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Stanley Cup Final ▲ Sheary, Braun Step Up With Late Heroics In Game 2

Many UMass fans, including myself, were ecstatic that the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks would be playing for the Stanley Cup because it guaranteed that a Minuteman would be immortalized on Lord Stanley’s chalice by the end of the series.  It wasn’t expected however that the two former UMass captains playing, San Jose defenseman Justin Braun and rookie Pittsburgh forward Conor Sheary, would be having such a significant impact on the outcome of the series.

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Recruit Update ▲ Nachtigall, Makar Combine For 4 Goals, 7 points In Two Bandit Wins

It’s Tuesday so time to take a look around the continent and see how the future Minutemen are doing.

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Recruit Update: Chukarov Named To All-NAHL Team

The USHL, the premier junior hockey league in the United States, held its draft the last two days and a few future Minutemen were selected.  Yesterday was the Phase I draft for just 1999 birth years.  Brian Scoville, due at UMass in 2018, was taken in the 7th Round (105th overall) by the Sioux Falls Stampede.  In today’s Phase II draft for all draft eligible age groups a couple recruits were picked early by the Omaha Lancers.  First was Nick Jenny (2017) was taken in the 1st round (11th overall) and then the Lancers took Jake Massie (2016) in the 2nd round (27th overall).  Later in the draft Justin Dixson (2017) was taken by the Tri-City Storm in the 8th round (129th overall).

Now onto the regular updates, with news about Austin Plevy, Nic Renyard, Ivan Chukarov, Justin Dixson, and John Leonard.

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Montour Makes His Departure Official; FTT Hockey East Awards

Brandon Montour made official what was first reported over the weekend that he indeed is going to forgo his final three years at UMass and sign with the Anaheim DucksI shared my thoughts on the subject on Saturday when his impending departure was first reported.  While I wish UMass fans had gotten to see him in the maroon and white for longer than 21 games, I wish him well in his pro career.

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View From Section U: Freshmen Comparisons By The Numbers

A couple weeks back I gave my thoughts on the incoming freshmen and how they may fit into this season’s lineup.  To continue an annual tradition here at FTT I’ve compiled their junior level statistics along with current and former UMass players who played in the same league to try to better gauge what kind of expectations we should have of them

First let’s start in the New England prep league.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union
24-6-4  1.81GAA  .931 save %
Other prep league goaltenders:
Jon Quick  27-1-0  1.14 GAA  .953 save %
Gabe Winer  14-8-0  1.82 GAA  .920 save %
It’s a bit much to be looking for the next Jon Quick, but Gabe Winer was a dependable goaltender who was able to give the Minutemen solid time in net for all four of his years in Amherst.

Kevin Boyle played goaltender in the BCHL last year a league that has given UMass players like Eric Filiou, Matt Irwin, and Kelly Sickavish.  But UMass hasn’t gotten many, if any, goaltenders from the league.  However, they did get a goaltender from the nearby AJHL, which is supposed to be similar in talent.  Let’s see how Boyle’s junior numbers stack up against Paul Dainton’s.

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors
20-16-1  3.02GAA  .902 save %
Other Western Canada goaltenders:
Paul Dainton  13-6-4  2.42GAA  .916 save %
Boyle’s numbers are below Dainton’s.  However, they aren’t too far off of current Northeastern goaltender Chris Rawlings who had a GAA of 2.83 and save percentage of .915 in his last year in the BCHL.

Onto Atlantic Junior Hockey.  Unfortunately the league website has started wiping last year’s stats.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack
41GP 8G  19A  27Pts  97PIM
While UMass has recruited defensemen from Atlantic Junior they usually go somewhere else for a couple years between there and UMass, such as Mike Marcou who went on to play in the USHL.  Still Busillo was one of the top scoring defensemen in the league and one of the leaders in penalty minutes.

Let’s move onto the USHL where UMass has gotten the majority of their players recently.

Oleg Yevenko – D – Fargo Force
52 GP  4G  4A  8pts  0+/-  197 PIM
Other USHL defensemen:
Adam Phillips  47GP  1G  11A  12Pts  0+/-  16PIM

Justin Braun  59GP  2G  11A  13Pts  +5  69PIM
Mike Marcou  48GP  2G  9A  11Pts  -8  22PIM
Darren Rowe  52GP  7G  16A  23Pts  +16  8PIM
Obviously Yevenko is unlike any of the recent defensemen we’ve gotten from the USHL, in that he’s going to be out the ice to punish the other team.  You can see by the stats he almost triple Justin Braun’s PIM total in the USHL.  He’ll intimidate on the ice, the question is can he play defense?

Now to the local EJHL.

Andrew Tegeler – F – Junior Bruins
44GP  19G  21A  40pts  38PIM
Other EJHL forwards:
Peter DeAngelo  45GP 15G 15A 30Pts 10PIM
Patrick Kiley  44GP 14G 38A 52Pts 83PIM
Alex Berry ??GP 21G 31A 52Pts
Marc Concannon 20GP 2G 15A 17Pts
Scott Crowder 54GP 23G 30A 53Pts
Jordan Virtue 36GP 13G 30A 43Pts
Kevin Czepiel 43 GP 18G 58A 76Pts
This is an interesting one.  His numbers aren’t much different than DeAngelo’s or Kiley’s, neither of which made much of an impact last year.  Then again they’re not too far off of Alex Berry and Scott Crowder who both had very good careers at UMass.  What sets Tegeler apart from Kiley and DeAngelo is his size, 6’2” 200lbs.

The NAHL presents a problem.

Emerson Auvenshine – F – Bismarck Bobcats
54GP  11G  11A  22pts  +1  106PIM
The only recent player who UMass has had from the NAHL is Anthony Raiola, a defenseman.  Before that was third string goaltender Mike Waidlich.  However there a couple NAHL forwards in Hockey East.  Brandon Brodhag of Merrimack put up 33 goals and 65 pts in the NAHL and last year as a sophomore had 10 goals and 17 points for the Warriors.  Of course Merrimack has had good luck with NAHL players, like some guy named Stephane DeCosta.  Rob Dongara put up similar numbers to Auvenshine in the NAHL, 11 goals 23 points, and had 6 goals and 8 assists playing in nearly every game as a freshman for Northeastern.

The OPJHL is known for high point totals and mixed results in the college ranks.

Zack LaRue – F – Markham Waxers
50GP  33G  36A  69pts  26PIM
Other OPJHL/CCHL forwards:
Chase Langeraap 49GP 33G 46A 79PTS 73PIM
Shawn Saunders 49GP 10G 33A 43PTS 81PIM
Kevin Jarman 46GP 43G 36A 79PTS 51PIM
You can see his numbers compare favorably to Chase Langeraap’s and Kevin Jarman’s.  Both played valuable roles for the Minutemen, but unfortunately for both it took until their senior year to finally see the promise that their lofty junior totals suggested.  Will LaRue break the trend and put up the numbers in year one?

Stephen Guzzo – F – Oakville Blades
56GP  29G  41A  70pts  52PIM
Redshift freshman Stephen Guzzo’s junior numbers also stack up well next to the previous Minutemen from the OPJHL.

There you have it.  What does all of this mean?  Who knows!  But at least it gives us something to think about in the 23 days until the puck drops.

I caught an interview on 1510AM, the Boston station that carries some of the UMass hockey games, with Billy Hogan from Fenway Sports Group, the group publicizing Frozen Fenway 2012. He says they’ve already sold over 30,000 tickets. Wow! And people said outdoor hockey had jumped the shark. The fact that it has sold so well is really a testament to the alumni of the schools in the Boston area with UMass having the most representation in the area.

Great to see Paul Dainton doing well at the prospect tournament in Traverse City representing the Blue Jackets.  He got the win over the Wild prospects last night, 3-1, making 26 saves.  Fire The Cannon says he played the puck more than the other Blue Jacket goaltenders.  Yeah, get used to that and keep the defibrillator nearby.

Here’s a look at Jon Quick’s hockey mask for this season.

Sizing Up The Freshmen

This was a busy week for the UMass athletic department, what with football media day and such. So it doesn’t look like the shorthanded staff was able to update the hockey roster this week. Originally I was waiting see the final fall roster before starting in on previews but, probably like most of you, I’m chomping at the bit to start thinking about the upcoming season. So without knowing entirely who’s coming and who’s going, let’s start to take a look at this year’s roster. While most of the attention will be spent on the talented and deep sophomore class as well as the core group of returning captains as seniors, the freshmen will have a key role to play in this team’s success. Especially in perhaps the most important position of all, goaltender. So here’s a short introduction to the new players coming onto campus, what they bring to the team, and what holes they may potentially fill.

Forwards

Emerson Auvenshine
Auvenshine is the most recent player to commit to the Minutemen. He has spent the last two seasons with the Bismarck Bobcats of the NAHL, a Midwest junior league that seen as a step below the elite level USHL. With the Bobcats last year he put up 11 goals and 11 assists to go along with 106 PIM. The penalty minutes suggest he plays with grit, which is something that was definitely lacking with last year’s UMass team. The Michigan native seems to be a really hard worker, as Paul Teeple, broadcaster for the Bobcats, wrote about his perseverance in North Dakota that not only saw him make the team but become one of its assistant captains. Auvenshine will likely see some time on the third and fourth lines to help the Minutemen defensively and keep the other teams honest, but it’s always tough to know what to expect from players coming out of a mid-tier league like the NAHL. If he gets significant playing time, it’s likely because he’s working harder than everyone else in practice.

Zack LaRue
If LaRue isn’t seen as the highest profile freshman coming in, he at least is likely to make the most impact offensively. He’s seen as being one a strong skater, well-conditioned, can put up points (33 goals, 36 assists in 50 games with Markham of the OPJHL), and is also a top penalty killer. That description makes him sound a lot like co-captain T.J. Syner. The difference? LaRue is 6’2” and 195lbs. LaRue seems like the type of player who will be able to come in and immediately contribute to the scoring load, which is very important considering the team was 7th in Hockey East in goals, but at the same time able to withstand checks along the boards and maybe hand a few out. I see LaRue likely playing on the top two lines, mixing in with the likes of Syner, Danny Hobbs, Mike Pereira, and Conor Sheary.

Andrew Tegeler
Tegeler should also be able to provide some offensive punch when he hits Amherst in the fall, but for the most part seems like a solid two way player. Playing in the EJHL last year he had 19 goals and 21 assists in 44 games. Six of his goals were game winners which was good for second in the league. On the other side of the puck he ended up a +30. UMass has had good luck with two way players from the Junior Bruins before, such as Alex Berry. While not as big as Berry, it is reported that Tegeler is able to use his 6’1” frame to his advantage. I see the New Jersey native as getting solid minutes on the third line.

Defense

Mike Busillo
As mentioned before, physical play, or lack thereof, was a huge concern for the team last year. Busillo’s addition is another sign that the coaching staff moved quickly to address that deficiency. The 6’2” blueliner had 97 PIM for the Junior Wolfpack of the AJHL last year where he was an All-Star. He also proved to be pretty good with the puck as well, putting up 8 goals and 19 assists on the season. His 27 points led all defensemen on his team. Busillo adds depth to a solid, but young, defensive corp and while he might not be in the lineup every night, I do suspect he’ll play a fair share of games.

Oleg Yevenko
Again, size and toughness has been seen as a major area of concern for this team in recent years. Yevenko addresses both, in a big way. At 6’7 he becomes the tallest player ever for the program and will even have Adam Phillips looking up at him. As for toughness, playing for Fargo of the USHL he averaged just under 4 PIM a game and was second overall in the league. If anything, UMass fans are probably worried Yevenko might be spending too much time in the penalty box and his style of play may end up hurting the team. That remains to be seen. If you believe what Fargo beat writer Ryan S Clark has to say, Yevenko’s style of play will be an asset, even if it did draw multiple suspensions out west. I expect the big Belarusian to be in the lineup every night and having strong words with any opposing player who gets a little too aggressive with Syner, Sheary, or Kevin Czepiel.

Goaltender

Kevin Boyle
Boyle has been committed to UMass for a number of years now, which has allowed fans to get a pretty good feel for what type of player he may be. In fact I even got to see him play in person a couple of seasons ago. Boyle played well in the AJHL for a couple seasons, but last year went far from his home in New Jersey to play in British Columbia under the tutelage of former UMass grad assistant Darren Yopyk. While this couldn’t have been easy I think it was a great move to go against the higher competition of the BCHL. There, his play was, well, inconsistent (I know, I’m a terrible person for saying so). One night he’d get a shutout or give up a goal and the next he’d struggle to stay in the game. But overall he had a decent season going 20-16-1 with a GAA of 3.02 and save percentage of .902. In the playoffs he played even better but unfortunately an injury led to an early exit for him and his team. Still, he played well enough to be named to the BCHL All-Rookie team. With Paul Dainton gone and sophomore Jeff Teglia putting up OK but not great numbers last year the goaltender position is wide open. Boyle probably will be right there competing for the starting job.

Steve Mastalerz
Mastalerz but up stellar numbers for Kimball Union of the New England Prep League, going 24-6-4 with a miniscule 1.81 goals against and .931 save percentage. For all that USHR named him a prep All-Star. UMass has had pretty good success with goaltenders from the prep schools, with Jon Quick and Gabe Winer both coming from that route previously. Mastalerz already has a relationship with UMass goaltending coach Mike Buckley which should help him get acclimated to the school and college level quickly. He was pursued by multiple Hockey East schools before ultimately deciding on UMass. Frankly, the goaltender job is up for grabs. I don’t see any reason why he won’t contend for it.

While not a freshman another player to keep in mind is Stephen Guzzo, who injured his knee on the eve of last year’s opener and ended up being a medical redshirt. While he wasn’t able to skate again until spring, his familiarity with the system and his teammate should give him a step up this fall. Guzzo had 29 goals and 41 assists in 70 games in his last season in the OJHL, but will likely be used more as a defensive player. I expect him to get regular rotation on the 3rd and 4th lines.

So there you have it, your class of 2015. If anything, this class addresses immediate needs the team has to fill to be successful this season. Over the years the Minutemen have gotten smaller, quicker, more skilled. That has been a good thing when you see the production of guys like James Marcou and T.J. Syner. But at the same time strong defensive teams have found ways to limit how much damage those guys can inflict by being overly aggressive and using size to their advantage. That will not happen with this class. The team is bringing on skilled forwards who can score and move the puck, yet are over 6’. On defense UMass got bigger, a lot bigger, and will bring an edge to the squad that has not been seen since perhaps Steve Jacobs suited up for the Minutemen. In goal, the coaching staff have given themselves options. The goaltending situation will be the biggest story of the year. Fans will enjoy following how it progresses, even if it leads to some downright scary situations here and there. Still, if one guy isn’t getting it done in net, there are two others just as capable waiting in the wings. Some of the best goaltending for this squad just may take place during the week at practice as they fight for the top spot.

Nice to see Paul Dainton sign his first pro contract with the team just down the valley, the Springfield Falcons. Dainton did well for them during an ATO (Amateur Tryout) at the end of last season.

Stick tap to the reader who passed along the news that Darren Rowe and Troy Power, along with some other prominent college players such as BU’s Max Nicastro and Denver goaltender Beau Bennett, will be taking on alumni of the LA Kings this weekend. The game is a benefit for the Junior Kings squad, which Rowe, Power, and the other amateur players played for when they were younger. What? No Brad Norton?

Obi Aduba spent his summer playing in Australia.

Reports continue to come out that the Fenway game will be taking place.

Farewell, “Fighting Sioux”. I’m sorry the NCAA couldn’t see the difference between a name that honors and one that demeans (looking at you pro teams in Cleveland and Washington DC).

The selection committee has made a tweak to the common opponent part of the pairwise calculation.

Recruit Update

First off, a big congratulations and thank you to Athletic Director John McCutcheon and Chancellor Robert Holub for doing what others would only talk about.  UMass is set to announce it is upgrading its football program to FBS where they’ll play in the MAC.  It’s been a dream of mine, and many others, to see the school play at the highest level of collegiate football.  While I focus primarily on hockey (and beer) on this blog I’m also a season ticket holder for football, attending every game and have followed the team in its travels from Ann Arbor to Chattanooga.  This is tremendous news and will only make the athletic department, and thus the hockey program, better as a whole.

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
39 GP / 20-16-1 / 3.02 GAA / .902 sv%
Boyle’s team was eliminated in the second round of the BCHL playoffs after he got injured. He did pretty well in the playoffs going 6-6-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack (AtlJHL)
41 GP / 8 G / 19 A / 27 Pts / 97 PIM
Busillo’s season is over as his Wolfpack were eliminated by Walpole in the first round of the AtlJHL playoffs. He had a goal in three playoff games.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
49 GP / 13 G / 42 A / 55 Pts / 76 PIM
Gillespie’s season is over after Shattuck won the Tier-I Under 18 National Championship earlier this month in Simsbury, CT. Gillespie was the 12th leading scorer in the tournament, netting two goals and three assists in the six games.

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
LaRue’s season has come to a close as his Waxers lost in the first round of the playoffs. He had a goal and four assists in five playoff games, including a game winner and a shorthanded goal.

Joseph Manno – South Kent Cardinal (NE Prep)
24 GP / 16 G / 27 A / 43 Pts
South Kent was upset in the prep playoffs despite being the top seed.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union Wildcats (NE Prep)
35 GP / 24-7-4 / 1.63 GAA / .923 sv%
Mastalerz’s season is over after KUA lost in the first playoff game 4-3 in overtime.

Andrew Tegeler – F – Junior Bruins (EJHL)
44 GP / 19 G / 21 A / 40 Pts / 38 PIM
Tegeler’s Bruins were eliminated in the EJHL playoffs.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
49 GP / 9 G / 7 A / 16 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh’s Saints had a first round by in the USHL playoffs but will take on Oleg Yevenko and the Fargo Force in the second round.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko was suspended for the first round of the playoffs but is due to return against the Saints.

In alumni news Jon Quick and Justin Braun and their Kings and Sharks will play Game 3 tonight, with Quick coming off his first ever playoff shutout.  In the AHL Casey Wellman has a goal and an assist while his Houston Aeros are up 3-0 in their series over Peoria.  Alex Berry’s Norfolk Admirals are up 2-0 on the Wilkes-Barre Penguins but he appears to be out for injury or something.  David Leaderer hasn’t played for the Milwaukee Admirals who are tied 1-1 with the Texas Stars.

In the ECHL coach Dean Stork’s Road Warriors are tied at one apiece in the second round of the playoffs there.

It appears that Lowell has found their next coach.

Tegeler Commits To UMass; Recruit Update

Chris Heisenberg passed along the news that UMass picked up a commitment from Junior Bruins forward Andrew Tegeler for next fall.  The 6’1”, 170lb right wing is originally from Sewell, NJ.  In 44 games for the Junior Bruins this past season he had 19 goals, 21 assists, and 38 PIM.  He had 2 shorthanded goals on the season and his 6 game winning goals were tied for second in the EJHL.  He was listed as a player to watch for the 2011 NHL draft in the initial rankings from the Central Scouting Service.  He was not listed however in the final rankings released earlier this week.

It sounds like he has the potential to add some goal scoring for the Minutemen in the future and you especially have to like his ability to score goals that count.  Coach Cahoon has had success in commitments coming late in the recruiting season.  Adam Phillips and Branden Gracel were both players who committed to UMass after March of last year.

As of now UMass will be graduating 1 goaltender, 1 defenseman, and 5 forwards.  According to the Heisenberg site, UMass has incoming 2 goaltenders, 2 defensemen, and 5 forwards.  However, I have heard that one of those forwards shown on the site as coming next year will likely be coming to Amherst in 2012 instead, though that has not been confirmed.  Therefore it appears that there is one player more coming in than leaving and that may indicate that there will be some turnover on the team.  Who am I kidding, there is always turnover on the team.  At least this year it’s not coming in the form of players leaving for the pros.  The fact that an extra defenseman is coming in probably shows that Toot is looking for extra depth at that position and perhaps will be moving Darren Rowe to forward full time next season.  I’ll have more on how the team could potentially look next season in the coming weeks.

Now on to the regular recruit update.

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
39 GP / 20-16-1 / 3.02 GAA / .902 sv%
Boyle’s team was eliminated in the second round of the BCHL playoffs after he got injured. He did pretty well in the playoffs going 6-6-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack (AtlJHL)
41 GP / 8 G / 19 A / 27 Pts / 97 PIM
Busillo’s season is over as his Wolfpack were eliminated by Walpole in the first round of the AtlJHL playoffs. He had a goal in three playoff games.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
49 GP / 13 G / 42 A / 55 Pts / 76 PIM
Gillespie’s season is over after Shattuck won the Tier-I Under 18 National Championship earlier this month in Simsbury, CT. Gillespie was the 12th leading scorer in the tournament, netting two goals and three assists in the six games.

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
LaRue’s season has come to a close as his Waxers lost in the first round of the playoffs. He had a goal and four assists in five playoff games, including a game winner and a shorthanded goal.

Joseph Manno – South Kent Cardinal (NE Prep)
24 GP / 16 G / 27 A / 43 Pts
South Kent was upset in the prep playoffs despite being the top seed.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union Wildcats (NE Prep)
35 GP / 24-7-4 / 1.63 GAA / .923 sv%
Mastalerz’s season is over after KUA lost in the first playoff game 4-3 in overtime.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
49 GP / 9 G / 7 A / 16 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh scored a goal in one of his three games last week.  His Saints have a bye in the first round of the USHL playoffs.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko is still suspended and hasn’t played since March 27th.  He should be returning early in the playoffs as his Force take on the Lincoln Stars.

Recruit Update; Q&A With Ryan S. Clark

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
39 GP / 20-16-1 / 3.02 GAA / .902 sv%
Boyle’s team was eliminated in the second round of the BCHL playoffs after he got injured. He did pretty well in the playoffs going 6-6-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack (AtlJHL)
41 GP / 8 G / 19 A / 27 Pts / 97 PIM
Busillo’s season is over as his Wolfpack were eliminated by Walpole in the first round of the AtlJHL playoffs. He had a goal in three playoff games.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
49 GP / 13 G / 42 A / 55 Pts / 76 PIM
Shattuck won the Tier-I Under 18 National Championship this past weekend in Simsbury, CT.  Gillespie was the 12th leading scorer in the tournament, netting two goals and three assists in the six games. 

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
LaRue’s season has come to a close as his Waxers lost in the first round of the playoffs. He had a goal and four assists in five playoff games, including a game winner and a shorthanded goal.

Joseph Manno – South Kent Cardinal (NE Prep)
24 GP / 16 G / 27 A / 43 Pts
South Kent was upset in the prep playoffs despite being the top seed.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union Wildcats (NE Prep)
35 GP / 24-7-4 / 1.63 GAA / .923 sv%
Mastalerz’s season is over after KUA lost in the first playoff game 4-3 in overtime.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
46 GP / 8 G / 7 A / 15 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh went scoreless in his one game this week.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko is currently suspended and hasn’t played since March 27th.

Here is a  Q&A I recently did with Ryan S. Clark.  Clark is a Maine grad (but we won’t hold that against him) who writes for the Fargo-Moorehead Forum where he covers the USHL’s Fargo Force and Minnesota high school hockey.  His blog, Slightly Chilled, covers all levels of amateur hockey.  I started following him on Twitter when the Force’s Oleg Yevenko committed to UMass and was able to get his thoughts on UMass’ towering recruit and other topics.  Much thanks to Ryan for his contribution.

Fear The Triangle: Yevenko is currently serving a multi-game suspension and was suspended at least one other time earlier this season. Since media coverage of the USHL is sometimes scarce, would you be able to shed any light on what transpired that led to the most recent or earlier suspensions?

Ryan S. Clark:  Sure. From what I gathered from talking to scouts, he used an elbow and that was enough to warrant a 6-game suspension. He’s got four more games left in the suspension. Oleg’s been suspended quite a few times this season. He’s been suspended twice according to the league’s transaction’s page. NHL and college scouts have both said what hurts him is the fact that he’s so tall that when his elbows move around, they are usually within distance of someone’s chest or higher and there are times where it could be something simple that turns into something worse.

FTT:  Yevenko obviously plays on the edge in terms of his physical style. Would you say his toughness is an asset overall to the Force or do the penalties and suspensions make him more of a liability?

RSC:  It is an asset for sure. Fargo is a physical team and it is no secret that they’re going to make a game tough just for the fact that they like to check and get gritty with people. His toughness would also be an asset because he’s so physically imposing. Coach Jason Herter has said about penalties in general that they are part of the game and that these things happen. With Oleg they happen a lot as he’s set the record for most PIMs in a career by a Force player.

FTT:  How would you describe the strengths of his game?

RSC:  Aside from size, he can actually move the puck pretty well. His shot is also pretty strong too. His shot is a hard one that when accurate can be tough to deal with. Another strength of the game is his positioning. He uses his frame to make sure he can cover the ice and get into the passing lanes. He can also block a shot too.

FTT:  What are the areas you think he needs to work on as he sets his sights on college hockey in a top conference like Hockey East?

RSC:  Speed. He sees a lot of it in practice and in the league, but speed is so killer in Hockey East to where it can be your downfall. He just needs to get faster or continue his adaptation into handling speed when it goes against him. I haven’t seen him get burned at all, then again, he wasn’t going up against the Da Costas of the world every weekend either.

FTT:  Do you know what, if any, other schools were also looking at Yevenko?

RSC:  To my knowledge, I am not sure if others were looking at him. Most players tend to be pretty quiet about all that just because they don’t want to burn bridges. But from what I gathered, other schools were indeed looking at him.

FTT:  How are the Force’s chances to win the Clark Cup?

RSC:  They’d have to be good but they also have to be consistent. The Force have a ton of talent and everyone around the league knows that. They just have to be consistent when it matters. The thing that helps them is that entering last weekend, they were tied for the most road wins in the USHL with 19. Bad news is, they have an average home record. If they can win those home games they can be back in the Clark Cup Finals for a third straight year.

FTT:  As someone who covers both the USHL and Minnesota High School hockey, how would you compare the level of play of the two?

RSC:  Great question. In truth, they are different. The USHL is a faster, physical league that relies on talent and/or systems to win games. That and the defense and goalies on this level are far better than what you see in Minn. HS. Another thing about the USHL that makes it different is the skill level. Take a guy like Force forward Joe Rehkamp for example. He played at Breck in Minnesota and kid was easily the fastest skater in the state. He comes to the USHL where he uses his speed to kill but it hasn’t translated into a lot of goals like it did in high school.

That said, Minnesota HS hockey is very good. There is talent there and it is a great place for recruiters to go. MNHS is like any high school sport where you have a balance of power and the power is pretty much with the schools in the Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul and its suburbs.) Schools like Eden Prairie, Edina, etc. are in locations where kids can train year round and go against the best competition whether it be in the fall with the Elite League or the regular season. Then there are outstate schools like Duluth East, Moorhead and Roseau that get respect and work hard too. They also have kids in the Elite League but they are few and far between compared to the Cities schools. There is talent that can make the jump from HS to college, but most of them need the USHL or any junior league for that matter to make the transition.

FTT:  UMass recruit Kenny Gillespie is playing for Shattuck St Mary’s in Minnesota. Have you seen him play at all and what do you think of his game?

RSC:  I have not had a chance to see him play but I have been following Shattuck because how can you not? They don’t play the public schools, which is something most people outside Minnesota do not know. But know this, if you are playing at Shattuck that is saying a hell of a lot because they don’t just let bums walk into that place. If UMass or any school has someone that is at Shattuck right now, congratulations. You know that kid is going to come in with talent but more than anything, work ethic.

FTT:  UMass recruit Shane Walsh is playing for the Dubuque Saints of the USHL. Have you seen him play at all and what do you think of his game?

RSC:  I’ve seen him a few times this year and he’s not a bad player at all. He’s got some speed about him, which is a plus. The times I’ve seen him, he’s been good but just has had a hard time getting scoring chances. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Dubuque has some monsters and one guy you’re going to hear about if you haven’t already is John Gaudreau, a Northeastern commit. He’s uber talented. Going back to Walsh, he’ll be a good addition for UMass because he can play defense and he doesn’t make a lot of dumb decisions. He’ll be a hardworking forward for them.

FTT:  Lastly, how in the world does a Maine alum end up covering amateur hockey in Fargo, North Dakota?

RSC:  My goal is to cover the NHL and you can’t say you want to do it covering Texas HS Football like I was doing before I moved to Fargo. The Forum had an opening and I told myself that if I was serious about getting back into covering hockey I needed to make this move. Things have worked out to this point and that’s why I am here. Fargo is great and I enjoy being here. But I know there is an end all goal and that is the NHL. I grew up a hockey fan and I always knew I wanted to cover it. I covered the women’s team at Maine for two years and Hockey East women for a year at USCHO.com while I was a senior. My last two jobs got me out of hockey but I really missed the game and covering it. So I made a choice. I don’t regret it at all. Coming to Fargo has been the greatest experience of my career and I know it’ll lead to bigger things. There’s an old African saying, "You can’t hide the sun with your hand forever." My time will come, I know that.

The UMass Athletics site has another entry to Chase Langeraap’s blog following his first journey into pro hockey.

Staying in the ECHL, former UMass captain Dean Stork was named runner-up for the league’s Coach of the Year award.  Stork, in only his first year as a head coach, led the Greenville Road Warriors to the second best record in the league. 

Recruit Update

The weekly recruit update is a day later than usual because I chose to go to the tremendously disappointing UMass lacrosse game at Harvard last night.  For those who missed it, UMass was up 8-4 in the 3rd quarter only to have the Crimson score 7 of the last 8 goals to take the win.  It was sad to see a UMass lacrosse team fold that way and be missing the usual fire we’ve come to expect from Greg Cannella coached teams.  One positive on the night was my first trip to Cambridge Common where I enjoyed a Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabbits (probably my favorite Pretty Things beer) and tried Long Trail’s Triple Bag for the first time.

Anyway, on to the future Minutemen.

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
39 GP / 20-16-1 / 3.02 GAA / .902 sv%
Boyle’s team was eliminated in the second round of the BCHL playoffs after he got injured.  He did pretty well in the playoffs going 6-6-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack (AtlJHL)
41 GP / 8 G / 19 A / 27 Pts / 97 PIM
Busillo’s season is over as his Wolfpack were eliminated by Walpole in the first round of the AtlJHL playoffs. He had a goal in three playoff games.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
43 GP / 11 G / 42 A / 53 Pts / 66 PIM
Gillespie’s team didn’t play this past week.  This coming weekend Shattuck will be playing in the Tier I National Tournament in Simsbury, CT.  I’m going to do my best to juggle my weekend schedule enough to try to see him play.

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
LaRue’s season has come to a close as his Waxers lost in the first round of the playoffs. He had a goal and four assists in five playoff games, including a game winner and a shorthanded goal.

Joseph Manno – South Kent Cardinal (NE Prep)
24 GP / 16 G / 27 A / 43 Pts
South Kent was upset in the prep playoffs despite being the top seed.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union Wildcats (NE Prep)
35 GP / 24-7-4 / 1.63 GAA / .923 sv%
Mastalerz’s season is over after KUA lost in the first playoff game 4-3 in overtime.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
45 GP / 8 G / 7 A / 15 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh went scoreless in his three games this week.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko had 16 PIM in his last game.  He’s still 2nd in the league in that category.

UMass isn’t mentioned but a blog I just discovered, Slightly Chilled, has an early look at the best recruiting classes in college hockey for next year.

Ryan Durling of Sieves The Day wrote a good analysis of how much scoring each Hockey East team is bringing back next year which, on paper, bodes well for UMass.

I did similar number crunching myself, but only looking at scoring in conference games, so as to have an equal sample size to compare teams.  Of the players coming back next year (as of now), UMass has the 4th, 7th, and 10th leading scorers from this past year with T.J. Syner, Danny Hobbs, and Mike Pereira respectively.

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