UMass Athletics:

January 2013 Archives

Men's Lacrosse Ranked In Top-25 Entering Upcoming Season

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Coming off of a season that saw the UMass men's lacrosse program reach No. 1 nationally in the rankings and finish the year with a single-season program-record 15 wins, the Minutemen have earned national top-25 placement entering the upcoming campaign.

Inside Lacrosse released the organization's preseason media poll while USILA announced its top-25 simultaneously this week, with the Minutemen placing among the rankings in each.

The Minutemen begin their CAA Title defense against Army at Garber Field on Saturday, Feb. 9 at Noon. Tickets are available for the contest through 866-UMASS-TIX (862-7784).

Women's Basketball Coaches Show Update

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With Atlantic 10 Conference season well underway, UMass women's basketball head coach Sharon Dawley sat down in the WMUA studios with host Patrick O'Neil for the weekly UMass Women's Basketball Coaches Show. This week, O'Neil and Dawley discussed the team as well as current issues in sport outside of collegiate women's basketball and pop culture topics, such as their favorite TV shows. Check out the podcast of the show here.

UMass women's basketball continues its season at home on Sunday, Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. against the Temple Owls. The Minutewomen will host National Girls and Women In Sport; Play 4Kay and Girl Scout Day in conjunction with the contest. The day's events will include a sports clinic for focused on girls ages 12 and under, with registration and check-in available at the Boyden Gymnasium, where the event will be held, beginning at 11:30 AM. For more information on the clinic, please visit the event announcement page here or call the University of Massachusetts Athletic Department marketing staff at 413-577-7252.

MBB Recaps From Wednesday's 61-60 Win At La Salle

Sporting News covered Matt Anderson's NHL debut, and also mentions fellow UMass hockey alum Mike Kostka:

Patrick Bordeleau and Mike Kostka have company.

Bordeleau's circuitous trip to the NHL--he played for five teams in 2008-09--has been an interesting side story of the early season. At 26, he's playing on the Colorado Avalanche's first line. The 27-year-old Kostka has emerged as an everyday defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs and currently is playing alongside captain Dion Phaneuf.

New Jersey Devils winger Matt Anderson has them beat.

Anderson, set to play in his first NHL game tonight, is 30--that's too old to qualify for rookie status at all. He got the callup from AHL Albany over the weekend.

"It was pretty surreal," Anderson told the Bergen Record (where there's much more of his story). "It's a phone call you always hope that you get. You think about it and you think how it would happen and I always said to myself, I'd never expect it. It would be at the least expected time."

He's in Boston, where the Devils play the Bruins on Tuesday.

After an injury-filled college career ended in 2007, Anderson signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Wolves. Then came an AHL deal with Albany in 2010, a strong 2010-11 season in which he had 23 goals and 32 assists, and then a two-way NHL contract with the Devils. Now, it's 2013, and he's finally getting his chance.

Read on the Sporting News website

Andy Merritt also had coverage of Matt Anderson's NHL debut for the New England Hockey journal and also mentions the other four former UMass hockey players in the NHL this season:

When you're a rookie, they tell you to act like you've been there before.

Matt Anderson's not exactly a rookie, and he has been here before, although it's been a long time.

The 30-year-old West Islip, N.Y., native made his NHL debut Tuesday with the New Jersey Devils, who fell in a shootout to the Boston Bruins. It was the culmination of a very long journey for Anderson, coming more than six years after he began his pro career.

Since graduating from UMass in 2007, Anderson played with three different pro teams - the AHL's Chicago Wolves, the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL, and for the last two-and-a-half years back in the AHL with the Albany Devils. He has had his greatest success as a pro in Albany, racking up 40 goals and 106 points in 171 games, and in 2010-11 had a career best 23 goals and 32 assists in 76 games.

Still, a nice minor league career isn't really what a player dreams of when he becomes a professional. It's all about getting the call - or in Anderson's case, the text message. That text came Monday. While Anderson was enjoying the AHL All-Star break in Southern Vermont with some friends, he was having some trouble keeping his cell phone charged.

"There was one charger, one of those Bose docks, at the house where we were staying, and I stuck it on there," he said. "Me and my buddies were about to leave the house, and it came on, and there was a text from [Albany GM] Chris Lamoriello, saying to call him as soon as possible."

Lamoriello, the son of New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello (Providence, R.I.), had good news: The big club was calling Anderson up, and just in time for the UMass grad to come back to Boston.

Read more: Former Minuteman Anderson makes long-awaited NHL debut

VIDEO: Matt Anderson Interview On MSG+

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MSG plus had this video of former Minuteman Matt Anderson speaking with the media following his first NHL game on Tuesday night:

The USA Today had this piece on UMass hockey alum Matt Anderson making his NHL debut for the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night:

Proving that good things eventually will come to those who wait, winger Matt Anderson made his NHL debut at 30 on Tuesday night.

The forward was called up by the New Jersey Devils on Monday after he had spent his entire pro career in the minors.

"The longer you wait, the more you appreciate it," he said during the between-periods interview on MSG Plus.

Anderson went undrafted out the University of Massachusetts after a college career in which he missed the 2003-04 season with a shoulder injury and was limited to 18 games the following season by a broken ankle.

He had signed minor league deals with the Chicago Wolves and the Albany (N.Y.) Devils. But after scoring 55 points in 2010-11, New Jersey signed him to a two-year, two-way deal last season.

Anderson had 20 points in 39 games this season with Albany. He played Tuesday night on the Devils' fourth line. One of his shifts was cut short because a fight broke out between the Devils' Krys Barch and the Boston Bruins' Shawn Thornton, but he finished with 11 shifts, 6 minutes, 57 seconds of ice time and one blocked shot.

Read more: Matt Anderson makes NHL debut at age 30 for Devils

Emma Mendoker ready for UMass softball season

With softball season underway and games beginning in mid-February, the UMass softball team is hard at work getting ready for another exciting schedule filled with tough competition all year long. But gone from the previous season is All-America pitcher Sara Plourde, meaning the pitching circle will see some new arms in 2013.
One of those is transfer Emma Mendoker. The redshirt freshman sat out last year at East Carolina with a torn biceops tendon and returned to Amherst where she prepped at Amherst Regional HS and will be looked upon to play a big role for the Minutewomen this season.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette recently sat-in on a pitching session with Mendoker and head coach Elaine Sortino.

      It looks like a tedious process -- adjusting her shoulder, tweaking her elbow and wrist movement a little bit to find the optimum pitching motion. But Mendoker, a former star pitcher at Amherst Regional, is enjoying the process.
      A year ago, she was a freshman at East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., getting ready for her first collegiate season after a standout high school career. But just a few days before the season, she felt a pop in her shoulder that was later diagnosed as a torn biceps tendon. It ended her season.

Reminder Of Special Time Today For UMass Sports Luncheon

Just a reminder for fans attending today's UMass Sports Luncheon that it will start at a special time of 10:30 AM in the Massachusetts Room of the Mullins Center. The early start is to allow fans attending the chance to see the women's basketball game against La Salle which will tip-off at 11:45 AM as the annual Field Trip Day game for local elementary school children. Fans going to the Sports Luncheon will receive a free ticket to the game and can park in the back lot of the Mullins Center!

GAZETTE: NFL success seems to follow Amherst native James Ihedigbo

Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a story on James Ihedigbo and how success has followed him throughout his four-year NFL career. In addition to playing in back-to-back Super Bowls with different teams, Ihedigbo has been a member of four AFC Championship teams.



BALTIMORE SUN: Ihedigbo's mother will see son play in Super Bowl

David Anderson of the Baltimore Sun has a profile of James Ihedigbo's mother, Rose, who talks about her son's path to the NFL and his second straight Super Bowl. Rose and her late husband, Apollos, came to the United States from Nigeria in 1979. James grew up in Amherst playing at Amherst Regional High School before coming to UMass. Rose will soon be publishing a book called "Sandals in the Snow" which describes their life and the path their family took.

Harford loves the Ravens

James Ihedigbo of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after the Indianapolis Colts missed a field goal attempt during the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at M&T Bank Stadium on Jan. 6. His mother, Rose, who lives in Abingdon says her son exemplifies the values she and his father instilled in him, the values of hard work, perseverance and faith in God.(Patrick Smith/Getty Images, Getty Images / January 5, 2013)



MBB Gameday Previews: at La Salle, 1/30/13

Ihedigbo Takes Part In Super Bowl Media Day

In a photo gallery by the Associated Press which is featured on Yahoo! Sports, James Ihedigbo is shown filming Media Day as the Baltimore Ravens are interviewed prior to the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Football

Baltimore Ravens safety James Ihedigbo shoots a video as safety Bernard Pollard, right, looks over his shoulder during media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Judy Dixon Previews The Spring Tennis Season

The UMass tennis team starts the 2013 spring campaign this Friday at Brown and Sunday at home against Saint Joseph's. Head coach Judy Dixon sits down with UMassAthletics to talk about the progress from the fall and what she expects to see this spring.


HERALD: Local connections come Easy at Super Bowl

UMass alum and Boston Herald sportswriter Jeff Howe has a piece on local connections in this year's NFL Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. Included in his piece are mentions of UMass alums James Ihedigbo and Clarence Brooks.

Ihedigbo is making his second straight Super Bowl appearance albeit with a different team after helping the Patriots reach the title game last year.

Brooks played football at UMass from 1970-72 and was an assistant coach in the mid-70's for the Minutemen. He is now the Ravens' defensive line coach.



UMass Sports Luncheon To Be Held At Special Time On Wednesday

The weekly UMass Sports Luncheon will begin at 10:30 AM this Wednesday in conjunction with the women's basketball game against La Salle that will tip-off at 11:45 AM. The game will be the annual Field Trip Day where local school children get to attend the game thanks to the morning start.

Fans who attend the UMass Sports Luncheon will receive free tickets to the basketball game and there will be free parking in the Mullins Center Back Lot. Speakers for Wednesday's Luncheon will be hockey head coach John Micheletto along with women's basketball Director of Operations May Kotsopoulos. Additionally, this week's co-athletes of the week Becky Stoyle (women's track) and Michael Cyphers (men's track) will be honored.
Here's another piece of former Minuteman Matt Irwin and his early season success in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks:

Matt Irwin is too young to remember Larry Robinson. But he knows "big bird." Big yellow fella from Sesame Street.

"My uncle is a Montreal Canadiens fan, so he's a big Larry Robinson fan," Irwin, the 25-year-old San Jose Sharks' rookie, said before facing the Vancouver Canucks here Sunday. "I haven't had to ask for an autograph yet (for my uncle), but that might be coming up soon."

Irwin is already signing autographs for himself. The defenceman from Brentwood Bay on Vancouver Island has been a revelation to the Sharks' coaching staff, which includes Robinson, known as "Big Bird" when he played and merely one of the greatest blueliners of his generation.

Robinson and Irwin are getting to know each other.

Undrafted after three Junior-A seasons with the Nanaimo Clippers, Irwin entered the University of Massachusetts as a 20-year-old freshman and played two seasons in Amherst. He earned a free-agent contract from the Sharks, then spent another 2 ½ seasons in the American Hockey League before injuries to San Jose defencemen Brent Burns and Jason Demers helped Irwin make the lineup for the start of the lockout-shortened National Hockey League season.

Until two weeks ago, Irwin's entire NHL experience was one pre-season game.

But through four games this month, the 6-2, 210-pound Irwin was averaging 22:48 of ice time and playing with Dan Boyle in the defence's top four.

Read more: Undrafted Matt Irwin 'looks like he fits' with Sharks

THE PROVINCE: Irwin Fitting In Nicely With Sharks

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UMass hockey alum Matt Irwin, who logged his first NHL points over the weekend, was featured in his hometown paper:

In a star-studded lockerroom, Matt Irwin could have been mistaken for a fan Sunday morning.

After all, the Brentwood Bay, B.C. native talked enthusiastically about idolizing Trevor Linden while playing for the Nanaimo Clippers. But the talk among teammates was how the undrafted San Jose Sharks defenceman has made a seamless rookie transition to the NHL. He even unloaded a heavy slapshot for his first career goal Saturday.

The effort was posted in a hurry to YouTube and there was a flurry of calls from his minor-league teammates in Worcester, Mass., and likely a few from old college teammates at UMass-Amherst, too.

"I don't know if I ever pictured one goal and it doesn't matter -- it's kind of been a whirlwind and kind of exciting," he said before a 4-1 victory Sunday over the Vancouver Canucks. "We've all had that moment on the driveway and stuff like that. I don't think I even scored too many of those goals then. I was just trying to play."

Irwin doesn't look like and certainly doesn't sound like a rookie. A pairing with veteran Dan Boyle and the tutelage of assistant coach Larry Robinson have the 25-year-old blueliner poised for a brighter future after signing a two-year, two-way free agent contract that expires after this season.

"He's played great -- better than great," said Boyle, who was also undrafted. "He's not only doing what he needs to do, he's doing more and not just eating up minutes. He's a big factor in all the games. Veterans sometimes do the mistake of giving a young guy too much information and then it's overload.

Read more: Island's Irwin fitting in nicely with Sharks

UMass Hall Of Fame Inductee Profiles

It was a fantastic evening on Saturday night as the UMass Department of Athletics inducted five new members into the George "Trigger" Burke Hall Of Fame. The 2012 inductees were Cari Nickerson Lovejoy, Khari Mitchell-Samuel, Tim Soudan, Octavia Thomas and Phil Vandersea. The event was attended by over 250 friends, family and fans. Check out the inductee profiles below:

UMass alum and current New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz added yet another milestone to his NFL resume. In the annual NFL Pro Bowl, his first selection as an NFL player, Cruz set a new game record with 10 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Cruz and quarterback Eli Manning were instrumental in the 62-35 win for the NFC.

David Driver of the Springfield Republican has a feature story on James Ihedigbo and his return to a second consecutive Super Bowl. Last season, Ihedigbo played in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots before falling to the New York Giants and fellow UMass alum Victor Cruz.
Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun has a story on how Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl veterans, including UMass' James Ihedigbo, have shared their experiences with teammates over the last week. Ihedigbo is only one of four players on the 54-man roster to have played in a Super Bowl and the only current Raven to have played in the big game last year.

MBB Recaps From Sunday's 70-65 Win Over Richmond

Kater Named Women's Head Development Coach For U.S. Soccer

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Congratulations to UMass Hall of Fame member, women's soccer alum April Kater who was recently named the women's Head Development Coach for U.S. Soccer.

Here is the announcement from the U.S. Soccer website: B.J. Snow Named Head Coach for U.S. U-17 Women's National Team; April Kater Named Women's Head Development Coach

Kater is also featured in the Q&A from U.S. Soccer: Q & A With New U.S. Soccer Hires B.J. Snow and April Kater

Irwin Scores First NHL Goal

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Congratulations to former Minuteman Matt Irwin who scored his first NHL goal last night to help the San Jose Sharks down the Colorado Avalanche, 4-0. Irwin saw 22:48 of ice time, blocked six shots and was named the game's No. 2 star.

Here's the video of Irwin's goal:

The Sharks also had this nice tribute to Irwin on Twitter Friday after he tallied his first NHL point, an assist vs. the Phoenix Coyotes:

MBB Gameday Previews: Richmond, 1/27/13

After an eight-day break between games, the UMass basketball team returns to the floor at 2 p.m. this afternoon to face the Richmond Spiders. UR is coming off a thrilling overtime win over VCU and has a three-game win streak. It's also a special day for the UMass Athletic Department as the latest Hall of Fame Class will be honored at halftime. The coaching staffs will be doing their part in the fight against cancer by participating in the 10th Annual Suits and Sneakers event in conjunction with the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer.

Boston Herald: Branden Gracel Puts Heat On UMass Foes

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John Connolly had this feature on Branden Gracel in today's Boston Herald:

UMass hockey player Branden Gracel is one person who took this week's frigid weather in stride. After all, the thermometer was at minus-9 degrees midweek outside Thickwood Heights Arena back in Fort McMurray, Alberta, where the junior center played before arriving at the Mullin Center in Amherst.

"That was the coldest place I've probably been in," Gracel said about the northern Canadian outpost. "I remember getting out of my warm truck to fill it up with gas and by the time I finished the truck was cold again."

During his final season in the AJHL with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, college recruiters began migrating north, especially after he scored 38 goals and added 56 assists in 58 games. Gracel was contacted by North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth, Boston University, the two Division 1 universities in Alaska, Fairbanks and Anchorage, and he made his lone official visit to Nebraska-Omaha before he settled on attending UMass.

"I decided to come (to UMass) because the opportunity to play as a freshman was a big thing for me and having such a big freshman class the year I came in, I knew I was going to have opportunities to play, as well," said Gracel. "I had a really good offer here and they wanted me to come in that next year instead of playing another year of juniors."

These days, it is opposing Hockey East goaltenders who are feeling the big chill whenever the puck lands on the clever skater's stick. Twice this season, Gracel has been named Player of the Week by Hockey East. The most recent accolade, which he shared with Boston College senior Steve Whitney, came after he powered UMass to a 5-2 victory over second-ranked BC, the first win by the Minutemen at Kelley Rink in 13 tries dating back to Nov. 17, 2007. Gracel notched two goals and an assist. The goals and three points equaled his single-game best.

Read more of: Branden Gracel puts heat on UMass foes

Kostka Featured In National Post Article

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Bruce Arthur's Toronto Maple Leafs' article from the National Post includes a sizeable section that features former Minuteman, current Maple Leaf, Mike Kostka:

Which is why it's such a pleasure to see a guy like Mike Kostka in the lineup, because he is like found money. Kostka grew up in Ajax, a Leafs fan from the jump, and was a defenceman whose feet grew to size 13 when he was still 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds in the ninth grade, which didn't help his skating. He wasn't drafted by the OHL, and he wasn't drafted by the NHL, and he went to school at UMass-Amherst, and he eventually bounced around the AHL until he was let go by Buffalo in 2010. He was one day from signing a deal in Germany.

"One of my friends, Marco Rosa, who plays in Finland now, he just happened to come over, and I was going to sign the next day, and he came over and he was chatting, and it was like, you can't go now," said Kostka, 27, the morning of the home opener. "And I was like, what do you mean? I'm going to sign tomorrow. And he said if you feel like you even have a one per cent change of playing in the NHL, you can't leave here. Europe will be there."

Three weeks later, in a striking stroke of luck, Rochester called.

"My sister was doing grad certificate at Durham College, and the second part was an internship, and she got an internship with the Nashville Predators," Kostka said. "That was a couple years before, and she had worked for the Nashville Predators, and so then I get a call, and Mike Santos, who was the assistant GM in Florida now, had just left Nashville, and was trying to start to build the Rochester team, calls, and says, I knew your sister from the office, I know you came from a good family, we've seen you play, and we'd like to offer you a contract."

He signed for the minimum, US$37,500, and kept working. He got better. Tampa let him go, Toronto signed him, he played 34 games with the Marlies during the lockout -- and managed 34 points -- and he played the first regular-season NHL game of his life Saturday night in Montreal. He played 23 minutes with Dion Phaneuf that night, and played top-pair minutes again Monday, with 27:02. He was fine, passable, and saved a goal on a second-period penalty kill, clearing it from the crease. He doesn't give up.

"The hope is what drives you and what pulls you, but at the same time you've got to keep your mindset of where you're at," Kostka said Monday. "It's tough at times, obviously, you know, you hope and you want to be there, but I've learned throughout my career that it's not going to work if your mind is somewhere else, in the future or the past."

Sounds like a true Leafs fan. He never gave up, even when it appeared hopeless. He never left, even when hockey was tough. When asked what he would have done if hockey hadn't worked out, Kostka smiled. "It was gonna work out," he said.

Leafs fans have been conditioned to be a little more fatalistic about their chances. But they never give up, either. Maybe one day, it'll all work out.

College Hockey News: UMass' Lesson Learned

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Nick Canelas has this piece focusing on the Minutemen's big win at Boston College on the College Hockey News website today:

It appeared as if it was going to be the same old story for Massachusetts.

The Minutemen took a lead into the third period against Boston College for the third time this season Friday night at Conte Forum. And for the third time, they allowed the Eagles to tie the game.

No matter how much UMass outplayed BC, no matter how much it looked like the Minutemen were the better team, the outcome seemed inevitable: another Eagles comeback win at the hands of UMass. Earlier this season, UMass held third-period leads of 3-0 and 2-1 in games with the Eagles, before BC rallies led to wins.

Ten minutes after Steven Whitney's game-tying tally in the third period, fortunes changed. Junior forward Michael Pereira found himself on a breakaway after a Branden Gracel, and fired a shot that deflected off the pad of BC goaltender Parker Milner and back onto Pereira's stick. The junior gathered the rebound and beat Milner to give the Minutemen a 3-2 advantage 13:03 into the third period.

And just like that, the game swung in the favor of UMass. The Minutemen scored two more goals in the next three and a half minutes of play and found themselves 5-2 winners. It was Pereira's effort that made sure things were different this time around.

"We had a conversation between the second and third (periods)," Pereira said. "You know, leave all doubts in here ... we've been the better team all night, so don't change what you're doing. Just play with a little heart, and a little guts, and we came out with a gutty performance here."

Playing at Conte Forum hasn't been a good experience for UMass in the last four years. Since 2007, the Minutemen have lost in all 11 of their trips there, including three straight two-game sweeps in the Hockey East quarterfinals, meaning Friday may have been the senior class' last opportunity to get a win in a venue that has been nothing short of nightmarish for them.

"I didn't know about it until after the game," UMass coach John Micheletto said. "But I noticed it from them, it's obviously some relief, some excitement that they were able to do that. It's a bit of a monkey off their back.

"I'm happy for them that it's something they can check off the list."

Read more of UMass' Lesson Learned, Minutemen Look to Grow from Win at Conte

The Bud Light UMass Hockey Radio Show will hit the road again this Tuesday, Jan. 22, airing live from the Blue Room in Chicopee starting at 7 p.m. on WHMP (AM 1400/1240/FM 96.9). It can also be heard streaming online and via the TuneIn app.

This week's show will feature player guests freshman K.J. Tiefenwerth and current Hockey East Player of the Week, junior Branden Gracel as well as a recap of the Minutemen's win at #2 Boston College last Friday and a preview of this weekend's upcoming games at Vermont.

Click here to submit a question for head coach John Micheletto

Irwin Appears In Sharks' Opener, His First NHL Game

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Former Minuteman Matt Irwin joined Mike Kostka as the second UMass hockey alum to make his NHL debut this weekend. A member of the San Jose Sharks, Irwin was on the ice for 19:06 in his first NHL game, including 51 seconds on the power play. He also registered two shots and two hits as the Sharks defeated the Calgary Flames, 4-1.




Kostka Shines In NHL Debut

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Former UMass hockey captain Mike Kostka garnered much attention and praise for his play during his NHL debut on Saturday night, helping the Toronto Maple Leafs down the Montreal Canadiens, 2-1, in the teams' season opener on Hockey Night In Canada. Kostka saw 23 minutes of ice time in the contest, the second-most of any player for Toronto, and picked up an assist just four minutes, 51 seconds into his NHL career.

Kostka was called the "best defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs" by hockey icon Don Cherry on Coach's Corner:

Toronto Star - Maple Leafs: Journeyman blueliner Mike Kostka no overnight sensation
TSN - Masters: Leafs' Late-Bloomer Kostka Revels In 'Special' Debut
ESPN.com - Leafs' opening win owes a lot to AHL grads

MBB Recaps From Saturday's 79-76 Loss To George Washington

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The Unlikeliest Leaf: Mike Kostka Finally Makes The NHL

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Here's a great piece on former Minuteman captain Mike Kostka from today's Globe and Mail out of Toronto. Kostka will be one of four UMass hockey alumni on NHL rosters as the season opens this afternoon.

No member of the Toronto Maple Leafs had a bigger smile on his face when the dressing room opened on Friday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre.

Mike Kostka was still there, still a Leaf and, presumably given he had been lining up alongside captain Dion Phaneuf throughout much of training camp, one day away from playing in his first NHL game at age 27.

That's not something you see all that often.

Kostka, who grew up a Leafs fan 45 minutes east of the Air Canada Centre in Ajax, Ont., has bounced around the minors for years after four seasons with the UMass Minutemen in the NCAA.

He graduated in 2008 at age 22 and stepped right into the AHL, playing two seasons with the Portland Pirates before considering going over to Europe, as many players do when they sense they're beginning a long, low-paying career in the North American minor leagues in their mid-20s.

Close friend, Marco Rosa, another minor leaguer looking for a break (and now playing in Finland), convinced him otherwise.

"After my first two years in the AHL, I didn't get qualified by Buffalo and I had an opportunity in Germany and I didn't have a job here," Kostka said. "I was about to sign that night to go over to Germany, and Marco told me 'if you think you have a 1 per cent chance of making the NHL, you can't leave now.' For whatever reason, that just made sense.

Read more of The unlikeliest Leaf: Mike Kostka finally makes the NHL

Recaps Of Hockey's Win At #2 Boston College

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MBB Gameday Previews: George Washington, 1/19/13

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ESPN Boston: No blocking out Marcus Camby

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Marty Dobrow wrote a piece on Marcus Camby and his life growing up, his time at UMass and subsequent 17-year NBA career. here's an excerpt:

They were all on hand that night -- his mom and his sisters, his wife and his daughters -- to see Camby's first start in a season slowed by foot injuries. They watched the lights dim, the sparks fly from the scoreboard, the lithe dancers prance wearing little buttons of red light. They heard the music blare, and PA announcer Mike Walczewski bellow, "a 6-11 forward from Massachusetts ... Mar-cus Cam-by!!!"

And there he was, the years melting away, skipping onto the court, chest and forearm bumping with the boys, his long fingers pointing to the rafters. Camby's female rooting contingent especially reveled in the third quarter, when he came up with one of his signature blocked shots, swooping down the lane and redirecting a Tim Duncan shot into the stands as part of an emphatic 100-83 win.

The same crew will be back in force this Saturday at the Mullins Center to see No. 21 retired at the University of Massachusetts. That might not be "the world's most famous arena" but it was, back in Marcus Camby's day, the setting for quite a riveting soap opera.

"People who follow UMass basketball talk about the glory years, the Cal and Camby years," said Derek Kellogg, the Minutemen's head coach and a teammate of Camby's for two seasons under John Calipari. "That was the pinnacle of UMass history."

MBB Recaps From Thursday's 79-66 Win Over Duquesne

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UMass defeated Duquesne 79-66 at the Mullins Center to improve to 12-4 overall and 2-1 in Atlantic 10 play. The Minutemen closed the game on a 16-4 run as Chaz Williams led the squad with 22 points, nine assists, five rebounds and a season-high-tying four steals. Terrell Vinson had 17 points, five assists and four boards, while Cady Lalanne posted his third double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.








MBB Gameday Previews: Duquesne, 1/17/13

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After playing 10 of its first 15 games away from the Mullins Center, UMass returns to the 20-year-old facility for a three-game homestand over the next nine day. On Thursday, UMass will play host to Duquesne in game televised nationally by the CBS Sports Network (Channel Finder). The Dukes were the last Atlantic 10 opponent to play in Amherst when the Minutemen handed the visitors a 92-83 setback in the first round of the 2012 A-10 Championship.


Marcus Camby on Fox Sports Radio 1410 in Hartford

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UMass great Marcus Camby has been a popular interview request in the past week leading up to Saturday's big day as his #21 jersey will become the fifth to be retired in the Mullins Center. He will be a guest on Fox Sports Radio in his hometown of Hartford on Wednesday morning. You can hear the interview at 6:13 am and 8:13 am on 1410 AM. Click here to listen online.

Toronto Star: Mike Kostka Is A Prospect Despite His Age

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This great piece of former UMass hockey captain Mike Kostka ran in the Toronto Star on Monday:

At 27, Toronto Marlies defenceman Mike Kostka might not be the "shiny new toy" as coach Dallas Eakins likes to call a hot rookie prospect.

But Eakins believes the Toronto-born Kostka is well deserving of his invite to the Maple Leafs training camp, one of six Marlies trying to make the big club this week at the MasterCard Centre.

"I don't know why (he has never made an NHL team) but if he had been in our organization, he would at least have gotten an audition," Eakins said. "He has been very, very good (with the Marlies). He's one of the top point-getters in the league from the back end. He has got ice in his veins when he has that puck. He's a good character and leader as well.

"The great thing about guys like him is it shows you that development doesn't stop at 22. For me, it has never been about a player's birthdate. Players are all prospects. Whoever can help the team is who can help the team."

While most observers raved about the play of defenceman Jake Gardiner before he was sidelined five weeks ago with a concussion, Kostka's play has been equally impressive. He initially was paired with Gardiner on the first-team power play unit with the Marlies but then played with former NHLer Paul Ranger and quarterbacked the power play.

With Gardiner still sidelined, Kostka is being given every chance to be one of the Leafs' prime puck-moving blueliners when the 48-game NHL season opens Saturday night in Montreal.

On Monday, Kostka primarily played with rookie hopeful Morgan Rielly. Both can skate and both know how to handle the puck. But it's doubtful both will make the team. Rielly can only play five games before he loses a year of junior eligibility and coach Randy Carlyle won't keep Leafs first round pick from last season unless he's one of their top-six blueliners.

When he joined the Leafs for an unofficial practice late last week, Kostka was tied with three players for fifth in AHL scoring with 34 points (six goals, 28 assists), including 15 power play assists (18 power play points) in 34 games.

Read more of - Maple Leafs training camp: Mike Kostka is a prospect despite his age

Former Minutemen In NHL Training Camps

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With the start of the NHL season just days away, teams have been providing coverage of their training camps on their web sites. Video updates from the LA Kings and the San Jose Sharks featured former Minutemen Jonathan Quick and Justin Braun.

Jonathan Quick Speaks To The Media On Day 1 Of Training Camp:

Sharks Second-Year Players Are Expected To Raise Performance Level (Braun at 2:27 mark):

Two more former UMass hockey players are also currently at NHL training camps as Matt Irwin is with the Sharks and Mike Kostka (pictured, middle) is with Toronto.

Toronto Maple Leafs players Mike Komisarek Mike Kostka and Mike Mottau skate sprints on the first day of training camp in Toronto.

From MassLive.com:

"I had a sports editor in college that told me the best thing I could do was to get out of the press box.

So for Friday night's UMass-Providence hockey game, I traded in my perch at the top of Mullins Center for a spot in the 8 1/2-foot tall inflatable chair that sits in the southwest corner of the arena.

Normally, two or three "fans of the game" get the opportunity to sit in the chair, which is sponsored by the UMass Alumni Association, but Friday I had the spacious accommodations all to myself."

UMass Hockey vs Providence 1/11/13

Read more of MassLive's Harry Plumer experiences a different view of UMass hockey game.

Marcus Camby awed by honor

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Dan Duggan (@dduggan21) of the Boston Herald caught up with Marcus Camby last week and spoke with the 1996 National Player of the year about having his jersey retired this Saturday at halftime of the UMass-Duquesne game.


MBB Recaps From Sunday's 77-73 Win At Fordham

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Men's Lacrosse Has Three Drafted By MLL

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In the annual Major League Lacrosse draft, a trio of UMass men's lacrosse standouts were taken during the eight-round event on Friday evening. 2012 Tewaraaton Award finalist Will Manny was taken by Boston in the second round (14th overall) before teammate Jake Smith was picked by the Cannons as well, going two rounds later (30th). Colin Fleming was the final Minuteman picked, with the Ohio Machine taking the 6-foot-6 senior attack in the seventh round (49th). Below are a few links related to the draft results:

Boston Cannons draft roundup
Ohio Machine draft roundup
Inside Lacrosse's team-by-team draft grades
BostonLax.com: Local flavor prevalent in MLL Draft
Daily Collegian: Three former Minutemen taken 2013 MLL Draft

The Minutemen start their 2013 campaign and CAA regular season and tournament defense at home on Garber Field against Army at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9.

MBB Gameday Previews: at Fordham, 1/13/13

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UMass will look to come away from its 2-game road trip with a split when it faces Fordham at Rose Hill Gym on Sunday afternoon. Following a 70-62 loss at Saint Louis that ended UMass' seven-game win streak, the Minutemen will take on a talented Rams squad that is 3-1 at home and won three-straight in the Bronx. The game will be televised by the YES Network (Channel Finder) with tip-off set for 1 p.m. Sunday's game will mark the end of a stretch of four of five games on the road for UMass. The Minutemen will open a three-game homestand on Thursday night against Duquesne.




MBB Recaps From Thursday's 70-62 Loss At Saint Louis

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UMass dropped a hard-fought 70-62 contest at Saint Louis last night in the Atlantic 10 opener for both teams. The back-and-forth game had numerous ties and lead changes but the Minutemen went cold down the stretch, making just 2-of-11 in the final eight minutes. SLU went on a 10-2 run at the outset of that slump and held a 4-8 point lead for much of the final minutes. Cady Lalanne had a 18-point, 13-rebound game and was strong down low all game. It was his second-career double-double. Chaz Williams added 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds as well.The Minutemen will return to action Sunday afternoon at Fordham. The game tips at 1 p.m. Eastern time and will be shown on the YES Network. Josh Mauer and Tim Kenney will have the call on the UMass Sports Network as well.


MBB Gameday Previews: at Saint Louis, 1/10/13

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It's time to forget what's happened over the past two months and get down to business with the start of Atlantic 10 play. While most of the league got underway last night, UMass and Saint Louis and Temple at Xavier will take center stage tonight. The UMass game tips at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT and will be televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network and broadcast on the UMass Sports Network. If you don't know what channel its on with your particular cable provider, use the  CBS Sports Network Channel Finder.



LA Times: Kings Goalie Quick Ready For Action

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With the return of the NHL less than two weeks away, the Los Angeles Times has this piece on former UMass goaltender, Los Angeles Kings' star, Jonathan Quick and his recovery from surgery on a herniated disk. Quick received medical clearance to play on Monday.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick never complained while he carried the Kings on his back and became the most valuable player of their Stanley Cup championship run, but he paid a steep price for toting that heavy burden.

A herniated disc that doctors didn't immediately diagnose began pinching his sciatic nerve in March, while the team was making its playoff push, but Quick played through it stoically and superbly. Game after game he kept the low-scoring Kings competitive, boosting them into the final playoff spot in the West and then repelling shot after shot as they rampaged through the playoffs and to a six-game victory over the New Jersey Devils in the Cup final.

Never did he hint at the ache that accompanied him almost everywhere.

"If you'd sit on a plane, get in a car, driving to the rink, driving home, sitting down for dinner, whatever," he said of when he felt discomfort. "But when I was playing, that's when I'd get the least amount of pain. It was manageable on the ice."

Rehabilitation, the preferred option, failed to remedy the problem. When the disc developed a cyst he had no choice but to undergo a microdiscectomy in August. The procedure removed herniated disc material, cleaned up an inflammation and left him facing a tedious recovery.

Read more of: Kings goalie Jonathan Quick ready for action on the ice

The Bud Light UMass Hockey Radio Show Returns Tuesday

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The Bud Light UMass Hockey Radio Show returns this Tuesday, Jan. 8, and will be broadcast live from Fathers & Sons in West Springfield starting at 7 p.m. on WHMP (AM 1400/1240/FM 96.9), also available streaming online and via the TuneIn app.

This week's show will feature player guests Steven Guzzo and Shane Walsh, a preview of this weekend's home-and-home with Providence, a recap of the Ledyard Classic tournament victory and more.

Click here to submit a question for head coach John Micheletto

College Notes: Butler A Diving Force At UMass

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John Garner Jr. of the Cape Cod times catches up with UMass diver and Dennisport, Mass. native Michaela Butler.


When Michaela Butler was growing up, the closest she got to a diving board was driving past the YMCA pool in West Barnstable.

The Dennisport native competed at a high level in gymnastics and track at Dennis-Yarmouth, but had no experience as a competitive diver.

Butler led the Dolphins track team to an ACL Championship as a senior MVP, setting school records as part of in the 4x50 relay, 4x200 relay, and triple jump relay.

She also competed in club gymnastics, winning a Level 9 state championship as a freshman and Level 9 Regional Championship as a sophomore.

But despite no background in diving, the redshirt junior has taken to the sport like a duck to water at UMass-Amherst. During the Frank Elm Invitational Nov. 19 against top competitors from host Rutgers, Columbia, Boston University, Villanova, Army and Coast Guard, Butler captured first-place finishes in the one and three-meter diving events. In the one-meter, Butler set a UMass record with a preliminary score of 295.90 and notched 271.90 in the finals. She set another school record in the three-meter dive with an impressive score of 347.75 during prelims, 37 points higher than the previous record. She captured the finals with a score of 339.75.


Read the full story below.

College notes: Butler a diving force at UMass | CapeCodOnline.com

MBB Recaps From Saturday's 75-61 Win Over Eastern Michigan

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MBB Gameday Previews: Eastern Michigan, 1/5/13

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Hajjar Of Rowing Team Featured On UMass Website

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Emily Hajjar, a junior on the women's rowing team, was featured on the UMass Career Services website for her impressive internship this past summer.  For the full article, click HERE.


MBB Recaps From Wednesday's 70-69 Win At Miami (Ohio)

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Another game in the books. Another UMass victory. Another nail bitter that the Minutemen pulled out for their sixth-consecutive victory. Raphiael Putney had his biggest game of the season as he knocked down four 3-pointers on his way to a 20-point, nine-rebound performance.



Among the "year in review" pieces out there recapping the events of 2012, Matt Vautour had this one about UMass pitcher Joe Popielarczyk's stellar 2012 season with the Minutemen baseball team:

For most freshman, not making it through walk-on tryouts is the end of their college careers.

They gave it a shot at being a college athlete. After being deemed not quite good enough, they hang 'em up, content to move on. Some will try to join a club team. Some will play intramurals. Most will just become regular college students, going to class during the week, parties on weekends, gaining weight and knowledge, while moving toward a degree and a job, and further away from their athletic careers.

It would have been hard to blame Joe Popielarczyk for following that route. The former Northampton High School baseball star was carrying a challenging major (civil engineering), while commuting to the University of Massachusetts every day from his home in Florence. Most people would have been tempted to just throw themselves into their studies and forget baseball.

But Popielarczyk wasn't ready to do that, and just making the baseball team as a sophomore after his second shot at walk-on tryouts made Popielarczyk a good story.

Read more of Joe Popielarczyk was as good as anyone in 2012

College Hockey News: UMass Rises To The Occasion

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On the heels of UMass hockey's taking home the Ledyard Classic title, College Hockey News posted this piece about the Minutemen's tournament win today:

Massachusetts has struggled to get on the national stage, and struggled to win even small championships. But something changed Monday night when UMass took on Dartmouth in the championship game of the Ledyard Bank National Classic. UMass looked like a confident bunch; a team with a new coach and a new mentality.

"It was disjointed, emotional and electric," said UMass coach John Micheletto. "Obviously its championship hockey, whether it's in a holiday tournament or the end of the season there is a lot on the line. Both teams were fired up with good spirited play and it's a good test."

In the process, UMass knocked off a home team that had been red hot in the process, having just defeated New Hampshire in the semifinal. The Big Green were undefeated at home (7-0) and sat in a tie for second place in the Pairwise. The Minutemen were never bothered by this and for most of the game they were in fact the aggressors.

Micheletto, in his first season as head coach, wanted to instill a new mentality in his team upon arrival -- a championship mentality. It can be said that holiday tournaments mean little, but in the grand scheme, even Boston College looks at winning championships as an important skill, no matter how big they are.

"The biggest thing we talked about coming into this thing was winning a championship," said Micheletto after a win against Bemidji State on Sunday night. "It is a skill that you need to learn if you want to be in the midst at the end of the season."

Read more of UMass Rises to the Occasion

The New Haven Register has named former UMass hockey goaltender, current Los Angeles Kings' star Jonathan Quick its Sports Person of the Year for 2012:

"An impressive array of NHL greats have made their way through during the 45-year history of the Los Angeles Kings. Marcel Dionne, Luc Robitaille, Rogie Vachon and even Wayne Gretzky all had one common factor. None could bring the Stanley Cup to Hollywood.

That changed over the course of last season when a mixture of moving parts -- midseason coaching change, trades, minor league recalls -- all came together at the right time. The Kings, seeded eighth in the playoffs, won their first Cup. And at the root of their success was a goaltender from Hamden.

Jonathan Quick, at 26, proved to be a rock between the pipes. Confident, quick and never rattled, he was a difference maker. In the process, he became only the third U.S.-born player awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. For his effort, Quick has been named the Dave Solomon Memorial Register Sports Person of the Year."

Read more of NEW HAVEN REGISTER SPORTS PERSON OF THE YEAR: Hamden's Jonathan Quick

UMass Hall Of Fame Pitcher Tarpey Passes Away

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Our condolences to the family of former UMass baseball pitcher, UMass Hall of Fame member, Phil Tarpey, who passed away last week at the age of 79.

Tarpey earned UMass' first All-America award in baseball, being named third-team by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 1955. A member of two consecutive NCAA Tournament teams (1954-55), he helped UMass advance to the College World Series in 1954, the school's first ever appearance. In 1955, Tarpey was the MVP of the NCAA Regional, a member of the NCAA Regional All-Tournament team, and winner of the E. Joseph Thompson Memorial MVP trophy (team MVP). A native of Gardner, Mass., Tarpey was a managing partner of the Bulkely, Richardson, and Gelinas law firm in Springfield, Mass. He was inducted into the UMass Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.

Recaps Of Hockey Claiming Ledyard Classic Title

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Congratulations to the hockey team on capturing a tournament championship over the weekend with a pair of come-from-behind victories, defeating Bemidji State, 4-3, and #8 Dartmouth, 3-2, to win the Ledyard Classic.

With four points in two games, including the game-winning goal against the Big Green, junior Branden Gracel was tabbed the Tournament MVP. Sophomore Kevin Boyle was named the tournament's Top Goaltender, while senior Eddie Olczyk also earned a spot on the all-tournament team.

Several media outlets had coverage of the tournament:

MassLive: UMass upsets No. 8 Dartmouth to win Ledyard National Bank Classic
Valley News: UMass Bludgeons Dartmouth
College Hockey News: The Takeaway: UMass Takes Home Ledyard Bank Classic
Daily Collegian: UMass overcomes penalties to win Ledyard National Bank Classic title
College Hockey News: The Takeaway: UMass Holds on for 4-3 Win Over Bemidji
Mass Live: UMass advances to Ledyard Bank Classic final with 4-3 win over Bemidji

Also, check out the highlights from both games:

MBB Gameday Previews: at Miami (Ohio), 1/2/13

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Happy New Year everyone. Today the Minutemen will face Miami University at Millett Hall - a place the RedHawks are 4-0 in this season. They like to press full court and run and trap in the halfcourt so this could be a very fast ballgame. Its also the final regular-season non-conference road game this season, meaning you can catch the team back at the Mullins Center this Saturday against Eastern Michigan.


We've also got this video from practice last night of Chaz Williams throwing the ball from the top of the Millett Hall concourse to Raphiael Putney who reverse slams it home.


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