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Recruit Update ▲ Hildenbrand A Force Recently For Fargo

There hasn’t been a lot of coaching search news in recent days.  But a lot of the future Minutemen are still in action.  So let’s catch up with them.

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Recap ▲ Minutemen Swept By Notre Dame, Fall Below .500 For The Season

The Massachusetts hockey team was in need of at least a split this weekend out in South Bend against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  The Minutemen were coming off of a sweep at the hands of #3 Quinnipiac the weekend before and were winless in their previous six.  They also had yet to show that they could get a Hockey East win outside of the teams currently at the bottom of the league standings.  After a surprisingly strong start through early November fans have been waiting for UMass to take the next step and show they can compete with the teams in the top half of the league.  Instead  it looks like the team has taken a step back.  The latest setback was Notre Dame sweeping UMass’ last league games before winter break 3-1 and 5-1.

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Preview ▲ UMass Heads West For Two Games Against The Irish

Massachusetts Minutemen 6-5-4 (2-2-4) Hockey East T-3rd

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish 6-4-4 (3-1-2) Hockey East T-3rd

The Massachusetts hockey team will look to close out their better than expected first half of the 2015-16 league schedule on a positive note when they travel to South Bend, Indiana for a two game series against Notre Dame.  Of course the last time the Minutemen visited the Fighting Irish the trip was highlighted with a win in the longest game in college hockey history, but ended in disappointment when UMass ultimately dropped the first round Hockey East playoff series 2-1.  UMass will try to get back on track after going winless in their last six games.  On paper they’ll be facing a pretty evenly matched opponent to try to break out of their mini-slump.

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15-16 Preview: Massachusetts Hockey Points Lost/Returning

As we continue to shift focus to the coming season one of the main ways to analyze the prospects of the Massachusetts hockey team is to take stock of what they’ve lost during the season and what they have coming back.  As we know there were a number of key seniors who graduated, such as captain Troy Power and Zack LaRue.  But the biggest departures of course were underclassmen Frank Vatrano and Brandon Montour who following the season signed contracts with the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks respectively.  However, there are still some key contributors coming back, like Dennis Kravchenko who will be looking to build off of a tremendous freshman season.  Let’s take a closer look at what the departures and returners mean on a number basis.

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Bentley & Providence Previews

Bentley Falcons 0-2-0 (0-0-0) T-3rd Atlantic Hockey

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Massachusetts Minutemen 0-0-1 (0-0-1) T-4th Hockey East

4-1 loss.  To an Atlantic Hockey team.  For actual hardware, something that UMass doesn’t get very often.  As the only team from a top tier conference in the mid-season tournament.  And then the season went to all hell.  Sure the loss to Bentley in the UConn tournament a couple years back was in the back of my head when we first learned of the schedule last spring and then more recently when I began to dig in deeper to the season that lay ahead.  But Dick Baker’s post about the game a couple days ago as well as reading my own recap from that time not only brought home the facts of the game, but the emotional impact as well.  What an embarrassment.  What a low point for UMass hockey.  What a long drive home from Storrs that was.

Of course the star from that game for Bentley was sophomore goaltender Kyle Rank who the Minutemen could not solve.  A lot of that was because it’s nearly impossible to shoot a puck through a goaltender’s chest and into the net.  But Rank did come up big in the game and was able to stop 42 saves altogether, 34 through the first two periods alone.  Rank is still with the Falcons, but his play slipped from his sophomore year and last season saw him split time with senior Joe Calvi.  Rank played the first of the Falcons’ two games this season with Northfield Mount-Hermon product Brandon Komm playing the other.  The Falcons played those two games against Michigan, losing by a combined score of 9-2.  But don’t let that huge margin mislead you.  The Falcons had a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission of the first game, giving the Yost faithful a bit of a scare.  And in the second game they were only down 2-1 until the Wolverines scored a power play and empty net goal with under three minutes left.  If Bentley can hang with #4 Michigan for four of six periods in one of the more intimidating barns in college hockey, they’re probably not going to be overwhelmed at the Mullins tomorrow.

Bentley has relied on young players so far for their offense with freshmen and sophomores counting for both goals and all six points.  Their top goalscorer from last year, sophomore Brett Gensler has yet to get on the board.  The Falcons look talented, but young, and are likely a year away from doing damage in Atlantic Hockey.  They were picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll for their conference, but their strong showing in Ann Arbor may have a few people wondering if that was an accurate pick.  Defensively the Falcons will look to Rank and Komm, both of whom were forced to come up with in the neighborhood of 40 save last week against Michigan.  The Falcons return all six of their regular defensemen from last year, including three seniors.

UMass did almost everything you could’ve asked for last weekend.  They got solid goaltending from freshman Kevin Boyle in his collegiate debut.  The defense looked good, with Mike Marcou having a strong game and Colin Shea playing well defensively and offensively.  Sophomores Conor Sheary and Brenden Gracel moved the puck well and added to the offense.  New guys like Emerson Auvenshine and Steve Guzzo had contributions on both sides of the puck.  Hell, even the power play looked damn good for a couple periods!  And yet, a win escaped them.  The team looked tired and/or unfocused at the end and did not execute on the minor things (clear the puck!)  in order to take the win away from Northeastern.  Two seconds away from an opening win, their first since last January, the lead was gone and in the end they’d have to settle for a tie.

This team should be hungry.  They should be desperate for a win.  They should have had one last week.  They should’ve had a few, or at least played hard enough to deserve a few, during the last two months of the Hockey East season last year.  In comes a lackluster Atlantic Hockey squad.  Do not overlook them.  It seems like Michigan almost made that mistake.  No.  Play to your abilities and bury them.  Remember that this team, with this goaltender, gave the program one of its recent, all too many, embarrassing moments.  Seniors and juniors, explain to the underclassmen how bad it felt to lose that game in the aluminum box known as the Freitas Ice Forum and what it ended up meaning for the entire season.  Underclassmen, you make up the majority of this team.  Don’t be a slave to the history, achieve retribution for it.  I can’t believe I’m actually having an emotional reaction to a UMass-Bentley hockey game.  But I am.  So do us fans a favor and exact just a little revenge for what we had to endure almost two years ago.

Massachusetts Minutemen 0-0-1 (0-0-1) T-4th Hockey East

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Providence Friars 0-0-0 (0-0-0) T-6th Hockey East

Think UMass is at a bit of a disadvantage because they didn’t play an exhibition game and only had one game last weekend?  Well the Friars have played exactly zero games.  They’ll make their season debut tomorrow night against Boston University on NESN.

Since Providence hasn’t even played an exhibition game, there’s probably not much I can write about them beyond the season preview I put together.  If I’m Toot Cahoon and both Kevin Boyle (or Mastalertz) and Jeff Teglia are available, I go with Teglia in this game.  He didn’t play in Providence, but at least he had a chance to warm up there last season and I’d rather see someone familiar with the quirky rink in net.  That would give one of the freshmen the chance to play against Bentley without the extra pressure of points on the line as well.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got.  With just one game combined under the belts of both of these teams, it’s pretty much a blank slate.  The only thing to keep in mind is that UMass really, really needs two points on Saturday.  The Minutemen will be serious underdogs in the five games that follows the tilt with the Friars; at Boston College, vs Boston University, at BU, at UNH, vs BC.  I would hate to see UMass play the next six games getting little to no Hockey East points in that time.  Is a Saturday a must win?  Of course not.  But could it set the tone for the first half of the season?  Yes.

Beer The Triangle

I’ll be happy to make my regular season debut at the Hangar tomorrow afternoon for the usual pre-gaming activities.  Of course Stoney doesn’t put his beer list online, so what to recommend there, I don’t know.  However it’s safe to say I’ve never walked in there and been disappointed with what’s on draft.  And a lot of times I’m happy to find a beer rarity or even something I haven’t tried before.

Providence presents a bit of a conundrum.  The usual spot before games at Providence is The Abbey, located just down the street from the Coffin.  They have great burgers and a good beer list (hell, when the place’s website is www.92beers.com, you know they take their beer seriously).  Yet, most of the Providence beer scene is unknown to me.  So perhaps I’ll take the chance to check out Julian’s, which I’ve heard many good things about.

Dick Baker profiles Colin Shea, my FTT Player of the Game for last week, and his improved play.

USCHO has an interesting look at how the addition of Notre Dame will lead to scheduling opportunities and challenges.  It’s a much better read on the situation than the one from the Lowell Sun which seems to be under the impression that the Hawks will be forced to schedule ACHA teams.  For those that don’t know, the ACHA is the umbrella organization for club hockey teams.  The author probably means Atlantic Hockey, but maybe not.  Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to listen to this author do his postgame show after games at Lowell knows that his knowledge of college hockey is lacking.

Personally I’m not worried about the scheduling situation, yet.  The fact that you’ll now have a six team Big 10, 8 team NCHC, and a 9 (10 if they take UAH) team WCHA versus an 11 team CCHA and a 12 teams WCHA means less conference games and more flexibility, thus more teams looking for non-conference opponents.  Hopefully, and that’s a big hopefully, that will get some of the big name western teams to get off their high horses and visit mid-level Hockey East teams instead of just BU, BC, etc.  Perhaps even a couple of schools which got a visit from the maroon and white last year.

I write and post these previews the night before games rather than the morning of because my schedule for my real job means I’m usually out the door and sitting in traffic before 7am.  As a result I usually miss the late breaking injury and roster news that Baker or Matt Vautour publish on game day.  But I do do my best to pass along any late breaking news via Twitter, so make sure to follow Fear The Triangle on Twitter or at least keep your eye on the Twitter feed in the right hand column.

2011-12 UMass Season Preview

Hockey East Preview: #6 Massachusetts Minutemen

2010-11 Storyline: Freshman heavy roster is unable to win the close games.

2011-12 Storyline: UMass has talent up front, but who’s in net?

Player To Watch: Danny Hobbs

Player Missed Most: Paul Dainton

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Zack LaRue

Random Fact: Adam Phillips and Oleg Yevenko are taller than 7 players currently on the UMass basketball roster.

Usual Beer The Triangle Pre-game Spot: The Hangar

Time to lay down some thoughts on the coming season.  However, you can’t know where you’re going without first knowing where you’ve been.  So let’s take a look back at least season first.  Obviously, it was a grueling and frustrating season for UMass fans.  The six total wins were the lowest for the program since we were midway through the triangle decorated time known as the Mallen Era.  Even in Toot Cahoon’s first two years the team won 8 games each year.  But going into the year no one expected much from the team in the first place, given everything they lost to graduation and the pros.  Almost all the media members picked the team, featuring over a dozen freshmen, to finish out of the playoffs.  They, of course, did not.  But it was still tough times for the Minutemen faithful.  The wins and losses is one thing, but what was really frustrating was the fans were constantly waiting for the team to turn a corner that never came.  This team didn’t go 6-23-6 by getting their doors blown off every night.  They were always THIS close to winning.  Amazing, UMass either tied, lost by one goal, or lost by a goal and an empty netter 24 times last year.  78% of their losses were by one goal or a goal plus an empty net goal.  That number is unbelievable  But what that stat does is give us hope for this coming season.  One more bounce, one more check, one more shot, one more save and those games could’ve turned out very differently.

Unlike last year that saw UMass play in tough locales like Madison and Minneapolis, this year’s schedule is much more manageable.  From a fan’s standpoint, one might even say it’s a little boring considering for the first time in a while it doesn’t feature a single WCHA or CCHA team.  UMass will have a steady diet of Atlantic Hockey and ECAC teams surrounding their early season conference matchups.  That’s not to say they have nothing but cupcakes however.  On the schedule is ECAC favorite Yale, currently #9 in the country, #20 Cornell, and Quinnipiac.  Those should be legitimate tests for the Minutemen in addition to the remainder of the non-conference schedule consisting of Bentley, Harvard, Clarkson or Maine, and Holy Cross, which is supposed to be one of the stronger teams in the AHA.  One thing UMass will have to do in regards to the schedule is play well from the start.  They simply have to beat the beatable teams or they could find themselves in a hole in Hockey East they’ll never climb out of.  That means winning at Northeastern and Providence (and of course against Bentley) in the first few weeks.  If they’re not prepared and drop those games it’s going to be very hard to get conference points when they have to play Boston College twice, Boston University twice, and at New Hampshire in the next five games.  I am writing this preview on October 5th.  A month from now after UMass plays BC on November 5th it’ll be interesting to see where the team stands.  They could the surprise of the conference with a few upsets under their belt, they could be hanging on for dear life, or they could find themselves having to climb uphill for the balance of the season to salvage some kind of success.

Of course when trying to determine just how far this team can go this season the immediate question will be, who’s in net?  I’d love to say I know who has the edge in the net, who will get the nod Friday, and who will lead the team to success in the season.  I honestly have no idea.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if Cahoon doesn’t at this point either.  The fact is UMass has three talented goaltenders with little to no experience at this level.  Kevin Boyle and Steve Mastalerz come to UMass with good pedigrees in juniors.  Boyle was named to the All-Rookie team in the competitive BCHL league.  Mastalerz was a top goaltender in the New England prep league.  Jeff Teglia had a distinguished resume in juniors himself, considered one of the best in the USHL, before he came to Amherst.  His stats last year are forgettable; 0-5-1 record, 4.81 goals against average, and a .855 save percentage.  But to his defense, due to factors out of anyone’s control, he didn’t exactly get those cushy starts against easy teams that freshmen backups usually see.  He had four starts, they came at Wisconsin, at BU, at UNH, and against BU at home.  He also played the majority of the second game at Wisconsin (when Paul Dainton was thrown out) and at Minnesota (when Dainton got hurt).  If people are writing off Teglia due to his performance in those high pressure games in challenging venues that he probably shouldn’t have been in in the first place, then I think they’re selling him way short.  Motivating all three of these guys will be Kevin Moore who will be counted on to be a leader in the locker room again, but at the same time will be fighting to dress and be on that bench as well.

The goaltending situation will be interesting to watch.  Cahoon doesn’t have an answer coming into the start of the season but he certainly has options.  If he sticks someone in there and they’re not performing I doubt he’ll wait many games before someone else gets a chance.  Maybe the first few games will be trial and error until someone steps up in practice or against opponents and wrestles the job from the others.  But the flexibility will be there to make adjustments until the right person is in net.  Of course if no one steps up and the starting job ends up being a revolving door, we could be in for another long season of almost wins but not quite there.

Up front things are much simpler.  UMass loses their 5th leading scorer from last year in Chase Langeraap and that’s it.  All the other regular contributors on offense are back.  Now that’s a nice thing to have, but at the same time lets remember this team was 7th in offense in Hockey East and second to last on the power play.  Just bringing the guys back isn’t enough if they want to compete for home ice.  They also need to improve.  Now if we’re talking about improvement, we should talk about co-captain Danny Hobbs.  Improve was all he did last year, jumping from 9 points his sophomore year to a team leading 28 last year.  And he finished strong getting points in 8 of his last 11 games.  It’s safe to say that another +200% jump in production is not going to happen, but if he can build off what he did last year he’ll be a legitimate star in the conference.  Fellow captain T.J. Syner has steadily increased his points each season as well and 2011-12 could be a breakout year for him.  One thing that has hindered Syner has been his size.  Not that his stature prevents him from getting to the net, the fact that he’s one of the fastest players in the league allows him to do that.  No, unfortunately opponents have taken liberties with Syner and the other smaller UMass forwards in the past without fear of retribution.  The reintroduction of size and grit on other parts of the roster should actually open things up for Syner this year.  The last key player on offense for the Minutemen is Mike Pereira who, for the last time I’ll make the argument, legitimately could’ve been the rookie of the year in Hockey East last year.  The trick for Pereira will be consistency through the whole season.  He scored 7 of his 12 goals on the season in the first 9 games.  As the long grueling season went along his production waned.  With better conditioning and knowing what’s ahead of him, hopefully he’ll be close to a 20 goal scorer this time around.

Those three are really the pivotal players on offense, but depth is an asset for the UMass program and there are still a lot of other players who can contribute regularly.  Branden Gracel showed some great playmaking abilities last year and it’ll be his responsibility to get the puck to Syner, Hobbs, Pereira, and whoever else is on the ice.  And if those guys are covered, he’s shown the ability to score on his own as well.  Conor Sheary put up 6 goals and 8 assists on his freshman year and his abilities to pass and shoot are equally dangerous, as he displayed with a nice wrister in Saturday’s scrimmage.  Sheary has star potential for his career.  Next to the goaltending situation, I think seeing how Rocco Carzo fares this year will be one of the more interesting storylines.  After a strong freshman year that saw him regularly on the same line with James Marcou and Casey Wellman, Carzo had a sophomore slump last season, scoring just one goal.  While he played well defensively (finished even on the year) for him to contribute on offense would be a huge plus for the Minutemen.  Kevin “’yoke” Czepiel was very reliable at center last year and I think he’ll continue to see regular time again this year.  He has great vision and to me it seemed like his play improved when on the ice with some of the top players.

UMass has an interesting group of two way forwards this year.  Troy Power showed flashes of promise last year but had a tough time establishing himself as a consistent contributor, some of which was due to fighting nagging injuries.  With a year under his belt and a level of comfort it will be interesting to see how his play progresses this season.  Eric Filiou played in about 2/3rds of the games and seemed to make his presence known as the season went along.  I thought he was one of the better players in last week’s scrimmage and think that he could end up a dangerous player on the third or second lines.  A couple of freshmen to keep an eye on are Zack LaRue and Andrew Tegeler.  Both are similar players with good size and strong skating abilities.  LaRue seems like he may be a bit more of an offensive threat while Tegeler is more of a two-way forward.  However both should be able to address an immediate weakness from last year; poor play along the boards.  Looks like these two have both the bulk and the stick work to maintain possession of the puck on the glass.  Same goes for fellow freshman Emerson Auvenshine who impressed at last week’s scrimmage.  Steve Guzzo gets a second chance to start his UMass career after suffering an injury on the eve of last season.  I was impressed with his speed when I saw him on Saturday.  He might end up playing a big role on this team.  Eddie Olczyk surprisingly only played in about half the games.  Obviously he’s someone who needs to work to become an offensive threat, but it’s also nice to have that shutdown forward out there for defensive purposes.  I expect him to dress more often this year.  Both Pat Kiley and Peter DeAngelo were able to contribute some assisting in sparing play last year.  I think a year of experience  plus the addition of size elsewhere on the roster may allow them to break into bigger roles on the team.

On defense UMass loses a little more than in terms of forwards, but are still pretty sound.  Gone is the ever dependable Doug Kublin, but they return seven blueliners who saw at least 13 games last season.  Leading the defensive corps is assistant captain Mike Marcou who will look to rebound from a tough year last season.  Offensively he did well racking up 11 points while playing only 26 games due to a concussion mid-year.  Defensively, he struggled mightily.  He’s a smart player and I think his play suffered because as one of the few leaders on defense he put too much on his shoulders and tried to do too much.  Hopefully this year with the young defensemen now sophomores he’ll have to worry about them less and can focus on his own play.  I’d be very surprised if he performs as badly as last year, especially since he looked very good this past Saturday.  Joining Marcou in regular shifts on defense will be Adam Phillips, Colin Shea, Joel Hanley, and Conor Allen.  Phillips was one of the pleasant surprises of the season, scoring 10 goals and establishing his slapshot as one of the most dangerous in Hockey East.  He still has some work to do on defense, a position he’s only been playing for a few years, but his long reach allows him to recover where other players usually could not.  Colin Shea was very dependable in his first year and I don’t see that changing.  He does have an offensive side to his game that I saw in juniors that could develop this year.  Joel Hanley suffered through an extremely tough season off the ice, his season bookended with family tragedy and getting mono.  But he persevered through it all and ended up 4th on the team in points and one of the top freshmen in the league.  Breakout player for this season?  He’s my pick.  Conor Allen looked like a freshman defenseman in over his head in elite league in the first half of the season but finished playing very well.  Though for the season he ended up a –11, he was +2 over his last 10 games.

Anthony Raiola had the chance to play in front of his hometown crowd against the Gophers in the opening weekend but then sat for a good chunk of the season until Marcou went down with injury.  He made the most of his time and ended up even on the season in 13 games.  He made a strong case to be the 6th defenseman to start the season.  Darren Rowe started off well with 5 points in his first four games but played sporadically through the year after that.  I still say he’d be a great forward but obviously others think otherwise.  Two newcomers on defense are Oleg Yevenko and Mike Busillo.  The towering Yevenko comes in with quite a reputation, finishing second in the USHL in penalty minutes and being suspended multiple times.  His skating was better than I expected during the scrimmage and from what I’ve heard will probably not be a liability on defense.  The trick for him is to not be a liability in the penalty box.  Certainly that kind of edge and toughness is something that was severely lacking on last year’s squad.  And if he can make opposing player sorry that they crossed the blueline, that would be fantastic.  But Hockey East has too many talented forwards and productive power plays to constantly be giving them the man up, so it’s up to him to play tough but not dumb.  Either way he’s probably going to be one of the more exciting players to play on the squad.  Busillo was one of the top defensemen in the AtlJHL and also adds some grit and size that this team has needed.  All in all this is a very deep defensive group and you have four guys legitimately battling to be that last defenseman dressed.  Like Rowe though, I’m hearing you may see Busillo up at forward from time to time as well.

There you have it.  Your 2011-12 Minutemen.  I think it’s safe to say that this is one of the deepest teams we’ve seen at UMass.  Even the biggest question mark on the team, goaltender, has three legitimately qualified guys fighting for the one starting spot.  What I like about this team is that the recruiting specifically addressed the biggest needs; goaltending, size, toughness.  UMass has had some teams with tremendous talent on it that have fallen short because it was lacking.  Lacking an aspect in terms of makeup.  Lacking the right mentality.  Lacking a camaraderie.  We won’t know until the season starts but it at least appears from afar that this team has those things.  Last year’s team had most of those things too and they came really close to success, but fell short every time.  With the core group of guys now sophomores, not freshmen, and with some dependable senior leadership, this team should take a major step forward.  If one of the three goaltenders ends up putting up strong numbers, this team could do some considerable damage.  But check back with me on 11/5.  I think we’ll learn a lot about this squad in the next 31 days.

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

Dick Baker has a profile on freshman Emerson Auvenshine.

It’s official.  Notre Dame to to Hockey East in 2013.  Like I said, I have some reservations about Hockey East expanding beyond the northeast, but the program itself is a great addition.  I just have one request.  At the three Notre Dame games I’ve attended the ND fans wearing football jerseys usually outnumber those wearing hockey jerseys 3 to 1.  Please stop that.

Baker recounts UMass’ history with Irish hockey.

The Republican has a story on Paul Dainton and former RPI goaltender Allen York fighting for the starting job in Springfield.

Jon Quick is Barry Melrose’s pick to win the Vezina this season.

The ECHL profiles former UMass captain and current ECHL coach Dean Stork.

Newcomer Of The Year; Recruit Update

For the two years of Fear The Triangle’s existence and back when I just used to post my hockey thoughts over on UMasshoops.com I’ve been making an annual Freshman/Newcomer of the Year pick. I’ve done so to varying results. I’ve mostly picked well, like choosing James Marcou and Mike Pereira to make early impacts on the team’s fortunes. But I’ve picked poorly as well, like thinking DIII freshman stud Ryan Leary would be able to take his talents to Hockey East. For the most part I’ve been able to use the information I’ve gathered on incoming recruits to accurately show which newcomer will do best when arriving in Amherst.

This season is tougher than past ones to pick just who that player may be. That’s not because there’s a lack of talented players making their debuts for the Minutemen. In fact the depth in this class makes a selection tough. You have guys like Andrew Tegeler and Steve Guzzo, who should be good two way players for the team. You have a newcomer like Oleg Yevenko who hopefully will keep opposing teams from taking too many liberties with UMass’ stars. But my pick for Newcomer OTY is Zack LaRue.

Now before I get into the qualities that LaRue brings to the team, let’s address the situation in net first. There’s a legitimate chance that the most impactful freshman ends up being a goaltender. However since we have no idea if Jeff Teglia will capture the starting spot or whether Kevin Boyle or Steve Mastalerz has a significant edge over the other of Teglia, I can’t pick either of them. I’ve read up on both and after Saturday’s scrimmage have now seen Kevin Boyle play three times, but I still have no idea if they’re better than each other or Teglia.

So with that said there’s probably a better chance that LaRue ends up being the freshman the coaching staff can count on right away. LaRue brings a lot to the table. At 6’2″, 194lbs he brings some nice size to a squad that has lacked that in recent years. But he’s not some lumbering forward. The write-ups of his play specifically mentioned how well he moves on his skates and his speed. His skating is such an asset that he was considered a top forechecker and penalty killer in the OPJHL. He led the league in shorthanded goals.

In the OPJHL he put up 33 goals and 36 assists in just 50 games. Former Minutemen Kevin Jarman and Chase Langeraap put up similar numbers in their time in the league. Now those two came to Amherst with high expectations that they really did not reach until their senior years. But in their final years they were key parst of those teams. It’ll be LaRue’s challenge to prove that players can dominate in the OPJHL and contribute right away in the NCAA. I didn’t see anything Saturday that made me think he won’t be able to.

If LaRue doesn’t end up playing the most important role for the freshmen it will likely be that one of the new goaltenders grabs the job and has success or perhaps a young Andrew Tegeler is able to play as well as his older opponents. But even if that happens I think LaRue will still play an important role in regards to the fortunes of this year’s team and beyond.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL)
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Gillespie did not play in the Lancers’ season opener

Shane Walsh – LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Walsh didn’t have any points in the first game for the Saints.

NESN previews this year’s Minutemen.

Dick Baker takes a look at the addition of size on this year’s squad.

Matt Vautour explores the importance of the freshmen turned sophomores.

Notre Dame will officially be announced as Hockey East’s 11th member starting in 2013-14.  Who will be 12?  That will be determined later.  I have some ideas for candidates but that’s a post for another time.  As for the Irish, as I said before I’m not entirely sold on the need to expand the league beyond the northeast footprint.  It saddens me a little to now have opponents in the league where you cannot drive to for the weekend.  But, such is life in the NCAA now where conferences are battling for supremacy and turning a blind eye to geographic fits.  The Irish program itself, currently #1 in the nation, is a great addition to the league.

Meanwhile, Bowling Green is off to the WCHA.

Unfortunately the Panthers had one last round of cuts to make and Mike Kostka was one of them.

Preview: #2 Boston College


Hockey East Preview: #2 Boston College Eagles

2010-11 Storyline: Embarrassing showing against Colorado College ends Eagles’ repeat bid.

2011-12 Storyline: BC reloads and fights for the Hockey East championship despite losing its three top scorers.

Player To Watch: Chris Kreider

Player Missed Most: Cam Atkinson

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: John Gaudreau

Random Fact: Gaudreau was originally slated to go to Northeastern but took the Green Line to Chestnut Hill after Greg Cronin jumped for the NHL.

Usual Beer The Triangle Pre-game Spot: Cityside

Boston College lost a lot of scoring.  Cam Atkinson, Jimmy Hayes, and Brian Gibbons alone accounted for over 45% of the team’s goals last year.  However, as always, Jerry York is probably not too worried.  Why?  He’ll have senior leadership from players like Paul Carey and Barry Almeida, young stars like Chris Kreider, Bill Arnold, and Pat Mullane, and a strong recruiting class with guys like John Gaudreau and Destry Straight.  It may take a little while for these players to get in the groove in terms of scoring, but by the end of the season they shouldn’t have a problem.

While BC lost a bunch of scorers all they lost on defense is Ulf Samuelsson’s son and even some BC fans think that may be addition by subtraction.  The defense will be led by Tommy Cross and Brian Dumoulin, but also features solid blueliners like Patrick Wey, Patch Alber, and Ed Shea.  This experience on defense will be key as BC looks for someone to fill John Muse’s place in net.  They’ll return junior Parker Milner to go along with a couple of freshmen out of the EJHL in Brian Billett and Brad Barone.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Honestly, I’ll be very surprised if BC finishes lower than 2nd.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: Guys like Kreider and Arnold can make the jump to 25+ goalscorers.

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

Northeastern will be without talented forwards Cody Ferriero and Steve Qualier for Friday’s opener.  The Huskies got pounded by St Francis Xavier in their exhibition match today.

Reports say that Notre Dame will join Hockey East on Wednesday.

Media Day Coverage; NHL Training Camp Updates

Today was Hockey East media day and, while I won’t be able to provide coverage as last year when I was actually able to attend, I’ll do my best to relay what came out of it.  As regular readers know I’ve been doing previews of the Hockey East in the past week and recently revealed my pick for UMass to finish 6th (though my true team preview will come later on).  The Hockey East coaches disagree and have UMass coming in 7th in the league.

That got me thinking, just how good have the coaching minds of the conference been at predicting UMass’ final standing.

 

Year Coaches’ Pick Actual Finish
10-11 9th 8th
09-10 7th T-6th
08-09 6th 7th
07-08 T-5th 8th
06-07 7th 4th
05-06 7th 8th
04-05 6th 8th

 

What does this mean?  Not much.  You can see the data is kinda all over the place.  Although the last two years the trend is for UMass to finish one place ahead of the coaches’ picks, so I’m feeling good with picking them 6th.  Obviously I’ll put my thoughts on the actual predictions themselves into my previews which will continue this week.

Danny Hobbs was interviewed by the Hockey East media staff at today’s events.  Hobbs has his eyes focused on getting to the Garden in his final season in maroon and white.

Coach Cahoon’s interview starts at 6:18 of this video.  Yep.  Goaltending spot up for grabs, as we knew.

UMass was picked 8th in the informal media poll.

Dick Baker says a lot is expected out of the sophomores.  Captain T.J. Syner states UMass is striving for much more than 7th place.  He also mentions that the power play has looked good so far in practice, which is absolute music to the ears.

Speaking of T.J., if you’re in the Forest Park area of Springfield, please keep an eye out for his dog Bauer.

A couple other previews to share.  First comes from the College Hockey Blog where UMass is picked to finish 8th.  The blog is written by Fetch, who is one of the more entertaining people in the college hockey realm of Twitter.

The Maine Daily Campus doesn’t pick the order of finish, but does say the Minutemen will surprise this year.

Paul Dainton, not surprisingly, was sent down to Springfield by the BlueJackets today.  There he’ll battle with RPI’s Allen York for playing time.  He’s also reunited with former teammate Obi Aduba who is in camp with the Falcons.

Looking around at the rest of of the NHL training camps, Mike Kostka has survived a few round of cuts and is still with the Florida Panthers.  Greg Mauldin was sent down to Lake Erie by the Avalanche.  Both Justin Braun and Matt Irwin are still in camp with the Sharks.  As is Matt Anderson with the Devils.

Marv Degon has signed with the Reading Royals of the ECHL.

Former captain turned coach Dean Stork brought success to the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL using a lot of college players.  Brandon Wong, Dov Grumet-Morris, Cam Talbot; these are familiar names to college hockey fans.

Media Day didn’t necessarily bring news regarding conference expansion, but did bring some insight thanks to Mike McMahon who has been all over the realignment story in regards to Hockey East.  McMahon also said on Twitter that if Notre Dame is added to the fold that people he talked to thought RPI would be the most likely candidate to become the conference’s 12th team.  Although I’m still not convinced that Hockey East needs to change their footprint enough to include Notre Dame, I do think RPI would be the best choice to round out the number of teams.  It’s a school with a ton of tradition (one of my favorite Bruins, Joe Juneau, played there).  Houston Field House is one of the great barns of college hockey.  And from Amherst to the Capital Region is equal to, if not a little closer, than a trip to Boston.

Preview: #7 Vermont; Scrimmage Details Set; Polls

Hockey East Preview: #7  Vermont Catamounts

2010-11 Storyline: Catamounts have a subpar season after making the NCAA tournament in the prior two years.

2011-12 Storyline: How far can Rob Madore lead Vermont in his final go-around?

Player To Watch: Rob Madore

Player Missed Most: Jack Downing

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Mike Paliotta

Random Fact: Former Catamount Tim Thomas brought the Stanley Cup to Burlington for UVM fans to enjoy over the summer.

Usual Beer The Triangle Pre-game Spot: American Flatbread

Vermont had a tough season last year and could not make it three years in a row with an NCAA berth.  Though they had solid defense and a reliable goaltender in Rob Madore, they were unable to find the scoring they had seen in previous years when Viktor Stalberg was still wearing green.  This was complicated further when Wahsontiio Stacey was kicked off the team mid-season.  They should improve on offense with little brother Sebastian Stalberg developing into a fine forward and sophomore Connor Brickley on the verge of becoming a star in the conference.

Rob Madore starts his fourth year in net with the Catamounts and while his numbers have dropped off each year he’s played, he’ll likely be reliable in net.  However, he’s lost a lot of help in front of him with the graduation of guys like Kyle Medvec and Kevan Miller.  If the Cats don’t see some decided improvement from their younger defensemen and contribution from their talented but untested freshmen blueliners, Madore could be seeing a lot of rubber this season.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Madore’s goals against average continues to increase at the 0.30 clip we’ve seen the last three years.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: The young forwards make a huge leap offensively.

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

While UMass will not be having a true exhibition game this season, there will be an intrasquad scrimmage open to the public.  The scrimmage will take place at 4pm Saturday and will be followed by the annual Skate With The Minutemen event.  Seems like it’s been an unusually long offseason.  I can’t wait to see the team take the ice, even if they’ll only be facing each other.

UMass got 3 points in the USCHO pre-season poll, good for last of the “Also Receiving Votes” teams.

Tomorrow is Hockey East Media Day.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it this year, but I’ll definitely share my thoughts on the pre-season picks that come out of it tomorrow.

Paul Dainton is dressing tonight for the Bluejackets as they take on the Washington Capitals.

The conference shifting is not set yet.  Bowling Green is still weighing their options, one of which could include the University of Buffalo.  Meanwhile, Notre Dame has narrowed it down to either the NCHC or Hockey East.

Alabama Huntsville is still figuring out what it will take to continue on.

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