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Up To The Minute ▲ Dennehy, Pearl, Shafer Interview At UMass

The Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Matt Vautour reported last night that UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford has interviewed Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy, Harvard assistant Paul Pearl, and Cornell’s Mike Shafer for the UMass position.  Dennehy and Pearl were already expected to be in the mix for the coaching job, but Shafer’s involvement is a surprise.  All signs point toward a coach being named in the near future, perhaps as early as this week, so there’s a good chance the next person to lead the program could be one of these three or former UMass captain Dean Stork who previously interviewed.

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Up To The Minute ▲ Bamford Comments On Micheletto Decision, Coaching Search

We are one day into the Massachusetts hockey coaching search and I’ve done my best to consolidate all the information that is out there regarding the firing of former coach John Micheletto and the ongoing search.  Athletic Director Ryan Bamford had a conference call with the media today and I think UMass hockey fans should be very happy to hear what he has to say about a wide range of topics.  One piece of news that I reported yesterday is that assistant coach Ryan Miller was named interim head coach during the search process and will continue to handle a lot of the administrative tasks and continue to work with the players in the meantime.

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An Open Letter To Timothy Anderson

Dear Dr. Anderson,

First off, congratulations on being named Director of the University of Massachusetts Marching Band.  The Power and Class is a significant point of pride for the university and holds a special place in the heart of all alumni and friends of the university.  I welcome you to the UMass community and wish you luck in your endeavor to continue the tradition of excellence that has signified the UMass Marching Band during its existence.

However, I would also like to bring your attention to a gap in the marching band’s mission over its history.  The band’s representation at football games is legendary and it’s fitting that the school’s lone national championship in the sport, occurring in 1998, was accompanied by a Sudler Trophy for the marching band.  As well, the band’s presence for basketball games is equally cherished going back to the “Rage In The Cage” days when the team was making a name for themselves in Curry Hicks.  But, there is one more sport would also greatly benefit from music provided from a pep band that currently does not.  Hockey.

On all the prominent college hockey campuses across the country the sport is  accompanied by a band.  In my hockey travels I’ve had the privilege of hearing great hockey bands play famous tunes, from “The Stein Song” in Orono, Maine to “When You’ve Said Wisconsin…” in Madison, Wisconsin and can attest to how much they enhance the experience, in even the most hallowed of hockey barns.  A particularly memorable hockey band moment was seeing a ragtag group of RPI graduates assemble with instruments in Tampa, Florida to support their alma mater in the most tropical of hockey locales.

Currently eight of the ten Hockey East schools have a hockey pep band and a ninth, the small, private Merrimack College, has fielded a student-led hockey band at different times in their existence.  Most of these schools have pep bands that exist to support multiple sports.  A handful of them, like Boston College, New Hampshire, and Maine, are able to field bands supporting football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s hockey, and even women’s hockey.  However despite having the largest student body in Hockey East, the largest number of band members, and by far the greatest level of prestige for its marching ban,d UMass has only been able to support football and men’s and women’s basketball, leaving hockey lacking in its overall college hockey experience.

There was a time in the history of UMass hockey when a pep band may have in fact outnumbered those in attendance.  Thankfully, those days are over.  Two years ago the hockey program was ranked 10th in the country for attendance.  UMass hockey now competes regularly with men’s basketball as the second most attended sport on a per game basis on campus and is tops when it comes to student attendance.  Those students bring a lot of energy and passion to their seats on the west side of the Mullins Center, but overall their efforts are usually disjointed and underwhelming.  There is no band there to join in with, celebrate alongside, or keep their attention during the breaks in action.  Instead a key play is generally met with unorganized cheering and stoppages of play are filled with canned music consisting of grating techno or even worse, country.  The atmosphere of UMass hockey has come a long way from its beginnings but there are still some strides left to take to be considered one of the best atmospheres in the conference or even the country.  A band would do wonders to closing that gap.  A band could become the rallying point of celebration and tradition at the games, leading the entire crowd in cheering on the Minutemen to victory.

Previously there were different opinions regarding the value of a pep band for the hockey program.  Despite the advocacy of numerous hockey supporters we have been unable to secure a spot for the band to become a part of the UMass hockey experience.  With your arrival on campus myself and others are hoping this will be an opportunity for the band and hockey programs to enter a mutually beneficial relationship.  As the Power and Class begins a new era I would hope you seriously consider how a band for the hockey team would greatly benefit the participating student athletes, students, alumni, and fans and more deeply fulfill the band program’s mission to support the University of Massachusetts campus.  UMass hockey fans have longed to hear the chords of “Fight Mass” ring out following a goal and the notes of “Twilight Shadows” as the players raise their sticks to the rafters following a win.  We sincerely hope you can help us to experience such a moment.

Sincerely,

Mark Coogan ‘98 ‘06MBA
www.fearthetriangle.com

Random things found on YouTube.  UMass commit 6’7” Oleg Yevenko versus former UMass commit (and now property of RPI) 6’6” Luke Curadi.  Yevenko in the dark jersey.  Looks like it was a decent fight.

Mike Marcou is attending the New York Islanders Development Camp for the second straight summer.  No doubt the Long Island native is happy for the chance to train with his hometown team.

Overall I have to say that the coverage of the NHL prospect camps, both in terms of independent media and team based, decidedly sucks.

Someday a UMass hockey alum will have the chance to lift the Stanley Cup.  Not quite the same, but this is pretty damn cool.  Congrats to Ryan Nadeau.  You have to at least respect the playoff beard.

Former UMass assistant Mark Dennehy has done an outstanding job at Merrimack so it’s of no surprise that he was a hot commodity in the coaching market this offseason.  Therefore, Merrimack’s signing of him through 2019 is a clear signal that they’re serious about hockey.

Meanwhile, Northeastern does realize they’ll need a coach by the beginning of the regular season, right?

A college hockey “Super Conference”?  First of all, college hockey already has a Super Conference.  It’s called Hockey East.  Secondly, the Big Ten Hockey Conference was inevitable.  The conference itself goes back to near the beginning of college sports.    Once they had the needed number of schools fielding hockey they were always going to bond together to go forth under the Big Ten banner.  When it comes to conference history there’s the Ivy, Big Ten, and everyone else.  While I had no problem with the status quo (save for Huntsville not having a place at the table),  I still think the BTHC could potentially lead to an expanded college hockey footprint as schools like Illinois, Indiana, or others look to field teams.  But sadly this “Super Conference” will only hurt college hockey in general by separating the remaining western teams into haves and have-nots.  The current makeup of the WCHA and CCHA, led by teams like North Dakota, Duluth, Colorado College, Denver on one side and Notre Dame, Miami, and Western Michigan on the other can survive as is.  If those teams leave, the remaining programs will likely not all be able to make it work.  College hockey needs more schools, not less.  I hope these schools exploring this option consider this fact.

View From Section U: On The Subject Of Recruiting

A couple weeks ago Ryan S. Clark, reporter for the Fargo-Moorhead Forum, was nice enough to share his thoughts on UMass recruits Oleg Yevenko and Shane Walsh as well as Western amateur hockey in general with Fear The Triangle.  With Walsh and Yevenko’s teams starting a USHL second round series tonight Clark had a feature on Yevenko and his return from suspension in today’s paper.  He also put some of his unused material for the Yevenko story on his blog.

Personally I’m kind of disappointed in his story.  Not for the content mind you, it’s great that Clark has been able to provide us UMass fans with insight into this future Minuteman.  Believe me, it’s really tough to find much first hand material on hockey recruits.  No, my disappointment surrounds the picture.  In the time since Yevenko committed to UMass he has been suspended twice, finished second in his league for penalty minutes, and I even may have seen some disparaging remarks about him on Twitter by other USHL fans.  Yet this is the picture we get?  I expected to see something more like this with the caption, “If he dies, he dies.”

It sounds to me that Yevenko suffers from the same ailment that Brian Boyle did when he played in Hockey East.  Everyone else in the league happens to come up to his elbows and therefore he gets called for a lot of penalties.  That’s not to say he’s not tough or aggressive.  Obviously he is if he’s fighting teammates in practice or delivering big hits in scrimmages, he is.  But at the same time guys that much bigger than everyone else will always be on the wrong end of some calls.  Hopefully that won’t happen too much when he joins UMass next year or the penalty kill will improve.  As for the series between Yevenko’s Fargo Force and the Dubuque Saints which is starting as I type this, I just hope he goes easy on future teammate Shane Walsh.

Being able to learn more about UMass’ towering new player got me to evaluating the current crop of recruits out there for the Minutemen.  Coach Cahoon’s recruiting has taken some criticism recently, some of which I think is deserved.  Last year’s class, while without more than one or two very well known prospects, was very deep and as it turns out perhaps underrated.  Overall prospects for next year are looking good if this year’s inconsistent freshman can become improved sophomores.  But there were some deficiencies in the class.  Namely, I thought the team lacked an aspect of toughness.  Not that the players weren’t tough in terms of how they carried themselves, but that they had a difficult time making things tough for their opponents.  Namely, opposing teams were never afraid to enter the offensive zone or skate across the slot.  This team didn’t have an Alex Berry or even a Martin Nolet who would make them pay for such an action.  Obviously with Yevenko’s addition to next fall’s freshman crop Cahoon has taken action to correct that deficiency in the team’s makeup.  I think he did the same with adding another quality goaltender, Steve Mastalerz, to complement Jeff Teglia and fellow incoming freshman Kevin Boyle.  The limit of UMass’ potential next year could very well come down to the play they get out of their goaltenders, so adding another talented player to that mix seems like a smart idea in my view.  I’ve always been a big proponent for competition between goaltenders and keeping them hungry.

On the larger issue of recruiting, I think Cahoon has gotten a bad rap lately.  Now as certain winter inhabitants of Boca Raton may tell you, I fear the truth. Yet, I’m still going to take a moment to defend Cahoon from some recent criticism I’ve read and heard.  I guess the thought out there is that UMass fans can thank former assistant coach Mark Dennehy, and Mark Dennehy alone, for all of the team’s best recruits and success for the past decade.  Now I’m  a big fan of Mark Dennehy.  In fact I don’t know of many others who were more pissed off when he was shunned for Hockey East Coach of the Year in recent months.  And we can all agree his contributions to UMass hockey are great.  But I think to say he’s solely responsible for the construction of the most successful UMass teams is a stretch.  As some would lead you to believe Dennehy was the only reason why guys like Jon Quick came to Amherst.  I don’t think this is true.

As FTT readers know, I do my best to read everything I can about UMass hockey and pass it along to you.  But even before there was a FTT I was still reading everything I could find.  And when teenage junior hockey players like James Marcou or Justin Braun spoke about their decision to come to Amherst they cited, among a number of other strong arguments, Toot Cahoon as one of their reasons.  I didn’t see Dennehy specifically mentioned.  Ever.  Not to say he doesn’t deserve credit for the recruiting he did while here, and his recruiting abilities continue to yield results at Merrimack, but he still was part of a staff assembled by Cahoon.  It is ultimately the head coach’s responsibility to delegate recruiting responsibilities and extend scholarships.  Ultimately the buck stops with him.  Assistants may do a lot of the initial leg work, but it’s usually the head coach who is the end-all decider.

The whole Dennehy recruiting myth also conveniently leaves out some blue chip recruits that committed to UMass long after he left, like John Carlson and Zack Phillips.  Carlson was considered a candidate for the Calder Trophy in the NHL this year while Zack Phillips will likely be a first round pick in June’s NHL draft.  Unfortunately the cash lure of major juniors proved too much and they weren’t able to become Minutemen, but I don’t think their decision to renege on their commitments should detract that Cahoon and his current staff of Red Gendron and Len Quesnelle still got these elite  players to choose UMass.  Even on the current roster, shouldn’t the current coaching staff get credit for getting Mike Pereira, who I  still think trumped a current NHL first round draft pick for Hockey East Rookie of the Year, to become a Minuteman?

All in all, I cannot argue against those who are disappointed with the team’s recent success when it comes to wins and losses and Cahoon’s responsibility in that outcome.  I’m right there with you.  Probably not last year, but since 2007 this team has not lived up to potential.  But it’s a misrepresentation to say that Cahoon’s recruiting successes have come at the hands of others.  It ignores the recent successes of Cahoon and the current staff in that field. Also,  it doesn’t take into account that Cahoon ultimately makes all recruiting decisions.  And it surely doesn’t look ahead at what he has lined up for next year.  And if you disagree, you just may be on the wrong end of a Oleg Yevenko elbow come next season.

Recruit Update

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
37 GP / 19-16-1 / 3.06 GAA / .902 sv%
Boyle had a couple wins this past week.  He stopped 25 of 27 shots in the first game and then picked up an overtime win stopping 28 of 32 shots.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
39 GP / 11 G / 37 A /  48 Pts / 50 PIM
Gillespie had a goal and an assist in his last couple games.

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
The regular season is over for LaRue.  He ended up 21st in the OPJHL in points, 11th in goals, and 2nd in shorthanded goals with 6.  The Waxers will be facing Stouffville in the first round of the playoffs.

 Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
29 GP / 4 G / 6 A / 10 Pts / 8 PIM
Walsh had an assist this past weekend.

South Kent’s Joseph Manno did in fact have his official visit this past Friday.   No word on how it went but I did hear his decision will likely come down to UMass, Northeastern, and Providence.  Of course the prospect of the QMJHL looms as well.

Mike McMahon reports that there is no definitive timetable for the return of Merrimack star Stephane Da Costa, but that the injury is not of the season ending variety.  I have a feeling UMass will not be seeing him this weekend but be sure to keep an eye on Mike’s site for all of this week’s Merrimack news.

A couple good reads to prepare for this weekend.  First is a great piece on how former UMass assistant Mark Dennehy has turned around the Merrimack program from UMass alum Steve Buckley.

And Dick Baker has a good piece on the new and improved Lawler Arena.   I agree, the improvements are great and long overdue.  The $20 ticket prices are a bit much however.

It’s been a while since a UMass player was honored with a weekly award, but I’m happy to say that Fear The Triangle was named INCH’s Tweet of the Week!  For the record, I think very highly of Jerry York as both a person and a coach.  In fact I would make the case that he’s the best coach in the country.  I just found his response to the question after the Beanpot win to be hilariously simplistic.

I was disgusted to learn that David Branch, the commissioner of the CHL which actively poaches hockey players like John Carlson or Zack Phillips from colleges and touts a sham of an education option, played hockey for UMass.  He badmouths college hockey as a legitimate avenue to professional hockey even though that’s the route he took.  Can UMass retroactively bill him for the tuition he didn’t have to pay for while he played in Amherst, complete with inflation adjustments and late charges?

BU/Providence Preview

#14 Boston University Terriers 13-8-7 (10-5-5) Hockey East T-3rd

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Massachusetts Minutemen 6-15-4 (5-10-4) Hockey East 7th

UMass faced both of this weekend’s opponents, BU and Providence, last fall and did pretty well against both even though the record against both was 0-2-2. Both the losses were by a single goal and the tie with the Terriers actually came in Boston. But circumstances are very different now. Those games were in October when UMass was just trying to figure out who they were. Now it’s February and the pressure is building and every point is critical. It will be very interesting to see how UMass fares against these two opponents they haven’t seen in months in two very key games.

First up will be Boston University in a game which will be televised nationally on CBS College Sports. The Terriers are coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to rival Boston College in the Beanpot. When UMass faced BU last fall they looked like they were in for a great year. In fact they started out unbeaten in their first 10 games. But they’ve cooled a bit since then and while they’re still one of the top teams in Hockey East they appear to be one notch below BC, UNH, and perhaps even Merrimack.

UMass stayed close with BU last fall by playing tough defense and getting some bigtime goaltending….from Jeff Teglia. Yes, if you remember back to then Paul Dainton was hurt and Teglia gave us all a little taste of what the future in net colooks like. Teglia faced a total of 72 shots over those two games and got high marks from those involved. Of course it’s unlikely Teglia will face the Terriers again, but the precedent is there that solid goaltending could keep UMass in the game against these Terriers.

BU is a middle of the pack in Hockey East in both offense and defense and believe it or not UMass actually has a slight edge when it comes to the power play. The Terriers are led offensively by sophomore sensation Alex Chiasson, who has the most points on the team, and surprisingly Joe Pereira. Mike’s older brother has turned from more of a grinder to a scorer with 12 goals so far this season after never scoring more than 5 in his previous years. Defensively the Terriers are led by David Warsofsky, one of the better two way defensemen in all of college hockey. In net will likely be Kieran Millan who is middle of the pack among Hockey East goaltenders.

For UMass to succeed tomorrow night they’ll have to find the tough defensive play that they had shown in the last month but suddenly went missing in the third period of last weekend’s BC game and was a memory when they played Merrimack the next night. Offensively it should be noted that four of the five goals UMass scored against BU last fall were put home by defensemen. This could be a strategy UMass tries to replicate this weekend with BU’s defense good enough not to let them get in close to the net but Millan not being a good enough goaltender to pick up the puck from far out. What I most want to see is the team play with emotion. They are coming an embarrassing loss. There should be a sizable crowd given the different promotions, opponent, and TV. And it’s getting to the point where UMass can’t waste opportunities to get points, especially at home. All three of these things should add up to a determined effort by the Minutemen. Let’s see if that’s what happens.

Providence College Friars 7-13-6 (3-11-5) Hockey East 9th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 6-15-4 (5-10-4) Hockey East 7th

While all the hoopla surrounds Friday night’s tilt against BU, it’s really the game against Providence that is the more important game of the weekend for reasons I laid out yesterday. And if there is anytime to face these Friars, it’s now. They’ve gone 1-8-3 in their last dozen games and it’s unlikely they’ll pick up a win Friday night at Boston College. They haven’t scored more than 1 goal in their last three games and are coming off a shellacking of their own with a 7-1 loss at the hands of Vermont.

UMass put up some good offensive numbers when they played Providence last October, peppering Alex Beaudry with 34 shots in each game. It didn’t hurt that the Friars gave UMass 11 power play opportunities over the two nights, something that they’ll have to figure out a way to capitalize upon if it happens on Saturday. Again, goaltending will have to have a solid game as Dainton let a couple softies in that tie at home that would’ve otherwise been a win. I wouldn’t rule out Teglia playing in this game to get him some more playing time and rest up Dainton for the tough stretch run.

UMass will do well to minimize the damage done by Kyle MacKinnon who has nearly twice as many goals as anyone else for the Friars with 13. One player that UMass no longer has to worry about is the talented defenseman Alex Velischeck who left the team mid-season and now finds himself playing out in the USHL. Just another one of the many players who have gone AWOL on Tim Army. Goaltender Alex Beaudry’s numbers are down significantly from last year but that could be more about the team in front of him than his play. It’ll still take a serious effort from UMass to get the puck past him.

If UMass wants to make the playoffs, they have to win this game. They do that and they can play the remaining three weekends with at least the knowledge that they’re likely going into the playoffs and can try to pick off some ranked teams without the pressure of elimination. Saturday should be approached as a play-in game.

Beer The Triangle
The boys from Fight Mass and I will be conducting a Beer Summit following tomorrow’s game to discuss topics like imperial stouts, triangle history, and the evolution of their mancrush on Doug Kublin. Unfortunately I’m unable to plan which beers to partake in during this blog diplomacy since the Moan and Dove hasn’t updated their beer list picture in a while. Oh well, it’ll be a nice surprise.

Sources indicate that recruit Joseph Manno will likely be taking his official visit to UMass tomorrow and will be attending the game against BU.

The Collegian previews the weekend.

Mark Dennehy mastered his mentor last weekend according to Andrew Merritt of the NEHJ.

Dick Baker had an interesting profile on Marc Concannon.

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