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Doherty Leaves Team

Freshman defenseman Connor Doherty has left the Massachusetts hockey team and has already joined up with his former junior team, the Junior Bruins.  Indeed, Doherty’s name no longer appears on the official roster.  He had not appeared in any games this season and was a late addition to this year’s freshman class, committing just weeks before former coach Toot Cahoon parted ways with the school.  He’ll play the rest of the season with the Junior Bruins, where he was an EJHL All-Star last season.  Good luck to him wherever he ends up continuing his hockey career.

This weekend’s opponent, Boston College, moved up a spot to #2 in the rankings despite splitting their series with New Hampshire this past weekend.  BC did announce that that the celebration of Jerry York’s historic win recently that was due to take place during Friday’s game has been postponed until he recovers from recent eye surgery.

No Minutemen were named Top Performers by the conference this past week, not even Darren Rowe after his three point night on Friday.

February 9th’s game at Merrimack, which will be televised on NESN, has been moved to 4pm to accommodate the Bruins broadcast that day.  I missed the fact that the game was ever moved from 7pm to 3:30 in the first place.

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Hockey East Preview: #8 Merrimack Warriors; KAEO Dennis Kravchenko

Hockey East Preview: #8 Merrimack Warriors

2011-12 Storyline: Despite reaching the #1 ranking early in the season Merrimack fails to make it back to the NCAA tournament in March.

2012-13 Storyline: What happens to Merrimack hockey post-Cannata?

Player To Watch: Mike Collins F (10-15-25)

Player Missed Most: Joe Cannata G (17-12-7, 2.18, .925)

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Ben Bahe F

Random Fact: The Merrimack roster has a dozen players who played their junior hockey in Western Canada.

Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: Alts are one of my favorite beer styles but are pretty tough to find.  Luckily for us Haverhill Brewery’s GestAlt is one of the best around and is brewed a short drive from Merrimack’s campus.

Team Outlook:

This will be an interesting season for the Merrimack Warriors who are coming off two historic seasons for the program.  Two years ago the Warriors returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the late 80’s.  Last year they reached the top ranking in the polls in November but fell off as the season went on and could not return to the post-season.  This coming season and the next will show if the recent success can be built upon or whether Joe Cannata ends up being truly irreplaceable for the program.

Trying to fill the shoes (skates?) of Cannata will be a couple of sophomores.  First vying for the spot is his backup of last season, Sam Marotta.  Marotta did well in very limited action, not letting in a goal on the way to a 1-0-0 record in 64 minutes of action.  Also competing for the position will be Rasmus Tirronen, a goaltender out of the NAHL who sat out last year due to NCAA reasons but was allowed to practice with the team.

One thing that favors the inexperienced goaltenders is the fact that Merrimack has one of the better defensive units in the league.  Senior Kyle Bigos and junior Jordan Heywood lead the defensive corps that also includes Brendan Ellis and a couple sophomores in Mike Wills and Dan Kolomatis, with both seeing significant minutes last year.

Who will score for the Warriors is almost as big a question as who will be in net.  The team returns just one player who had double digits in goals last year, Mike Collins who netted exactly 10.  Beyond that they’ll have to look for significant increases in production from the likes of sophomore Connor Toomey and Josh Meyers, who scored five goals after joining the team at New Years.  Freshmen Ben Bahe and Vinny Scotti will also have to contribute for the team to be successful.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: The young goaltending implodes or no one steps up to score or both.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: The defense puts the team on their shoulders and carries them up the standings.

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
1. ??
2. ??
3. ??
4. ??
5. ??
6. ??
7. Massachusetts Minutemen (preview upcoming)
8. Merrimack Warriors
9. Northeastern Huskies
10. Vermont Catamounts

So you can see where I’ve slotted the Minutemen in my predictions, but I’ll expand on why I see them 7th in my in-depth season preview in the near future.

So as I mentioned yesterday former UVM recruit Dennis Kravchenko is currently on campus for an official visit.  From what I’ve heard it is very likely that UMass will land the 5’9” forward who recently visited St Cloud as well.  Therefore, let’s get to know him better.  Kravchenko split last season between the NAHL and USHL.  He started out with Wichita Falls of the NAHL putting up nine goals and nine assists in 30 games before moving onto Cedar Rapids.  In 34 games with the RoughRiders he had eight goals and 13 assists.  This coming season he’ll be playing for Sioux Falls as he was traded to the Stampede over the off season.

Prior to heading west to play juniors, he was at Kimball Union in the New England prep league, playing aside current Minuteman Steve Mastalerz.  Kravchenko’s family is Russian, but he grew up in Southern California before heading east to play at KUA.  In his last season of prep he had 16 goals and 42 assists, good for 5th best in total points for the league.  The year before he did well also, scoring 19 goals and accumulating 54 points total.  What’s interesting is that this compares pretty favorably with current Minutemen Conor Sheary and Mike Pereira’s totals that season in prep, their last year before coming to Amherst, netting 71 and 64 points respectively.

It’s not just points he’s accumulated in his career.  He put up 142 PIM last season combining the time between the USHL and NAHL:

.

 

Here’s an interesting article out of Cedar Rapids, calling Kravchenko “fearless”.

The Western College Hockey Blog predicts he’ll be the top scorer for Sioux Falls this season.  He scored a goal so far in four preseason games for the Stampede.

UMass was picked to finish 9th by the Hockey East media.  Including this guy:

Feel free to petition our beloved alma mater to get his degree revoked.

College Hockey News’ Scott McLaughlin shares his thoughts on the poll.

Mike McMahon of the Lawrence Eagle Tribune has UMass finishing 6th in his latest season preview.

The first national poll is out in the form of the USA Today/USA Hockey variety with Boston College sitting at #1, right were we left them last spring.  Lowell comes in at #7 while Boston University was picked 13th.

Tomorrow is Hockey East media day so we’ll have a lot more polls and predictions to mull over tomorrow night.

Hockey East Preview: #10 Vermont Catamounts; Recruit Update

Hockey East Preview: #10 Vermont Catamounts

2011-12 Storyline: Catamounts end up in the conference cellar, gaining just three wins in Hockey East and six total

2012-13 Storyline: After a tumultuous offseason that saw UVM lose their leading scorer, best recruit, and most of their coaching staff, can they possibly finish anywhere but last?

Player To Watch: Connor Brickley

Player Missed Most: Sebastian Stalberg

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Jonathan Turk

Random Fact: New Catamount assistant coach Kyle Wallack was reportedly a front-runner to replace Blaise MacDonald in Amherst until Toot Cahoon stepped down, but ended up in Burlington after John Micheletto and Joey Gasparini moved on to UMass.

Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: Hill Farmstead Edward is damn good but Alchemist Heady Topper is divine

It’s tough to say last season could’ve been any worse for the Catamounts as they won just six games total, finished out of the Hockey East playoffs by a mere 16 points, and managed to score a meager 2.15 goals a game. But then the offseason started and things continued to be rough for Vermont fans. First, junior Sebastian Stalberg left town, taking his team leading 12 goals and 19 assists with him. Then, prized incoming recruit Zemgus Girgensons signed with the Buffalo Sabres, the team who had earlier taken him 14th overall in the NHL Draft. And shortly after head coach Kevin Sneddon found himself having to replace two assistant coaches and a director of hockey operations as his former staff relocated to Amherst.

There will be a lot of weight on the shoulders of Kyle Reynolds and Connor Brickley to improve the woefully bad scoring this coming season. Reynolds had a solid freshman year, gaining double digits in both goals and assists. Brickley was on his way to a breakout season until he was injured during the World Junior Championships and ended up missing about a third of the season. Incoming freshmen Jonathan Turk, coming off a 30 goals season in the juniors in Alberta, and Michigan transfer Jacob Fallon will be looked upon to contribute right away.

Nick Bruneteau is the most experienced defenseman coming back, but it’ll be interested to see how NHL Draft picks Nick Luukko and and Michael Paliotta fare in their second season for the Cats. Paliotta was an everyday player last year while Luukko was giving the team solid minutes until he went down with injury at New Years. Even before Rob Madore’s graduation the goaltending situation was fluid for UVM. That’s the case again this year where senior John Vazzano will likely battle freshmen Billy Faust and Brody Hoffman. Both put up solid numbers in the Western Canada junior leagues.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Luckily for them, they can’t finish any lower

They’ll Finish Higher Because: Brickley morphs into an elite Hockey East forward and the coaching staff turnover results in a whole new approach to the scoring challenges

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
1. ??
2. ??
3. ??
4. ??
5. ??
6. ??
7. ??
8. ??
9. ??
10. Vermont Catamounts

In addition to our first season preview today, we also have our first recruit update, a weekly FTT feature ever Tuesday during the season.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM / 0
The Fall Classic will kick off the USHL season this week. Gillespie will look to build off a five goal and eight assist season last year with Omaha.

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

Mike Iovanna – RW/C – Malden Catholic Lancers (MA High School) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
According to this post from ESPN Boston, it does sound like Iovanna will return to Malden Catholic this year.

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

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
1 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Smith was kept off the scoresheet as the EJHL season got underway this past weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how he does this season where he’ll likely spend the entire time with the Pics’ EJHL team, no longer splitting time in the Empire league.

Merrimack’s new practice rink and other upgrades could help the area get an USHL franchise. I’d love to see the top American junior league expand to the northeast. It certainly would make my recruiting updates a little easier.

Dongara Transfers In; UMail

Before we start in on your questions, there is a bit of semi-bigish news today.  College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni confirmed via Twitter this morning that Northeastern’s Rob Dongara has transferred to UMass.  He’ll have to sit out a year as a transfer but is allowed to participate in practices and team activities this season.  He’ll have two years of eligibility at UMass.  The rumors about Dongara being Amherst bound have been circulating since before Toot Cahoon stepped down.  However the attention then swung towards Toot leaving and the coaching search that followed.  In the time since I was able to confirm that he enrolled at UMass but never could find out if he truly had a spot on the roster under the current staff.  It ends up he does and as of today was officially added to the UMass roster.

So Dongara is now in Amherst and will hopefully be an important part of UMass hockey’s future.  His effort and energy made him a fan favorite at Matthews Arena and the 6 goals and 14 points he accumulated as a freshman help his support among the crowd as well.  But last year he ended up, for lack of a better term, in the dog house under new coach Jim Madigan and played only 15 games and scored just once.  UMass fans will hope that his decline in product and playing time had more to do with the change of coaches on St Botolph Street and not Dongara’s play.

Personally I don’t exactly know what to think of the move.  I have a lot of respect for Dongara’s high effort game and what he was able to do in his first season at Northeastern.  But at the same time you can’t help but question if the roster spot would be better used on a skill recruit.  Time will tell and I am hoping his time in Amherst goes well, if only so I can make it a topic of discussion during my regular visit’s to TKO Malley’s Sports Bar in Scituate, his hometown.

Here is the Husky Hockey Blog’s coverage of Dongara leaving the school last spring.  At the time they wrote it was expected he’d transfer to Atlantic Hockey or DIII.  Ouch.

On to UMail!

Regular comment contributor George asks, “Have we heard anything about CBS3? Is their secondary channel carrying home games again? And after rereading your post, can I assume it’s the same broadcasting team coming back?”

Excellent question regarding CBS3 and I’ll tell you that I have no idea.  I haven’t heard anything either way as UMass hasn’t come out and said if they’ll be covering any sports this year.  If I can find out an answer, I’ll pass it on.  Regarding your second question on the broadcast team, I’m glad you asked.  Honestly when I first read the release regarding the radio deal two things stood out to me.  First, it was only a one year deal.  Rewad into that however you’d like.  Second, there was no mention of the broadcast team.  I will tell you that there’s a good chance the team of Brock Hines, John Hennessy, and Adam Frenier returns next season but as far as I know it has not been totally decided.  Barring an invite from the PGA Tour, I’m think we can bank on Brock Hines coming back for another season or 30.  But the rest of the details are still being finalized.  Remember, UMass has handed over the management of all broadcasts to Nelligan Sports Marketing, so in the end they’re the ones making the call.  I wouldn’t have a problem with all three of them coming back.

Anonymous asks, “Rob Dongara. Great name or the greatest name?”

Are you kidding?  It’s not even the best Dong-based name.  That belongs to Long Duck Dong.  However I do think we should send a contingent of Mullins Maniacs to Boston to see what it will take to procure the “The Dong House” banner from the balcony of Matthews.

The infamous Wardy asks, “What renovations would you make at Mullins and bring it to a level matching other HEA rinks? Its neither new or historic.”

Three things:
1)  New weight room/training facilities for the team.  Everything I’ve heard from those around the team is that UMass’ weight training facilities and things like whirlpools used for post-game and injury recovery are among the worst of the league.
2)  A compressor or compressors that can adequately service both the Mullins Center and the practice rink.  UMass has had some of the best skaters in Hockey East in recent years but that advantage has been diminished due to slushy conditions.
3)  Bring the trophies downstairs from outside the Massachusetts Room.  The concourse at the Mullins is entirely too sterile.  UMass has a ton of athletic history, let’s bring it to the masses.  One of my favorite pieces in the trophy case is an old Blackhawk-style Redmen jersey.  Seeing that type of hockey memorabilia along with all the accolades won by the basketball team would gives Minuteman fans a better appreciate of the school’s rich traditions.

Greg asks, “Do you feel as if some college hockey writers have overlooked UMass?
After all, we are returning the core of our team with only a few
losses.”

It seems like the previews are just now starting to make their appearance, so I don’t think we’ve seen enough to conclude how writers are leaning at this point.  I did notice this one came out from College Hockey Weekly picking UMass 9th.  I also regrettably checked out the USCHO boards this week and saw that most posters have UMass out of the playoffs this coming season.  Honestly, this happens every year.  Most writers or fans predict UMass won’t make the Hockey East Playoffs, yet they always do.  They’ve made it to the quarterfinals every year since 2002.  But obviously the coaching change will temper any postive expectations that there may have been surrounding this team, despite the fact that the bulk of the talent comes from the junior class and the goaltending should only get better as players mature.  But don’t expect UMass to get the benefit of the doubt.  They never have.  At the very least Mike McMahon, arguably the most knowledge writer covering Hockey East, did tell me that he’s picking the Minutemen to finish at least as high as 7th, so they’ve got that going for them.

Thomas asks, “Will there be any updates in the jerseys into this year, and will we know what they look like before October 12?”

Good question.  I’m pretty sure the team will be using the same jerseys this year, but I don’t know that for certain.  I hope that includes the third “Massachusetts” jerseys as well.  I can tell you we won’t see the Frozen Fenway jerseys again as those were sold off as part of a fundraising effort and I know that Joel Hanley will have to personally fight me to get his back (OK, he’d win, but still…).  But no, as far as I’ve heard there won’t be any uniform changes this year.

Scott, my homebrew mentor, asks “What is the appropriate beer to drown one’s sorrows after a tough loss?”

The de facto answer is anything from Amherst Brewing Company.  Why?  Well, that’s the usual post-game spot nowadays.  That works well because after a loss I’m looking for something high alcohol yet sippable to help me forget about whatever I just watched.  Between their own stuff and their expanded guest list I can usually find a nice barleywine or imperial something-or-other to do the trick.

However, the real answer is whatever beer is closest.

Carson asks, “Which players are you expecting to make the most progress this coming year? Who do you think is most likely to fill the holes left by Syner, Hobbs, and Marcou?

I’ll answer your first question with either Rocco Carzo returning to more of an offensive role or Andrew Tegeler having a breakout season.  I think Carzo is capable of being a much larger part of the offense, which is why I have him on the second line in my line projections.  Carzo has had his ups and down in his career at UMass, excelling as a freshman playing with Casey Wellman and James Marcou, struggling as a sophomore, and then being a huge part of an impactful third line last year.  Something tells me his roller coast career will end on the upswing as a senior.

As for Tegeler, I really enjoyed his combination of size and skill last year and frankly wished he had played a lot more.  Fans will have to remember that he was the youngest player on the roster last year.  I think that a season under his belt will pay off a ton in this coming year.

Who will fill the holes left by the graduating seniors?  Well I think UMass has the guys to take the place of T.J. Syner and Danny Hobbs.  I’m most concerned about finding that everyday person to be the sixth defensemen.  Anthony Raiola, Darren Rowe, Mike Busillo, Connor Doherty.  It could be any of those guys, but I don’t see any of them as a lock at this point.

Mrs Triangle asks, “When is Mr. Slice coming back?”

For those who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Slice, he was the Dominos mascot in the form of a slice of pizza who kids/students/drunk people would shot on in between periods at hockey games.  There’s something very surreal about watching comfort food stonewall would be scorers wearing sneakers on the Mullins ice.  Anyway, I don’t think Mr. Slice will ever be back unfortunately.  However I’d love to hear the word’s “Mr. Slice OWNS you!” ring out from the Mullins crowd at least one last time.

Matt from Fight Mass asks, “Everyone talks about players that can break out in the new coach’s system, what player is likely to drop off without Toot.”

An interesting question.  I’m not sure if I can say someone will drop off “without Toot”.  However I can tell you that Pat Kiley is a player who I’m interested to see if he can build upon his success last year.  I don’t think too much was expected of Kiley going into last season and he had problems being effective early due to too many trips to the penalty box.  But by the end of the season he had four goals, eight points, and some huge minutes on that key third line.  I wasn’t a huge believer in Kiley early on in his career, but after seeing what he’s capable of when he’s playing his best last year I’m interested to see if we see the same this season, perhaps something even better, or if he falls off and ends up battling for playing time.  One thing’s for sure, thanks to his play he’s made a lot of fans of those who follow the team closely.

Josh asks, “Realistic 5 year goal under coach Mic?”

Honestly, I expect no less than returning to the Garden in his second year when much of the core of the team are seniors and then returning to the NCAA tournament no later than year four.  I’m not sure whether that’s considered aggressive of conservative against the average fan’s expectations, but given the team he has inherited and just the base expectations of an NCAA coach, I don’t think that’s a big stretch.

Thanks to everyone for their questions!

This is a big weekend for UMass running back Mike Cox as he returns to the Big House where he once took to the gridiron wearing the legendary maize and blue for the Wolverines.  However, before those times he was actually a hardcore hockey player according to this story from the Michigan Daily.  Interestingly, after he moved on from hockey he played football at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut, the prep school that has provided UMass with the likes of Jon Quick and Mike Pereira.  Hopefully hockey fans will see him in the stands this winter with the other students cheering on the team.

For those UMass fans making the trip out to Ann Arbor, here’s my quick Beer The Triangle preview for you.  First off, go to Jolly Pumpkin.  They’re one of my favorite breweries.  Perhaps in my top 5 and that’s saying a lot.  Second, Arbor Brewing is very good as well.  Thirdly, go to Ashley’s just a few block north of the Michigan Student Union and drink a lot of Bell’s. Lastly, go to Blue Tractor Brewery.  Their beer is ok, but the frosted strip on the bar designed to keep your beer cold is perhaps the greatest technical advancement of our generation.

It sounds as if Merrimack is exploring a DI women’s hockey program.  The Warriors also broke ground on their significant facility expansion and upgrade project.

Up To The Minute–8/29

Time to get everyone up to date on the recent goings on surrounding UMass hockey and college hockey in general.  Look for previews of the coming season to start in earnest following the long weekend.

UMass made official the hiring of John Gobeil as Director of Hockey Operations.  Gobeil comes to Amherst from Vermont, where he had served in the same role for his alma mater during the past three years.  A full time Director of Hockey Ops is something that is commonplace across the rest of competitive college hockey and long overdue for the Minuteman program.  Welcome to the UMass family, John.  You’ll be out of the spotlight, but still making a significant contribution to the success of the team.

The official roster has been updated with incoming freshman K.J. Tiefenwerth, Evan Stack, Shane Walsh, and Connor Doherty.  I would point out that all other players are on the roster and expected to return.

Hockey’s Future had this excellent article regarding recent UMass alums making strides towards playing in the NHL.  Featured are Justin Braun, Matt Irwin, Casey Wellman, Paul Dainton, Mike Marcou, and his brother James Marcou.

Matt Vautour mentions hockey in this preview to the 2012-13 UMass athletic season.

Speaking of Matty V, I’ll be taking on him and other media members in a contest to correctly pick this season’s UMass and MAC football games.  The contest pits myself, Maroon Musket’s Bob McGovern, and UMass Football Blog’s Frank Smith against Matt, UMass hockey announcer Matt Goldstein, and the Republican’s Harry Plumer.  Looking at the first week’s picks I really need Northern Illinois to get the upset this week.  No worries though, Iowa always starts slow on the season.

Speaking of UMass football, I cannot wait to head to East Hartford tomorrow (have those words ever been written?) to watch the Minutemen kick off the FBS era against UConn.  I, and others, have been waiting a long time for this and still have vivid memories of UMass embarrassing the Huskies 62-20 in the last meeting.

Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy has been named an Associate Athletic Director in the wake of the school’s AD resigning for misconduct.

College Hockey Inc has a new leader.

Preview: #3 Merrimack


Hockey East Preview: #3 Merrimack Warriors

2010-11 Storyline: Da Costa, Cannata lead Merrimack to first NCAA tournament berth in 23 years.

2011-12 Storyline: Merrimack able to stay competitive despite loss of Da Costa.

Player To Watch: Joe Cannata

Player Missed Most: Stephane Da Costa

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Josh Meyers

Random Fact: Da Costa, a Paris native, majored in French while at Merrimack. I still find that hilarious.

Usual Beer The Triangle Pre-game Spot: The Tap (Haverhill Brewery)

Honestly, it was tough to decide who to pick 3rd between Merrimack and New Hampshire, since they’re both very similar. Both are losing big goal scorers in Da Costa and Thompson. Both have some talented forwards waiting in the wings. Both have the top goaltenders returning in the conference. Merrimack gets the nod because they’re really only losing Adam Ross on defense. So not only do you have a goaltender like Cannata, but virtually everyone in front of him comes back, including up and comers like Jordan Heywood.

On offense it’s easy to point to the fact that the Warriors lose Da Costa, Joe Cucci, and Chris Barton. But the fact is Jesse Todd, Ryan Flanigan, and Mike Collins all scored as many, if not more, goals than those three. Add in a guy like Josh Meyers who was second in the BCHL in goals last season and you have a very potent offense despite the losses. Also, let’s remember that Merrimack had to play a chunk of the season down the stretch without Da Costa, who was injured, and did fairly well. This was just a precursor to what we should expect this season.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Honestly, they shouldn’t unless a team picked below them plays above and beyond what’s expected.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: The defense lets no one one past them in that postage stamp they call a rink.

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

UMassathletics has a video featuring this year’s “Navy Seal” training.

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: Hockey East Playoff Preview

Playoffs!  Time for some previews and predictions:

Quarterfinals

#8 Massachusetts Minutemen at #1 Boston College
My preview for this one will be posted tomorrow, as usual.  I will give my prediction though. UMass has played very good hockey the last few weeks and proven that they can compete with some of the best teams in the country.  Unfortunately they haven’t shown that they know how to beat any of those teams.  So as much as it pains me to say, Boston College sweeps 2-0.

#7 Vermont at #2 New Hampshire
Vermont is playing .500 hockey since the start of February, going 3-3-4 in their last 10.  However they went 0-1-1 against UNH during that time in addition to an earlier loss in Burlington.  UNH has played great since the beginning of January except for a couple of weekend sweeps at the hands of Merrimack and Boston College, with the Eagles taking both games this past weekend to pry the regular season title away from the Wildcats.

How Vermont Can Win:
When Vermont wins against good teams it’s because their special teams are working for them.  In their 7-2 over Maine last month the Catamounts went 3 for 6 on the power play and kept the Black Bears off the board in all 8 of their power play opportunities.

How New Hampshire Can Win:
Just put the first line out there and let them do their thing.  Paul Thompson, Mike Sislo, and Phil DeSimmone have accounted for 47 goals this year and 128 points.

Despite UNH’s disappointing results last weekend it’s tough to see them drop any games to the Catamounts.  UNH sweeps 2-0.

#6 Northeastern at #3 Boston University
Northeastern had a daunting schedule coming off the Beanpot Championship game having to face the top three place teams in Hockey East in three consecutive weekends.  But they did very well going 2-2-2 in that time.  BU’s last place finish in the BU Invitational was a wake up call for them and they went 4-2-0 down the stretch.  The Terriers will play without freshman Garrett Noonan for the first game after picking up his third misconduct of the season.

How Northeastern Can Win:
The Huskies played well against those top Hockey East teams despite their fiesty coach Greg Cronin being suspended for recruiting violations.  Well, he’s back and Northeastern will have to channel some of his emotion in order to beat BU at Agganis where the Terriers have lost three games all season.

How Boston University Can Win:
The Terriers will need a good showing from their freshmen who will be making their Hockey East playoff debuts in order to advance.  Charlie Coyle, Sahir Gill, Matt Nieto, and Adam Clendening are all key to BU’s postseason success.

Northeastern has been playing some pretty good hockey lately, including beating BU on Comm Ave last weekend, all without their intense leader behind the bench.  I think the return of Cronin and the play of Chris Rawlings makes the difference here.  Northeastern wins 2-1.

#5 Maine at #4 Merrimack
These teams are heading in very different directions.  Maine is unbeaten in their last 7 games, which includes two wins against Merrimack by a combined score of 11-1.  Meanwhile Merrimack has lost three of their last four, including dropping an ugly one to Providence to close the regular season.

How Maine Can Win:
Maine goes how Gustav Nyquist goes.  He’s had multiple points in five straight games.  It’ll also be important for Maine to get an early lead.  They’re 13-1-3 when scoring the first goal and undefeated, 9-0-2, when taking a lead into the first intermission.

How Merrimack Can Win:
The Warriors have to take advantage of only the second playoff series every hosted in North Andover.  Merrimack is 12-2-1 in the revamped Lawler Arena this season and 24-5-2 in the last two seasons combined.

If I wasn’t heading to Conte, I probably would’ve thought about grabbing tickets to this series before they were all scooped up because it should be a good one.  It all comes down to whether Stephane Da Costa is healthy and his goal and two assist performance in his last game appears to show that he is.  Merrimack heads to the Garden 2-1.

Semifinals
Northeastern vs Boston College – This would make the fifth time the teams meet this season.  I say another high scoring affair like the last time they met here, BC wins 6-4.
Merrimack vs New Hampshire – The pressure of Merrimack’s cinderella season gets to them and they drop a close one, UNH 2-1.

Finals
UNH vs BC – Again these teams meet with a title on the line and again BC proves they’re just a bit better, BC 4-2 (ENG).

Tim How has a piece on Oleg Yevenko’s committment to UMass.  I’m hearing very good things from How and Ryan Clark who also covers the Fargo Force (both can be followed on Twitter).  It sounds like Yevenko is the bruiser we’ve been missing the last few seasons.  Clark said he’ll likely be writing a piece on Yevenko soon as well so I’ll post it when it happens.

The USHL has an official release as well.

News tonight that Hockey East is less two coaches as both Lowell’s Blaise MacDonald and Providence’s Tim Army are on their way out.  Army is really no surprise considering how bad the Friars been, not to mention how many star players have decided to take their talents out of the Ocean State before their careers are through.  In fact there were serious rumors that Army was going to jump ship and head back to coach the pros last offseason.  You have to wonder how much worse they would’ve been in his time  if not for the solid play of Alex Beaudry in net the last couple years.

I think with MacDonald the decision doesn’t have too much to do with this past season as it does previous ones.  While the River Hawks were nothing short of horrendous, it’s tough for them not to be with so many freshmen on the squad (though it should be pointed out that UMass had just as many freshmen on their squad this season with better results).  What has hurt MacDonald is the fact that the size of his classes are completely unbalanced which leads to this weird cycle where they go straight from boom to bust in the course of one offseason and really can’t build off any success.  But what really hurt Blaise was the that fact that even his boom years were busts that saw Lowell teams expected to do damage in Hockey East and make it to the NCAAs end up completely underachieving and ending up in mediocrity.

Saturday Recap; Manno Commits

Apologies for a minimalistic recap, but my computer has died so this is being written on my iPhone.

I was impressed by the Minutemen defensively last night. Yes they allowed a ton of shots, but they limited Merrimack to a lot of non-quality chances and when they did get a good look Paul Dainton was there to stop them. The defense also did a good job of sweeping rebounds from in front of the net or getting between the Merrimack forwards and the loose pucks. Overall, I don’t have too many complaints about the effort defensively against this high scoring offense that put up 11 last time they met in this building.

The UMass offense however was nonexistent. The started the game with 7 shots in the first and unfortunately the totals went down from there. This team, as it’s currently built, seems completely unable to compete on small ice. The forwards just do not seem to have the strength to maintain possession when bringing the puck into the zone and too often they’re stopped in the neutral zone before even getting there. One positive offensively is that UMass scored on the power play for the second straight night, with both coming on the four on three.

This was a very beatable top ten team,made even more beatable with the fact that they were missing their best player. A win or more would’ve been a feather in the cap of this UMass team going forward and show that they’re making progress from when they first assembled last fall. I think they showed they can compete but is lacking enough to truly be able to win key games. Unfortunately I think what they’re lacking is all mental. Key mistakes, lack of consistent focus, and shaky confidence from some of the younger players is limiting this team’s ability to win. Unfortunately things get much tougher from here with a home and home with Boston College. Fortunately Northeastern just showed that the Eagles are in fact human.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game -Paul Dainton
Despite being peppered all night the only two pucks that got past Dainton were on a 2 on 1 and on the power play. If Dainton is not on the top of his game last night this could’ve been a repeat of another 11-2 disaster.

^
Sorry, can’t do links to the game recaps at this time.

Vermont’s tie with UNH lifted them into 7th place with UMass. The Minutemen still own the tiebreaker. Providence lost and remain 3 points back in 9th place. The Catamounts have two at BU next week while Providence has a home and home with Lowell.

^

It appears that South Kent forward Joseph Manno has committed to UMass and is scheduled to come to Amherst this fall.

(Sorry for the misinformation, but it now appears that I received bad information or Manno backed out.  I cannot confirm his committment at this time – MC)

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.

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