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Up To The Minute ▲ Jeszka Commits; Frozen Fenway & Other Scheduling News

I last posted exactly a month ago.  I did not expect to go so long between posts but first I went to Florida to drink a lot of Cigar City Brewing attend a wedding and when I got back I just couldn’t find the time and/or motivation to write.  But after some time to recover from the feverish rate of positing as the season ended and the subsequent coaching moves were made, I think I’m finally ready to start spending some time on UMass hockey again.

It’s the offseason so there isn’t a ton to catch up on, especially since the focus of Coach Carvel and his staff has likely been more on getting settled in Amherst than actual hockey stuff.  But there were a few major developments since the last post.

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View From Section U: Right On Schedule

The first thing I do every year when the hockey schedule comes out is try to identify which stretch of games could be the biggest detriment to UMass’ chances of success (FYI, that’d be right now for this season).  But being a hardcore UMass football fan and season ticket holder, the second thing I do is see how the two schedules match up.  I also go through the same exercise a little bit later to see how the lacrosse schedule coincides since I also have Gorilla season tickets as well.

I look for any potential conflicts that is going to make me have to choose one or the other between football and hockey.  Most of the time I’ll choose football at home over hockey away, even if the hockey game may actually be taking place closer to my house out here in the Boston area.  Football only plays a handful of games a year and plus the Section U Tailgate has become a great gathering of friends that many now look forward to.  Plus, if the hockey away game is somewhere like BU or UNH, which for a variety of reasons like price and environment are no longer as appealing, it’s an easy decision.  Sometimes it has been possible, if the football game is early enough, to do both a home football game and away hockey.  That’s exactly what will be attempted come November 19th when football kicks off in Amherst at 1pm and hockey plays in Lowell at 7pm.  Sounds like an excellent opportunity to reacquaint myself with Route 2.   I also able to look for the prospect of a football game playing at UNH or URI and a nearby hockey game, like what happened a few years back when UMass played in the Icebreaker at BU when they visited the now defunct Northeastern football team.

But what I’m mostly looking for are those days when the stars align and UMass fans are treated to a football game along Stadium Drive in the afternoon followed by a home hockey game that night.  As someone who, due to mental illness or perhaps some kind of virus, cannot get enough UMass sports, I love when these type of days occur.  There’s nothing like rolling into the McGuirk lots mid-morning, setting up the gear, having some good food and some even better beer, hanging out with friends, and then heading into the stadium for the excitement of the game and sounds of the band.  Then, after the last refrains of “Twilight Shadows” are echoing off the sacred concrete of McGuirk, we head up to the Mullins for some action on the rink.  If you’ve read this blog a whole two or maybe even three times you know I love my pregaming.  I look forward to hanging out and watching the loyal UMass hockey fans pile into the Hangar while enjoying the amazing beer selection and even better wings.  But you cannot beat a good tailgate, followed by the fun and traditions of UMass football to best gear up for a night of hockey.

That’s why the scheduling gods gave us a treat this year.  On Saturday the UMass community will celebrate homecoming with an excellent football/hockey doubleheader (tripleheader technically if you’re into men’s soccer).  Football will host Villanova at 3:30 at McGuirk.  The athletic administration has yet to say exactly what happens to homecoming when the home of UMass football is 90 miles away, so this could be the last true football homecoming in a while.  And it’s being played against a team that UMass has been in some tough battles with over the years in the CAA and prior to that in the Yankee Conference.  When the football game wraps up it’s up to the Bill we go to watch hockey take on the top ranked team in the country, Boston College.  Last(ish) homecoming at McGuirk, forecasted amazing tailgating weather, traditional gridiron opponent, hockey immediately after, hated in-state foe in BC, and they’re #1 in the country to boot?  You simply cannot ask for anything better.  Seriously, if you’re going to get in the car and spend a day at the old alma mater just once this year, how could it not be Saturday?

NBC Sports (aka Versus)  announced today that they’ll televise a number of Notre Dame, ECAC, and Hockey East games this season.  And when I say Hockey East, I mean BU, BC, and Vermont.  Um, ok.  They’ll also carry the Hockey East tournament, but it sounds like New England fans will still see it on a local channel instead.  It sounds like the league is still trying to finalize their agreement with NESN.

A couple of Fenway Park notes today.  First, Biz Jacobs reported on Twitter yesterday that sources indicate Frozen Fenway is officially sold out.  Second, there are rumors out there that BC and Northeastern will move their January 14th game to the Fenway ice.  Sounds good to me, it seems like Northeastern deserves a chance to play in the famous ballpark just a long home run ball away from their campus.

Last January I reported that UMass was interested in British Columbia winger Alex Kerfoot.  I even heard unconfirmed reports that he may have been in Amherst on an unofficial visit last spring.  No matter, he has narrowed his choices down to BC, Harvard, and Yale.

What?  The Minutesharks may be moving?  That sucks.  In related news, keep an eye on Fear The Triangle in coming days to enjoy a special opportunity especially for FTT readers who want to see their former Minutemen in action.

More Fenway News

The Hampshire Gazette’s Matt Vautour has confirmed that UMass will indeed by playing at Fenway Park.  He also reports that UMass will likely play Vermont, not Maine as originally reported.  I think a UMass-UVM/Maine-UNH doubleheader works much better for all the fanbases.

The Boston Herald also has a story on the event (featuring a picture of Joel Hanley).

Meanwhile, Mike McMahon, who originally broke the story, mentioned on Twitter that January 7th will be the likely date of the games.  That means UMass will need to reschedule their game at Providence for that day and will likely lose a home game against Vermont that would’ve been played in the Mullins Center.

Recruit Shane Walsh’s Dubuque Saints have a chance to clinch the USHL championship tonight.

Former Minuteman J.R Zavisza, who played for UMass from 1999 to 2002, is the new head hockey coach at Loomis Chaffee prep school.

Mike McMahon had an interesting Q&A with Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna about the impact of the new Big 10 hockey conference and potential expansion.

Report: UMass To Play At Fenway Park

Mike McMahon, the respected writer who covers Merrimack and college hockey for the Eagle Tribune, reported on Twitter today that UMass is scheduled to play at Fenway Park next January as part of a double-header.  The two games would feature UMass versus Maine and UNH versus Vermont.  The specific date is not known, nor is how it would affect the schedule that has already been reported (where UMass and Maine don’t play in the month of January).

This is great news for the program and will surely be a fun time for its fans.  Matt Vautour had reported earlier that UMass was originally scheduled to play in Fenway in 2010 until the league decided to play a women’s game preceding Boston College-Boston University.  News came out a few weeks ago that the Red Sox were interested in setting up another rink this coming winter even without the draw of a Bruins game and the Boston Herald reported that UNH and Maine were rumored to be participants.

Personally I think the better matchups would be UMass against Northeastern and rivals Maine and UNH, but just as long as Your State U is involved I’m not going to complain.  McMahon did not name his source for the report, but it should be noted that he is also publishing a Q&A with Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna today as well, so the information may have come from the top.

Be sure to keep an eye on his blog, Warrior Rink Rat, for more information and I’ll be sure to pass along anything more I find out on here, Facebook, or Twitter.

(McMahon has reported that Bertagna was not his source. – mc)

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