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Red Leaving For Ivy Green?

Back from vacation means back to writing about UMass hockey.  I had a great trip down to the  mid-Atlantic area.  I got to visit three breweries (Dogfish Head, Ram’s Head/Fordham, Victory), see countless national treasures like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and hung out with a few of the original Section U inhabitants dating back to the triangle days.

So did anything happen hockey-wise in this area while I was gone?  Oh yeah, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup!!  What a run.  I’m definitely a college hockey fan first, as that’s how I first got into the game, but seeing the black and gold as the owners of Lord Stanley’s chalice is beyond thrilling.  New England is now the center of the hockey world, let’s hope that continues next fall when UMass and the rest of Hockey East return to the ice.

Of course there was some UMass news during last week as well.  USHR reported that Red Gendron will be leaving Amherst to take an assistant coaching position at Yale under Keith Allain.  Gendron does have a relationship already with Allain from when they previously coached for the US program.  From everything I’ve heard, this report appears to be true even though it’s not official yet.  I’ll be sorry to see Red go.  He’s done a lot for the program from recruiting many of the talented players on the ice to all the hard work he does for things like the annual golf outing.  He’s also been very friendly to fans and supporters of the program.  Whatever the future holds for him, I’ll be rooting for him (except of course when Yale comes to town this fall).

Also in the USHR report was the statement that they’re “hearing” that Red will be replaced by former Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald.  Besides being colleagues in the Hockey East coaching ranks, MacDonald and Toot Cahoon were also assistants together at BU.  First off, I have not been able to confirm that the report that MacDonald is about to be hired is true, but makes sense that he’d be in the mix.  Secondly, I’m not sure I like this news.  I have a lot of respect for the job that Blaise did at Lowell.  Against all of the challenges that surrounded that program, even when it was on the verge of getting mothballed by the Board of Trustees, he was able to consistently recruit some top talent in the league.  However, he was just fired from that job because he was never able to get that talent to its full potential.  At Lowell he had a history of his very best teams underperforming regularly and sometimes dramatically.  Problem is, in recent years UMass has also suffered from that same charge of underperforming compared to its potential.  If Toot is going to bring in someone new to the staff, I would rather the person have a record of addressing some of the team’s recent deficiencies.

My ideal replacement for Red?  Hire alum and current ECHL coach Dean Stork and groom him to replace Toot in a couple years when he likely retires.

In other Hockey East coaching news, remember how friend of FTT Ryan S. Clark reported a couple months ago that Greg Cronin was leaving Northeastern for the NHL and Cronin vehemently denied the report?  Well Cronin was hired today as an assistant coach for Toronto.  Maple Leafs or Northeastern?  Hmm…lateral move at best.  It should be interesting to see if any recruits or current Husky players look to leave with their coach on the move.

UMass has lost out to Providence for the services of South Kent defenseman Anthony Florentino.  Florentino is a talented defenseman who has participated in past US national development camps previously.  This one hurts a little because he has some close ties to the Minuteman program and from what I’ve read is highly regarded.

Congratulations to Conor Allen, Mike Lecomte, Kevin Moore, Colin Shea, and Jeff Teglia who were named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team for this past season.  Lecomte was named to the team for all four of his years at UMass.

Stuff the ballot box!  Vote for Paul Dainton for UMass Play of the Year!

Speaking of voting, don’t forget to take the survey for which UMass license plate you like best.

With the Cup awarded, that means the NHL Draft is just around the corner.  Hockey’s Future has Mike Pereira as one of the top 10 draft eligible players in the NCAA.  Pereira will also be featured in a pre-draft article in the New England Hockey Journal that I’ll be sure to pass along when it’s published.

Dick Baker of the Republican caught up with Greg Mauldin and Justin Braun at last week’s Golf Outing.

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View From Section U: Thank You Seniors; Busillo Commits

Another Senior Night is upon on which means it’s time to say goodbye and thank you to another class of players who have pulled on that UMass sweater for the past four years.  This graduating class was perhaps the first to hit campus with some pretty high expectations as UMass was just coming off their first NCAA appearance the spring before.  Unfortunately, the team hasn’t made it back there since.  And even more unfortunately this class has had to endure three losing seasons and one in which they finished .500.  However, despite the overall wins and losses, this set of seniors includes some who, in my opinion at least, can be considered among UMass’ best ever.  It also includes guys who truly give it their all each and every shift, guys who battled through injuries for the good of the team, and others who developed slowly but are now playing big roles as the squad tries to make something of this season coming into its final week.  The 2010-11 UMass Minutemen might be remembered more for their freshmen, specifically the sheer number of them, than anything else.  But the poise and progress that those young players have shown as of late is due in some part to these seniors and the leadership they’ve and the examples they’ve provided.  And with that, let’s remember each one of them who will take the Mullins ice for the last time on Saturday night.

#9 Shawn Saunders
Saunders played sparingly his freshman year but made a big splash in his debut when he scored the game-winning goal against UConn in what was a much closer game than it should’ve been.  From the start it was apparent that he possessed great speed and the inability to take a shift off.  I’ve seen very few players that give their all for an entire game like Saunders does.  And that dedication has made him a fan favorite among those who follow the team closely.  While he played a majority of games his junior season, he has only played in a handful this year which also saw him sit out with some medical issues along the way.  Personally, I’ve always thought he should’ve seen more ice time in his career here.  It always frustrated me to see him as a healthy scratch in the stands while “more talented” players were in uniform sleepwalking through their shifts on the ice.  Give me the effort guy who wants it more every time.  And that’s exactly what Shawn was in my eyes during his time here.

#15 Brian Keane
Keane came to campus with some high expectations after being a regular participant in a lot of the USA Hockey events while in juniors.  I think that always made it tough for him here because he wasn’t able to live up to what fans thought he would be, but at the same time maybe they’ve overlooked what he was doing to contribute all along.  This year however he has looked much more comfortable in his abilities and the role he was able to lend to the team.  That’s been one of a key defender who has also been able to throw the body around here and there during games, adding a physical dimension sorely lacking on this year’s squad.  He certainly had some highlights in his Minuteman career, like the overtime winner he tipped in against Maine his sophomore year just 11 seconds into the extra frame.  With such a large freshman class coming in I wondered at the beginning of the season if someone like Keane would see playing time.  But he’s made his case to be an integral part of the team and his effort on defense will be missed in the coming years.

#17 Chase Langeraap
Langeraap is another Minuteman who came to Amherst with high expectations.  But that’s what happens when you put up 60 goals in 98 junior games.  Unfortunately inconsistency and injury through the years didn’t allow him to put up those kind of numbers.  In fact he went without a goal in his junior year, his second season shortened by nagging injuries.  However, like Keane, he has probably saved his best season for last.  This year he has shown a lot of leadership, lifting the inexperienced Minutemen with key goals when needed.  His 8 goals this season matches the amount he had scored in his previous three seasons combined.  He has become a player that both fans and his teammates look to offensively and they’ll being doing the same this weekend against Maine.

#18 Doug Kublin
If this season has taught us anything it’s that freshmen will make freshman mistakes.  Especially on defense.  Adam Phillips, Joely Hanley, Colin Shea, and Conor Allen have all had their share of flubs, which isn’t a indictment on them specifically, it happens to all freshmen blueliners.  Except Doug Kublin.  From the first day he hit the ice as a Minuteman he’s been amazingly reliable.  I have no qualms in saying he’s one of the best pure defensive defensemen in UMass history.  Good defensemen are sometimes like referees, if they’re doing their job correctly you hardly ever notice they’re there.  And that’s certainly happened with Kublin who is surely taken for granted by the casual fan.  But every once in a while he’ll remind you of his constant presence with a key poke check, sacrificing his body in front of an opponent’s slapshot, or even playing goaltender when Paul Dainton is caught somewhere out of the net.  Though the team has been outscored greatly in his four years here he’ll be leaving with a very respectable +/- rating.  Also, it should be noted that UMass has never lost when Doug Kublin scores.  Here’s hoping he scores in every game he has left.  It’ll be strange not to see Dainton in the crease next year.  But it’ll be equally as strange not to see Kubby standing in front of it either.

#21 Marc Concannon
Concannon’s combination of speed and grit has played a key role in all four years he’s played here.  If the puck is caught up somewhere along the boards, he’s the player I want to see battling to get it free and out to a teammate.  Amazingly, my lasting memory of him will be one of skill though, rather than the grinder we’ve seen night in and night out for so long.  Coco hasn’t scored a lot of goals in his career, but surprisingly a number of them have been anything but the garbage goals you’d expect with his style of play.  The one that sticks out the most in my memory was in Providence his sophomore year when he skated in on the goaltender and roofed the prettiest wrist shot you’ve ever seen up into the top corner of the net.  The Friar goaltender had absolutely no chance and us UMass fans in attendance stood almost too dumbfounded to celebrate.  He has repeated those types of finesse plays in the years since to the point where we now know it’s not a fluke.

#25 Michael Lecomte
Unfortunately Lecomte’s story is one of what could’ve been.  He was well on his way to a good career at UMass after his two first years when injuries struck in his junior year, derailing him right when he was beginning to have a huge impact on the team’s results.  After missing this past fall recovering from surgery he appeared to be the missing ingredient on this year’s squad when he scored 2 goals in his first four games back.  But in the fifth game back he got banged up and unfortunately saw his last action as a Minuteman the next game against Vermont in Burlington during January.  Would this second half of the season have played out differently if Lecomte was still playing?  Most definitely.  For a team that has lost as many one goal games as this squad to have another guy who can find the back of the net could’ve been a difference maker.  Mike had one of his best games in what was probably the pinnacle for this senior class when he scored a goal and picked up an assist as UMass beat #4 Colorado College to win the Lightning College Classic in Tampa.

#31 Paul Dainton
What I personally want out of a goaltender is for them to go into every game and play well enough to give their team a chance to win.  Sure it’s nice to have a guy like Jon Quick who’s able to play well enough so you can win despite how good or bad the guys in front of him are playing.  But those Vezina candidate type guys don’t come around very often.  No, I just need a guy who is dependable, trustworthy, and keeps his team in the game.  In other words, I just want a Paul Dainton.  Dainton will leave campus playing in the most games, accumulating the most minutes, registering the most saves, winning the second most (or most?) games, and being behind only Quick for save percentage and goals against average in UMass history.  First or second in every major career goaltending record in UMass history.  Why?  Because he has gone out there every night, from his freshman year on, and been a damn solid and reliable goaltender.  Every.  Single.  Night.  What’s just as remarkable  as Paul Dainton the goaltender is Paul Dainton the person.  Last night on the radio show they remarked that they wanted him on the show since he just broke Brian Regan’s save record last weekend, but he couldn’t attend.  Why?  Oh yeah, he was busy teaching psychology.  In addition to his studies he has given back to the surrounding community by taking part in the Big Brother-Big Sister program, something that got him nominated for the Hockey Humanitarian Award this year.  The captain’s “C” can look a little out of place on a goaltender’s jersey during those rare times you see it in the sport of hockey.  But those who have watched Paul play and had the chance to hear him speak will tell on his jersey, it’s well deserved.

Ladies and gentlemen, those are your 2010-2011 UMass Minutemen seniors.  Please make sure you do whatever you can to get out to Amherst on Saturday to thank in person these fine student athletes who have sacrificed their time, energy, sweat, blood, and so much more representing our state university for the past four years.

UMass has gained a committment from Mike Busillo, a 6’2″ 195lb defenseman currently playing for the Junior Wolfpack in the AtlJHL.  He’s due to arrive in Amherst this fall.  In addition to his decent size, Busillo has been the top offensive blueliner for his team with 8 goals and 19 assists in 41 games.  Busillo made the AJHL All-Star Squad this season.  He’s considered a bit of a late bloomer because he ended up playing high school hockey for longer than you usually see.

Here’s the press release from his junior team on his committment.

This December edition of USA Junior Hockey magazine has a feature on him where one of his coaches calls him a diamond in the rough and mentions he was being recruited by some of the top DI schools in New England.

I also got an email from a friend of the hockey program today who has seen recruit Steve Mastalerz play and had some positive things to say about him   And I trust this person’s opinion very much on this matter.  So legitimately we may have a three way battle for the goaltending spot, or goaltending rotation, next season.  It should be interesting to say the least and I still think competition for the goaltending spot is only a good thing.  The person was also nice enough to share some of Mastalerz’s stats for the prep regular season; goals against average of 1.63 (uh, that’s pretty good, huh?) and save percentage of .923.  I’m still not sure of his exact record but I do know Kimball Union went 24-7-4 with Mastalerz in net for nearly all of those games.  KUA played Kent tonight in the first round of the prep playoffs.  No information on how they did as of yet.

I’m behind on updating the recruit page with Mastalerz and Busillo.  Bear with me!

Dick Baker has an interesting post on the Mullins Center staff getting their asses in gear for the game (OK, he says it nicer than that).  It certainly was frustrating that they couldn’t get the scoreboard working since many of us were counting down until Dainton broke the saves record, but Toot had more reason to be pissed since his players couldn’t see when penalties were expiring.  From scoreboard malfunctions, to bad ice, to security staff who do nothing, to dirty (seriously dirty) banners hanging from the rafters, the operation of the Mullins Center has always left something to be desired.  They’d be best to take it away from the third party operators and at least give it to Isenberg’s sport management department to run.

Baker also says Gustav Nyquist is worth the price of admission.  Agreed.

People in the past have argued that Merrimack should be kicked out of Hockey East since they played in the equivalent of an MDC rink.  That’s not the case anymore.  People in the past have argued they should be kicked out because they, frankly, suck.  That’s also not the case.  I think some people will still argue that they should be kicked out because of this God awful youtube video.  They might be onto something.

Merrimack Preview

Merrimack College Warriors 19-5-4 (13-5-3) 3rd Hockey East

vs

Massachusetts Minutemen 6-16-5 (5-11-5) 7th Hockey East

 

2/5/11 Merrimack 11, UMass 2. 

Play with heart.  Play for pride.  Fight for redemption.

 

 

Beer The Triangle
I’m always pretty happy when I get some nice insider info on the state of the team or perhaps some recruiting news.  But I really love when I get some beer insider info.  So the breaking FTT beer news is that the Hangar is eyeing a couple of blue chip beers to bring into the fold soon.  First is Rogue Double Mocha Porter..  This one was already on site but not yet tapped as of last weekend.  Rogue is one of my favorite brewers and perhaps the highlight of 2010 for me was visiting their brewery on the Oregon coast.  But the real scoop is that Stoney has worked his craft beer magic and is hoping to soon to be in possession of a keg of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout.  Founders KBS is currently rated as the 4th best beer in existence by Beer Advocate.  Quite a brew coup by the Hangar.

Looking forward to a return trip to The Tap/Haverhill Brewery on Saturday.  I had a good time there a few weeks ago.  Then I mistakenly left to attend the UMass-Merrimack game.  Enough said.

For those wanting to know more about Merrimack than the spartan (which is how I hope the team plays this weekend) preview above, here’s the one I wrote a few weeks ago.  Changed since then is the fact that Merrimack embarrassed UMass, Stephane Da Costa got hurt and his status for this weekend is unknown (I’m still guessing he’s out), and Merrimack proved they can beat good teams without him.

I’m sad to share the news that that Mike Lecomte will not be rejoining the team this season, per Dick Baker.  This is awful to hear.  Not only could the team use him right now, but you never want to see a player end their UMass career from the stands.  Especially because last season he emerged as a key player on offense before going down to injury and even provided a spark when he was in uniform this season scoring two goals and picking up an assists in 6 games.  The team really could use him right now.  Thanks for all you did in the maroon and white, Mike.

Success requires intensity says the Collegian.

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