Saturday Recap Links

No true recap since I was not at the game last night. At first I was a little disappointed when my wife made plans for us up against a game that I could easily get to. I was really disappointed while checking scores during dinner to see UMass was up 3-0 early. But, in the end I’m very glad I missed this one. All the beer at mini-Sunset would likely not have been enough to wipe the memory of this collapse if I had witnessed it first hand.

Since I did not see or listen to the game I’m not going to comment on specific play. I will say that after my recap last week when I said this team had not improved from last year since they hadn’t figured out a way to win, I was told I was being overly negative. I was told my conclusions were premature. Well if this weekend didn’t solidify those observations, I don’t know what else would. The team had a 2-0 lead on Friday and a 3-0 lead last night and all they got for it was one Hockey East point. It’s nice to see that they can hang with good teams like BC and BU, but just hanging with good teams doesn’t get you trophies, banners, or a happy fan base.

I have no idea why we continue to see this type of play, these type of results year after year. UMass hockey has lacked a killer instinct needed to put opponents away for many seasons. This needs to change. Immediately. It’s early in the season, but these Hockey East games in October count as much as the ones in March. UMass will soon find themselves is hole they will not be able to climb their way out of in order to fulfill their goals for the season. Time for the team, coaches and players, to make the necessary adjustments, strategic or in how they approach the game mentally, to learn how to win. Otherwise it’s going to be another long and frustrating season in Amherst.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Steve Guzzo
I’m giving this one to Guzzo as his first collegiate goal gave the Minutemen the early lead.  He ended the night a +2.

Dick Baker calls the loss “pathetic” and says it was a complete meltdown for the Minutemen.

Here’s the recap from the Herald as well as from the Globe.

College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni puts the loss in the context of the larger collapses and disappointments in recent seasons.

The Globe has a feature on Jon Quick where he says he had doubts about his decision to leave UMass when he found himself in the ECHL.  Obviously in the long run it was for the best.

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.

Sizing Up The Freshmen

This was a busy week for the UMass athletic department, what with football media day and such. So it doesn’t look like the shorthanded staff was able to update the hockey roster this week. Originally I was waiting see the final fall roster before starting in on previews but, probably like most of you, I’m chomping at the bit to start thinking about the upcoming season. So without knowing entirely who’s coming and who’s going, let’s start to take a look at this year’s roster. While most of the attention will be spent on the talented and deep sophomore class as well as the core group of returning captains as seniors, the freshmen will have a key role to play in this team’s success. Especially in perhaps the most important position of all, goaltender. So here’s a short introduction to the new players coming onto campus, what they bring to the team, and what holes they may potentially fill.

Forwards

Emerson Auvenshine
Auvenshine is the most recent player to commit to the Minutemen. He has spent the last two seasons with the Bismarck Bobcats of the NAHL, a Midwest junior league that seen as a step below the elite level USHL. With the Bobcats last year he put up 11 goals and 11 assists to go along with 106 PIM. The penalty minutes suggest he plays with grit, which is something that was definitely lacking with last year’s UMass team. The Michigan native seems to be a really hard worker, as Paul Teeple, broadcaster for the Bobcats, wrote about his perseverance in North Dakota that not only saw him make the team but become one of its assistant captains. Auvenshine will likely see some time on the third and fourth lines to help the Minutemen defensively and keep the other teams honest, but it’s always tough to know what to expect from players coming out of a mid-tier league like the NAHL. If he gets significant playing time, it’s likely because he’s working harder than everyone else in practice.

Zack LaRue
If LaRue isn’t seen as the highest profile freshman coming in, he at least is likely to make the most impact offensively. He’s seen as being one a strong skater, well-conditioned, can put up points (33 goals, 36 assists in 50 games with Markham of the OPJHL), and is also a top penalty killer. That description makes him sound a lot like co-captain T.J. Syner. The difference? LaRue is 6’2” and 195lbs. LaRue seems like the type of player who will be able to come in and immediately contribute to the scoring load, which is very important considering the team was 7th in Hockey East in goals, but at the same time able to withstand checks along the boards and maybe hand a few out. I see LaRue likely playing on the top two lines, mixing in with the likes of Syner, Danny Hobbs, Mike Pereira, and Conor Sheary.

Andrew Tegeler
Tegeler should also be able to provide some offensive punch when he hits Amherst in the fall, but for the most part seems like a solid two way player. Playing in the EJHL last year he had 19 goals and 21 assists in 44 games. Six of his goals were game winners which was good for second in the league. On the other side of the puck he ended up a +30. UMass has had good luck with two way players from the Junior Bruins before, such as Alex Berry. While not as big as Berry, it is reported that Tegeler is able to use his 6’1” frame to his advantage. I see the New Jersey native as getting solid minutes on the third line.

Defense

Mike Busillo
As mentioned before, physical play, or lack thereof, was a huge concern for the team last year. Busillo’s addition is another sign that the coaching staff moved quickly to address that deficiency. The 6’2” blueliner had 97 PIM for the Junior Wolfpack of the AJHL last year where he was an All-Star. He also proved to be pretty good with the puck as well, putting up 8 goals and 19 assists on the season. His 27 points led all defensemen on his team. Busillo adds depth to a solid, but young, defensive corp and while he might not be in the lineup every night, I do suspect he’ll play a fair share of games.

Oleg Yevenko
Again, size and toughness has been seen as a major area of concern for this team in recent years. Yevenko addresses both, in a big way. At 6’7 he becomes the tallest player ever for the program and will even have Adam Phillips looking up at him. As for toughness, playing for Fargo of the USHL he averaged just under 4 PIM a game and was second overall in the league. If anything, UMass fans are probably worried Yevenko might be spending too much time in the penalty box and his style of play may end up hurting the team. That remains to be seen. If you believe what Fargo beat writer Ryan S Clark has to say, Yevenko’s style of play will be an asset, even if it did draw multiple suspensions out west. I expect the big Belarusian to be in the lineup every night and having strong words with any opposing player who gets a little too aggressive with Syner, Sheary, or Kevin Czepiel.

Goaltender

Kevin Boyle
Boyle has been committed to UMass for a number of years now, which has allowed fans to get a pretty good feel for what type of player he may be. In fact I even got to see him play in person a couple of seasons ago. Boyle played well in the AJHL for a couple seasons, but last year went far from his home in New Jersey to play in British Columbia under the tutelage of former UMass grad assistant Darren Yopyk. While this couldn’t have been easy I think it was a great move to go against the higher competition of the BCHL. There, his play was, well, inconsistent (I know, I’m a terrible person for saying so). One night he’d get a shutout or give up a goal and the next he’d struggle to stay in the game. But overall he had a decent season going 20-16-1 with a GAA of 3.02 and save percentage of .902. In the playoffs he played even better but unfortunately an injury led to an early exit for him and his team. Still, he played well enough to be named to the BCHL All-Rookie team. With Paul Dainton gone and sophomore Jeff Teglia putting up OK but not great numbers last year the goaltender position is wide open. Boyle probably will be right there competing for the starting job.

Steve Mastalerz
Mastalerz but up stellar numbers for Kimball Union of the New England Prep League, going 24-6-4 with a miniscule 1.81 goals against and .931 save percentage. For all that USHR named him a prep All-Star. UMass has had pretty good success with goaltenders from the prep schools, with Jon Quick and Gabe Winer both coming from that route previously. Mastalerz already has a relationship with UMass goaltending coach Mike Buckley which should help him get acclimated to the school and college level quickly. He was pursued by multiple Hockey East schools before ultimately deciding on UMass. Frankly, the goaltender job is up for grabs. I don’t see any reason why he won’t contend for it.

While not a freshman another player to keep in mind is Stephen Guzzo, who injured his knee on the eve of last year’s opener and ended up being a medical redshirt. While he wasn’t able to skate again until spring, his familiarity with the system and his teammate should give him a step up this fall. Guzzo had 29 goals and 41 assists in 70 games in his last season in the OJHL, but will likely be used more as a defensive player. I expect him to get regular rotation on the 3rd and 4th lines.

So there you have it, your class of 2015. If anything, this class addresses immediate needs the team has to fill to be successful this season. Over the years the Minutemen have gotten smaller, quicker, more skilled. That has been a good thing when you see the production of guys like James Marcou and T.J. Syner. But at the same time strong defensive teams have found ways to limit how much damage those guys can inflict by being overly aggressive and using size to their advantage. That will not happen with this class. The team is bringing on skilled forwards who can score and move the puck, yet are over 6’. On defense UMass got bigger, a lot bigger, and will bring an edge to the squad that has not been seen since perhaps Steve Jacobs suited up for the Minutemen. In goal, the coaching staff have given themselves options. The goaltending situation will be the biggest story of the year. Fans will enjoy following how it progresses, even if it leads to some downright scary situations here and there. Still, if one guy isn’t getting it done in net, there are two others just as capable waiting in the wings. Some of the best goaltending for this squad just may take place during the week at practice as they fight for the top spot.

Nice to see Paul Dainton sign his first pro contract with the team just down the valley, the Springfield Falcons. Dainton did well for them during an ATO (Amateur Tryout) at the end of last season.

Stick tap to the reader who passed along the news that Darren Rowe and Troy Power, along with some other prominent college players such as BU’s Max Nicastro and Denver goaltender Beau Bennett, will be taking on alumni of the LA Kings this weekend. The game is a benefit for the Junior Kings squad, which Rowe, Power, and the other amateur players played for when they were younger. What? No Brad Norton?

Obi Aduba spent his summer playing in Australia.

Reports continue to come out that the Fenway game will be taking place.

Farewell, “Fighting Sioux”. I’m sorry the NCAA couldn’t see the difference between a name that honors and one that demeans (looking at you pro teams in Cleveland and Washington DC).

The selection committee has made a tweak to the common opponent part of the pairwise calculation.

Maine Preview

#14 Maine Black Bears 16-10-6 (13-8-4) Hockey East 5th

at

Massachusetts Minutemen 6-20-5 (5-15-5) Hockey East 8th

Wait a second.  Last weekend of the regular season?  How the hell did that happen?  Seems like it wasn’t that long ago I was sitting with my Section U crew watching so many of these Minutemen make their college debuts on TV against Minnesota.  But sure enough, here we are.  The last weekend of hockey in the Mullins Center this season.  And for the Minutemen, the stakes are high.

Luckily for UMass, they’re playing Maine.  Now that’s not meant to be a slight to the Black Bears, a team in the top 15 with one of the best players in the league in Gustav Nyquist.  But when UMass has done something historic or needed some wins, it always seems to come at the expense of Maine.  Of course probably the biggest win ever in the 90’s was UMass upsetting top ranked Maine in 1995.  The program’s first trip to the Hockey East semifinals in 2003 came thanks to a playoff sweep of Maine in the quarterfinals.  UMass made their only trip to the NCAAs by beating Maine four times in eight days in March of 2007.  And of course last year at this time UMass looked bound to finish out of the playoffs until they were able to go north and sweep the 17th ranked Black Bears at home in the last weekend of the season.  Things do not look as dire but the team could make it a lot easier on themselves, you, me, and all the other UMass fans out there if they just go out and win this weekend’s games.  And if they can play as they have the last two weekends, they are more than capable of taking a game or two at home.

To do that however, they’ll have to figure out a way to shutdown Nyquist, the reigning Hockey East Player of the Month for February where he scored 10 goals and had four assists.  Unfortunately, he’s not the only guy UMass has to look out for.  Junior Brian Flynn has 18 goals on the year while fellow junior Spencer Abbott has 15.  Flynn has been especially clutch with four gamewinners on the season.  Maine has a decent power play at 18.8% so that’s something that the suddenly struggling Minuteman penalty kill will have to figure out as well.

A few weeks ago the defensive story for Maine would’ve been about their deep defensive corps with guys like Will O’Neil or Jeff Dimmen.  Instead it’s all about freshman goaltender Dan Sullivan who has suddenly become the next Jimmy Howard.  In fact he’s been better than Howard, recently breaking the former UMass nemesis’ shutout streak. He went 202 minutes without allowing a goal, with a lot of that time coming against a top 5 Merrimack team (sorry, that still feels weird to type).  In Sullivan’s last four games he has allowed just one goal.  One.  Obviously challenging him, getting pucks on him, and getting him out of his comfort zone will be key for the Minutemen.  They absolutely have to jump on him early in Friday’s game and get him out of sync.

I’m sorry to report that UMass will be without one of their best freshmen as Joel Hanley will be joining Mike Lecomte in the stands for the balance of the season.  Yes, for the second year in a row the team has lost a key defenseman to mono, “the kissing disease”.  If only UMass had a BYU-like honor code where players weren’t allowed to be anywhere near coeds and thus the spread of germs would be lessened  (But then again, that would mean no Opa Opa in between periods in the Massachusetts Room, so scratch that).  Obviously that’s a significant loss for the team, especially since Hanley has been playing so well lately.  However with Anthony Raiola playing solid on Saturday Toot has options to fill Hanley’s spot and can choose between him or Darren Rowe.

If UMass is going to take advantage of playing at home in the final weekend of the season they’ll have to play a complete game on both sides of the puck.  Since giving up those 11 goals to Merrimack UMass has down pretty well in keeping goals off the board, relatively.  Teams have put up 3 goals a game against them in that time which is pretty good since they’ve been facing teams like Merrimack and Boston College.  The problem has been trying to score 3 or more goals themselves.  They’ve only scored 2.3 goals in that same time.  They’ve averaged 27 shots on net during that time, which is above their season average.  But they have to work on getting quality shots.  Too many have been from the perimeter with no one there to put in a rebound.  They have to learn to skate to the net and challenge the goaltender.  They can do that by put home skill wristers or garbage goals where they fourth hack puts it past the line.  But either way they have to attack the net.  It would also be nice if the team could continue their improvement on the power play.  After scoring just one power play goal in the span of 8 games, they Minutemen have scored 4 in their last 4.

Last week in previewing the series against Boston College I felt it was important for the team to play well because I was thinking ahead to this weekend.  While taking games from BC was a tall order, I was hoping for the team to just play well and prove they could compete so they could gain some confidence and momentum coming into this important weekend at home against Maine.  Well, I’m looking ahead again.  If UMass wants to do some damage and maybe shock a few people around Hockey East with their play in the playoffs, they have to first get there.  That means not only playing well enough to be in the game with a team like Maine, but to beat them.  All year long these younger players have looked up to the senior class for support and guidance.  Well hopefully they realize that it’s the last time those seniors will take the Mullins Center ice as UMass hockey players.  It’s time for the underclassmen to do something for the seniors and  send them on their way to the playoffs and out of UMass as winners.

Remember, triangles people.  Triangles!

I have great readers.  I’ve talked recently about being unable to get stats for new recruit Steve Mastalerz and two different people have contacted me with his numbers.  So here we go.  His goals against for the season was 1.81, best of all prep goaltenders.  His save percentage was .931, 4th in the league.  His record was 24-6-4 in the regular season.  He was named to USHR’s Prep All-Star team.  Unfortunately his season is over as he and his Kimball Union Wildcats lost last night in the first round of the prep playoffs 2-3 in overtime.

Another random piece of news, I learned that Steve Guzzo who messed up his knee on the eve of the season opener in Minnesota, has recently started skating again.

USCHO selects Mike Pereira to their Hockey East All-Rookie team as well as a runner-up for Rookie of the Year.

Maine is trying to get a jump on playing on the big ice. Interestingly Maine goaltender Shawn Sirman is sick which probably clinches the fact that UMass will see Sullivan both nights.