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View From Section U ▲ Minutemen Look To Reverse Second Half Struggles

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the challenges ahead for the Minutemen in the second half of the season in terms of schedule.  Half of their 16 games left on the season will come against teams at the top of the KRACH and USCHO rankings.  With the team currently at 6-8-4 on the season it’ll be a tough road for UMass to get back to .500 or better.  But it’s not just the opposing teams that the Minutemen have to contend with.  UMass has historically done poorly in the games that come after the holiday break.

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Polls & Awards

Boston College remains the top team in the country following their 5-0 over UMass last Friday (though they’re losing to BU in the Beanpot as I type this).  Merrimack crept closer to the top 10 following their drubbing of the Minutemen last weekend.  UNH picked up a first place vote after sweeping Maine, which resulted in the Black Bears falling three spots to #18.  BU remained at #14.  Not much difference in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll.

INCH has Merrimack #9 in their power rankings.

Chris Barton can send a thank you note to Amherst for helping him gain Hockey East Player of the Week honors.  Nine point weekend.  You don’t see those very often.  No UMass players were award winners or Top Performers but it was nice to see Kevin Moore’s debut highlighted in the weekly release.

For those wondering, here are all the times UMass has given up double digits in goals in the modern era:

93-94  Alaska-Fairbanks 12  UMass 4
95-96  Boston University 14  UMass 1
96-97  New Hampshire 10  UMass 0
96-97  Maine 10  UMass 3
97-98  Maine 12  UMass 2

That BU result was actually a playoff game believe it or not and probably has to be the most embarassing loss in UMass history.  I’m happy to say that’s one of the games from that era that I did not see in person.  The UAF result looks pretty bad given what type of program they have, but that was UMass’ first year with the hockey program when they were playing a mix of DIII and low level DI teams.

The BC student paper has a recap of Friday’s game with this line, “The name Minutemen seemed fitting, since BC limited their good play to a total of about a minute.”  Ouch.  The truth hurts.

Dick Baker has a good analysis of the weekend and the shortcomings of the team as a whole.

The Globe had a must read article on Scott Crowder and his Pond Hockey tournament which wrapped up successfully yesterday, complete with video.  Next up will be similar tournaments in Manchester, NH and on Lake Champlain.

Boston College Recap

For almost 40 minutes UMass played just about as well defensively as you could’ve asked for against one of the top offenses in the country.  To that point they held Boston College to just one goal, completely stymied their power play allowing just one shot in one opportunity, and pretty much did everything they could to keep themselves in the game.  The goal given up with just over two minutes left in the second on a nice shot by Phillip Samuelsson to put the Eagles up 2-0 seemed to break their spirit and concentration though and they didn’t look the same after that.  Any chance at trying to come back was pretty much gone when T.J. Syner took a hooking call 1:25 into the 3rd in what started a steady parade to the penalty box for the Minutemen in the first half of that period.  Some lazy, uninspired play and the complete inability to keep possession of the puck turned a respectable showing from this young UMass team into the blowout everyone thought was coming.

The 5-0 final does not reflect the fantastic play by Paul Dainton, key efforts by all members of the defense, and some hard-hitting at times from the forwards.  For the better part of the game Dainton looked very much like Mike Johnson, a goaltender from the late 90s who once made 60 saves in a tie against BC.  His positioning was good and he was able to to follow the puck well as the speedy forwards and excellent passing from the Eagles allowed them to come at him from different angles all night.  His one error was getting caught behind the net, again, and BC centering the puck with an open net only to have Doug Kublin go down in front of the crease and save what should’ve been an easy goal.  Kublin’s save for me was the highlight of the night for the Minutemen.  Other than Mike Marcou, just back from injury, and Colin Shea struggling a bit here and there the entire defense played one of their best games.  For two periods that is.  The team in the third looked deflated, defense included.  It was good to see guys like Mike Pereira and Brian Keane, who had an excellent game back after missing the last few weeks, were able to play physical, Pereira in particular with a good hit along the boards late.

Offensively, the Minutemen were completely outmatched against the top notch BC defense.  A good deal of time they had a tough time getting it into their zone.  In fact a few times they couldn’t get the puck out of their own zone in the face of the BC forecheck.  When they did get it into the offensive zone it usually was taken away pretty quickly.  And when they were able to get a shot off, John Muse was there to stop it.  The best offensive chance came when an Adam Phillips slapshot rang off the crossbar in the first on the power play.  The power play, which hasn’t looked good all year, looked absolutely miserable against the top penalty kill in the land.  Three shots on four chances, and one of those opportunities was a five on three for nearly two minutes.  It may be late in the season for wholesale adjustments, but I think it’s time for Toot to dramatically change his power play.  Being so ineffective on the power play is easily the biggest handicap for this team.  It’s time to blow it up and put something, anything, else out there because it has gotten to the point where I hate to see the refs hand up because I know this team has a better chance at scoring at even strength than with the man advantage.

It’s unfortunate that the team seemed to give up late, because if they had continued their strong play throughout and come away with a 2-0 or 3-1 loss they could’ve walked out of Conte with their heads high and perhaps gained a little confidence heading into tonight’s game with Merrimack.  Instead the throttling that everyone expected happened and few will know that UMass put a blanket over the high flying BC offense through large stretches of last night.  In the end I don’t mind the loss, but it’s frustrating to see a team give up and not put forth a tough effort for the entire game.  It’s become a habit to lose concentration, play a bit relaxed, and that usually has meant taking some bad penalties.  In the last 20 minutes last night we saw exactly that.  A full effort is needed tonight if this UMass team wants to knock off Merrimack.  The Warriors went down a goal twice last night but fought back to win in overtime in a game that saw 108 total penalty minutes.  That’s a team that battles late to try and gain the win.  Hopefully we can see something similar from the Minutemen.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Paul Dainton
Seems a little strange to give the POTG to a goaltender who have up four scores, but with Dainton’s play this game would’ve been over early.  But I think buying Kublin lunch is probably in order for Dainton as well as he looked as both a defenseman and defenseman turned goaltender.

Here is the game recap from the Republican.

BC was dominant according to the Globe.

The Minutemen were stuffed says the Herald.

The Laconia Citizen has an article on Scott Crowder and his pond hockey tournament which takes place this weekend.

Dainton Named HEA Defender Of The Week; Polls

Stopping 52 of 54 shots and gaining his second career shutout earned captain Paul Dainton the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week Award.  Danny Hobbs, T.J. Syner, and Conor Sheary were all named Top Performers.

Boston College jumped up to the #2 team in the country with their weekend sweep, behind only Yale in the USCHO rankings.  Amazingly Merrimack dropped just one spot despite losing to Lowell on Friday.  Yale still has all the first place votes in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

Nothing too shocking in INCH’s Power Rankings.

The Collegian recapped the Minutemen’s weekend in Vermont.

A few alumni are making the news tonight.

ESPN Boston has a must read article on alum Scott Crowder and the Pond Hockey Championship tournament he has created.

The Bruins are out in L.A. tonight to take on Jon Quick and the Kings.

The Noble and Greenough prep hockey teams will wear special jerseys in their games this Saturday to benefit Peter Trovato’s Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund.

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