Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

Polls and Awards; Farewell UAH

Boston College is your new unified top ranked team in the nation after they beat the Minutemen and Huskies over the weekend, retaining the #1 status in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll and vaulting to the top of the USCHO poll.  Interesting to see Ferris State getting first place votes after their sweep of Miami.

The Eagles and specifically Billy Arnold were also atop the Hockey East awards for the week.  No UMass players were award winners or Top Performers for the week.

In an opinion shared by myself and, it seems, many FTT readers, Dick Baker gives Toot Cahoon a thumbs down for changing up the lines for the Boston College game in a well thought out blog post.

Here’s the Collegian’s recap of the game.

Some alumni news to share.

Jon Quick is the hottest goaltender in the NHL right now.  After getting a shutout over Phoenix last week to earn his 100th NHL win he’s been unstoppable ever since, posting two more shutouts since then.  The effort earned him the NHL’s first star for the week.  The LA Times says he’s been humble while doing it.

Sitting at the British Beer Company in Walpole Saturday trying to forget a loss in perhaps the last ever football game with UNH, it was great to look up to the TV and see that the Sharks had brought up Justin Braun to play against the Bruins.  He finished the night even in 15 minutes of play.

Back in Worcester Matt Irwin had the gamewinner.

Dan Gordon is playing pro hockey on the Cape.

Sad news in college hockey today as the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers announced this will be the last season for the program at the DI level.  This is a disappointing product of challenging geography, a short-sighted administration, and the inability of the other college hockey schools to find a place for the Chargers who were left standing when the CHA disbanded and the conference realignment music stopped.  It’s still unbelievable that with all the upheaval, with all the shuffling, with conferences coming in and out of existence in the last couple years that no one found a slot for the UAH program.  It should be noted that the Chargers had won multiple national championships at the DII level and had more NCAA appearances than a number of other college hockey programs, including UMass.  But that wasn’t enough for the remaining schools and conferences and UAH was left to die on the vine.  There are not enough college hockey teams out there if you ask me.  It’s tough to see one with history and tradition, created in spite of its unique locale, disappear from the college hockey scene.

Edit – Here’s one of the more comprehensive reads on the demise of the Chargers.

Boston College Preview

Massachusetts Minutemen 1-1-1 (0-1-1-) Hockey East 7th

at

#2 Boston College 3-1-0 (1-0-0) Hockey East 3rd

This early season game against the Eagles will be an interesting look at how this Minuteman team matches up against one of the game’s elite teams. Against middle of the pack teams UMass had mixed success, going 1-1-0. But this will be the first true test to see how the reacts and adjusts when facing some of the best talent in college.

There are two questions I’m eager to see answered. First, UMass has gotten off to a great start to the season offensively, mostly led by the top line of Danny Hobbs, T.J. Syner, and Mike Pereira which has scored 7 of the team’s 12 goals.  Through three games the team is averaging 4 goals a game, which compared to recent UMass history is unheard of.  In addition, the power play has done very well, converting at a 21% clip, good for 2nd among Hockey East teams.  But the newfound offense will have quite a challenge in front of them tomorrow.  BC may boast the best group of defensemen in all of college hockey.  The Eagle blueline can lay claim to four NHL draft picks and the two that aren’t, Ed Shea and Patch Alber, have been pretty dependable through their careers on the Heights in their own rights.  Brian Dumoulin just may be the best defensemen in the league.  And so far the Eagle defense, combined with Parker Milner, who goes from reliable backup to starter, have let in just 2.25 goals so far this season.  When in the crease Milner has allowed just over 2 goals a game.

The second question for UMass is, of course, how will the goaltending fare.  I will be utterly floored if Jeff Teglia doesn’t get the start tomorrow.  While not tested too much, he looked solid in relief of Kevin Boyle at Providence and saved all eight shots he faced.  Playing on the road against a top team is a challenge for any goaltender, but considering he already has games at Minnesota, at Wisconsin, at Boston University, and at UNH under his belt, he may already feel comfortable in such environments.  It wouldn’t hurt to get some help from his defense, which has looked up and down so far on the season.  I would say overall they look slightly better than last year, which is to be expected since most have returned and are a year older.  But they just have to make sure they’re focused every shift.  Have two or three off shifts against BC and you’ll find you’re suddenly down two or three goals.  BC may have lost some scoring last year, but they are still extremely dangerous.  And what’s scary is that not only is Chris Kreider putting up points from them, but they’ve gotten great production from their younger guys like sophomore Billy Arnold and John Gaudreau, who is an early favorite to be Hockey East Newcomer of the Year.

So on paper, BC should roll right?  Well you would’ve thought as much last year, and certainly on paper, it looked like it as BC went 5-0.  But the games were competitive.  After getting pounded in the first game between the teams 5-0, UMass played BC much closer in the last two regular season games, losing 4-3 and 2-1.  In the playoffs UMass again challenged BC and lost 4-1 (in a game that was much closer than the final score), and 4-2 (ENG).  While BC was obviously the more talented team last year, UMass did not play like they were intimidated by them.  A year older, hopefully they can take that next step and actually challenge them for the outcome of the game.

Beer The Triangle
Pregame will likely be spent at Cityside in Cleveland Circle, a nice bar with great food and a serviceable beer menu.  But if UMass can pull off the win you can bet you’ll find me down the street at American Craft or Publick House afterward for a celebration that will carry over to the tailgating activities planned for the next day at Gillette for the Colonial Clash.

Per his Twitter account, it appears that Eddie Olcyzk is injured and will not dress tomorrow.  In better news, Steve Mastalerz was due to begin skating today.

The BC student paper previews tomorrow’s game.

Dick Baker details UMass’ need to get better at faceoffs.

Stephen Werner will represent the US in yet another international competition.  This time it’s the Deutchland Cup.  Good to see Werner back at the top of his game after battling concussion problems in the past few years.

Recruit Update

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL)
2 GP / 0 G / 1 A / 1 Pts / 2 PIM / +1
Gillespie registered his first USHL point over the weekend, an assist on the only goal in the 1-0 win for the Lancers.

Shane Walsh – LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
5 GP / 0 G / 1 A / 1 Pts / 0 PIM / -4
Walsh got his first point of the season the same night in a 4-2 for the Saints.

The Westside Warriors have an interview with Kevin Boyle up on their blog from last week.  It’s an intersting look into Boyle as a person and player as well as the current goaltending competition.  Worth a listen to. “Playing college hockey is my dream ever since I was a kid.”

Danny Hobbs was named the Ranger Prospect of the Week by The Prospect Park, a blog covering the Rangers and Islanders.  I can’t imagine that’s a fun get together with those writers congregate given how those teams have fared in recent years.  Still, it’s a very comprehensive blog and worth a look.

Not too much else going on so let’s take a look at how the UMass alumni are doing.

Jon Quick is picking up right were he left off last season, he’s 2-0-1 with a 1.57 GAA and .948 save percentage through three games for the Kings.

Casey Wellman has four goals in four games with the Houston Aeros of the AHL and is setting himself up for a return to the Wild.

Matt Anderson is one of the leaders in points for the Albany Devils with a goal and two assists in 5 games.

Greg Mauldin leads the Lake Erie Monsters in goals with 2 in five games.

Marvin Degon played a couple games for the P-Bruins but was sent down to Charlotte of the ECHL.

Mike Kostka has a goal in three games for San Antonio.

Matt Irwin has three points for the Worcester Sharks while Justin Braun has an assist in three games.  James Marcou has not played yet for them.

Paul Dainton has struggled for the Springfield Falcons so far, with a 1-2 record and 4.20 goals against.

Lastly, WordPress, which hosts this site, gives me the ability to see what people who end up on Fear The Triangle search for on Google or other search engines to find this place.  Most are what you expect; “UMass hockey”, “Fear The Triangle”, former or current players’ names, and a surprising number of “Fear The Triangel”s as well.  But a few are pretty strange.  Here are some examples:

“Fear The Trosngle”  Did the person sneeze while typing?

“Vermont hockey kicked out of Hockey East”  I hope not, those guys accounted for 1/3rd of last year’s wins.

“UMass Marching Band sucks”  SUD-ler.  SUD-ler. SUD-ler.

“Is the UMass Marching Band good”  See above.

“Doud Kublin”  Dude.

“Fear of triangles”  Apparently this a real phobia.  Must make it really tough to eat pizza that isn’t Sicilian.

“www.firekevinmorris.com”  I’ll let that one speak for itself.

“championship banner”  We need a banner.  A big one.

“משולש הפחד”  No idea.

“triangle beer blog”  You’ve come to the right place!  This is a blog by a beer guy with a hockey problem.

“UMass hockey boats on head”   This would seem like a really weird thing to search for, if not for this picture.

“maine vs. umass hockey east championship triple overtime”  Why do you want to see a grown man cry?

“players feel coach dean stork”  Hmmmm….

“zack larue vs joseph manno”  Fight! Fight! Fight!

“to root for something”  Root root root for the home team.

“3 things toot cahoon looks for in his recruits”  Having a name like Warner, or a close variation like Winer or Werner, helps.  Either being shorter than 5’7” or taller than 6’6”.  And the ability to skate through Mullinsish slush.

“when did the umass providence game end”  Honestly, not soon enough.

Northeastern Preview; UMass Preview Addendum

Massachusetts Minutemen 0-0-0 (0-0-0) Hockey East T-1st

at

Northeastern Huskies 0-0-0 (0-0-0) Hockey East T-1st

Let the season begin!  Sitting here watching the Bruins Stanley Cup banner go up is a great way to get into the hockey mood on this college season opener eve.  It seems very long ago that us UMass fans shuffled out of Conte Forum after the Eagles eliminated the Minutemen.  It’s even longer ago, all the way back to the third week of January, since UMass fans got to celebrate a win and there weren’t many of us present in Burlington that night to see it.  So not only am I psyched and hungry to see some UMass hockey, but I am flat out starved for a win.  And that’s just me, a fan.  I can only imagine how the returning players feel.

This will probably be an abbreviated preview since there’s not too much more to say than I already did in either my Northeastern season preview or my UMass preview from last night.  There are a couple pieces of news on the Northeastern side.  First is that they’re actually coming off a loss, dropping their exhibition game to St Francis Xavier on Sunday by a score of 8 to 5.  I wouldn’t get too excited over that result however.  Six of the goals were given up by their third string goaltender Clay Witt.  Chris Rawlings, tomorrow’s starter, only gave up one goal on 11 shots.  The more significant news is that the Huskies have suspended two of their better forwards in Cody Ferriero and Steve Quailer for incidents dating back to last season.  They’ll also be without freshman Ludwig Karlsson who is having clearinghouse issues.

Having two talented forwards out is an advantage for the Minutemen, one they cannot let pass by.  As I mentioned in my season preview after these three initial games the Minutemen get straight into a grueling stretch of games where points may be hard to come by.  That gives them that much more motivation to get  on the board with a win from the get go.

No news out of the UMass team tonight.  Nope, I have no idea who will be in net.  Though if I were a betting man, I’d say Jeff Teglia, only because I think Toot may give his returner the first shot at winning the job.  I’m guessing Steve Mastalerz will still be kept out due to whatever minor injury he’s fighting.

Not sure what else to say that hasn’t already been said or written since last March.  Time to stop previewing, forecasting, prognosticating, guessing, and time to watch some UMass hockey!

Beer The Triangle

I’ve already lamented about the lack of a good beer snob bar immediately surrounding Matthews Arena and having to settle for Uno’s.  I’m hoping to get into the city early enough to hit Bukowski’s which isn’t too far away.  I haven’t been there before but I liked their sister bar, the Lower Depths, when I stopped in following the Frozen Fenway press conference over the summer.  Looking at their beer list it appears they have a couple Jack’s Abby beers on, one of the state’s newest breweries.  I’m also a fan of their house beer, The Buk, which is brewed by Wormtown.  If anyone is heading there keep in mind that it’s cash only!

Amazing that I forgot anything in the lengthy preview I wrote last night, but I did.  I talked all about the players, but I didn’t talk about the coaching.  For the first time in a long time there was a bit of a shakeup on the coaching staff as Red Gendron left Amherst to take an assistant job with Yale.  Replacing him is ex-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald which means both assistants have DI head coaching experience as Len Quesnelle is the former coach at Princeton.  Certainly Red will be missed, in terms of his abilities to coach and knowledge of the game, the great job he did recruiting, and how well he interacted with fans and boosters.  But, maybe it’s a good thing there’s a bit of a shakeup on the coaching staff.

Hanging around and talking with other UMass fans this offseason I think it’s safe to say that a good majority have lost faith in Toot Cahoon’s coaching.  Few have any qualms with him as a person or the job he does in turning out great student athletes.  But the product on the ice since the team made the NCAAs in 2007 has fans very concerned and frustrated.  Some of the most talented players the program has ever seen have put on the maroon and white in the past few years with little to show for it in terms of wins.  Unhappiness with the status of the program has escalated from just murmurs after losses to more outspoken criticism and even calls for Cahoon to be replaced.  Personally, I understand the frustration.  Hell, I’m experiencing the frustration up close considering how much this team dominates my life.  However, I stand by what I said before last season, that Toot should be given a chance to bring this current sophomore class through and see what they can accomplish.  That said, if this team, no longer able to fall back on the “lots of freshmen” reasoning for coming up short, doesn’t show progress and get some significant wins this season, I would not be surprised if there is full out rebellion among the fan base going into next offseason.  The pressure is definitely on to win and shake this reputation of underachievers that we’ve seen since 2007.

Matty V covers the goaltending situation.

Dick Baker has a look at Brenden Gracel and Troy Power.

The trainers for the Portland Pirates “prevented tragedy” in regards to Alex Berry.

Providence will host a regional in 2013 as well as Manchester, NH, Toledo, and Grand Rapid, MI.

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.

Newcomer Of The Year; Recruit Update

For the two years of Fear The Triangle’s existence and back when I just used to post my hockey thoughts over on UMasshoops.com I’ve been making an annual Freshman/Newcomer of the Year pick. I’ve done so to varying results. I’ve mostly picked well, like choosing James Marcou and Mike Pereira to make early impacts on the team’s fortunes. But I’ve picked poorly as well, like thinking DIII freshman stud Ryan Leary would be able to take his talents to Hockey East. For the most part I’ve been able to use the information I’ve gathered on incoming recruits to accurately show which newcomer will do best when arriving in Amherst.

This season is tougher than past ones to pick just who that player may be. That’s not because there’s a lack of talented players making their debuts for the Minutemen. In fact the depth in this class makes a selection tough. You have guys like Andrew Tegeler and Steve Guzzo, who should be good two way players for the team. You have a newcomer like Oleg Yevenko who hopefully will keep opposing teams from taking too many liberties with UMass’ stars. But my pick for Newcomer OTY is Zack LaRue.

Now before I get into the qualities that LaRue brings to the team, let’s address the situation in net first. There’s a legitimate chance that the most impactful freshman ends up being a goaltender. However since we have no idea if Jeff Teglia will capture the starting spot or whether Kevin Boyle or Steve Mastalerz has a significant edge over the other of Teglia, I can’t pick either of them. I’ve read up on both and after Saturday’s scrimmage have now seen Kevin Boyle play three times, but I still have no idea if they’re better than each other or Teglia.

So with that said there’s probably a better chance that LaRue ends up being the freshman the coaching staff can count on right away. LaRue brings a lot to the table. At 6’2″, 194lbs he brings some nice size to a squad that has lacked that in recent years. But he’s not some lumbering forward. The write-ups of his play specifically mentioned how well he moves on his skates and his speed. His skating is such an asset that he was considered a top forechecker and penalty killer in the OPJHL. He led the league in shorthanded goals.

In the OPJHL he put up 33 goals and 36 assists in just 50 games. Former Minutemen Kevin Jarman and Chase Langeraap put up similar numbers in their time in the league. Now those two came to Amherst with high expectations that they really did not reach until their senior years. But in their final years they were key parst of those teams. It’ll be LaRue’s challenge to prove that players can dominate in the OPJHL and contribute right away in the NCAA. I didn’t see anything Saturday that made me think he won’t be able to.

If LaRue doesn’t end up playing the most important role for the freshmen it will likely be that one of the new goaltenders grabs the job and has success or perhaps a young Andrew Tegeler is able to play as well as his older opponents. But even if that happens I think LaRue will still play an important role in regards to the fortunes of this year’s team and beyond.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL)
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Gillespie did not play in the Lancers’ season opener

Shane Walsh – LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Walsh didn’t have any points in the first game for the Saints.

NESN previews this year’s Minutemen.

Dick Baker takes a look at the addition of size on this year’s squad.

Matt Vautour explores the importance of the freshmen turned sophomores.

Notre Dame will officially be announced as Hockey East’s 11th member starting in 2013-14.  Who will be 12?  That will be determined later.  I have some ideas for candidates but that’s a post for another time.  As for the Irish, as I said before I’m not entirely sold on the need to expand the league beyond the northeast footprint.  It saddens me a little to now have opponents in the league where you cannot drive to for the weekend.  But, such is life in the NCAA now where conferences are battling for supremacy and turning a blind eye to geographic fits.  The Irish program itself, currently #1 in the nation, is a great addition to the league.

Meanwhile, Bowling Green is off to the WCHA.

Unfortunately the Panthers had one last round of cuts to make and Mike Kostka was one of them.

Maroon & White Thoughts

It was great to see some UMass hockey last night, even if it was only an intrasquad scrimmage.  It was an entertaining game, played with two 12 minute periods with the third being 15 minutes of alternating power plays.  White won the game on a nice looking gamewinner by Conor Sheary who wristed a shot top corner for the goal.  The first goal was by Eddie Olczyk on a penalty shot (players did not serve penalties) against Kevin Moore that went five hole.  Branden Gracel scored a power play goal for Maroon.

There were a few players not dressed, the two captains Danny Hobbs and T.J. Syner as well as freshman goaltender Steve Mastalerz.  As far as I heard Hobbs and Syner should be available to play Friday at Northeastern.  It is too bad that Mastalerz is a little banged up did not have a chance to play.

The goaltending that we did get to see by Kevin Boyle and Jeff Teglia was very solid.  Both had 19 saves on the night.  I wouldn’t say they were challenged too much, though Boyle did have a nice sequence of point blank saves at one point, but both performed well and made the saves they had to.  The Sheary goal would’ve been tough to save, the Olczyk goal was against Kevin Moore on a penalty shot, and Gracel’s came from a pile up in front of the net.  Both looked good and I wouldn’t say from the short viewing experience that one has an advantage over the other.

As I said, they weren’t challenged too much.  I had hoped to see a little more action on offense.  The power play did not show much improvement and seems to have the same issues regarding moving the puck and getting in a good position to shoot as we saw last year.  Obviously, the offense was missing a lot with the two captains not dressed.  Mike Pereira was active all over the ice but didn’t seem to get many shots off.  Overall the defense was probably the star of the show, as they stifled the offense and looked much more physical than last year.  So physical in fact there was even a little altercation between Conor Allen and big Oleg Yevenko at one point and they had to be separated.  They did hug it out in the handshake line though, so I wouldn’t worry about problems between them.  In fact I think it shows that this team is taking this all very seriously.

On defense I thought Mike Marcou probably played the best which is a nice sign going into his senior year.  Yevenko looked good.  His skating was better than I expected and thanks to his reach had a couple of poke checks that disrupted the offensive transition.  For the other freshman I like what I saw from Emerson Auvenshine.  He may have been the most active player on the ice and I think he’ll contribute more than I initially expected.  Zack LaRue and Andrew Tegeler are both big bodies that can skate very well.

I didn’t expect the defense and goaltending to be the stars of the night, especially since most players were not hitting as much as would be expected against other teams.  But that was the case.  Hopefully with a full complement of players and some practices under their belt we’ll see improved offense in time for the game against Northeastern.

Here are Dick Baker’s thoughts on the scrimmage.

Mike Kostka is still doing well in his shot to make the Florida Panthers out of camp.

An average performance in Wild camp means Casey Wellman will start in the AHL.

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.

Advertisements