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Saturday Recap

With their backs against the wall and missing the playoffs a distinct possibility, the Massachusetts hockey team came together and put in a very solid game on the way to a 5-2 win over Maine.  It was an interesting game as the teams sort of traded periods.  Luckily for the Minutemen they owned the first and third and got the much needed win.

UMass came out skating hard and taking the puck immediately to Martin Ouellette who had completely stymied them the night before.  They were rewarded for their efforts with a 2-0 lead just eight minutes into the game on goals by Adam Phillips and Branden Gracel.  Gracel’s goal was particular exciting as he let go a perfectly placed slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle to find the back of the net.  Gracel returned to form in the faceoff circle last night as well, winning 14 of the 16 opportunities he had.

The Black Bears would make the most of the opportunities in the second however scoring a couple goals under two minutes apart early on in the period, one coming on the power play.  But UMass would own the third.  Zack LaRue scored a huge goal early on in the period to break the tie.  Conor Sheary would go far side on a sliding Ouellette to make it 4-2, setup by a nice cross-ice pass from Joel Hanley who had three assists last night.  Finally captain Kevin Czepiel would seal the game with an empty net goal late.

The team played well.  It wasn’t quite as easy as the final score might suggest.  Maine continued to play them tough, taking advantage of the extra man opportunities they got for the second straight night.  But what was the difference for UMass was a consistent effort all night long.  They played with energy and determination all game.  They did the little things like crashing the net which is how Phillips and LaRue got their goals.  They’ll need to keep that kind of effort and attitude over the course of the next two weeks.  Although they moved back into the 8th place spot with the win, Maine is still just one point behind and has an easier schedule with two home games against last place Northeastern left.  UMass on the other hand will have to find away to claw some points away from New Hampshire and Merrimack to make sure their season extends beyond March 9th.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Zack LaRue
LaRue hasn’t scored a lot of goals in his UMass career.  In fact last night’s was only his second.  But it was a big one in that it broke the tie, but also that it set the tone for the third period that UMass dominated.

Here’s the Republican game story.

College Hockey News has their takeaways.

Ouellette tells the Bangor Daily News that the whistle should’ve blown before LaRue’s gamewinner.

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Bemidji State Recap

After twenty minutes of play there looked to be little difference between the UMass team playing against Bemidji State and the one who lost their last three games to end the first half. The team didn’t play entirely poorly but just seemed to be going through the motions, not reaching the type of intensity needed to win a division I hockey game. They went into the first intermission down 2-0 and looking like they were heading for a loss and the consolation game today.

Whatever was said or done in the locker room made all the difference though and the team came out flying in the second. Offensively the team woke up, generating 18 shots in the 2nd period alone. The defense responded as well, allowing just five shots for the Beavers, all of which were stopped by Kevin Boyle who played solid in net. The result of the second period push was UMass scoring three times and gaining a 3-2 advantage.

The Minutemen would seal the game with a fourth goal in the third, though Bemidji made it interesting at the end when they cut the lead to one with an extra attacker in the final minutes. UMass got solid play from most during the game. It was the play of the defense though who never really allowed BSU back into the game once UMass got the lead. The fourth line of Zack LaRue, Eddie Olczyk, and Pat Kiley played with energy throughout. It was good to see Darren Rowe get back on the scoresheet after being without a goal since the early part of the season. The top line of Mike Pereira, Branden Gracel, and Conor Sheary started the scoring going early in the second. It’s essential for those three guys to produce during the second half of the season. Shane Walsh played particularly well, notching an assist.

The team will now play for the tournament championship tonight against the host Dartmouth College, who beat rival UNH 4-1 in a matchup of top ten teams. UMass goes for just their second in-season tournament championship ever, with the other being the Lightning College Classic in 2007.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game
Zack LaRue’s first collegiate goal ended up being the game winner. He played well throughout the game, despite being on the short end of a bad goaltender interference call, and ended up a +1 on the night.

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.

Preview: #1 Boston University


Hockey East Preview: #1 Boston University Terriers

2010-11 Storyline: The 2010-11 season sees BU go without a trip to the Garden or the NCAA tournament.

2011-12 Storyline: Is experience the edge that lifts BU back to the top of Hockey East?

Player To Watch: Alex Chiasson

Player Missed Most: David Warsofsky

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Cason Hohmann

Random Fact: The last time BU went three consecutive years without making the NCAA tournament was 1989.

Usual Beer The Triangle Pre-game Spot: Sunset Cantina (aka “Mini-Sunset”)

Experience.  Is Boston University the most talented squad in the league?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But they are experienced.  They bring back their entire roster save for two players.  Granted, those were two key players, Joe Pereira led the team in goals while David Warsofsky was one of the better defensemen in Hockey East, but the Terriers should be able to make up for their absence and then some.  Alex Chiasson will likely be one of the superstars of the league.  He and Chris Connolly will be expected to shoulder the scoring load while sophomores Matt Nieto and Charlie Coyle build off their strong freshman seasons last year.

Warsofsky leaving early to join the Bruins hurts somewhat but up and coming defensemen Garrett Noonan and Adam Clendening will help solidify the blueline which also includes the talented Max Nicastro.  In net Kieran Millan returns for his fourth year.  While I’ve always thought him to be somewhat overrated, his experience alone will help BU contend for the league title, especially with so many other teams going in with question marks in net.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Millan is unable to replicate the numbers of the past few years.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: A typo in the standings puts them at 0.1.

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 (preview 10/5)
7. Vermont Catamounts
8. Providence Friars
9. Northeastern Huskies
10. Lowell River Hawks

There you have it, my predictions for the season.  What do you think?  Solid?  Crazy?  The product of too many beers in front of the keyboard?  Look for my in-depth UMass preview on Wednesday.

USCHO has their Hockey East preview where UMass is picked to finish 6th and 9th, simultaneously.  Their team preview focuses on, you guessed it, goaltending.  For some reason they seem to have already come to the conclusion that Jeff Teglia will not even contend for the goaltending job since the success of the team lies in the hands of Steve Mastalerz and Kevin Boyle.  Hmm…you getting all that, Tegs?

INCH picks UMass 6th.

Dick Baker profiles freshman Zack LaRue.

Inside Hockey has some pictures from Saturday’s scrimmage.

Justin Braun will join Matt Irwin and James Marcou in Worcester to start the season.

However it appears that Mike Kostka has made the Florida Panthers roster out of training camp and will look to make his NHL debut.

I received some bad news about Alex Berry, who was in camp with the AHL’s Portland Pirates.  In practice on Saturday Berry sustained an injury that broke his arm and damaged his wrist.  The compound fracture of the bone ended up severing an artery and doing some nerve damage.  The good news is they got him sewn up and he has some metal in his arm to help him heal.  The bad news is it’ll likely be a lengthy recovery.  Certainly my thoughts go out to him and hope he heals quickly.

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.

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.

Recruit Update

First off, a big congratulations and thank you to Athletic Director John McCutcheon and Chancellor Robert Holub for doing what others would only talk about.  UMass is set to announce it is upgrading its football program to FBS where they’ll play in the MAC.  It’s been a dream of mine, and many others, to see the school play at the highest level of collegiate football.  While I focus primarily on hockey (and beer) on this blog I’m also a season ticket holder for football, attending every game and have followed the team in its travels from Ann Arbor to Chattanooga.  This is tremendous news and will only make the athletic department, and thus the hockey program, better as a whole.

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
39 GP / 20-16-1 / 3.02 GAA / .902 sv%
Boyle’s team was eliminated in the second round of the BCHL playoffs after he got injured. He did pretty well in the playoffs going 6-6-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack (AtlJHL)
41 GP / 8 G / 19 A / 27 Pts / 97 PIM
Busillo’s season is over as his Wolfpack were eliminated by Walpole in the first round of the AtlJHL playoffs. He had a goal in three playoff games.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
49 GP / 13 G / 42 A / 55 Pts / 76 PIM
Gillespie’s season is over after Shattuck won the Tier-I Under 18 National Championship earlier this month in Simsbury, CT. Gillespie was the 12th leading scorer in the tournament, netting two goals and three assists in the six games.

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
LaRue’s season has come to a close as his Waxers lost in the first round of the playoffs. He had a goal and four assists in five playoff games, including a game winner and a shorthanded goal.

Joseph Manno – South Kent Cardinal (NE Prep)
24 GP / 16 G / 27 A / 43 Pts
South Kent was upset in the prep playoffs despite being the top seed.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union Wildcats (NE Prep)
35 GP / 24-7-4 / 1.63 GAA / .923 sv%
Mastalerz’s season is over after KUA lost in the first playoff game 4-3 in overtime.

Andrew Tegeler – F – Junior Bruins (EJHL)
44 GP / 19 G / 21 A / 40 Pts / 38 PIM
Tegeler’s Bruins were eliminated in the EJHL playoffs.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
49 GP / 9 G / 7 A / 16 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh’s Saints had a first round by in the USHL playoffs but will take on Oleg Yevenko and the Fargo Force in the second round.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko was suspended for the first round of the playoffs but is due to return against the Saints.

In alumni news Jon Quick and Justin Braun and their Kings and Sharks will play Game 3 tonight, with Quick coming off his first ever playoff shutout.  In the AHL Casey Wellman has a goal and an assist while his Houston Aeros are up 3-0 in their series over Peoria.  Alex Berry’s Norfolk Admirals are up 2-0 on the Wilkes-Barre Penguins but he appears to be out for injury or something.  David Leaderer hasn’t played for the Milwaukee Admirals who are tied 1-1 with the Texas Stars.

In the ECHL coach Dean Stork’s Road Warriors are tied at one apiece in the second round of the playoffs there.

It appears that Lowell has found their next coach.

Tegeler Commits To UMass; Recruit Update

Chris Heisenberg passed along the news that UMass picked up a commitment from Junior Bruins forward Andrew Tegeler for next fall.  The 6’1”, 170lb right wing is originally from Sewell, NJ.  In 44 games for the Junior Bruins this past season he had 19 goals, 21 assists, and 38 PIM.  He had 2 shorthanded goals on the season and his 6 game winning goals were tied for second in the EJHL.  He was listed as a player to watch for the 2011 NHL draft in the initial rankings from the Central Scouting Service.  He was not listed however in the final rankings released earlier this week.

It sounds like he has the potential to add some goal scoring for the Minutemen in the future and you especially have to like his ability to score goals that count.  Coach Cahoon has had success in commitments coming late in the recruiting season.  Adam Phillips and Branden Gracel were both players who committed to UMass after March of last year.

As of now UMass will be graduating 1 goaltender, 1 defenseman, and 5 forwards.  According to the Heisenberg site, UMass has incoming 2 goaltenders, 2 defensemen, and 5 forwards.  However, I have heard that one of those forwards shown on the site as coming next year will likely be coming to Amherst in 2012 instead, though that has not been confirmed.  Therefore it appears that there is one player more coming in than leaving and that may indicate that there will be some turnover on the team.  Who am I kidding, there is always turnover on the team.  At least this year it’s not coming in the form of players leaving for the pros.  The fact that an extra defenseman is coming in probably shows that Toot is looking for extra depth at that position and perhaps will be moving Darren Rowe to forward full time next season.  I’ll have more on how the team could potentially look next season in the coming weeks.

Now on to the regular recruit update.

Kevin Boyle – G – Westside Warriors (BCHL)
39 GP / 20-16-1 / 3.02 GAA / .902 sv%
Boyle’s team was eliminated in the second round of the BCHL playoffs after he got injured. He did pretty well in the playoffs going 6-6-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

Mike Busillo – D – Hartford Jr Wolfpack (AtlJHL)
41 GP / 8 G / 19 A / 27 Pts / 97 PIM
Busillo’s season is over as his Wolfpack were eliminated by Walpole in the first round of the AtlJHL playoffs. He had a goal in three playoff games.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Shattuck St Mary’s (MN)
49 GP / 13 G / 42 A / 55 Pts / 76 PIM
Gillespie’s season is over after Shattuck won the Tier-I Under 18 National Championship earlier this month in Simsbury, CT. Gillespie was the 12th leading scorer in the tournament, netting two goals and three assists in the six games.

Zack LaRue – C/F – Markham Waxers (OPJHL)
50 GP / 33 G / 36 A / 69 Pts / 26 PIM
LaRue’s season has come to a close as his Waxers lost in the first round of the playoffs. He had a goal and four assists in five playoff games, including a game winner and a shorthanded goal.

Joseph Manno – South Kent Cardinal (NE Prep)
24 GP / 16 G / 27 A / 43 Pts
South Kent was upset in the prep playoffs despite being the top seed.

Steve Mastalerz – G – Kimball Union Wildcats (NE Prep)
35 GP / 24-7-4 / 1.63 GAA / .923 sv%
Mastalerz’s season is over after KUA lost in the first playoff game 4-3 in overtime.

Shane Walsh -LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
49 GP / 9 G / 7 A / 16 Pts / 14 PIM
Walsh scored a goal in one of his three games last week.  His Saints have a bye in the first round of the USHL playoffs.

Oleg Yevenko -D – Fargo Force (USHL)
52 GP / 4 G / 4 A / 8 Pts / 197 PIM
Yevenko is still suspended and hasn’t played since March 27th.  He should be returning early in the playoffs as his Force take on the Lincoln Stars.

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