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Up To The Minute 7/22

I’ve been busy the last few weeks with work (bad) and vacation (very good) so time to catch up on the news around the Massachusetts hockey program since my last post.

Of course the biggest news, at least in this area, was former Minuteman defenseman Matt Irwin signing with a one year deal with the Boston Bruins.  Irwin will become the first UMass hockey player to suit up the Bruins, assuming Frank Vatrano doesn’t somehow beat him onto the Garden ice first.

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Weekend Games Postponed

For those who may have missed it, both of this weekend’s Massachusetts hockey games have been rescheduled due to the impending snowstorm.  Tomorrow night’s game against Northeastern has been postponed until Tuesday, February 19th at 7pm.  This gives those of us who travel from out of town the excuse to take the entire day off and enjoy a four day weekend. Saturday afternoon’s game at Merrimack has been pushed back to Sunday at 4pm.  The game was originally scheduled to be broadcast on NESN but that will no longer be the case, thereby robbing UMass of their one chance to be shown on regional/national TV this year.  Maybe next year Hockey East will be nice enough to give UMass a rare televised home game.

I hope everyone stays safe and has plenty of beer in stock in preparation of the incoming blizzard.

In some alumni news, Kevin Moore who dressed for an ECHL game in an emergency situation last month has been signed for the league’s Evansville Icemen.  There he’ll be in the familiar position of playing alongside Paul Dainton, who was assigned there recently from the Springfield Falcons.

Mike Marcou has been promoted to San Antonio of the AHL after a strong season at the ECHL that saw him make the All-Star squad.

Gracel Named Hockey East Player of the Month

Another day, another headline and award for Branden Gracel.  After being named MVP of the Ledyard Classic to start the week and then honored with Hockey East Co-Player of the Week yesterday, today Gracel was selected as the league’s Player of the Month for December.  Gracel had the most points among Hockey East players during the month with nine (three goals and six assists).  Four of those points came this past Sunday and Monday as the Minutemen won the in-season tournament up at Dartmouth.  Congrats to Gracel.  If you were to choose a team MVP for the season right now it’s tough to put him below anyone else.  He’s been good, productive, and consistent all season long.  And you have to recognize his total domination in the faceoff circle as well.

Congratulations are also extended to former defenseman Mike Marcou, who was named to the ECHL All-Star team today.  The ECHL works a little differently than most leagues in that there is really only one all-star squad as they they play the host team of wherever the game is being played.  So being an ECHL all-star is that much tougher.  But Marcou made it in his rookie year in the league where according to the release he’s third overall in plus/minus.  While he had his ups and downs, Mike Marcou was the target more criticism than probably any player I’ve seen in my years following UMass hockey so I’m extremely happy for him and his family to have this sort of recognition of his abilities in the sport.

Boston College’s Patch Alber is likely out until to the Frozen Four, it that after hurting himself playing soccer prior to a recent Eagle game.  Exactly why I gave up playing soccer at the age of 10.

USA Hockey > Canada Hockey or NCAA Hockey > CHL Hockey.  Take your pick.

College Hockey Inc continues to restructure itself for the betterment of the college game.

Polls & Awards

With their loss at Northeastern over the weekend Boston College will not be coming into the Mullins Center on Friday as the top ranked team in the country.  Instead they’ll be coming in as the third ranked team according to this week’s USCHO poll, but still a team receiving first place votes.  Either way they’ll still be a very formidable opponent for Massachusetts, who has a number of areas to work on after last Friday’s victory against UConn.

Half of Hockey East is currently ranked as Lowell drops to #10 after tying Vermont, Boston University is right behind them at #11, and Northeastern and New Hampshire join the poll at 14th and 15th respectively.  In addition Maine, Merrimack, and Providence are also receiving votes.  UMass still hasn’t gained back the votes they had prior to their unfortunate loss to….UMass in the pre-season scrimmage.

Minnesota is tops in the USCHO poll as well as the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

Quality wins over Merrimack and BC deservedly gave Northeastern a couple spots in this week’s Hockey East Awards.  How half-assed is the UMass representation on the linked release?  Brendan Gracel is rightly recognized as a Top Performer for his one goal and one assist performance, but not Steven Guzzo who had equal statistics and a highlight goal?  Only a single sentence devoted to UMass’ Team Notes?

The Collegian has some notes from Friday’s game to go with their recap which I believe originally ran Saturday.

The Collegian’s Nick Canelas is pulling double duty this season as he’s also contributing to College Hockey News, like with this piece on how this past Friday’s matchup will likely blossom into a conference rivalry in the near future.

So if you happen to be a UMass hockey fan in the Carolinas, the Bi-Lo Center has become Mullins South.  Masslive’s Harry Plumer noted on his Twitter account earlier today that with Danny Hobbs being sent down to the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors he’ll be reunited with someone he has skated alongside for the last four years with in Mike Marcou.  The coach of Greenville?  None other than former Minuteman captain Dean Stork.

Nice to see Nebraska-Omaha taking steps to bring Maverick hockey on campus.

I am shocked, SHOCKED, that one of the clown WCHA officials who threw Paul Dainton out of a game at Wisconsin a couple years ago was suspended by the conference for being incredibly stupid.  (I’m also mildly shocked that I incredibly remembered he was one of the incompetent refs in question from that game)

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.

Maroon & White Preview

OK, it’s not really a preview.  After all, my true  UMass season preview will hit the site on Wednesday.  However, here are a few of the things I’m keeping in mind when watching this afternoon’s game:

Goaltending – Obviously this is the biggest question mark going into the season.  How does Teglia look?  Do either of the freshmen look to have a leg up on the other.  Do either look better than Teglia?

Sophomore Slump – How does last year’s freshman class, which preformed well, look with a year under their belt.  I’ve found this is when you can start to separate the leaders from the followers in a class.  Which are putting in the extra work and paying attention to what’s going on all over the ice.

Rocco Carzo – Speaking of sophomore slump…  I don’t want to single Carzo out, but he did struggle mightily last year.  But at the same time, he has the talent and from what I hear the character to move beyond it.  A strong start to his junior year will be a good sign.

Mike Marcou – Marcou also had a tough year last season.  I’d love to see him get back to basics and stop trying to do too much at once.  He’s a smart player and if he uses his wits to be in the right position on defense at the right time, he’ll do well.

Power play – Obviously this was a weakness last year.  It’ll be interesting to see if it changes.  In previous years the power play belonged to assistant Len Quesnelle (while Red Gendron took charge of the penalty kill).  With the introduction of Blaise MacDonald, I wondered if Toot took the opportunity to switch up the special teams.

Danny Hobbs –  The UMass co-captain made tremendous progress in his game last season.  Just how much further can he take his game?

Darren Rowe – Defenseman?  Forward?

Zack LaRue – A 6’2” T.J. Syner or is his game different from what was portrayed through the limited media available?

Oleg Yevenko – Please do not injure your teammates.  This is just a scrimmage.  Can someone put a red jersey on Mike Pereira please?

Joel Hanley – He missed the beginning of last season with family issues and the end with mono. But in the middle he was a damn solid defensemen with a great offensive touch. Could he be the next UMass star in the making?

The taps at the Hangar – With only being able to get to the usual pre-game spot once during the offseason, I find myself constantly wondering what amazing beers Stoney has procured that I’m missing.

The new ABC – What do they plan on doing with all that open space in the bar area?  Arena football?

 

Though he got the loss, Paul Dainton preformed well in his first exhibition game for the Falcons on the season.

Red’s Departure From UMass Official

Some UMass related links to pass along.

The New Haven Register is now reporting that assistant Red Gendron is heading to Yale.  The announcement will likely come later this week.  And everything I’ve heard points to his replacement at UMass being former Lowell coach Blaise McDonald.  I’ll likely have more on Red later in the week.  USCHO is also reporting the move.

Checking around the NHL camps, here is a feature on Mike Marcou and his time at Islanders camp.  Conor Allen is featured on a video from the Capitals website.  He does a great job of making the case for college hockey.

Casey Wellman has signed a one year, two way contract with the Wild.

Of course the big college hockey news of the week was the official unveiling of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.  That’s the last time I’m ever typing that out.  And no, I refuse to call it “The National”.  Although I may call it “Natty”.  The forming of the NCHC led to Northern Michigan jumping to the WCHA.  Of course everyone is still waiting for Notre Dame to make up their mind in this conference realignment.

Meanwhile, Minnesota State Moorhead is working towards upgrading their program to DI.

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.

UMass Hockey Award Banquet News

I wasn’t able to make it to the team banquet yesterday, but luckily I got a first hand account from Brock Hines and Dick Baker has a nice writeup about the event, which included an emotional speech by Paul Dainton who received the team MVP award.

Here are the awards given out yesterday:

Team MVP – Paul Dainton
Rookie of the Year – Mike Pereira
Jack Canniff “Unsung Hero” – Doug Kublin & Chase Langeraap
Minuteman Spirit Award – Kevin Moore
Most Improved – Anthony Raiola

I can’t argue with any of those. Though personally I think Most Improved could have been shared between Raiola, who did a great job showing that he should be considered for an everyday spot on the blueline next season, and Danny Hobbs, whose production exploded this year.

Also announced at the banquet was that T.J. Syner and Hobbs will be co-captains for next year’s squad while Mike Marcou will keep his role as assistant captain.

Yesterday I mentioned that there’s a good chance UMass will be heading up to Canada to play regular exhibition opponent University of New Brunswick in a future year. Thanks to FTT reader Graham for bringing to my attention that the V-Reds, a powerhouse in the CIS, won the championship yet again. Graham also endeared himself to me by passing along beer suggestions, specifically Propeller Brewery in Halifax.

The Boston Herald has an article on ex-BU assistant coach David Quinn who is now coaching the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters where he names Greg Mauldin as one of the key leaders on the team.

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