Recap ▲ UMass Swept By Providence, Will Travel To BU For Playoffs

The Massachusetts hockey team closed out the regular season in uninspiring fashion, getting outscored 10-1 by the #5 Providence Friars in a weekend sweep.  UMass finished their regular season with a record of 8-22-4 and went 2-21-3 over their last 26 games.  Both of the most recent two wins came in overtime against two lower end Atlantic Hockey teams.  UMass went 2-16-4 in Hockey East play, finishing in last place for the second straight season.  The team went 0-15-3 in their final 18 league games and for that performance they’ll travel to Boston University for the first round of the Hockey East playoffs in what should be the final games of the John Micheletto era at UMass.

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Preview ▲ Minutemen Close Out Regular Season With Series Versus #5 Providence

Providence Friars 23-5-4 (14-3-3) Hockey East 2nd

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Massachusetts Minutemen 8-20-4 (2-14-4) Hockey East 12th

The Minutemen hockey team did not enjoy the luck of the draw when it came to their opponent for the final weekend of the regular season.  Not only do they have to face defending national champion #5 Providence, but the Friars are playing some of their best hockey recently.  They’ve won their last six games straight and still have their eyes on winning the Hockey East regular season title.  UMass on the other hand does not have the same motivation coming into the weekend.  They do have a very outside chance to finish 11th in the league and stay out of the cellar, but to do so they’d need to win both games against the Friars and have New Hampshire sweep UConn.  The Minutemen will at least look to repeat last year when they upset the then #12 Friars on senior night when Frank Vatrano scored in overtime.  It was the last regular season win over a ranked team for UMass.

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View From Section U ▲ Thank You Seniors!

Since I started this blog many a year ago there are few things I look forward to more than writing my annual senior post.  It’s not because I’m looking forward to see them play their last games on the Mullins Center ice.  In fact it’s the exact opposite.  Not only have I watched these players from the stands or through choppy online streams for the past four years but these players’ names first pop-up on my radar when they’re 16 year olds playing in the old EJHL or some strange sounding town in British Columbia.  They play out their junior days, perhaps bouncing from league to league, and finally arrive in Amherst as freshmen.  Or perhaps they take more circuitous routes that have them wearing the jerseys of other college hockey teams before putting on the maroon and white.

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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 ▲ Hockey East Claims Three Of Top Four Spots In Rankings

Hockey East continues to show it’s the best conference in college hockey, boasting three of the top four teams in the country.  The latest USCHO polls has Providence continuing its reign as the #1 team in the country with Boston College just behind them at #2.  Lowell moved up to #4 after taking three points from Notre Dame.  Staying at #3 is UMass’ next opponent, 11-0-2 Quinnpiac.

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Weekend Wrap-Around ▲ Plevy Named Hockey East Rookie Of The Week

For the second time this season Minuteman freshman Austin Plevy was named Hockey East Rookie of the Week.  Plevy had four points this past weekend, including a one goal, two assist effort on Saturday.  Plevy is tied with UConn’s Alex Letunov for Hockey East freshman goal scoring with 6 apiece.

graphic by Hockey East

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View From Balcony 322: Why Not Us? (Go Friars!)

On Thursday I was at the TD Garden with 18,000 other diehard college hockey fans from across the country to experience the wonderful event that is the Frozen Four.  If you haven’t attended a Frozen Four before, I highly recommend it.  As big as college hockey is in some of our lives it’s still has a relatively small hardcore following, so it’s a lot of fun to get all those fans together in one place at one time.  It’s interesting to see all the different jerseys and traditions of programs you don’t typically interact with much.

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Saturday Recap

There’s honestly not too much to post about regarding last night’s game at Providence.  The Massachusetts defense looked much better than the night before, when they gave up five goals.  Perhaps some of that was due to an increased focus with Steve Mastalerz getting the start.  He played very well and it was good to see him back healthy and performing well.  But I think after Friday some kind of message had to be sent to the defense and changing from Kevin Boyle, who hadn’t really played poorly, was the way to do it.

However, even with the defense having aa better than average game, it didn’t matter.  UMass generated 44 shots on the night and yet could not get any of them past Friar goaltender John Gillies.  The popular opinion will be that the Minutemen did the best they could and just “ran into a hot goalie”.  From someone who was there I would say their shot selection wasn’t the best it could be, but in the end Gillies did play extremely well and led his team to a win.  UMass got four behind him on Friday but couldn’t get any in the net on Saturday.

I was happy that defensively UMass played much, much better last night.  After allowing Providence to skate in the offensive zone at will, the Minutemen did a great job shutting down the Friars, limiting them to just 12 shots through the first two periods and 24 overall.  But, UMass lost the game and got swept on the weekend.  The two losses are going to hurt very much in the long run.  They needed to play with desperation last night and they didn’t.  The Minutemen could not build off the momentum of winning the Ledyard Classic and kicked off the second half of the Hockey East season by losing two games a team they could’ve been battling for home ice.  Now they’re all alone in 8th place, just one point ahead of Northeastern in 9th, and home ice is nothing but a dream, seven points ahead of them in the standings.  If they’re unable to gain any points from a home and home with Providence it’s tough to imagine they’ll be successful against Boston College next weekend or two games at 7th place Vermont the week after.  This weekend was, quite frankly, a disaster.  We’ll see if they can pick up wins during the balance of the season to make up for it.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Conor Allen
As said the defense looked much improve this game.  On the blueline Allen looked in good shape, playing good D, blocking a couple shots, and even getting five shots on net.

Coach Micheletto says the team could not have played better according to the Republican’s recap.

Similar comments in the Collegian game story.

Here’s how the game looked for the Herald.

Providence Preview

Providence College Friars 7-8-3 (5-4-2) 4th Hockey East (12 pts)

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Massachusetts Minutemen 7-9-2 (4-6-1) 7th Hockey East (9 pts)

Massachusetts and Providence will close out their season series with a home and home this weekend starting with a game tomorrow night at the Mullins.  The teams met last in the beginning of November in what I thought was UMass’ most complete game so far this season as they shutout the Friars 4-0.  In that game the Minutemen had a sizable edge in shots, 32-17, and scored their goals even strength, on the power play, and even shorthanded.  When the Minutemen play this weekend the team will, most likely, still be missing one of the key components of that win in the form of Troy Power, who had a goal, an assist, and finished +3 in that previous game against the Friars.

The loss against UMass put the Friars at .500 on the season and they’ve struggled to be any better than that since.  They’ve only won three games since losing to the Minutemen and last gained a win in late November, a 4-3 overtime victory against Merrimack.  They come into the game 0-2-3 in their last five, though one of those ties came against Boston College.  Last weekend they travelled out to Minnesota State and dropped both weekend games, one in overtime.

Offensively the Friars are fourth among Hockey East teams, tied with the Minutemen scoring 2.78 goals per game.  Unlike UMass though they gain most of their goals at even strength, as their power play is next to last in the league at just 12.7%.  The Friars have spread the scoring around with five players having at least four goals on the season but no one has more than six.  Junior Derek Army is tops in goals and total points with six goals  and 12 points respectively.  Sophomore Ross Mauermann is one of the few Frairs who has had power play success with three of his five goals coming with the extra man.  Freshman star Mark Jankowski (4G, 4A) has missed the last four games with a hip injury and his status for this weekend is unknown.

While Providence is scoring the same as UMass, they’re giving up considerably less goals.  Their 2.44 goals per game is 3rd best in the league (UMass is last with 3.06).  A good deal of those goals though have come a man down as PC is only killing only 80% of power play chances, worst in the league.  The Friar defense is led by seniors Alex Velischek and Myles Harvey.  Freshman goaltender Jon Gilles will be returning to the Friars after being part of the gold winning Team USA effort at the World Juniors.  It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to jump right in and play without having to readjust  as he has not seen much game action recently as he was relegated to backup duty overseas.  Before he left though he was playing wonderfully, putting up a GAA of 1.95 and .928 save percentage.  Both of those puts him at 2nd in the league behind UNH’s Casey DeSmith.

For UMass it’s all about carrying over what they established up in Hanover.  They certainly played poorly in that first period against Bemidji State.  But from then on they were the better team during the entire tournament. Against the Beavers they surpassed with skill.  Against Dartmouth, due to the interfering officiating, they just made the most of what they were given and took the hardware.  UMass will have some momentum to start the second half but it’s less than what they would’ve had if they didn’t have last week off.  As a UMass fan you’re happy to give guys like Steve Mastalerz and Troy Power an extra week to get healthy but you also would’ve rather the team picked up right where they left off when they were grabbing the trophy up in Hanover.  Will they be able to recapture momentum?

Certainly it seems like UMass would do well to make the most of their power play.  On paper that’s the biggest advantage seen in the statistics.  Providence is dead last on the penalty kill while UMass is second best at 20.6%.  UMass will also have to rely on their stars.  Going into the season most Minuteman fans thought it would be Mike Pereira or Conor Sheary doing  most of the work for the team but so far it’s been Branden Gracel who’s been the MVP.  Now that the has the attention upon him can he continue to produce at the rate he has thus far?

The Minutemen have a tremendous opportunity in front of them.  Despite some struggles in the first half of the year they still find themselves in 7th place in Hockey East and with some luck and a couple of wins they can vault themselves into home ice position this weekend with a sweep.  But they’ll have to play like they did in Hanover, with a bit of desperation and a whole lot of effort, versus how they did against Yale or Colgate to end the year where they look lackadaisical. The hope was the trip and the challenge in Hanover woke up this team.  These two games against the Friars will tell us if that’s the case.

Beer The Triangle
The Hanger has Café Racer 15.  That is all.

Sorry, can’t find any previews for this weekend as everyone is busy with basketball.

Here’s CHN’s look at the Hockey East weekend that shall be.

Providence Preview

Providence Friars 4-3-1 (3-2-0) T-4th Hockey East

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Massachusetts Minutemen 2-4-0 (1-4-0) 8th Hockey East

Tomorrow will be an interesting game for the Minutemen.  To date they’ve faced a daunting Hockey East schedule and it has resulted in an unfortunate result of 1-4-0 in the conference so far.   But on Friday it gets, perhaps, not quite as intimidating.  To date the Hockey East teams that UMass has played have been traditional Hockey East powers currently ranked in the top 15 in the polls, not to mention teams that have a lot of recent success over UMass.  Providence does not fall into those categories.  But that’s not to say that the Friars should be overlooked.  However the point I’m trying to make is that few UMass fans thought the team would be competing with the likes of Boston College, Boston University, or New Hampshire this year.  Instead they thought or at least hoped it would be teams like the Friars, picked to finish in the middle of the conference, that would be the ones UMass could have to beat consistently to be successful.

That’s not to say it’ll be easy though.  It didn’t take Nate Leaman long to improve the Providence program, leading the Friars to the TD Garden last spring.  So far they’ve done about what you can expect from a talented, but young team.  They narrowly lost at BU, got a tie from Miami followed by a loss, swept Maine, and split with a surprising Vermont team.  Probably not the start to the season that the Friar team was hoping for, but not entirely unexpected.

This Friar team is young.  Of the nine players leading in points only two of them are juniors or seniors, and both of those are defensemen.  The team has been led by sophomore Ross Mauermann who has four goals and two assists so far this season.  A lot of attention has been paid upon freshman and first round draft pick Mark Jankowski who has three goals on the season, though two of those came in the season opener against Sacred Heart.  Providence has also gotten some good production from sophomore Shane Luke and freshman Paul De Jersey who have a couple of goals apiece.

The defensemen have also contributed on offense as senior defenseman Myles Harvey is averaging almost an assist a game so far.  Freshman blueliner John Gilmour has had two goals to go with three assists to date.  The Minutemen will also still have to deal with senior talent Alex Velischek on defense for the Friars.  In net UMass will get their first look at John Gilles, the Northeastern Husky recruit turned Friar goaltender.  Though it’s still early on the season he’s already been named Hockey East Rookie of the Week twice and garnered Defensive Player of the Week honors as well.  Those accolades are not a surprise when you consider the fact that he has a 1.80 goals against average thus far to go with a .932 save percentage.

The good news for UMass when facing Gilles is that the goaltender who is ahead of him statistically so far is Casey DeSmith, the backstop the Minutemen beat last weekend for their first Hockey East win.  Still, beating the Friars will not be easy.  They don’t have a ton of experience, but they believe in themselves and their coach.  But for the Minutemen, this is a bit of a referendum (apologies for the political terminology, I’m sure we’re all enjoying our respite from the negative ads).  UMass has a poor record so far in conference, but they’ve been in almost all the game against top notch opponents and nearly pulled off a number of high profile upsets.  If they’ve been *this close* from beating the likes of BU and BC, this veteran UMass squad should be able to beat an inexperienced Friar team at home, right?  We’ll see.

When first looking at the schedule I perhaps overestimated Providence and was initially very worried about this game.  Perhaps I put too much into how the Friars finished last year without accounting for just how many underclassmen they have to rely on to win this year.  But overall, those underclassmen have come through so far.  If anything you have to wonder where the production is from the likes of Tim Schaller (1G, 2A) and Derek Army (1G, 2A).  Point being, UMass cannot overlook this team.

For the Minutemen, they just have to build off what has gone right for them so far.  There has been a lot of switching of lines to find the right mix, but I thought the line combinations are starting to come together.  The Steven Guzzo/Rocco Carzo/Conor Sheary grouping looked very good last week and helped to get Sheary his first goal.  The other top line of Mike Pereira/Branden Gracel/Troy Power did very well with Power putting up a multi-point night against BC and Pereira getting his first point of the season.  On the other end of the ice the defense has looked very solid, when not fatigued, and the team may have found their starting goaltender in Kevin Boyle.

Honestly, this is a huge game for the Minutemen.  It’s their only chance at points on the weekend and they really can’t afford to fall any further behind in the league.  Add in the fact that this game is at home against a young team that has only one win away from Rhode Island and UMass should be expected to be victorious tomorrow night.  Let’s see if they can turn narrow losses against elite teams into decisive victories against the not quite as experienced teams in Hockey East.

Beer The Triangle
The Hangar is supposed to be having a mini Lagunitas takeover.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was sitting at the bar at the Lagunitas brewery in Petaluma while on my NoCal beercation.  According to Stoney they’re expected to have the Pale Ale, Pils, Maximus, and their session Daytime IPA.  Seems like a good way to cap off a decent week of Lagunitas for me after grabbing some of their luxurious Brown Shugga on Sunday while pregaming at Publick House ahead of the BC game and even finding a Little Sumpin’ at Stars in Hingham before that.

USCHO’s Hockey East piece features Providence’s talented youth as well as the almost, but not quite, season for UMass so far.

The Gazette’s preview notes that Mike Pereira had a hat trick the last time he faced the Frairs.

UMass is focused on closing games says the Republican preview.

Providence’s Mark Jankowski is the focus of the preview out of the Collegian.

Via the UMass Athletics website is UMass Hockey: Behind the Scenes hosted by senior Eddie Olczyk.  “Pillows are for those people that are weak.”

UMass Hockey Behind The Scenes

 

Good luck to the Minutewomen Field Hockey team as they take on #1 Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament this weekend.  Go UMass!

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