsh will be #15, Evan Stack #20, Connor Doherty is #23, and K.J. Tiefenwerth goes with #28.

Not a big surprise but Danny Hobbs did officially sign with the Connecticut Whale, AHL team to the Rangers who held his draft rights. Hobbs’ hand injury suffered in the playoffs last year prevented him from joining the Whale after the season ended.

More details came out late last week surrounding the report on Boston University’s hockey program. I understand that there are similar problems like this that occur on campuses all across the country, but some of the quotes in that article are appalling. One of the players saying, “you don’t ask [permission for sex] when you are drunk” and a female student describing being groped without permission as “that’s just what [BU hockey players] do,” is, frankly, disgusting. I really hope this sort of stuff doesn’t go on with the UMass hockey team. While I totally realize at the end of the day these guys are college students and will do a lot of the same stuff we all did as college students, a lot of what is described in the BU report goes above and beyond the usual campus craziness. Say what you will about Toot Cahoon’s time here, but for the most part UMass has avoided this kind of negative press because he recruited character in addition to skill.

As most thought, Hockey East will be moving to a playoff format in the future that will have all conference teams making the playoffs. This will start next season when Notre Dame joins the league. I’m pretty neutral about this. I personally thought the current format makes the regular season that much more important and made for some excitement at the bottom of the standings down the stretch. But at the same time there’s nothing wrong with more hockey on more campuses come March.

Lastly, when I’m not trying to plan my next FTT post during the fall I’m usually planning tailgates. Some fellow loyal UMass fans and I have being doing our best to have the best tailgate at the football games. Or, at the very least, the tailgate with the best beer selection. So it was very cool to have our tailgate (and my homebrew) featured with others by Matt Vautour on Saturday when the Minutemen made their FBS debut. The Republican even gave us some pictorial love. Understandably, it will take a few years for the product on the field to reach the FBS level, but the action in the parking lots outside the stadium is already well on its way. I highly recommend catching a game or two this season if you aren’t already planning to.

Polls & Awards

The good news is UMass will not be facing top ranked Boston College this Friday.  The bad news is they’ll be facing the #2 BC this Friday.  The Eagles’ loss to Denver dropped them to the runner-up spot in this week’s USCHO poll.  Michigan is now #1 in the country.  Not surprisingly, UMass is no longer receiving any votes.

BC remains atop the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

Well I had hoped that with Mike Pereira (3G, 2A), Danny Hobbs (2G, 3A), and T.J. Syner (6A) all having stellar weekends that one of them may grab the Hockey East Player of the Week honors.  Instead it went to Myles Harvey who sealed Saturday’s victory for the Friars over the Minutemen with an empty netter.  It looks like Hockey East is going to reserve its POTW honors for players on teams that stood out on the weekend.  I can’t complain too much about that.

Hobbs, Pereira, and Syner were all named Top Performers however.

Certainly the two questions coming out of Saturday’s game was why did Coach Cahoon start Kevin Boyle and why did he leave him in there for so long.  Dick Baker has an interesting post where he gets to the bottom of the second question.

The Collegian has their look at the weekend that was.

BC Interruption recaps the weekend of UMass’ next opponent.  I’m really looking forward to seeing Eagle freshman Johnny Gaudreau in action after reading and hearing so much about him in recent years during his junior career.

Providence Recap

If you had told me that after three games UMass would have the third best offense of Hockey East teams at 4 goals a game and the second best power play I’d have been pretty happy.  However, UMass has not been able to make the most of their offensive production and through two games against teams they’ll likely be battling in the standings UMass has been able to capture just one point.  Despite another four goal game last night, two coming on the power play, UMass got the loss because defense and more specifically goaltending let them down against Providence.

If there are positives last night it is that the team kept battling to get back into the game throughout and that the top line of Danny Hobbs, Mike Pereira, and T.J. Syner continues to put up a ton of numbers, accounting for two goals and four assists last night.  With some average goaltending UMass likely gets the win and the two points last night.  I believe I wrote earlier in the week that with Jeff Teglia over the flu, it seemed like a logical decision to have Kevin Boyle make his home debut Friday and put Teglia in last night because he was at least familiar with the rink, one where UMass has struggled in recent years.  How that scenario would’ve turned out, we don’t know.  But what we do know is that Jeff Teglia looked solid and stopped all 8 shots in relief of Boyle and that Boyle let in a number of goals that he shouldn’t have.  At least three of them.  And let’s face it, his defense made some key mistakes that led to some of the other goals as well.  And speaking of defense, where is Anthony Raiola who played so well at the end of last season?

It wasn’t just the bad goals that hurt, the timing of them hurt immensely and killed any momentum UMass was generating.  After going down 2-0 in the first, Danny Hobbs put the Minutemen on the board just 1:15 into the second.  But 45 seconds later an inexcusable shorthanded goal gave the Friars the two goal lead back again.  Later in the period a power play goal by Hobbs cut the PC lead to 4 to 3, but again a soft goal was let in just a minute later that gave the Friars a two goal lead again.  That goal ended Boyle’s night.  Unfortunately UMass was unable to get their offense going until late in the 3rd when Conor Sheary scored with under 5 minutes left and never got that elusive tying goal.

Am I worried about Boyle’s performance?  Not really.  At least not any more than I am about Teglia’s or Steve Mastalerz.  He played very well at Northeastern and played well enough Friday against Bentley to get his first win.  But it does show that a quick resolution to the team’s goaltending issues is not going to happen.  That’s why I think it’s important over the next few months to give each goaltender a shot at games and not stick with one for more than a couple.  That means getting Teglia in in a game like last night and getting Mastalerz some time when he returns from injury in a few weeks.

As much as it would’ve pained me, I wish if UMass dropped a game this weekend it would’ve been Friday’s.  Losing to an Atlantic Hockey team is never good for the program, but UMass really could’ve used 2 to 3 points out of these early games against Northeastern and Providence.  Instead they only got one.  Now begins probably their toughest stretch of the season.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Danny Hobbs
Not only did Hobbs score a couple goals last night, both were at critical times in the game that, however briefly, gave UMass a shot a comeback.  Five points in two games.  Not a bad start to the senior season.

Here’s the recap from the Republican.

I guess the good news for UNH is that they actually scored a goal against Boston College, their first of the season.  The bad news is they lost 5-1 and are now 0-3 to start the season.  Elsewhere Merrimack got a bit of a scare from Army but won 3-2.  BU rebounded from Friday’s loss to Providence by beating #3 Denver.  Maine tied North Dakota while Lowell completed a sweep of Minnesota State out west.

Bentley Recap

Well, it wasn’t always pretty, but it was a win and UMass fans haven’t seen a lot of those, so I’m not complaining.  What a difference having Danny Hobbs back makes.  After missing the Northeastern game with injury the Hobbs/Syner/Pereira line was reunited for the first time this season and boy did they have an impact.  All in all they accounted for four goals, five assists, and 15 of UMass’ 47 shots in the 5-3 win.  If those three play like they did last night they just may be one of the top lines in all of Hockey East.

Hobbs made his presence known right away as his goal at 3:42 in tied the game at one apiece.  But the nice feed he got on the goal from Mike Pereira should’ve clued us in on the big game we were about to see from Pereira as well.  It was nice to see that three of the five goals came as a result of some really key passing.  The Hobbs goal from Pereira, Troy Power, making his season debut, had an amazing pass to Brenden Gracel for a goal, and then Hobbs returned the favor with a nice setup for Pereira’s second goal.  Pereira didn’t need much help on his first goal as a great individual effort allowed him to come from behind the net and beat Bentley goaltender (and former UMass recruiting target) Branden Komm with a quick release shot.  Pereira completed his hat trick bid with an empty net goal with 10 seconds left.

It was a terrific ending to a game that looked like it would be anything but.  UMass came out very flat at the beginning of the game and the result was Bentley scoring just over two minutes in.  When Kevin Boyle, making his second straight start, was scored on by his former BCHL teammate Alex Grieve it gave the Falcons a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission.  But whatever was said or done during that intermission did the trick as the Minutemen came out and outshot Bentley 20-3 in the second, but could only manage one goal to tie it.  UMass continued to dominate in the third when the teams were at even strength, but penalties, including a five minute major by Adam Phillips, put them on defense for long stretches in the period.  Though they did give up a goal following Phillips’ misconduct they were able to withstand the Falcons and at the end of the game did such a good job possessing the puck that Bentley was never able to pull the goaltender to try to overcome UMass’ one goal lead.

Besides the top line, UMass got good play again from Colin Shea, who looks to be the most reliable defenseman early in the season.  Troy Power had some very good minutes out on the ice to go with the assist he registered.  Guys like Peter DeAngelo, Eric Filiou, and Emerson Auvenshine continue to play well and earn their spots in the lineup.  Auvenshine seems to struggle at times with the speed of play, still adjusting from the junior level, but the guy’s legs never seem to stop.  He’s always skating at full speed.  Eddie Olczyk had a solid game and even had some key contributions on offense.  As a unit the power play, going 1 for 4, looked decent and through two games is noticeably better than last year’s.

There are a few needed improvements that can be taken from the game.  First is to come out ready to play from the first drop of the puck.  UMass was able to claw its way back into control of the game, but that’s not going to be as easy to do against future opponents.  UMass has to stay out of the box.  That goes especially for Pat Kiley who had three penalties last night.  Though they gave up 2 goals in 5 chances, the penalty kill looked solid.  But penalties themselves were a momentum killer last night.  The one good news out of last night’s penalties is that Phillips’ contact to the head was just a misconduct and will be available tonight.  Speaking of defense, tonight I wouldn’t mind seeing Anthony Raiola inserted into the lineup instead of Oleg Yevenko.  Yevenko looked lost at times last night and might need some more time in practice to get up to speed on hockey at this level.

Tonight should be an interesting one.  Personally I thought Providence would be an improved team this year (I picked them 8th in Hockey East), but I can’t say I thought they would beat #8 Boston University in their season opener.  I can’t imagine anyone thought that would happen.  But it did.  Hopefully UMass can catch them off guard as they’re still thinking about last night, but they shouldn’t count on it.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Mike Pereira
A hat trick and an excellent pass to set up the game’s first goal, this was an easy pick for POTG.  Sophomore slump?  Doesn’t look like it so far.

Here’s the game recap from the Republican.

And from the Gazette.

Providence topping BU wasn’t the only upset of the weekend as Northeastern pounded UNH 4-0.  For those scoring at home UNH has scored exactly 0 goals while giving up 9 in their two games this season.  Lowell was the only other Hockey East team to have non-conference success as they beat Minnesota State 4-2.  Elsewhere Denver beat BC 4-2 and Maine fell to North Dakota 3-1.

View From Section U: Join The Pond Club!

If you’ve been able to navigate the jungle of the internet, filled with too good to be true offers and porn, to find and read Fear The Triangle then you’re a hardcore UMass hockey fan.  And if you’re a hardcore UMass hockey fan you should join the team’s booster organization, the Pond Club.

The Pond Club is of course the fundraising arm of the hockey program, with its mission to help defer some of the costs it takes to compete in an elite level DI hockey conference and give the coaches the tools they need to succeed.  In recent years the Pond Club has, among other things, helped renovate the locker room at the Mullins, bought video equipment, provided a skate sharpener, and funded a weight room for the team.  UMass hockey needs this.  I don’t have to tell you how hard it is for teams in Hockey East to break into the “top 4” of the conference.  Some of this is due to the tradition of teams like Boston College, Boston University, Maine, and UNH.  But, some of this is because those schools have some damn nice facilities, like BU’s Agganis Arena or the renovations currently underway at Alfond in Orono.  Add in improvements to facilities at Lowell and past and future redevelopment of Lawler at Merrimack and it shows that UMass needs help when it comes to keeping up with the competition.  The Mullins Center is a good hockey facility, but it needs almost constant enhancements to keep up with like facilities across the country.

But the Pond Club is more than just writing a check.  It’s a chance to surround yourself with others who care about UMass hockey just as much as you.  Through the Pond Club you’ll meet fellow fans, UMass hockey alumni, hockey parents, coaches, and athletic staff.  And you’ll never know who else you’ll run into as well.  In the past year while attending Pond Club events I’ve had the chance to meet Stanley Cup winner Steve Rooney and US Hockey Hall of Famer John LeClair.  Certainly a big thrill for a big hockey fan.

Of course a lot of this interaction with other UMass hockey fans takes place in the Massachusetts Room between periods of games and other Pond Club events.  Even the lowest level membership in the Pond Club will give you access to the Massachusetts Room to talk about the ongoing game and have a (craft) beer(!) while looking down on ice level or checking out the trophies and pieces of UMass sports history.  Honestly, being able to enjoy the Massachusetts Room is worth the membership price alone.

So if you’re a UMass fan who chooses to come read Fear The Triangle, first of all I thank you immensely.  But please think about extending your support of the team just a little further than showing up to the games, listening to the road trips to Orono on the radio, memorizing all the jersey numbers of the players, and knowing exactly how to solve the team’s power play.  Join the Pond Club and help the Minutemen win while surrounding yourself with others who are just as passionate to see them achieve success.

Dick Baker of the Republican has news that Jeff Teglia is over his bout with the flu and that he and Kevin Boyle will likely see time this weekend.  Coach Cahoon reiterated as much on the weekly radio show.  Also, Danny Hobbs has been skating this week.

Baker also takes a look back at the last time UMass played Bentley, which pretty much put the team over the edge and on the way to the annual second half nosedive.  He says that the Bentley loss was the turning point of the season, but UMass had actually lost three of five leading up and needed the Bentley game to show they weren’t going to swoon like previous teams.  Didn’t happen.  Looking back at my recap from that game, it doesn’t look like a lot of players did well in that one.  So I hope the upperclassmen, from T.J. Syner to Kevin Czepiel (who scored his first career goal against Bentley) have long memories and are out to get some revenge.  But more about Bentley tomorrow.

For those you are just returning to read FTT after the offseason, one of my View From Section U columns during the summer was an open letter to the new marching band director, Timothy Anderson, in support of a hockey band.  I did contact Dr. Anderson and direct him to the letter and he was very cordial and open to exploring the idea of a puck band once he’s settled in Amherst.  I received tremendous feedback from readers regarding the post and so far there are almost 30 co-signers of the letter.  I’d love to be able to followup with Dr. Anderson by printing out and mailing him the post, complete with the co-signees and comments.  So if you support the forming of a hockey band and having a complete college hockey atmosphere in the Mullins Center, please comment or sign the letter (even anonymously) to help show how important this issue is to the UMass hockey fanbase.  Thanks!

2011-12 UMass Season Preview

Hockey East Preview: #6 Massachusetts Minutemen

2010-11 Storyline: Freshman heavy roster is unable to win the close games.

2011-12 Storyline: UMass has talent up front, but who’s in net?

Player To Watch: Danny Hobbs

Player Missed Most: Paul Dainton

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Zack LaRue

Random Fact: Adam Phillips and Oleg Yevenko are taller than 7 players currently on the UMass basketball roster.

Usual Beer The Triangle Pre-game Spot: The Hangar

Time to lay down some thoughts on the coming season.  However, you can’t know where you’re going without first knowing where you’ve been.  So let’s take a look back at least season first.  Obviously, it was a grueling and frustrating season for UMass fans.  The six total wins were the lowest for the program since we were midway through the triangle decorated time known as the Mallen Era.  Even in Toot Cahoon’s first two years the team won 8 games each year.  But going into the year no one expected much from the team in the first place, given everything they lost to graduation and the pros.  Almost all the media members picked the team, featuring over a dozen freshmen, to finish out of the playoffs.  They, of course, did not.  But it was still tough times for the Minutemen faithful.  The wins and losses is one thing, but what was really frustrating was the fans were constantly waiting for the team to turn a corner that never came.  This team didn’t go 6-23-6 by getting their doors blown off every night.  They were always THIS close to winning.  Amazing, UMass either tied, lost by one goal, or lost by a goal and an empty netter 24 times last year.  78% of their losses were by one goal or a goal plus an empty net goal.  That number is unbelievable  But what that stat does is give us hope for this coming season.  One more bounce, one more check, one more shot, one more save and those games could’ve turned out very differently.

Unlike last year that saw UMass play in tough locales like Madison and Minneapolis, this year’s schedule is much more manageable.  From a fan’s standpoint, one might even say it’s a little boring considering for the first time in a while it doesn’t feature a single WCHA or CCHA team.  UMass will have a steady diet of Atlantic Hockey and ECAC teams surrounding their early season conference matchups.  That’s not to say they have nothing but cupcakes however.  On the schedule is ECAC favorite Yale, currently #9 in the country, #20 Cornell, and Quinnipiac.  Those should be legitimate tests for the Minutemen in addition to the remainder of the non-conference schedule consisting of Bentley, Harvard, Clarkson or Maine, and Holy Cross, which is supposed to be one of the stronger teams in the AHA.  One thing UMass will have to do in regards to the schedule is play well from the start.  They simply have to beat the beatable teams or they could find themselves in a hole in Hockey East they’ll never climb out of.  That means winning at Northeastern and Providence (and of course against Bentley) in the first few weeks.  If they’re not prepared and drop those games it’s going to be very hard to get conference points when they have to play Boston College twice, Boston University twice, and at New Hampshire in the next five games.  I am writing this preview on October 5th.  A month from now after UMass plays BC on November 5th it’ll be interesting to see where the team stands.  They could the surprise of the conference with a few upsets under their belt, they could be hanging on for dear life, or they could find themselves having to climb uphill for the balance of the season to salvage some kind of success.

Of course when trying to determine just how far this team can go this season the immediate question will be, who’s in net?  I’d love to say I know who has the edge in the net, who will get the nod Friday, and who will lead the team to success in the season.  I honestly have no idea.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if Cahoon doesn’t at this point either.  The fact is UMass has three talented goaltenders with little to no experience at this level.  Kevin Boyle and Steve Mastalerz come to UMass with good pedigrees in juniors.  Boyle was named to the All-Rookie team in the competitive BCHL league.  Mastalerz was a top goaltender in the New England prep league.  Jeff Teglia had a distinguished resume in juniors himself, considered one of the best in the USHL, before he came to Amherst.  His stats last year are forgettable; 0-5-1 record, 4.81 goals against average, and a .855 save percentage.  But to his defense, due to factors out of anyone’s control, he didn’t exactly get those cushy starts against easy teams that freshmen backups usually see.  He had four starts, they came at Wisconsin, at BU, at UNH, and against BU at home.  He also played the majority of the second game at Wisconsin (when Paul Dainton was thrown out) and at Minnesota (when Dainton got hurt).  If people are writing off Teglia due to his performance in those high pressure games in challenging venues that he probably shouldn’t have been in in the first place, then I think they’re selling him way short.  Motivating all three of these guys will be Kevin Moore who will be counted on to be a leader in the locker room again, but at the same time will be fighting to dress and be on that bench as well.

The goaltending situation will be interesting to watch.  Cahoon doesn’t have an answer coming into the start of the season but he certainly has options.  If he sticks someone in there and they’re not performing I doubt he’ll wait many games before someone else gets a chance.  Maybe the first few games will be trial and error until someone steps up in practice or against opponents and wrestles the job from the others.  But the flexibility will be there to make adjustments until the right person is in net.  Of course if no one steps up and the starting job ends up being a revolving door, we could be in for another long season of almost wins but not quite there.

Up front things are much simpler.  UMass loses their 5th leading scorer from last year in Chase Langeraap and that’s it.  All the other regular contributors on offense are back.  Now that’s a nice thing to have, but at the same time lets remember this team was 7th in offense in Hockey East and second to last on the power play.  Just bringing the guys back isn’t enough if they want to compete for home ice.  They also need to improve.  Now if we’re talking about improvement, we should talk about co-captain Danny Hobbs.  Improve was all he did last year, jumping from 9 points his sophomore year to a team leading 28 last year.  And he finished strong getting points in 8 of his last 11 games.  It’s safe to say that another +200% jump in production is not going to happen, but if he can build off what he did last year he’ll be a legitimate star in the conference.  Fellow captain T.J. Syner has steadily increased his points each season as well and 2011-12 could be a breakout year for him.  One thing that has hindered Syner has been his size.  Not that his stature prevents him from getting to the net, the fact that he’s one of the fastest players in the league allows him to do that.  No, unfortunately opponents have taken liberties with Syner and the other smaller UMass forwards in the past without fear of retribution.  The reintroduction of size and grit on other parts of the roster should actually open things up for Syner this year.  The last key player on offense for the Minutemen is Mike Pereira who, for the last time I’ll make the argument, legitimately could’ve been the rookie of the year in Hockey East last year.  The trick for Pereira will be consistency through the whole season.  He scored 7 of his 12 goals on the season in the first 9 games.  As the long grueling season went along his production waned.  With better conditioning and knowing what’s ahead of him, hopefully he’ll be close to a 20 goal scorer this time around.

Those three are really the pivotal players on offense, but depth is an asset for the UMass program and there are still a lot of other players who can contribute regularly.  Branden Gracel showed some great playmaking abilities last year and it’ll be his responsibility to get the puck to Syner, Hobbs, Pereira, and whoever else is on the ice.  And if those guys are covered, he’s shown the ability to score on his own as well.  Conor Sheary put up 6 goals and 8 assists on his freshman year and his abilities to pass and shoot are equally dangerous, as he displayed with a nice wrister in Saturday’s scrimmage.  Sheary has star potential for his career.  Next to the goaltending situation, I think seeing how Rocco Carzo fares this year will be one of the more interesting storylines.  After a strong freshman year that saw him regularly on the same line with James Marcou and Casey Wellman, Carzo had a sophomore slump last season, scoring just one goal.  While he played well defensively (finished even on the year) for him to contribute on offense would be a huge plus for the Minutemen.  Kevin “’yoke” Czepiel was very reliable at center last year and I think he’ll continue to see regular time again this year.  He has great vision and to me it seemed like his play improved when on the ice with some of the top players.

UMass has an interesting group of two way forwards this year.  Troy Power showed flashes of promise last year but had a tough time establishing himself as a consistent contributor, some of which was due to fighting nagging injuries.  With a year under his belt and a level of comfort it will be interesting to see how his play progresses this season.  Eric Filiou played in about 2/3rds of the games and seemed to make his presence known as the season went along.  I thought he was one of the better players in last week’s scrimmage and think that he could end up a dangerous player on the third or second lines.  A couple of freshmen to keep an eye on are Zack LaRue and Andrew Tegeler.  Both are similar players with good size and strong skating abilities.  LaRue seems like he may be a bit more of an offensive threat while Tegeler is more of a two-way forward.  However both should be able to address an immediate weakness from last year; poor play along the boards.  Looks like these two have both the bulk and the stick work to maintain possession of the puck on the glass.  Same goes for fellow freshman Emerson Auvenshine who impressed at last week’s scrimmage.  Steve Guzzo gets a second chance to start his UMass career after suffering an injury on the eve of last season.  I was impressed with his speed when I saw him on Saturday.  He might end up playing a big role on this team.  Eddie Olczyk surprisingly only played in about half the games.  Obviously he’s someone who needs to work to become an offensive threat, but it’s also nice to have that shutdown forward out there for defensive purposes.  I expect him to dress more often this year.  Both Pat Kiley and Peter DeAngelo were able to contribute some assisting in sparing play last year.  I think a year of experience  plus the addition of size elsewhere on the roster may allow them to break into bigger roles on the team.

On defense UMass loses a little more than in terms of forwards, but are still pretty sound.  Gone is the ever dependable Doug Kublin, but they return seven blueliners who saw at least 13 games last season.  Leading the defensive corps is assistant captain Mike Marcou who will look to rebound from a tough year last season.  Offensively he did well racking up 11 points while playing only 26 games due to a concussion mid-year.  Defensively, he struggled mightily.  He’s a smart player and I think his play suffered because as one of the few leaders on defense he put too much on his shoulders and tried to do too much.  Hopefully this year with the young defensemen now sophomores he’ll have to worry about them less and can focus on his own play.  I’d be very surprised if he performs as badly as last year, especially since he looked very good this past Saturday.  Joining Marcou in regular shifts on defense will be Adam Phillips, Colin Shea, Joel Hanley, and Conor Allen.  Phillips was one of the pleasant surprises of the season, scoring 10 goals and establishing his slapshot as one of the most dangerous in Hockey East.  He still has some work to do on defense, a position he’s only been playing for a few years, but his long reach allows him to recover where other players usually could not.  Colin Shea was very dependable in his first year and I don’t see that changing.  He does have an offensive side to his game that I saw in juniors that could develop this year.  Joel Hanley suffered through an extremely tough season off the ice, his season bookended with family tragedy and getting mono.  But he persevered through it all and ended up 4th on the team in points and one of the top freshmen in the league.  Breakout player for this season?  He’s my pick.  Conor Allen looked like a freshman defenseman in over his head in elite league in the first half of the season but finished playing very well.  Though for the season he ended up a –11, he was +2 over his last 10 games.

Anthony Raiola had the chance to play in front of his hometown crowd against the Gophers in the opening weekend but then sat for a good chunk of the season until Marcou went down with injury.  He made the most of his time and ended up even on the season in 13 games.  He made a strong case to be the 6th defenseman to start the season.  Darren Rowe started off well with 5 points in his first four games but played sporadically through the year after that.  I still say he’d be a great forward but obviously others think otherwise.  Two newcomers on defense are Oleg Yevenko and Mike Busillo.  The towering Yevenko comes in with quite a reputation, finishing second in the USHL in penalty minutes and being suspended multiple times.  His skating was better than I expected during the scrimmage and from what I’ve heard will probably not be a liability on defense.  The trick for him is to not be a liability in the penalty box.  Certainly that kind of edge and toughness is something that was severely lacking on last year’s squad.  And if he can make opposing player sorry that they crossed the blueline, that would be fantastic.  But Hockey East has too many talented forwards and productive power plays to constantly be giving them the man up, so it’s up to him to play tough but not dumb.  Either way he’s probably going to be one of the more exciting players to play on the squad.  Busillo was one of the top defensemen in the AtlJHL and also adds some grit and size that this team has needed.  All in all this is a very deep defensive group and you have four guys legitimately battling to be that last defenseman dressed.  Like Rowe though, I’m hearing you may see Busillo up at forward from time to time as well.

There you have it.  Your 2011-12 Minutemen.  I think it’s safe to say that this is one of the deepest teams we’ve seen at UMass.  Even the biggest question mark on the team, goaltender, has three legitimately qualified guys fighting for the one starting spot.  What I like about this team is that the recruiting specifically addressed the biggest needs; goaltending, size, toughness.  UMass has had some teams with tremendous talent on it that have fallen short because it was lacking.  Lacking an aspect in terms of makeup.  Lacking the right mentality.  Lacking a camaraderie.  We won’t know until the season starts but it at least appears from afar that this team has those things.  Last year’s team had most of those things too and they came really close to success, but fell short every time.  With the core group of guys now sophomores, not freshmen, and with some dependable senior leadership, this team should take a major step forward.  If one of the three goaltenders ends up putting up strong numbers, this team could do some considerable damage.  But check back with me on 11/5.  I think we’ll learn a lot about this squad in the next 31 days.

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
1. Boston University
2. Boston College
3. Merrimack Warriors
4. New Hampshire Wildcats
5. Maine Black Bears
6. Massachusetts Minutemen
7. Vermont Catamounts
8. Providence Friars
9. Northeastern Huskies
10. Lowell River Hawks

Dick Baker has a profile on freshman Emerson Auvenshine.

It’s official.  Notre Dame to to Hockey East in 2013.  Like I said, I have some reservations about Hockey East expanding beyond the northeast, but the program itself is a great addition.  I just have one request.  At the three Notre Dame games I’ve attended the ND fans wearing football jerseys usually outnumber those wearing hockey jerseys 3 to 1.  Please stop that.

Baker recounts UMass’ history with Irish hockey.

The Republican has a story on Paul Dainton and former RPI goaltender Allen York fighting for the starting job in Springfield.

Jon Quick is Barry Melrose’s pick to win the Vezina this season.

The ECHL profiles former UMass captain and current ECHL coach Dean Stork.

Maroon & White Preview

OK, it’s not really a preview.  After all, my true  UMass season preview will hit the site on Wednesday.  However, here are a few of the things I’m keeping in mind when watching this afternoon’s game:

Goaltending – Obviously this is the biggest question mark going into the season.  How does Teglia look?  Do either of the freshmen look to have a leg up on the other.  Do either look better than Teglia?

Sophomore Slump – How does last year’s freshman class, which preformed well, look with a year under their belt.  I’ve found this is when you can start to separate the leaders from the followers in a class.  Which are putting in the extra work and paying attention to what’s going on all over the ice.

Rocco Carzo – Speaking of sophomore slump…  I don’t want to single Carzo out, but he did struggle mightily last year.  But at the same time, he has the talent and from what I hear the character to move beyond it.  A strong start to his junior year will be a good sign.

Mike Marcou – Marcou also had a tough year last season.  I’d love to see him get back to basics and stop trying to do too much at once.  He’s a smart player and if he uses his wits to be in the right position on defense at the right time, he’ll do well.

Power play – Obviously this was a weakness last year.  It’ll be interesting to see if it changes.  In previous years the power play belonged to assistant Len Quesnelle (while Red Gendron took charge of the penalty kill).  With the introduction of Blaise MacDonald, I wondered if Toot took the opportunity to switch up the special teams.

Danny Hobbs –  The UMass co-captain made tremendous progress in his game last season.  Just how much further can he take his game?

Darren Rowe – Defenseman?  Forward?

Zack LaRue – A 6’2” T.J. Syner or is his game different from what was portrayed through the limited media available?

Oleg Yevenko – Please do not injure your teammates.  This is just a scrimmage.  Can someone put a red jersey on Mike Pereira please?

Joel Hanley – He missed the beginning of last season with family issues and the end with mono. But in the middle he was a damn solid defensemen with a great offensive touch. Could he be the next UMass star in the making?

The taps at the Hangar – With only being able to get to the usual pre-game spot once during the offseason, I find myself constantly wondering what amazing beers Stoney has procured that I’m missing.

The new ABC – What do they plan on doing with all that open space in the bar area?  Arena football?

 

Though he got the loss, Paul Dainton preformed well in his first exhibition game for the Falcons on the season.

Media Day Coverage; NHL Training Camp Updates

Today was Hockey East media day and, while I won’t be able to provide coverage as last year when I was actually able to attend, I’ll do my best to relay what came out of it.  As regular readers know I’ve been doing previews of the Hockey East in the past week and recently revealed my pick for UMass to finish 6th (though my true team preview will come later on).  The Hockey East coaches disagree and have UMass coming in 7th in the league.

That got me thinking, just how good have the coaching minds of the conference been at predicting UMass’ final standing.

 

Year Coaches’ Pick Actual Finish
10-11 9th 8th
09-10 7th T-6th
08-09 6th 7th
07-08 T-5th 8th
06-07 7th 4th
05-06 7th 8th
04-05 6th 8th

 

What does this mean?  Not much.  You can see the data is kinda all over the place.  Although the last two years the trend is for UMass to finish one place ahead of the coaches’ picks, so I’m feeling good with picking them 6th.  Obviously I’ll put my thoughts on the actual predictions themselves into my previews which will continue this week.

Danny Hobbs was interviewed by the Hockey East media staff at today’s events.  Hobbs has his eyes focused on getting to the Garden in his final season in maroon and white.

Coach Cahoon’s interview starts at 6:18 of this video.  Yep.  Goaltending spot up for grabs, as we knew.

UMass was picked 8th in the informal media poll.

Dick Baker says a lot is expected out of the sophomores.  Captain T.J. Syner states UMass is striving for much more than 7th place.  He also mentions that the power play has looked good so far in practice, which is absolute music to the ears.

Speaking of T.J., if you’re in the Forest Park area of Springfield, please keep an eye out for his dog Bauer.

A couple other previews to share.  First comes from the College Hockey Blog where UMass is picked to finish 8th.  The blog is written by Fetch, who is one of the more entertaining people in the college hockey realm of Twitter.

The Maine Daily Campus doesn’t pick the order of finish, but does say the Minutemen will surprise this year.

Paul Dainton, not surprisingly, was sent down to Springfield by the BlueJackets today.  There he’ll battle with RPI’s Allen York for playing time.  He’s also reunited with former teammate Obi Aduba who is in camp with the Falcons.

Looking around at the rest of of the NHL training camps, Mike Kostka has survived a few round of cuts and is still with the Florida Panthers.  Greg Mauldin was sent down to Lake Erie by the Avalanche.  Both Justin Braun and Matt Irwin are still in camp with the Sharks.  As is Matt Anderson with the Devils.

Marv Degon has signed with the Reading Royals of the ECHL.

Former captain turned coach Dean Stork brought success to the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL using a lot of college players.  Brandon Wong, Dov Grumet-Morris, Cam Talbot; these are familiar names to college hockey fans.

Media Day didn’t necessarily bring news regarding conference expansion, but did bring some insight thanks to Mike McMahon who has been all over the realignment story in regards to Hockey East.  McMahon also said on Twitter that if Notre Dame is added to the fold that people he talked to thought RPI would be the most likely candidate to become the conference’s 12th team.  Although I’m still not convinced that Hockey East needs to change their footprint enough to include Notre Dame, I do think RPI would be the best choice to round out the number of teams.  It’s a school with a ton of tradition (one of my favorite Bruins, Joe Juneau, played there).  Houston Field House is one of the great barns of college hockey.  And from Amherst to the Capital Region is equal to, if not a little closer, than a trip to Boston.

Fenway Game Is Official, Schedule & Roster Released

The rumors became true today as a press conference took place at Fenway Park to announce Frozen Fenway 2012.  Where to start.  Well, I guess we’ll start with the basics.  UMass will be facing the Vermont Catamounts on January 7th at Fenway Park with a 4pm start.    Tickets will go one sale on September 13th.  Tickets will be on sale through the Red Sox website as well as through the individual schools.  There are potentially other events and even some community skating lined up, but the college hockey doubleheader between the four New England flagships is the pinnacle of the ice being laid down at Fenway.

I was lucky enough, thanks to Hockey East, to attend the press conference and I honestly can’t wait for this game to happen.  It was a little strange to be thinking about sitting outdoors bundled up for the frigid winter cold to watch hockey while melting in field box seats at Fenway.  But since this game will take place only a week after playing in sunny Fort Myers, maybe it won’t be the only time we’re thinking hockey while in sweltering temperatures.

The press conference was entertaining.  Tom Caron essentially MC’ed the event which featured Mayor Tom Menino (no huge speech bumbles but he did call us the  rarely used “University of Mass” a couple of times), Commissioner Joe Betagna, Red Sox exec Sam Kennedy, and the four respective coaches.  Everyone said….well pretty much what you’d expect them to say.  There was then some time for Q&A.  It was cool to hear what the different coaches and players (Co-captain T.J. Syner was there to represent UMass) thought about the upcoming games.  But it was also cool to just stand on the Fenway warning track in front of canvas alley.

Just a few thoughts coming out of today.  First, I love that we’re playing Vermont.  For those who have been reading all summer you’ll know that I did a whole thing on who is UMass’ rival.  While voters on the Fear The Triangle Facebook page picked Maine, my vote was for the Catamounts.  My reasoning for that choice was the long history that exists between the schools and the pure opportunity to build a rivalry that doesn’t really exist with other schools.  Well, today both Coach Cahoon and UVM Coach Kevin Sneddon specifically mentioned the historic rivalry that dates back decades between these schools.  Toot actually brought up the introduction of the Turkey Tuesday game when he became coach as a way to help build that relationship between the schools.  I love this matchup.  A thrilling game in January and we could be well on our way to having a real rival.

The other thing I wanted to mention is just to point out what a huge deal this is.  Dick Baker of the Republican asked a great question.  He asked, essentially, is this our Beanpot?  Toot came back and said players get four years to play for the Beanpot, this is a once in a lifetime event.  Totally true.  Who knows when or if something like this will happen again.  And he said the players were psyched.  T.J. Syner, a Massachusetts native, sounded excited about the opportunity.  Toot said fellow Co-captain Danny Hobbs called from Quebec and was also thrilled at the chance.  And I really hope the UMass fans and alumni treat it the same way.  Today UMass hockey was front and center on one of the biggest sports stages in the world.  Come January 7th, it’ll be there again.  I hope everyone who considers themselves a UMass fan, every alumni, any friend of the university, and any college hockey fan will make sure to be there when UMass takes the….field(?) in January.

Couple other tidbits from today.

UMass will be getting another new jersey this year according to Toot.  I’m guessing it’ll replace the third we saw last year, which I liked in general but thought the Sam on the jersey was a little too mini-Minuteman for my liking.  As part of the press conference highlights were shown of the Boston College-Boston University game at Fenway from a couple seasons ago where both teams wore unique, and frankly pretty stylish,  jerseys.  That got Toot thinking as to whether it’d be a possibility to do the same for UMass.  I suggested triangles.  No, I really did.

Sam the Minuteman, along with the pair of cats from UNH and UVM, fared well despite the heat on the Fenway field.  The same could not be said of Maine’s beloved mascot, Bananas, who passed out and was MIA when the press conference started.  Good news is he is alright and should be up and pushing around shopping carts full of rubber pucks in no time.

Caron made sure to mention that Toot was the best dressed of the four coaches, sporting a suit while the other wore polo shirts.  Toot kidded that he wore the suit because he went to church to thank God for the opportunity to play at Fenway.  Amen to that.

Lastly, I asked Toot if the game was played tonight who he’d put in net because, well isn’t that what everyone wants to know?  He said he’d have to go with his veteran (Jeff Teglia), but that there was a lot of time between now and the game.

At the press conference this year’s roster and official schedule was released.  No real surprises on the roster.  Mike Donnellan is not listed.  Donnellan struggled to get playing time, so it’s not unexpected to see him absent from the list.  I always thought that Donnellan played well enough during his limited time and really hoped he’d be used as a forward last year when the team was obviously lacking a physical element.  But it looks like the team and he have moved on.  Certainly good luck to him wherever his future takes him.  Other than that all the other players are returning and the expected  incoming freshmen are all listed as well.

Here is the final schedule that was distributed, which has evolved a bit over the summer.  All start times are 7pm unless noted:

Fri 10/7 at Northeastern
Fri 10/14 Bentley
Sat 10/15 at Providence
Fri 10/21 at Boston College
Fri 10/28 Boston University
Sat 10/29 at Boston University
Fri 11/4 at New Hampshire
Sat 11/5 Boston College
Fri 11/11 Holy Cross
Sat 11/12 Northeastern
Fri 11/18 Maine
Sat 11/19 at Lowell
Tue 11/22 at Vermont
Sat 11/26 at Quinnipiac (4pm)
Fri 12/2 Harvard
Wed 12/7 Yale
Thu 12/29 Cornell (time TBA) – Everblades Classic in Estero FL
Fri 12/30 Clarkson/Maine (time TBA) – Everblades Classic in Estero FL (Cornell/Maine/Clarkson)
Thu 1/5 at Providence
Sat 1/7 Vermont – Frozen Fenway 2012 (4pm)
Fri 1/13 Boston College
Fri 1/20 Vermont
Fri 1/27 Lowell
Sat 1/28 at Lowell
Fri 2/3 at Northeastern
Sat 2/4 Merrimack
Fri 2/10 at Boston University
Sat 2/11 Providence
Fri 2/17 at Maine
Sat 2/18 at Maine
Fri 2/24 New Hampshire
Sat 2/25 New Hampshire
Fri 3/2 Merrimack
Sat 3/3 at Merrimack

I find it a bit strange that the one Vermont game that will be at the Mullins (UMass is losing a home game for the Fenway matchup) is on a Friday instead of a Saturday.

I’ll have more thoughts on the schedule, roster, and projected lines in the weeks to come as we lead up to October.

Lastly, the obvious choice for my Beer The Triangle pick for the Fenway game is Beer Works, within stumbling distance of anyone’s overprice Red Sox seats..  However, I finally made it to Lower Depths, located on Comm Ave, today and I have to say I was quite impressed.  I had a very good farmhouse ale from Great Divide but was blown away by a tremendous Doppel Bock from Westephaner.  It was excellent, almost had a scotch ale flavor to it (which, by coincidence, is on deck for my BTT homebrewing).  Anyway, I think I might have to make a few more research trips to see if this will be my pregame pick for the Fenway game.

Here’s the official UMass release for the Fenway game.

Dick Baker does a great job describing today’s event.

In what makes a ton of sense, most, if not all, of the CCHA teams are merging with the WCHA.  Find a place for UAH and I think we can call it a day.

Finally, I’m too young to remember his UMass days, but I do remember former Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan as a Baltimore Oriole and I’m sorry to see a UMass legend go too soon

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