Advertisements

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.

(more…)

Advertisements

View From Section U ▲ Potential Coaching Replacements

Ever since I wrote my piece stating that UMass needs to making a coaching change at the end of the season I’ve had many people ask who would be my potential candidates to lead the program to success.  There are a few prospects that immediately come to mind.  There are a few that I wish they had looked at the last time around when the coaching position was open in 2012 and either they weren’t interested, then Athletic Director John McCutcheon didn’t consider them, or the timing just wasn’t right for either side.  I’ve already heard a lot of suggestions from readers and fans on who should be considered and I’ve done my best to take them into account.

(more…)

Recap ▲ UMass Offense Stifled In Weekend Sweep By #3 Quinnipiac

We knew coming into this weekend that this Massachusetts hockey team has had a tough time getting on the scoreboard against the elite defensive teams in the country.  They lost 6-1 in the Capital City Classic against Yale and earlier this month dropped a 7-0 decision to Boston College. They did not fare much better against the #3 Quinnipiac Bobcats who came into this home-and-home series allowing the 4th fewest goals and shots on net per game.  The Bobcats’ defense lived up to their dominant expectations and allowed just a single goal against UMass, winning the games 4-1 and 1-0.

(more…)

Recruit Update ▲ Makar, Massie Join Dixson In Signing UMass NLIs

In last week’s post I reported that defenseman Justin Dixson signed his National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Massachusetts.  I’ve also learned that defensemen Jake Massie and Cale Makar signed their NLIs during the early signing period which ended last week.  The signings help assure that coach John Micheletto and his staff are set at the blueline for years to come.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Recruit Update: Leonard Named To Herald’s Dream Team

It’s been a little while so time to see how the recruits who are still playing are doing.  It’s very likely that we’ll see a few more recruits join this list in the coming months.  The team is losing 5 forwards, 3 defensemen and a goalie to graduation or early departure but only have 3 forwards, 2 or 3 defensemen (depending on when McCarthy arrives), and a goaltender line up for next fall currently.  So very likely that we could see a couple more forwards and maybe a defenseman added to next year’s incoming class.

(more…)

Quinnipiac Recap

Quinnipiac lived up to their reputation as a defensive force and as a result got a 2-2 tie yesterday at the Mullins Center, despite the Minutemen outplaying them for long stretches in the middle of the game.  For most of the first period the Bobcats did an excellent job of getting in every passing lane and disrupting each rush by the Minutemen into their zone.  As a UMass only managed five shots in the opening period.  Luckily one of those shots resulted in a shorthanded goal by Conor Sheary, setup by an excellent play by Kevin Czepiel to gather the loose puck and center it for a skill assist.  That goal tied the game at one apiece after the Bobcats took an early lead just a few minutes into the game.

The Minutemen appeared to make some adjustments during the first intermission because they were able to move the puck and overcome the Bobcats’ stifling defense much better in the second.  However, they were still only able to get one goal during that period past Quinnipiac goaltender Eric Hartzell, despite 17 total shots.  Still Rocco Carzo’s power play goal gave the Minutemen the lead going into the final period.

However in the third period Quinnipiac would seize the momentum as they were able to clamp down on the UMass offense yet again.  They were able to translate that momentum into a tying goal when defensemen Mike Dalhuisen threw a puck to the net that somehow got in just under the crossbar.  From then on Quinnipiac surged while, yet again, the Minutemen faded.  By the time overtime started UMass looked very tired out there, reminiscent of earlier games where they lost late leads.  Luckily, the Bobcats were not able to find the back of the net in the extra frame, but it wasn’t for lack of trying as the puck rarely made it out of the UMass zone.

I guess a tie against a ranked team is a positive for this team, but it was tough not to walk out of the Mullins a little disappointed.  UMass showed in the second period that they were the better skilled team yet an inability to finish combined with what has become a familiar third period and overtime malaise prevented them from getting a nice signature out of conference win.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Kevin Czepiel
I thought Czepiel battling being aggressive on the penalty kill, taking the puck away from the Bobcats, and having the wherewithal to center the puck to Conor Sheary was the play of the game.  Therefore I’m giving him my player of the game as well.

The Republican dubs the game a “sloppy affair”.

Quinnipiac Preview

#18 Quinnipiac Bobcats 8-3-1 (4-0-0)  2nd ECAC

at

Massachusetts Minutemen 4-5-1 (3-5-1) T-5th Hockey East

The Massachusetts hockey team will play just their second non-conference game of the year later today.  After running a gauntlet of early season games against top Hockey East foes like Boston College, Boston University, and New Hampshire today they’ll take on one of the best so far from the ECAC, the #18 Quinnipiac Bobcats.  It’ll be a welcome break from league games for the Minutemen, but also a chance to see how they stack up against other conferences.

The Bobcats are undefeated within their own conference so far, a perfect 4-0-0.  But out of conference it’s been a little different.  They have some key wins, including road victories over Maine and Providence.  But they somehow also dropped a game to AIC at home.  They also dropped a game to Colgate in a matchup that did not count in the ECAC standings.  Still, the wins they have accumulated is enough for them to gain a ranking in the most recent USCHO poll.

The Bobcats have gotten the job done with defense so far this season.  The 1.75 goals they’ve given up per game is 3rd lowest in the country.  So is their 94.3% penalty kill.  They’ve only given up more than two goals in two of their dozen games this season.  Goaltender Eric Hartzell has been a big reason for their defensive dominance.  So far he has a goals against average of 1.53 and a save percentage of .927.  Against UMass he’s had mixed success.  Last year he only gave up two goals to the Minutemen in a 5-2 Bobcat win.  The previous year in Amherst he only lasted one period, pulled after two goals in the 5-2 UMass win.

Offensively the Bobcats are scoring 2.67 goals per game, pretty much the same as UMass.  Unlike the Minutemen they’ve struggled on the power play however, converting on just 15.5% of their chances.  What’s more interesting though is that they’ve given up four shorthanded goals, second most in the country.  The Minutemen will have to focus most of their attention on senior forward Jeremy Langlois who leads the team with six goals and 11 points.  Fellow senior forward Russell Goodman has also played well, scoring four goals including three game winners for the Bobcats.

For UMass they’ll have to shake off the turkey hangover and make sure they’re ready to play.  Last Sunday they learned the hard way what happens when you’re not mentally prepared to play hockey.  They’ll also have to generate their own energy and motivation as it’s likely going to a smaller and quieter crowd at the Mullins Center for this holiday weekend game. I think the game will come down to special teams.  UMass will have to make sure to keep Quinnipiac’s power play off the board and in general keep them to just a goal or two.  At the same time the Minuteman power play will have to find a to score with the extra man.  They’ve already done so against teams with equally successful penalty kills like UNH and BC.  Hopefully they can find a way to do it again.

Beer The Triangle
The Hangar had a special “Black Wednesday” earlier this week where some top notch stouts and porters from across the country filled all the taps.  They included the likes of Wormtown Norm, Founders Breakfast Stout, and Sierra Nevada Narwhal.  Those are some leftovers I can look forward to.

The Republican preview says today will be a clash of styles.

View From Section U: An Even Dozen

As I promised a few weeks ago when the Notre Dame to Hockey East news became official, here are my thoughts on a potential additional program which would bring the total to twelve. While having an even number of teams isn’t absolutely necessary, after all there were only nine teams between when UMass joined in 1994 until Vermont was added in 2005, it does make scheduling easier and more exciting. One of great things right now in Hockey East is that during the months of February and March every team is playing every night as they battle for the championship. If Notre Dame joins as an 11th team by itself someone will be sitting on the sidelines every Friday and Saturday during that time. Plus a 12th team will allow for all teams in Hockey East to participate in the playoffs, with the top four seeds getting an opening round bye as the bottom eight fight to move on.

Of course a program shouldn’t be added just for the sake of getting to twelve teams. That school should bring value to the conference and its members. While I wasn’t on board with the Notre Dame decision due purely to geographic reasons, the profile of the school and competitiveness of the program is a benefit to Hockey East. But what other schools would do the same? Here are my thoughts on the pros, cons, and (since this is a FTT post) the road trip/pre-gaming possibilities of each one. Speaking of which, did you know South Bend, Indiana is only 80 miles from Bell’s Brewery?

Looks Good On Paper, But…

UConn

Pros – UConn fits well into the current geographic footprint of the conference. Four of the other flagship schools from New England are already in the conference in UMass, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Though not for hockey, they’re a high profile school in general college athletics, specifically for basketball and more recently football. They’re from an area with a decent hockey tradition and could potentially tap into that (beyond just playing Brass Bonanza after goals).

Cons – Their hockey history sucks. Despite beating Lowell just last night, it’s unknown if they’d be able to make leap from perennial Atlantic Hockey also ran to Hockey East. Their facility is frankly, awful. It’s essentially a building right out of an industrial park with a rink inside surrounded by metal football bleachers. The really sad part is it’s a relatively new building right out an industrial park with a rink inside surrounded by metal football bleachers. UConn would have to build something new if they want to meet Hockey East standards. That’s major hurdle number one. Major hurdle number two is the fact that they don’t currently fund scholarships, or if they do it’s just a fraction of the full allotment that HEA schools do. They’d have to fund all the way up to the max to become a Hockey East program and then of course find money for to offset such increases on the women’s side of their sports, due to Title IX. Considering the school has shown exactly zero interest in doing what it takes to have a successful program even at the AHA level, I don’t see this happening.

Road Trip – Storrs is a pretty barren place in terms of anything to do. The first time I went there I had to pregame at the Hooters all the way in Manchester. Luckily the last time UMass played there I came across Willimantic Brewing company, a great brewpub located in an old post office with garlic fries that are so good they should be illegal.

The Contenders

Quinnipiac

Pros – It wasn’t long ago that Quinnipiac was in Atlantic Hockey themselves, but a large investment in the program has allowed them to elevate to the ECAC and still be somewhat successful. The school built a decently sized, impressive facility right near campus that would work for Hockey East. The school also demonstrated their willingness to improve the profile of the program by paying for some games to be televised on NESN. While the team hasn’t made the NCAAs since 2002, it has enjoyed 20 win seasons in 5 of the last 8 years. Specifically from a UMass perspective these teams have played each other for the last few seasons and enjoyed some memorable games during that time.

Cons – Not a lot here to tell you the truth, other than the fact that while they’ve shown they can compete in the ECAC, they haven’t demonstrated they can reach the NCAAs in a more competitive league. It’s also an unknown whether they could attract a casual fan following to their games. Although it’s interesting that the small private school offers more than the state’s flagship.

Road Trip – This one is actually a con. Last time UMass played at Quinnipiac we pregamed at Southport Brewing Company which is a chain in the area. Meh. Mediocre craft beer. Think Northampton Brewery without the deck. Decent pregaming would have to take place down the road in New Haven, where Prime 16 is one of my favorites.

Holy Cross

Pros – Holy Cross would be the best geographic fit for the current Hockey East schools, just a short bus ride for both UMass and the Boston area schools. Unlike UConn, Holy Cross has actually won something in Atlantic Hockey, with a couple conference titles to their credit. They also have one of the more storybook wins in NCAA tournament history when they topped #1 seed Minnesota in 2006. The fact that Holy Cross has the support of the city if they decide to move to Hockey East is a plus.

Cons – While Holy Cross’ rink is nice by AHA standards, it’s not good enough for Hockey East. The good news is the city would allow them to play at the DCU Center. The bad news is they’d have to play at the DCU Center. Now, DCU is one of the few area hockey arenas I haven’t been to, but I’ve heard nothing but horror stories about it during those times when NCAA regionals are held there. Is that the best place to showcase Hockey East? Also it’s an unknown how much support Crusader hockey would get from its administration and student population. For these reasons Holy Cross is probably a longshot.

Road Trip – Though it’s on the far side of Worcester from campus, Peppercorn’s, the home of Wormtown Brewing, would be a great addition to Hockey East, as I found out when I pregamed the pregame before football played Holy Cross this fall. Wormtown’s owner and head brewer is a UMass alum.

Dark Horses

Niagara

Pros – I guess this is probably the closest thing Notre Dame would have to a travel partner. While we are talking about an Atlantic Hockey team, they’re not one by choice. Niagara would love nothing more than continue to raise the profile of its program by offering close to or at the maximum for scholarships and making the team the flagship of its athletic department. Unfortunately when the CHA disbanded Niagara was forced to join the AHA to remain viable and adopt their myopic limitations on scholarships. Niagara wants out and wants big-time hockey, but has no where to achieve such dreams. The Purple Eagles have had success at the DI level with three NCAA appearances to their name.

Cons – The distance is an issue, for both teams and fans. The program would also very quickly have to invest in its facilities, scholarships, and try to make a splash in Hockey East. As UMass fans we saw the troubles of jumping right into an elite conference and the long term effects it can have. Another huge problem would be where would they play? Their current arena is inadequate and I’m not sure if the area has anything that could be used as an alternative, even if temporarily.

Road Trip – Pregame in the area best known for being the birthplace of the buffalo wing? Oh, OK. If I absolutely HAVE to..

RIT

Pros – If we’re talking about all these Atlantic Hockey teams, why not look to the current kings of that conference who went to the Frozen Four in 2010? It’s amazing to think that in 06-07, in just their 2nd year in DI and their first year in Atlantic Hockey, they won 21 games. And they haven’t looked back since. They would bring a very passionate fanbase who I personally witnessed take over the MDC rink that Bentley plays in a few years back. So we know they’ll travel. There’s talk about building a new facility on campus or as a backup is Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester, home to UMass’ biggest win.

Cons – Like Niagara, geography isn’t a perfect fit. They’d also have to invest in scholarships, facilities, and so on. It’s unknown if the school would be willing to put that much into their hockey program.

Road Trip – Dinosaur BBQ is located a slapshot away from Blue Cross Arena. I have to say I really enjoyed the time spent in and around Rochester for the NCAA tournament in 2007.

Syracuse

Pros – Here’s a high profile school that would fit well into the other institutions already in Hockey East. The trip to Syracuse is doable for most of the existing teams. The school just recently added DI women’s hockey.

Cons – The obvious one is that they’d have to actually start the program, fund scholarships, build a facility (unless they play in the War Memorial), etc…

Road Trip – Like Rochester, Dinosaur BBQ. Other than that I know nothing about Syracuse, having only driven through it. Beer Advocate has a number of interesting looking spots in town however.

Rhode Island

Pros – The school itself would be a natural fit in the conference, in terms of geography and the fact that it’d be the fifth flagship school from New England. They would automatically have a bitter rival in Providence. There are rumors the Ryan Center could be retrofitted for hockey, but I’ve yet to see them confirmed. The school has long had one of the better club teams in the country. Their AD, UMass’ own Thorr Bjorn, already has a relationship with Hockey East and was involved with running the Minuteman hockey program.

Cons – Like Syracuse, they’d have to start a program. Unlike Syracuse, which is now rolling in ACC money, URI is hurting. Citing lack of success and budget problem, they’re actually cutting scholarships and dropping their football program to the Northeast Conference. Probably the only way this could work is if they cut football all together and reallocate that money to hockey.

Road Trip – Honestly, I’m not seeing much down there. Anyone?

My Choice

RPI

Pros – Personally I think RPI fits best. Geographically they’re located just outside the New England footprint. Amherst to Rensselaer 100 miles. Amherst to Newton 89 miles. Beyond proximity, they have tradition. Houston Field House is a quintessential college hockey barn. It’s capacity of 5,000 fits well with Hockey East. Inhabiting HFH are some diehard fans, a great hockey band, and of course Puckman. This is a team on the rise. Seth Appert is considered one of the better coaches in college hockey and he’s brought some good talent to the capital region in his tenure. In the last three years RPI’s win total has gone from 10 to 18 to 20. Of all the schools mentioned as an addition to Hockey East, this is the only one that has national championships to its name.

Cons – It had been a long time since they found themselves in the NCAA or atop the ECAC before last season. 1994 to be specific. It’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain at that level.

Road Trip – Brown’s Brewing is a brewpub I try to hit when in the area, located just down the hill from campus. Thirsty on the way back to Amherst? Moe’s Tavern in Lee is Berkshire County’s premiere beer bar and UMass alumni owned and operated.

There you have it. Address the invite and get a stamp on this thing. I’d love for Hockey East to jump on this so both schools could enter at once.

Dick Baker takes a look at the ease Friday’s game will mean to the Shea family with both their sons playing each other. I noticed last year at the pregame at Cityside that the Sheas had taken a page from the Pereira family and constructed a half UMass-half BC jersey. Although it kind of turns my stomach to see my beloved maroon and white attached to a BC logo, I do appreciate the thrill it must mean for them to see both their sons compete at the same time on the ice at the highest level of college hockey.

Northeastern Preview

Northeastern Huskies 7-10-5 (6-7-4) Hockey East 6th

vs

Massachusetts Minutemen 6-12-3 (5-7-3) Hockey East 7th

On March 6th when the regular season is over and UMass looks at their postseason prospects, or lack thereof, I think they’ll be looking back to this weekend’s series against Northeastern and view it as pivotal to where they ultimately ended up.  There will either be regrets from not taking necessary points or pride that their performance against the Huskies improved their standing and gave them some momentum going into what’s going to be a challenging February.  The fact is a sweep will catapult the Minutemen into 6th place or even 5th depending what Merrimack does.  Three points will put them just behind Northeastern for 6th and likely give them some breathing room ahead of 8th place Providence who has to face UNH this weekend.  This is likely the most critical weekend of the season.

Of course, these two teams kicked off the month at the Mullins Center on the 7th in what looked like an excellent opportunity for UMass to gain points as well.  Unfortunately that did not happen and instead Northeastern has played the best hockey of their season ever since, going 4-1-1 starting with the win over the Minutemen.  During those 6 games the Huskies have allowed a measly 1.67 goals per game.  This team is extremely tough to score against, coming into the weekend with the 3rd best defense in the league.  This didn’t seem to be an issue in that first game with UMass quickly jumping out to a two goal lead.  But they then played undisciplined and then they just played poorly and Northeastern ultimately came away with the win in a game that saw them score 3 goals in 38 seconds and three total power play goals.  Those types of mental lapses cannot happen this weekend.  UMass’ penalty kill has played very well in the games since that last meeting, but the easiest way to kill off a penalty is not to take one.  To date they haven’t shown that they’re capable of that.

Besides undisciplined play the other issue that stood out in that first meeting was how easily Northeastern was able to dominate them physically.  So much so that following the game Coach Cahoon said the team was better suited to play in a no-check league than Hockey East.  It will probably benefit the Minutemen to have played Vermont last weekend as they play similarly to Northeastern in terms of being physical.  In fact, it was probably the Catamounts’ hitting and ability to take the puck away that determined last Friday’s contest where they won 2-1.  They didn’t seem to have the same intensity as Saturday and UMass successful used their superior speed and finesse to essentially skate around them and keep the puck off their sticks.

Whatever worked for them Saturday, whether it was a slightly different scheme or different mindset, will have to carryover to this weekend if they want to be successful.  But one additional advantage that UVM did not have will be Chris Rawlings in net.  The sophomore is having a breakout season and comes into the game with the 3rd best goals against and 2nd best save percentage among Hockey East netminders.  UMass saw some vulnerability to his game as they put up three goals, two at even strength, against him in the first 30 minutes of that earlier game.  In addition to solving Rawlings, it is essential to keep Wade Macleod and Tyler McNeely off the board as they’re responsible for most of goal scoring for the Huskies.

There have been some key points to the season so far and as of yet the Minutemen haven’t been able to rise up and take advantage of them.  When they had a chance to pull even in league play heading into winter break they had an extremely lackluster game up in Orono.  When they were up 3-1 against this Husky squad and could’ve opened up this month with two points at home, they folded.  Last weekend they went up to Vermont and outscored them 7-2, but only managed a split.  Maybe it’s youth.  Maybe it’s something else.  But if there’s ever a weekend to change that trend and play big in big games, it’s now.

Beer The Triangle

Northeastern has a considerable lack of good beer bars around it, which is surprising considering it’s in the middle of Boston.  So I’m focusing my attention on Amherst.  Pregame I suggest a trip to the Hangar to partake in an Anchor Liberty, a very sweet yet hoppy ale.  And it is about time to start thinking about filing your taxes, so after the game head down to the Moan and Dove and become friends with the IRS.  Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout to be exact.

Michael Wood of the Collegian has an excellent story on Eric Filiou.  This is one of the best things I’ve read from the Collegian in years.

USCHO has an article about UMass surpassing expectations so far despite their youth.

Last month I relayed the news that next year’s schedule would feature a home game with Yale, a trip to down I-91 to play at Quinnipiac, and a trip to sunny Florida to play in the Everblades College Classic with Maine, Cornell, and Clarkson.  Dick Baker reports that Harvard will visit the Mullins, which is good since they’ve owed us a home game from years and years ago.  He also says that UMass will play at Cornell, but that doesn’t make sense to me.  If UMass is playing in Florida, they would likely be matched up with Cornell since conference matchups would be avoided in the first round of the tournament as would a matchup of the co-hosts, Maine and Cornell.  So I don’t understand how UMass would play Cornell next season if they’ll likely face them in a tournament anyway.  I also would be surprised if basically the entire non-conference slate would come against the ECAC.  Frankly, I don’t get it.

The Mullins Center will be hosting the Western Mass hockey finals this year.

Advertisements