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Recap ▲ UMass’ Woes Continue With Sweep By Northeastern

Any hope that ending their nine game losing streak against with Tuesday’s win over AIC would give UMass some momentum for the final weeks of the season quickly evaporated as the Northeastern Huskies dominated the Minutemen in a weekend sweep.  On Friday night UMass looked disjointed and disinterested at home as the Huskies cruised to an easy 5-0 win.  On Saturday night UMass played better but was unable to overcome adversity and perhaps some poor officiating, falling 4-2 at Matthews Arena.

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Preview ▲ UMass Faces Hot Huskies Squad In Home-And-Home Series

Northeastern Huskies 10-13-5 (4-8-4) Hockey East T-6th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 8-17-4 (2-12-4) Hockey East 12th

Unfortunately the schedule gods did not see fit to let UMass face Northeastern in late November when they were just 1-11-2.  No, the Minutemen will have to face the Huskies for a home and home weekend series while they’re on a streak where they’re 8-1-2 in their last 11 games with their only loss coming against Boston University in the first round of the Beanpot.  Most recently the Huskies are coming off an impressive 5-1 win over #9 Harvard in the Beanpot consolation game.

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Midseason Review ▲ After Hot Start To Season Minutemen Limp Into Winter Break

The Massachusetts Minutemen play an exhibition hockey game this Friday against the US Junior National Team, but for all intents and purposes the team is on winter break, having played 18 of its 34 regular season games this season.  So this is a good time to reflect on what has transpired so far in the first half of the season.  Maybe it makes sense to split that half in halves again, because there were two distinct phases of the season and one could almost say the Minutemen were two distinct teams in those two time periods.  In the early part of the season UMass surprised everyone, jumping out to a 6-2-1 record and finding itself just on the outside of the USCHO rankings.  But the Minutemen have not won since grabbing that sixth win on November 7th, going winless in their last nine games and losing their last five straight before break.  The sum of the two performances leaves UMass holding an overall record of 6-8-4 with their 2-4-4 league record leaving them in a three-way tie for 7th place with New Hampshire and Vermont.

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Weekend Wrap-Around ▲ Lagesson Named To Sweden’s Preliminary World Junior Roster

Before jumping into the usual recap of the weekend that was, the big news today was that UMass defenseman William Lagesson was named to the preliminary World Junior Championship roster for his native Sweden.  This isn’t a big surprise since he played for the Swedish junior team last winter.  The last Minuteman to play in the World Junior Championships was Stephen Werner in 2004.

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Weekend Wrap-around ▲Kravchenko Named Hockey East Player Of The Week

Two weeks.  Two hat tricks.  Two honors for Massachusetts hockey players.  Austin Plevy’s opening night hat trick gained him last week’s Hockey East Rookie of the Week.  After his own hat trick this past Friday in UMass’ win over Sacred Heart, sophomore Dennis Kravchenko was named Hockey East Player of the Week.  It’s his first POTW honor after being named Rookie of the Week once last year.  In addition to the three goals Kravchenko also assisted on Dominic Trento’s goal in the game against the Pioneers.  Plevy was named a Top Performer for his two assist effort against Sacred Heart.

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Northeastern Recap

I’m getting straight to the point on this one.  Here are my key observations to last night’s 5-4 overtime loss to 10th place Northeastern.  With the loss the Huskies took the season series.  They now are just two points behind the Minutemen in the standings and hold the tie-breaker.  The overtime gamewinner was the first career goal by Josh Manson.  Bryan Mountain got the win after replacing Chris Rawlings in the 2nd.  Mountain was 0-6-2 coming into the game and had just one previous career win.  UMass gave up leads of 3-1 and 4-3 to end the 2nd.  Adam Frenier had the most unbelievable stats in the postgame broadcast.  Going into the game Northeastern was 0-11-0 this season when trailing after 2 periods, 0-21-2 going back to last season, and an astounding 1-40-6 looking back to the 2009-10 season.  That’s a less than 2% chance that the Huskies have come back in similar situations over the last four years.  But they did it last night.

I am extremely worried that this team looks worse now than it did in October or November.  Have I mentioned that I absolutely hate the month of February?  Granted, my father and grandfather were both born this month as well as a couple of our greatest presidents.  But I still would have no problem going straight from January to March.  Hallmark can invent another holiday to replace Valentine’s Day.  For whatever reason the shortest month of the year absolutely dooms Massachusetts hockey every goddamn year.  Right when a Boston College or, this year, a Merrimack gets better and their teams gel and they make a run into the postseason, the wheels fall off the UMass season.

Last night was some of the worst hockey the team has played all season.  The defense struggled all night, pretty blatant considering they gave up 45 shots to one of the weaker offenses in the league.  The goaltending of Steve Mastalerz was unfortunately inconsistent.  While the offense put up four goals, they still seemed disorganized.  And while I’m happy for the special team improvements from last year, there’s a point where this team has to score more 5 on 5 goals.  UMass has a +7 goal advantage on special teams but is –15 at even strength.

Outside of the ice conditions, which delayed the start of the game thirty minutes, everything was in UMass’ favor last night.  They led throughout.  They were at home.  They were playing the last place team who had just gotten swept at home.  And yet they blew it all and took the loss.  Now Maine comes into the Mullins Center this weekend with the chance to take over 8th place.  It makes you wonder how it’s come to this point where UMass is fighting just to barely make the playoffs.  But then again, this is February and we’ve now grown accustomed to exactly that at this time of year.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Mike Pereira
It’s unfortunate that Pereira has elevated his game right when the rest of the team is flat.  Last night he had a couple goals and an assist.  In the last six games he has seven goals and five assists.

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Republican Recap

Collegian Recap

College Hockey News Recap

Northeastern Preview

Northeastern Huskies 8-16-3 (4-13-3) Hockey East 10th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 10-15-2 (7-12-1) Hockey East 8th

Two struggling teams will be meeting tomorrow in a makeup game from the blizzard that hit a couple weekends ago.  Massachusetts and Northeastern both come into the rare mid-week game after getting swept this past weekend.  UMass lost a home and home to Lowell while the Huskies just dropped a pair of games to Vermont at home.  Earlier in the month it appeared as if Northeastern may be on the upswing after they beat Boston University in the Beanpot opener and then played Boston College tough in the championship before ultimately falling.  But last week the Huskies managed just two goals total against the Catamounts and will have to run off a streak of wins if they want to make the Hockey East playoffs this season.

These teams split a weekend series at the end of November with the Huskies grabbing a 1-0 win at the Mullins on the Friday and UMass bouncing back 6-3 the next night. Chris Rawlings, who has played well against the Minutemen in his career, grabbed the shutout in the NU win and turned away 31 shots. But the next night UMass poured 46 shots on him and got the win.

It’s no secret that the Minutemen will have to try to contain freashman Kevin Roy tomorrow. Despite his team losing Roy was named the MVP of the Beanpot after he scored five goals in the two games.  His 17 goals this season are second best among Hockey East players. The Huskies have just one win this season when Roy doesn’t register a point, the 1-0 shutout of UMass. There’s a big gap between him and Cody Ferriero who has the second most goals for NU with nine.

Roy has helped the Huskies to respectable numbers offensively, but they’ve struggled on the defensive end all season. The 3.30 goals given up per game is dead last among Hockey East games. It’s likely that UMass will see Rawlings tomorrow since he was given Saturday off.  He has played inconsistently all season, being chased in three games to date. But when taken as a whole his numbers are pretty good, compiling a 2.90 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. He’s definitely a better option in net than Bryan Mountain who is 0-6-2 on the season.

Coach Micheletto said after the Lowell loss on Saturday that the team is not hitting the panic button yet.  And that’s fair, it’s not time to panic regarding the team being able to make the playoffs.  But is that really what the team should be striving for?  Just barely making the playoffs (again)?  There’s still time to move up the standings, back to 7th, and perhaps further.  But to do so they’ll have to play a lot better in every aspect of the game.  They’ll get a tune-up versus the last place Huskies before the final stretch of games begins this weekend against Maine.  A loss tomorrow would simply be devastating for the team and its fans.

Beer The Triangle
Warning to pregamers!  The Hangar does not open until 4pm on Tuesdays (because no one wants the best damn wings in the world for an early week lunch?), so if you plan to get there mid-afternoon, seek other libations.  Luckily Amherst offers other locales as a stopgap before that time.  There’s always the venerable ABC, where last week I enjoyed an ABC/Northampton/Wormtown collaboration Third Degree IPA.  However tomorrow I might give the High Horse Brewpub another chance.  I’m not sure why since on my first visit they had mediocre beer and on the second they had improved beer served up by rude bartenders.  We’ll see what happens.  However I do have the entire day off and perhaps I’ll take the northern route into Amherst and check out the Blind Pig in Athol that I’ve been hearing so many good things about.

Conor Allen will be back in the line, per the Republican preview.

College Hockey News has their Hockey East power rankings and makes the case that the league should continue to limit playoff participation in order to add meaning to the regular season, especially the final few weeks.  I agree.

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.

Pereira Named Hockey East Co-Player of the Week

For his dominating performance against Boston University this past weekend Mike Pereira was named Hockey East Co-Player of the Week.  Pereira had a couple goals to go with a couple assists in the 5-1 win on Friday.  Pereira shared the honor with fan favorite Joey Diamond of Maine.  Branden Gracel and K.J. Tiefenwerth were named Top Performers.

Hockey East has five teams ranked this week as Saturday’s opponent, Merrimack, has broken into the USCHO top 20.

Northeastern will be coming into the Mullins Center on Friday feeling good about themselves after they beat BU earlier tonight to advance to the Beanpot Final next week.

Saturday Recap

Last night the Massachusetts hockey team bounced back nicely from a disappointing loss at home on Friday.  Unable to get the puck past Chris Rawlings the night before despite 31 shots, the Minutemen stepped it up and poured 46 shots on the Northeastern goaltender to gain the 6-3 win at Matthews Arena.  The game looked like it would be another close one, with both teams trading goals through the first 30 minutes of the game.  However the team would take the lead in the 2nd with the second of two Rocco Carzo goals and then dominate in the third period, outshooting the Huskies 16-9 in that stanza.

As I mentioned in the recap written yesterday, I was worried the team would let their emotions get to them after watching two teammates get injured with some cheap hits on Friday.  However they played disciplined and methodically and got their revenge on the scoreboard instead of in the corners.  The Minutemen were also able to overcome a strong game from Husky freshman phenom Kevin Roy who had two goals for his team.

It was a total team effort but there are some individual performances that deserve mention as well.  Freshman K.J. Tiefenwerth had a breakout game scoring a goal and adding two assists, his first goal and points in his collegiate career.  His goal was especially timely as it came in the final seconds of the first period to give UMass a lead and some needed momentum going into the locker room.  Joel Hanley had a goal and an assist on the game and was on the ice for five of UMass’ six goals, finishing with a plus minus of +5.  Adam Phillips scored a goal on a nice heads up play where he was able to grab a loose puck in the Northeastern zone and immediately come in and put one high on Rawlings.

After not even registering a shot during Friday’s loss Branden Gracel and Mike Pereira bounced back and performed well last night.  Gracel tallied three assists and had a team high seven shots while Pereira had four shots and sealed the game with an empty net goal in the fourth.  Both finished a +3.  Stephen Guzzo had a multiple point night with two assists.  Shane Walsh returned from injury and had five total shots on his 21st birthday.  If there’s one area of concern from last night it’s the power play.  UMass was not able to score a power play goal in their four chances last night after going 0 for 4 the night before as well.

So the win against Northeastern ends the pre-Christmas league schedule for the Minutemen and they’ll now have non-conference games against Colgate and Yale.  The Minutemen are currently tied for 5th in Hockey East with nine points, one point out of 4th place.  This could change as some of the teams around them have games in the next couple weeks while the Minutemen are taking on the ECAC.  Still, their 4-6-1 conference record at this point is an improvement over last year when they were 2-6-3 through their first 11.  The next two weeks of games and the weeks off that follow will be used to fine tune some areas that need improvement as well as hopefully allowing the team to get a bit healthier before Hockey East play starts again.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Rocco Carzo
The co-captain continues to be a force offensively this year.  Carzo’s two goals were key last night, especially his second one which gave UMass the lead for good.  It was his second multi-goal game this season and he’s now tied for fourth among Hockey East players with seven total.

Tiefenwerth says getting his first goal was a relief in the Republican recap.

In the USCHO recap, Carzo says that the strategy was to force Rawlings to give up rebounds.

Yes, a teddy bear drew a penalty last night, per CHN’s Takeaways.

I want to extend my congratulations to Boston College coach Jerry York for tying Ron Mason’s mark of 924 college hockey wins.  York is one of the classiest and obviously one of the smartest people in the sport.

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