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Polls & Awards

Combined with Minnesota dropping a game, Boston College’s come from behind win at Amherst followed by their defeat of Northeastern in their home opener the next night was enough to put them back in the top spot in this week’s USCHO rankings.  UMass’ OT loss to the Eagles was enough to gain them a couple votes in the poll.  BC is the only Hockey East representative in the top ten but just outside are #11 Lowell, #12 New Hampshire, #13 Boston University, and #15 Northeastern.  BC returned to the top of the USA Hockey/USA Today rankings as well.

His game-winner on Friday helped BC’s Johnny Gaudreau gain Player of the Week honors for Hockey East this week.  Rocco Carzo was named a top performer for his two goal game.

The Washington Capitals have this interview of former Minuteman Alex Berry describing his road back to hockey after the horrific on-ice accident that almost ended his career and even his life last fall.  I’m ecstatic to see him back on the ice.  Berry, along with T.J. Syner, is playing with Reading of the ECHL to start the hockey season.

For those that may have missed it, Paul Dainton did make the opening night roster for the Springfield Falcons.

And look who’s back playing stateside, Thomas Pöck.  Pöck is playing with the Lake Erie Monsters this season.

Don’t forget that I’ve added a link to the top of the page to an offsite page where you can instantly find out where former Minutemen are currently playing.

Lastly I want to give a heartfelt thanks and farewell to Inside College Hockey, which announced yesterday that they’re packing it in.  Their coverage had slipped in recent years but many who have followed the sport closely for the last ten years or more know that INCH was once an excellent resource for rankings, news, and humor.  The site had some excellent writers over the years, including Jeff Howe who covered UMass hockey for the Collegian and now is the Patriots beat writer for the Herald.  I’ll always remember them giving the UMass triangle jersey the bronze medal in their ranking of all-time ugliest sweaters.  Stick salute to all current and past INCH writers.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

11-12 Preview: #10 Lowell River Hawks

Hockey East Preview:  #10 Lowell River Hawks

2010-11 Storyline:  Young River Hawk team manages just 5 wins on the season.

2011-12 Storyline:  Alum takes the reigns at his alma mater.

Player To Watch:  Riley Wetmore

Player Missed Most:  Scott Campbell

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On:  Scott Wilson

Random Fact:  Lowell plays its home games in Tsongas Tsenter Center in Lowell and previously called Tully Forum in Chelmsford home.  This year the Hawks will play a home game in Nashua, New Hampshire’s Conway Arena against UConn.

Usual Beer The Triangle Pre-game Spot:  Lowell Beer Works

Yep, I picked them to finish last again.  Let me tell you this though, I tried really hard not to.  I tried to do everything I could to not only justify a 9th place finish, but even thought about picking them 8th.  Obviously they struggled to get wins, but last year’s freshman class for Lowell is very talented and deep.  And with a year under their belt I am anticipating them to progress and be a group that opposing defenses will have a tough time with.  So why are they picked last?  Goaltending.  I think with Doug Carr and Marc Boulanger coming back, and T.J. Massie to back them up, Lowell is going to lose a lot of games by a score of 3 to 4.  The goaltending is just poor and in just my non-professional opinion had very bad form in net.  Losing senior defensemen Maury Edwards and Ryan Blair will not help the situation.

Still, this team will win more than five games, will scare the hell out of some top level teams in Hockey East, and has a chance to do pretty well against a soft non-conference schedule.  I think River Hawk  fans realize they’re in rebuilding mode and will focus more on what’s going on behind the bench this season than the ice.  After last season’s historically low win total current UMass assistant Blaise MacDonald was let go after 10 years on the job.  Some River Hawk faithful immediately seized upon the idea of a former Lowell star riding into the mill city to rescue the program.  Of course they were dreaming of Craig MacTavish, he of the no helmet.  What they got was former Chief defenseman Norm Bazin.  Sure he doesn’t have the name recognition of MacTavish, but Bazin did have a lot of success at the Division III level with Hamilton, winning his conference’s coach of the year award two years in a row.  Does he have what it takes to get Lowell, which holds the longest NCAA tournament bid drought in the league, back to a level they once enjoyed in the 90’s?  This year will be the first step towards that answer.

They’ll Finish Lower Because:  Hockey East suddenly extends a membership invite to Alabama-Huntsville.

They’ll Finish Higher Because:  The young forwards mature quickly enough where they can beat other teams 5-4.

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
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10.  Lowell River Hawks

As mentioned in last night’s blog, Paul Dainton got the win while making his NHL pre-season debut.  The Winnipeg paper gave him the second star of the game.  Unfortunately the link is also the only picture, showing him giving him giving up a goal to Evander “Matt Cooke is my bitch” Kane, I’ve found of Dainton making his debut.  Tonight he backed up Bluejacket starter Steve Mason in Columbus’ second game.  The Jackets have already sent one goaltender to Springfield from training camp.

Why yes, that is ice in the Mullins.

The NCHC conference extended invites to Western Michigan and St Cloud.  The overture to WMU was expected but the inclusion of SCSU is a little surprising.  Especially considering their reaction when they were initially snubbed by the new conference.  But such flip-flopping (or some would say hypocrisy) is the way of life in this ever-changing world of conference realignment.  After all, UConn is now groveling for an invitation to a conference they were suing not too long ago.  Hockey-wise realignment have pretty much settled now, I think, except for Notre Dame.  What’s going on with them?  Who knows. And I’m still waiting for someone, anyone, to save the UAH program.

Recruit Update

Time for the first recruit update of the hockey season.  However, first I thought I should address a question that has been asked of me and frankly one I’ve been asking myself.  Where are all the recruits?  As of now, at least according to the few recruiting resources available, UMass only has two players lined up to come to Amherst next fall, Shane Walsh and Kenny Gillespie, and none for future years.  This is by far the lowest numbers around Hockey East.  For example, Boston College already has 14 committed recruits, 7 for next year and the other 7 for future years.  Lowell has the second lowest next to UMass with 4.  Are players shying away from the school?  Is this a product of losing Red Gendron to Yale?  Is the word out that UMass is dropping men’s hockey in favor of a coed sailing team?

There are a few factors to consider before panicking.  First is the fact that UMass, due to early defections and other reasons, now have very imbalanced classes.  Currently the breakout looks as follows; 4 seniors, 4 juniors, 13 sophomores, 8 freshmen.  So UMass only has 8 upperclassmen in the first place.  And one of those, Kevin Moore, will not need to be replaced as UMass already has 3 goaltenders under scholarship for the next three years.  So all in all UMass only has three slots to fill for next year and have already done so for two of those.

Still, all other Hockey East teams have more than one recruit lined up for 2013 or later.  Should we be worried that no one is lined up already for those four spots that open after the current juniors graduate?  Let’s take a look at when the current freshman class committed.  The earliest was Kevin Boyle, who first committed to UMass 30 months before he ended up on campus.  The least was Emerson Auvenshine who committed less than 4 months before his freshman year.  On average the freshmen committed 9 months before the start of their UMass career and actually Boyle’s 2+ years is driving most of that, because the second longest is Zack LaRue who committed last December.

Looking at last year’s freshman class, on average the players committed 13 months before their freshman year.  Eric Filiou committed the earliest, 29 months before coming to Amherst.  Adam Phillips was the shortest at less than three months.  Phillips of course was one of the bigger (no pun intended) impact players last year, which suggests that earlier commitments do not necessarily translate to success.  Mike Pereira who performed the best of the freshmen last year committed 21 months before putting on the maroon and white.

So recruiting wise, even though there are only two players in the fold, things still seem OK.  Walsh and Gillespie are two quality players lined up for next year, and we’re still 24 months from the start of the 2013 season, which is a much greater time period than the team usually take to get recruits to commit.  And when that happens, I’ll do my best to pass along the details.

Now onto the update for the current recruits.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL)
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
The USHL is still in the midst of their pre-season, but so far so good for Gillespie.  One game.  One shot.  One goal.

Shane Walsh – LW –  Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
The official stats say Walsh has 0 points in 2 games but this story says he has a goal.  Oh well, I guess it’s preseason for the official scorers as well.

Adam Phillips was featured on INCH’s A-Z.

Paul Dainton made his NHL Pre-season debut tonight when he started the 2nd period of the game between the Bluejackets and Thrashers Jets.  As I write this there are 12 minutes left in the third and Dainton has saved 14 of 15 shots with his Jackets up 5-1.

***Dainton ended up getting the win, saving 17 of 18 shots.  Congrats Paul!

Here’s a good read on Jon Quick’s status as the #1 goaltender for the Kings going into training camp.

The first preseason poll is out and RIT is picked to finish first in Atlantic Hockey.  RIT got more good news when it was announced they’ll be hosting both Michigan and Penn State in coming years.  Congratulations.  Getting the Wolverines to leave the friendly confines of Yost for a non-conference game is near impossible for any team, much less for an AHA team.

Tomorrow I’ll be starting my Hockey East previews.

Monday Links; Dainton To Suit Up For Bluejackets

Dick Baker has the first of what will likely be many “Who’s in net for UMass?” articles.  This article centers on Jeff Teglia who hopes to build off last season and stay injury free to earn the spot in the crease.   He also spoke with redshirt freshman Steve Guzzo who missed all last season with a knee injury.

In alumni news, great to see Paul Dainton will be one of two goaltenders to dress for tomorrow’s preseason opener for the Columbus Bluejackets.

Greg Mauldin had a couple goals in an Avalanche intrasquad scrimmage.

Baker catches up with James Marcou who was unable to participate in Sharks camp as he is still recovering from a concussion dating back to last season.  I’m told he is pretty close to 100% though and hopefully will be cleared for full contact soon.

I did get an update on Alex Berry who was released by the Tampa Bay Lightning this spring.  He has gotten interest from other NHL teams but as of yet is still unsigned.  It is expected that he’ll catch on with an AHL training camp when they open.

View From Section U: Freshmen Comparisons By The Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now to the local EJHL.

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

The NAHL presents a problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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