Polls and Awards; Farewell UAH

Boston College is your new unified top ranked team in the nation after they beat the Minutemen and Huskies over the weekend, retaining the #1 status in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll and vaulting to the top of the USCHO poll.  Interesting to see Ferris State getting first place votes after their sweep of Miami.

The Eagles and specifically Billy Arnold were also atop the Hockey East awards for the week.  No UMass players were award winners or Top Performers for the week.

In an opinion shared by myself and, it seems, many FTT readers, Dick Baker gives Toot Cahoon a thumbs down for changing up the lines for the Boston College game in a well thought out blog post.

Here’s the Collegian’s recap of the game.

Some alumni news to share.

Jon Quick is the hottest goaltender in the NHL right now.  After getting a shutout over Phoenix last week to earn his 100th NHL win he’s been unstoppable ever since, posting two more shutouts since then.  The effort earned him the NHL’s first star for the week.  The LA Times says he’s been humble while doing it.

Sitting at the British Beer Company in Walpole Saturday trying to forget a loss in perhaps the last ever football game with UNH, it was great to look up to the TV and see that the Sharks had brought up Justin Braun to play against the Bruins.  He finished the night even in 15 minutes of play.

Back in Worcester Matt Irwin had the gamewinner.

Dan Gordon is playing pro hockey on the Cape.

Sad news in college hockey today as the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers announced this will be the last season for the program at the DI level.  This is a disappointing product of challenging geography, a short-sighted administration, and the inability of the other college hockey schools to find a place for the Chargers who were left standing when the CHA disbanded and the conference realignment music stopped.  It’s still unbelievable that with all the upheaval, with all the shuffling, with conferences coming in and out of existence in the last couple years that no one found a slot for the UAH program.  It should be noted that the Chargers had won multiple national championships at the DII level and had more NCAA appearances than a number of other college hockey programs, including UMass.  But that wasn’t enough for the remaining schools and conferences and UAH was left to die on the vine.  There are not enough college hockey teams out there if you ask me.  It’s tough to see one with history and tradition, created in spite of its unique locale, disappear from the college hockey scene.

Edit – Here’s one of the more comprehensive reads on the demise of the Chargers.

Quarterfinals Preview – UMass at Boston College

#8 Massachusetts Minutemen at #1 Boston College Eagles

The story of the first game when these two teams met was Paul Dainton and wasted power play opportunities.  Dainton absolutely stood on his head, making 19 saves in the first period alone.  He played spectacularly and had to make some really tough saves to keep UMass in the game, which he did for two full periods.  Why did he see so many shots?  Well BC has a juggernaut offense, we know that.  But the Minutemen were completely unable to establish any kind of offense in the BC zone.  Poor passing, weak play in the corners, and inability to solve BC’s forecheck doomed them.  You see this in the first two games against BC as UMass totalled just 16 and 20 shots in those games respectively.  It wasn’t until the third game that UMass did ok in the shot total with 25.  It’s not that their shots went wide or were blocked, though there was some of that, it’s that they didn’t have the puck long enough to get a shot off.

The huge missed opportunity for UMass in that first game was the 5 on 3 advantage when it was still scoreless in the first and the Minutemen were unable to even register a shot on net.  Though to be fair, Phillips did ring one off the post in that sequence.  If UMass had been able to jump on that chance and get the early lead it might’ve been a very different from there on.  Instead the Eagles continued to pound away and once they scored early in the third to go up 3-0 things went downhill quickly and they cruised to the 5-0 win.

The second game looked like it would be very similar with BC carrying the play and taking a lead late in the 1st period.  However a crazy sequence in the 2nd period saw four goals in the span of two minutes and BC took a 4-1 lead.  A couple power play goals would allow UMass to have a chance to tie at the end but were able to come up with the elusive tying goal (story of the season).  Special teams helped and hurt the Minutemen this night.  Their penalty kill failed them early and a couple extra man goals allowed BC to take a 2-0 lead.  The power play though allowed UMass to get back in it but unfortunately as mentioned earlier the loss of Hanley will make it tough to repeat that man advantage success since he scored one and had a hand in the other.  Another defenseman will have to step up in his absence.  The UMass penalty kill did better in the last game against these teams, killing 6 of 7 Eagle chances.  Unfortunately their power play dried up though going 0 for 5.  Paul Dainton again had a great game, stopping 36 shots.  The game was very physical, resulting in 16 total penalties.

It’s important to note that UMass did not score a first period goal in any of the games against the Eagles.  This will have to change this weekend.  While it’s been great to see UMass with these valiant comebacks late in games it hasn’t worked for them as they haven’t translated into wins.  They need to score early.  The other thing that UMass must do is hold onto the puck and, if given the chance, shoot it.  They have to keep the puck in BC’s zone long enough to test John Muse and perhaps more importantly, give Dainton a rest on the other end.  He saw 38 shots a game on average against the Eagles this season.  That’s too much.  They need to limit the amount of pucks he sees.  Some of this can be done by good defense on their end, but in this case I would say a good offense may do more for keeping the puck out of their own net.

With the exception of that third period in the first game, UMass has done a pretty good job at keeping up with this team which many believe could repeat as national champions.  They just need an extra push to turn that competition into completion and find a way to win.  They need to play smart but desperate.  This is it.  Everything should be at full speed.  Every shot, every check should have everything behind it.  Tired?  You have all offseason to rest.  It’s up to UMass to decide whether that offseason starts Sunday, Monday, or sometime later.

Beer The Triangle
I see a trip to the beer wonderland that is the Publick House in my future.

Lots of previews to share.

York says UMass pushed BC to the limit when they played before in this Boston Herald preview.

USCHO does not see a scenario where UMass wins.

College Hockey News has their preview of the Hockey East playoffs.

Expect UMass to be overmatched says Ryan Durling of SB Nation.

Toot wants the team to be physical but stay out of the box says the Collegian preview.

Here’s an article from Ryan S Clark out of Fargo on recruit Oleg Yevenko with some good quotes from his coach.

Matt Irwin is on the verge of setting a rookie record for the Worcester Sharks.

Friday Recap

This team cannot finish.  They can’t finish their shots and they certainly cannot finish games.  Too often this season, like the game up at UNH last fall or last night, they’ve had a team, talented teams at that, on the ropes and just cannot maintain focus long enough to pick up the win.  Why we see this over and over I don’t know.   Last fall I would’ve chalked it up to youth.  But I can’t anymore.  This team has almost 30 games under its belt.  Even young teams will evolve over the course of the season and learn how to win.  Look at Boston College last year.  Granted the talent level is very different, but that was a young team that struggled in the beginning of the season but developed over the course of the year and showed marked improvement by the spring and won a championship.  This UMass team continues to make the same mistakes, continues to take shifts or periods off, and continues to be unable to claw their way to a win.  They can certainly claw their way back into games, as we saw last night.  But they appear to lack the mental toughness to finish the job.  And because of that they ruined a great defensive effort, some excellent goaltending, and the heroics of Adam Phillips to get them back into the game.  All wasted.  Another night, another lost chance at points in the standings.

Last night could’ve been a signature win of the season.  It could’ve been something to build off for these last few weeks and the offseason.  Instead it’s another reminder that this team is quite frankly not good.   But bad defense killed that chance.  With a one goal lead and under three minutes to play Merrimack was allowed to skate into the zone and shoot at will.  And that’s that.  Merrimack gets the win and UMass has been without one for the last seven games.  One has to wonder if they’ll win another all season. 

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Conor Sheary
Obviously Phillips deserves a lot of credit for doing what he could to get the win, but I was really impressed by Sheary’s play last night.  A goal, an assist, he did the little things as well and what I really liked to see was him doing his best to skate through checks and overcome Merrimack’s defense.

The only bright spot last night was that Vermont and Providence also lost, meaning there’s no changes in the standings and UMass remains in 7th place. 

Toot cites special teams play as the difference in the Republican recap.

We beat ourselves is the message in the Gazette.

Merrimack was outplayed says the Eagle Tribune.  Mark Dennehy said the same thing after the game, saying his team stole these points.  No, Mark, they were given to you on a silver platter.

Matt Irwin has been called up by the San Jose Sharks.

Polls & Awards

UMass will be taking on the top ranked team in the country Friday night as Boston College takes over the #1 spot in the USCHO poll after Yale’s sweep at the hands of the capital region teams this past weekend.  Merrimack, Saturday’s opponent, checks in at #12.  UNH moves up to #6, BU checks in at #14, and Maine fell to three spots to #15.  BC tops the USA Hockey/USA Today poll as well.

Both of this weekend’s opponents are in the top 10 of the INCH Power Rankings.

No UMass players were award winners or top performers this week, but Chris Rawlings understandably was named Co-Defensive Player of the Week for his performances against the Minutemen.

Dick Baker has an interesting look at Northeastern’s style of play and how it led to their 3 point weekend.  Personally I really enjoy watching the Huskies and the toughness they show.  Coach Greg Cronin certainly has that program heading in the right direction, but in the second half of the season and the future.

The Collegian has a recap of Saturday’s hard fought tie as well as a feature on their bipolar special teams play.

I meant to relay this look by Hockey’s Future on the Sharks minor league system last week.  They have some good things to say about Justin Braun, James Marcou, and Matt Irwin.

The Road Trip page is updated with my Wisconsin recommendations.