UMass hockey seniors Darren Rowe and Rocco Carzo, who each signed ECHL contracts last week, both enjoyed great opening weekends of their pro careers.
On Saturday, Carzo scored two shorthanded goals in a 2:37 span to help lead the Florida Everblades to a 5-1 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones, a victory that clinched a berth in the ECHL playoffs for the Everblades for the 15th consecutive season. Playing in just his second professional game, Carzo finished the night with three points (2g, 1a), including the game-winning goal, was a +3 and was named the game's No. 1 star.
Former UMass hockey players Matt Irwin and Casey Wellman were both recalled by their respective NHL clubs today. Irwin will rejoin the San Jose Sharks after playing nine games with the Sharks at the start of the season.
The Bud Light UMass Hockey Show travels to Northampton tonight and will be broadcast from Fitzwilly's at 7 p.m. The show airs live on WHMP (AM 1400/1240/FM 96.9), which is also available streaming online and via the TuneIn app.
Tonight's show will feature player guests senior Eddie Olczyk and junior Conor Sheary who will join UMass assistant coach Joey Gasparini along with Brock HInes and Adam Frenier.
The Bud Light UMass Hockey Show returns to The Hangar Pub and Grill tonight at 7 p.m. and will air live on WHMP (AM 1400/1240/FM 96.9), which is also available streaming online and via the TuneIn app.
Tonight's show will feature player guests senior co-captain Kevin Czepiel and junior Michael Pereira as well as a recap of last Friday's win over #11/9 Boston University and a preview of this weekend's games vs. Northeastern and #20 Merrimack.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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:
The UMass hockey team split its pair of games against Northeastern over the weekend, bouncing back from a tough 1-0 loss on Friday with a 6-3 triumph against the Huskies on the road on Saturday, the highest scoring output of the year and the most goals against a Hockey East foe in two seasons' time.
The UMass hockey team returns to action tonight with a game at Maine at 7 p.m. and will also host UMass Lowell this Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Mullins Center. Coming off a 4-0 win over Providence last weekend, the Minutemen will be looking to move up in the Hockey East Standings.
Congratulations to the Minutemen on their win over Providence on Friday night, which saw sophomore netminder Kevin Boyle earn his first career shutout and junior Michael Pereira post a three-point effort.
Another UMass hockey piece from Richard Murray for Hockey'sFuture.com, here is Murray's feature on sophomore goaltender Kevin Boyle:
After a successful showing at the New York Islanders development camp this past summer, University of Massachusetts goalie Kevin Boyle is ready to take the reigns as the starting goaltender for the Minutemen again.
Last season former UMass coach Don "Toot" Cahoon split the playing time of his goalies pretty evenly, but towards the end of the season there was a transition to Boyle as he led the goalies in games played with 21 games. Cahoon also started Boyle for both of UMass' Hockey East playoff games at Boston College.
Last season, Boyle finished with a record of 8-7-4, a 3.00 goals-against average, and a .895 save percentage. Although his numbers may not look too impressive, his stats don't tell the whole story of his season, especially since UMass was a very inexperienced team. The UMass defensive corps was made up of all freshmen and sophomores with the exception of senior, Michael Marcou.
"Not many freshman goalies can go into the top ranked teams arena and beat them, like [Boyle] did last year against BU, " former UMass goalie Kevin Moore said.
"I can't think back to a game he didn't give us a chance to win. I think him getting [invited] to the Islanders camp reflected that. Having a sub .900 save percentage you wouldn't always think he had a great year, but if he is getting invited to a prospect camp like that the scouts must be noticing something."
Richard Murray recently paid a visit to campus to talk some UMass hockey to feature several players on Hockey'sFuture.com, including this piece on junior defensman Joel Hanley.
Despite flying under the radar at times, Joel Hanley participated in the Columbus Blue Jackets' development camp this past summer, and he now looks to anchor the University of Massachusetts blue line this season.
Last season, Hanley scored seven goals and added 18 assists; he led all UMass defensemen in scoring with 25 points. So far this season, Hanley, has a goal and an assist in four gamesof play.
Hanley, a junior, has often flown under the radar because he is a smaller defensemen, standing at 6 feet tall. Although, not always being in the spotlight has also been a benefit because it has allowed him to just focus on playing his game.
"As a smaller defenseman people overlook you, and they don't think you have the physical strength or size," Hanley said. "You have to take it into account, but it is nice to be a little underrated sometimes. When the spotlight isn't on you all the time you can just do your thing out there."
At his smaller stature, Hanley has modeled his game around other, shorter offensive styled defenseman in the NHL like Mike Green.
"Green is a smaller offensive defensemen, and there are a lot of things I try to take out of his game," Hanley said. "I like his offensive ability, especially how he sees the game so well."
Hanley's vision on the ice is actually something that new UMass coach John Micheletto has noticed right away.
"I think he has a real good vision for the game, and he has an idea of what to do with the puck," Micheletto said. "One of his best assets is being able to see the big picture. While other players might only see one option, he can sort through his options quickly and still make the appropriate decision."
Nick Canelas profiled UMass Hockey co-captain Rocco Carzo for the Daily Collegian:
Rocco Carzo had a simple message for his teammates before his first game as co-captain of the Massachusetts hockey team against defending national champion BostonCollege on Oct. 19.
"Just keep it calm," he said, "keep it on the ice."
No one embraced that message more than the senior forward, who went out and scored two goals in the Minutemen's 5-4 loss in overtime to the No.3 Eagles, marking the first multi-goal game of his collegiate career.
And while Carzo's goals made for quite the accomplishment that night, he was more excited that he helped put his team up, 3-0, against one of the top teams in the nation at the time.
"It's exciting. I wanted to start off good as captain, but the feeling that we were up 3-0 on the No. 3 team was even better," Carzo said. "It's better than the goals. It's helping out the team that's best."
The Republican's Harry Plumer featured Steven Guzzo and Branden Gracel this week, two members of UMass' top point-producing line through the first two games of the season:
They became friends because they couldn't get Tim Horton's before practice anymore.
At least, that's part of the reason, according to Branden Gracel.
Gracel and Steven Guzzo, two Canadians who found their way to the University of Massachusetts hockey team, began bonding over their shared experiences when they arrived in Amherst three years ago.
Last season, they were roommates in North Apartments. This season, they no longer share living space, but something more important: Ice time.
The duo finds itself on a line together with captain Rocco Carzo, and the chemistry has been immediate -- the combination has accounted for four of the Minutemen's five even strength goals.
It wasn't a natural fit, though. Gracel, born and raised in Calgary, and Guzzo a, Toronto-area native, had both been centers for their first their three years at UMass. But Micheletto needed instant bonds, and instead of letting positions get in the way, he moved Gracel to wing.
"Ultimately what you're trying to find is guys that have some sort of chemistry together," Micheletto said. "It appears that that's been the case."
Richard Murray recently featured UMass junior Conor Sheary on Hockeysfuture.com:
Conor Sheary had a breakout season last year for the University of Massachusetts hockey team. But with a new coach and system in place, he could be poised to have another big season for the Minutemen.
Sheary is the leading scorer of returning Minutemen players. In 35 games last season, Sheary scored 12 goals and had 23 assists. He was only one point shy of being a point-per-game player.
"You always want to improve from the year before, so obviously coming back I want to do better than I did last season," Sheary said. "Whether it is point wise, leadership wise, or team wise I just want to improve."
New UMass hockey coach John Micheletto has implemented a new system that is designed to benefit a player with Sheary's abilities.
"[The system] benefits his style of play," Micheletto said. "He has great explosive quickness, and he can separate himself from defensive players. He also has an incredibly quick release, so he has natural elements in his game that we want."
First-year UMass head coach John Micheletto is featured in this month's New England Hockey Journal:
A Dartmouth College and Milton Academy graduate, Micheletto comes to UMass with a history of working with programs trying to build. He was an assistant on the Union staff when Kevin Sneddon arrived as head coach in 1998, and though Micheletto left before Sneddon got that program into better shape, he helped put building blocks in place that pulled the Dutchmen out of the ECAC cellar.
Micheletto went from Union to Notre Dame, serving as an assistant under Dave Poulin for four years as the Irish steadily improved into a contender.
Before college hockey, Micheletto spent five years at The Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., and as the head coach reversed the team's fortunes in his first year, taking the Rams from a 4-17 record in 1991 to a 14-7 mark in 1992.
At Vermont, Micheletto was reunited with Sneddon in 2003 and served as his top recruiter, also running the Catamounts' power play and being promoted to associate head coach in 2006, helping push the Catamounts to appearances in the 2008 Hockey East final and 2009 Frozen Four.
H.T. Lenz, a UVM junior this year and the Catamounts captain, called Micheletto "knowledgeable about all aspects of the game.
Earlier this week, TSN featured former Minuteman Mike Kostka who is coming off a Calder Cup-winning season with the Norfolk Admirals and is now with the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization.
Mike Kostka realizes that his ambitions are not particularly unique as it pertains to the game of hockey.
"I've still never played in the NHL," said Kostka, an engaging personality born in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke and raised in not-so-distant Ajax. "It's still a dream of mine, that's still my goal."
The now 26-year-old defender was on the cusp in the Sunshine State last fall, among the final cuts at training camp for the Florida Panthers. "They were like 'Yeah you did a great job, you outplayed some of our D that we have here, but they're on one-way [contracts]'. They're like 'Go down, you'll get called up, you'll get a ton of games, don't worry about it'. And then in two months I was traded."
He eventually landed with the Norfolk Admirals, the American League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, a club whose dominance last season included not only a Calder Cup - defeating the Toronto Marlies no less - but a ridiculous 29-game winning streak.
Undrafted out of the University of Massachussetts-Amherst, Kostka might just be your prototypical late blooming defenceman. The shaggy-haired local product began his pro career with two inconsistent seasons in Portland before breaking out in full offensive force with Rochester in 2010-2011, blasting 16 goals and 55 points from the blueline. While not quite as strong statistically last season - he ranked 15th among defencemen in the regular season - Kostka wrapped up the American League post-season in superb form, totalling more points than any other defender.
Congratulations to John Micheletto for earning his first head coaching victory as the UMass hockey team defeated Connecticut, 4-1, last night in front of a record-breaking crowd at the Mullins Center. The 7,123 attendance figure was the largest turnout for a home opener in program history.
College Hockey News released its team-by-team preview yesterday. Here is the UMass portion:
Head Coach: John Micheletto
2011-12 Record: 13-18-5, 9-14-4 Hockey East (8th)
Who's Back: Jr. F Mike Pereira (17-17-34), Jr. F Conor Sheary (12-23-35), Jr. F Branden Gracel (7-14-21) Jr. D Joel Hanley (7-18-25), Jr. Conor Allen (7-7-14), Soph. G Kevin Boyle (8-7-4, 3.00, .895)
2012-13 Outlook: Again this season, the story of the Minutemen is their junior class. With a deep and wide talent breadth, this group forms the nucleus from all four sets of forwards to the blue line.
John Micheletto begins his first season as coach after Don "Toot" Cahoon retired over the summer. Having seen this primary core of Minutemen three times a year for the past two seasons, the UMass coach had an impression of his new team before even stepping on campus.
"I've always been impressed with their speed and their work ethic," Micheletto said. "Those things continue to impress me. You never know how coachable or receptive guys are going to be when you're on the outside. That's one thing that's really struck me. Their sponges. They're wide-eyed. They're assimilating information into their everyday work habits. Those things are good to see. I shouldn't be surprised, because I've always admired their work ethic. To see it first hand has been great, but you never really know until you're there."
With the season opener just one week away, College Hockey News has rolled out its season preview coverage, which includes a Q&A with UMass head coach John Micheleletto.
John Micheletto spent the last nine seasons at Vermont as recruiting coordinator and an assistant coach to Kevin Sneddon. In his time, he helped the Catamounts in their transition to Hockey East in the 2005-06 season, while overseeing NCAA Tournament teams. Now, he takes over Massachusetts, his first collegiate head coaching job. Micheletto brings with him former Vermont player and assistant Joey Gasparini, while inheriting Len Quesnelle from former coach Don "Toot" Cahoon's staff. Quesnelle is entering his ninth season as an assistant coach for the Minutemen.
The 46-year-old Micheletto takes over at UMass after Cahoon stepped down this summer following 12 seasons in Amherst. Micheletto inherits a team that went 13-18-5 last season, good for eighth in Hockey East. But with only three seniors on the squad and four losing seasons in its last five, UMass is picked to finish ninth in the preseason polls.
In his time at Vermont, 12 different Catamounts were drafted to the NHL, including Viktor Stalberg of the Chicago Blackhawks. Micheletto was also an integral part of the Catamounts' appearance in the 2009 Frozen Four. Prior to Vermont, Micheletto also served as an assistant at Union and Notre Dame.
The USCHO.com preseason Division I Men's Poll, which was released this afternoon, included UMass as the eighth team receiving votes outside of the top-20. The Minutemen, who will embark upon their first season under head coach John Micheletto on Oct. 12 vs. Connecticut, garnered 13 votes.
The USCHO.com Poll consists of 50 voters, including 28 coaches from the Division I conferences and 22 beat writers and sports professionals from across the country. The poll, published weekly by the Associated Press, is a production of USCHO.com, which
provides in-depth coverage of college hockey.
With Hockey East Media Day taking place yesterday afternoon at the TD Garden in Boston, both the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Springfield Republican had coverage of the event. The preseason coaches poll was also announced, with the Minutemen selected ninth.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette caught up with UMass hockey head coach John Micheletto last week:
The University of Massachusetts hockey players had planned to return to campus early even before this summer's unexpected coaching change.
After two back-to-back difficult years, the Minutemen wanted to get an early start on the 2012-13 season and everyone agreed to show up early to begin preparing for what they hope will be a turn-around year.
But their mid-August arrival proved even more fortuitous for coach John Micheletto, the former Vermont assistant who was hired last month to replace Toot Cahoon, who retired this summer.
"It showed a real nice commitment and for me, rather than only knowing them from watching them from the opposing bench or talking to them on the phone, it's nice to have them around to develop a relationship that's a little more than just a phone call here and there," he said Wednesday. "Now the freshmen will start trickling in so it will be a smaller group that I have to develop a rapport with."
The rarity of a summer coaching change forced Micheletto to cram five months of tasks into less than two. But the first-time head coach is eagerly embracing the task.
And don't forget, this Saturday is the home-opener for football. Indiana of the Big Ten Conference will mark the first FBS program to visit Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is at 3:30 with lots of activities in MinuteFan Park beforehand.
Harry Plumer of the Springfield Republican caught up with hockey head coach John Micheletto yesterday to talk about his first week on the job at UMass:
John Micheletto hasn't even had a chance to clean his new office.
But he was working on that Monday morning, among other things, on his first full day in the Mullins Center as UMass hockey's new head coach.
"I'm rearranging a little furniture," Micheletto said by phone. "Dusting and cleaning ... it's a nice little setup here."
The first week after accepting a new job is a stressful one for a coach, with time split between the start of a new job and the logistics of leaving the old one. Putting items in storage, getting a "For Sale" sign in the lawn of the old place and finding a new one to call home all take time and effort out of what a new coach really wants to be doing: Figuring out his first steps in taking over a program.
The cover story of this month's New England Hockey Journal is a fantastic piece on UMass hockey's own Jonathan Quick:
For those of us in New England, when Jonathan Quick received the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs on the night of June 11 -- right before he and the Kings took turns lifting the Stanley Cup high above their heads -- he became the latest local boy to make good. Really good, in fact.
After Tim Thomas wrapped up his magical playoff run with the Bruins in 2011, we thought no goaltender could ever come close to replicating such a spectacular postseason. Just one year later, folks are saying the same thing about Quick.
The Hamden, Conn., native carried the eighth-seeded Kings to glory, going 16-4 during a playoff run that saw Los Angeles bulldoze over the top three seeds in the Western Conference before dispatching the New Jersey Devils in six games in the Stanley Cup finals.
For those of us who fulfill our duty of rooting for our fellow natives of this region, it's not just Quick's dominance that makes his story such a special one. We've seen countless New Englanders shine on the big stage in every major sport. When it comes to hockey, hardly a year goes by that a Hockey East alumnus isn't playing an integral role for the eventual Stanley Cup champion.
But upon further examination, those Hockey East products who have won it all have long come from the teams that rarely budge from the upper echelon of the league. While the likes of Boston College, Boston University and, to a lesser extent, Maine and New Hampshire have been mass-producing future NHLers for decades now, the University of Massachusetts never had had a Stanley Cup champion or certainly a bona fide NHL superstar to call its own until 2012.
The Associated Press had a great piece on UMass hockey senior Eddie Olczyk and his brother Tommy, who both attended Carolina Hurricanes' rookie conditioning camp last week:
The Carolina Hurricanes have reunited another set of brothers - and this time it's not the Staals.
College players Tommy and Eddie Olczyk, sons of former NHL player and coach Ed Olczyk, are getting their first on-ice taste of the NHL this week during the Hurricanes' rookie conditioning camp.
And in a remarkable coincidence, the Olczyks' reunion came less than a week after the Hurricanes brought the Staals together, trading for center Jordan Staal, the younger brother of team captain Eric.
"Any (time) brothers get a chance to play together, it's something that drives them," Tommy Olczyk said. "It's something that excites them."
Eddie is 23 and a senior at the University of Massachusetts, while 21-year-old Tommy will be a sophomore at Penn State - and is the spitting image of his father. They haven't played together since they spent half the 2007-08 season on the same junior team in Sioux City.
"Any time we have a chance to, whether it's in the summertime or at an opportunity like this, it's great," Eddie Olczyk said.
After spending one season with the UMass hockey program, assistant coach Blaise MacDonald has been hired as the new head coach for the men's hockey program at Colby College.
From Colby College's release:
Blaise MacDonald, who has Division I head coaching experience and has won national championships as a player and an assistant coach, was named Friday as the new head coach of men's hockey at Colby College.
MacDonald is the former head coach of Niagara University and University of Massachusetts at Lowell. He helped Boston University to a national championship at the NCAA Frozen Four in 1995 as an assistant coach. MacDonald, a 1985 graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, led RIT to NCAA Division II titles in 1983 and 1985.
"I am thrilled to welcome Blaise MacDonald and his family into the Colby family," said Marcella Zalot, Colby's Harold Alfond Director of Athletics. "Blaise is a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience in building high-caliber programs. He will be a great addition to our staff and to the greater Colby community. I look forward to great success under Blaise's leadership."
The Billerica, Mass., native was recruited by Colby as a high school student-athlete, but had never been on campus until his job interview.
"What a tremendous community and a beautiful campus," MacDonald said. "The people that I met were so genuine, authentic, and caring."
MacDonald is the 18th head coach in program history since men's hockey was started at Colby in the 1922-23 academic year.
"It's very humbling to me to know that someone like Jack Kelley was the head coach at Colby," MacDonald said. "Then you have Charlie Holt and more recently Jim Tortorella. I've known Jim for a long, long time and his values and beliefs (in coaching) are a very succinct match with what I believe in."
Today NHL.com has a great story about Jonathan Quick and former UMass goaltending coach Jim Stewart:
Following an All-America playing career at Holy Cross that resulted in a single game with the Boston Bruins and more than 20 years mentoring college goaltenders, 2006 was going to be Jim Stewart's farewell to hockey.
Stewart earned a 1985 national championship coaching Darren Puppa and Adam Oates at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before spending five years as a volunteer assistant at the University of Massachusetts. He was leaving the game to focus more on his family. But all of a sudden, a young goaltending prospect named Jonathan Quick compelled Stewart to stick around for one final season.
"My wife gave me the blessing for one more year and I said, 'You know what? Jon's going to be a sophomore, he's going to play a lot. We'll certainly be better,'" said Stewart, who simultaneously worked for the state's Department of Recreation and Conservation managing Massachusetts' hockey rinks and swimming pools. "It was hard to juggle all these things. We managed to do it for some time, but I was getting run down. I basically said I would do one more year because I thought Jon was going to have a pretty good year, and he did. Then I wrapped it up."
Under Stewart and UMass head coach Don "Toot" Cahoon, Quick didn't just have a pretty good year in 2006-07. He had a historic season for a program that was shelved in 1979 before returning to Division I in 1993. As a sophomore, the star goaltender from Milford, Conn., took the team to the NCAA tournament for the first time, earning All-America honors and setting single-season records for wins, appearances, saves and minutes, as well as career marks for save percentage, goals-against average and saves per game.
Stewart's final season became one of his most memorable.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a story on the success of Jonathan Quick and Victor Cruz and their meteoric rise to sports fame this year.
On Friday, Victor Cruz wore a maroon tie on his trip to the White House, a silent nod to the prominent color of his college (University of Massachusetts) and high school (Paterson Catholic) alma maters. Three days later, shortly after hoisting the Conn Smythe Trophy, Jonathan Quick thanked UMass coach Toot Cahoon and the Minuteman program during a televised interview.
It's continued to be a good year for the UMass athletic department. Even after the Minuteman baseball team was eliminated from the Atlantic 10 tournament, ending the 2011-12 athletic season, its prominent former players are keeping the school's name in the news in good ways.
UMass has had alumni shine in the ranks of the four major professional sports before. Mike Flanagan won a Cy Young Award. Jeff Reardon was, at one point, baseball's all-time leader in saves. Marcus Camby was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
But none of them captured the attention of their fan bases like Quick and Cruz. In the nation's two largest media markets, the two former Minutemen not only found the spotlight, but have shined in its glare.
While Jonathan Quick prepares to help the L.A. Kings close out the Stanley Cup Finals, another UMass alum has put his team on the brink of a championship. Mike Kostka scored the overtime game-winning goal for the Norfolk Admirals last night in Game Three of the Calder Cup Finals against the Toronto Marlies. The Admirals hold a 3-0 lead in the series which they can close out on Saturday at 3:30 PM in Toronto. Kostka would be the first Minuteman since Matt Anderson with the Chicago Wolves in 2007-08 to win the Calder Cup. All told, over the last five years, three different former Minutemen have played in the AHL's championship series with Casey Wellman leading the Houston Aeros to the Cup finals last year.
Former UMass netminder Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings came up just short of the New Jersey Devils in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Finals last night. Quick had 21 saves in the 3-1 setback. The teams will head back to New Jersey for Game Five on Saturday with the Kings up 3-1 in the series.
Here are several pieces from the past few days that have focused on Quick:
Congratulations to UMass' own Jonathan Quick who helped the No. 8-seed Los Angeles push No. 1 Vancouver to the brink of elimination with a 1-0 shutout of the Canucks in game three last night. Quick has stopped 111 out of 115 shots in the series, which resumes Thursday night in Los Angeles.
UMass' Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings begin their quest for the Stanley Cup tomorrow night as the squad's first round series with Vancouver opens up on Wednesday night.
From Fox Sports West:
Is this the season in which the Kings' Jonathan Quick can break through and become an elite goalie?
In the eyes of his coach, Darryl Sutter, that status is only reached in the playoffs, and in his two playoff series with the Kings, Quick has a 4-8 record in first-round losses to Vancouver and San Jose.
Sutter -- who in previous stops coached top goalies such as Chicago's Ed Belfour and Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff -- has been public in his challenges of Quick, who is widely favored to be one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy this season.
Sutter even name-dropped San Jose's Antti Niemi, whose numbers weren't nearly as strong as Quick's this season, in comparison.
"San Jose has a goaltender that has won a Stanley Cup," Sutter said. "He quietly goes about his business and doesn't get much credit, just criticism. And we have one that gets a lot of credit."
Does that mean, Sutter was asked, that Quick gets too much credit from the media?
"I'm not getting into that, because I know what happens when you answer those questions," Sutter said. "You have to prove it, right? That's what it's about."
Quick now gets a chance at revenge against Vancouver, the team that eliminated the Kings in the first round two years ago.
For the third straight season, there is a Marcou in the American Hockey League, although this one is not playing for the Sharks.
James Marcou's younger brother, Mike, signed an amateur tryout agreement with Oklahoma City and has already gotten into a game. The Marcou brothers were teammates at UMass until James turned pro at the end of the 2009-10 season.
James said his brother called him to talk things over before his AHL debut. "He was a little nervous," James added.
The Marcous have never played against each other in a high-level game. That could happen next year, or they could be on the same team again. James' season is over -- it never even started, actually -- due to a concussion, although he said he is symptom free.
"I wanted to play last week," he said, "but the Sharks said I'd be better off just shutting it down and starting up next year."
Where that will be is another question, since Marcou's contract is up.
"I'll find somewhere to play," he said, "even if it's not back here."
The Los Angeles Kings might win their second division title in franchise history this week, or they still might miss the playoffs.
Although a gritty win over the Edmonton Oilers did little to clear up their fate, the Kings are cautiously confident they can hang on to first place as long as Jonathan Quick is guarding their net.
Quick made 19 saves in his NHL-leading 10th shutout, Slava Voynov scored in the opening minute of the third period and the Kings moved closer to the Pacific Division crown with a 2-0 victory Monday night.
Dwight King also scored with 2:32 to play for the Kings, who began a frantic final week in the Pacific by earning their 93rd point and opening a two-point lead over Phoenix (91), which sits seventh in the Western Conference.
San Jose (90) and Dallas (89) also are in an impossibly tight race for only three playoff spots. The Kings began the day in first only on a deep tiebreaker with Phoenix, and they have no intention of celebrating anything just yet.
"It doesn't matter what our points are," said Quick, who has 24 career NHL shutouts. "We're not in yet. It doesn't matter where anybody is in the standings. We've got two games left, and we've got to get points."
Los Angeles, which has won nine of 12, could clinch its first division title in 21 years with two regulation wins over San Jose in a home-and-home series starting Thursday -- or everything still could go wrong. After their fifth game in eight days, the Kings are simply grateful they can take a day off to prepare for that last push.
New Barons defenseman Mike Marcou talks about his American Hockey League debut, playing at Fenway Park and his preference in pre-game candy. Marcou signed an amateur tryout contract with Oklahoma City and made his professional debut March 30 at Milwaukee after finishing his senior season at UMass. He will likely play his first game in Oklahoma City at 7 p.m. Tuesday when the Barons host the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Cox Center.
Dick Baker has his weekly "UMass hockey: A Baker's Dozen of thoughts for the week" up on MassLive today, primarily focusing on the Minutemen's Hockey East Quarterfinals best-of-three, which begins tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Conte Forum.
The University of Massachusetts hockey team doesn't feel like a heavy underdog.
Sure, the Minutemen are the No. 8 seed in the Hockey East tournament and Boston College is not only the No. 1 seed but the No. 1 team in the nation heading into today's best-of-three series opener at 7:30 p.m.
But UMass (13-16-5) won the season series with the Eagles 2-1, including once when BC (25-10-1) was ranked No. 1.
Game two is Saturday at 7 p.m. If necessary, game three is Sunday at 7 p.m. All three are at Conte Forum.
"When we bring our best we're just as good as any other team in this country," UMass senior forward T.J. Syner said. "We proved that against them earlier in the season. It's bringing it on a consistent basis. There's no more important time to bring it than this weekend. .... They're not going to take us lightly just because we're the No. 8 seed. The fact that we beat them twice is in the back of their mind."
Beating the Eagles twice during the regular season and winning a tournament series against them are two different things.
"That's definitely a confidence booster for us knowing that we did beat BC twice during the regular season," senior Danny Hobbs said. "But playoffs is a different type of game atmosphere."
Today on MassLive, Dick Baker has a feature on UMass senior forward, Springfield native, T.J. Syner and his cousin Barry Almeida of Boston College, who will be squaring off in the Hockey East Quarterfinals this weekend as the Minutemen face the No. 1 Eagles.
Syner has rewarded UMass hockey fans the past four years with his breakaway speed. He has 96 career points, and a chance to become only the 10th player in the history of the program to reach the century mark.
In the regular season finale at Merrimack, Syner made a highlight film solo rush , weaving and then splitting thrugh the defense for a shorthanded goal with six seconds remaining in the first period.
"Last year, he had a goal against Minnesota that was very similar," UMass coach Toot Cahoon said. "It wasn't shorthanded, but it just took the 11,000 people at that game right out of their seats. It was the same type of play where you just say - Wow that looks like Kharlamov (Valeri, former Soviet superstar). You just don't see too many do that. I can think of some guys - Corey Millen, (Paul) Kariya. Very special athletes make a play like that."
The Minutemen will need big plays to upset the Eagles. BC has won 11 straight games, and has beaten UMass 10 straight times at Conte Forum, including 2-0 sweeps the past two years in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
UMass split its weekend against New Hampshire taking a tough 4-3 loss on Friday night before bouncing back for a 4-2 win on Saturday. With the win and a Northeastern loss, UMass remains tied for 8th place in the league standings and holds a critical tie-breaker against the Huskies entering the final regular-season weekend.
Check out this feature on former Minuteman Jonathan Quick from The Fourth Period Magazine:
Next time you're at a casino, here's a reason to play the long shot and put a few dollars down on 32 on the roulette wheel.
Emerging from the nuclear winter that was the NHL lockout, the league conducted their first Entry Draft a few weeks after returning to normalcy in Canada's national capital of Ottawa, Ontario.
Unlike the usual custom of showcasing the restocking of the NHL shelves, the draft was conducted out of the public's purview at the Westin Hotel; ironically the same venue where an international media gathering interviewed some of the same selections six and a half years later about their All Star weekend experience.
Though 2005 was the year Sidney Crosby matriculated to the NHL, other than his pre-determined selection there was zero fanfare that accompanied other first round selections like Bobby Ryan and Anze Kopitar. The latter was likely the finest selection of then-GM Dave Taylor's career, a wunderkind out of Slovenia, not Slovakia or Czechoslovakia.
Kopitar had the benefit of playing two seasons in the Swedish Elite League and although he came from a small country without a hockey legacy, he arrived on the Pacific shores already a man and showed it in his first rookie and then NHL training camp. Anze never spent a day in the North American minor leagues and has become a two time All Star and a vital cog in the Kings' championship hopes.
When one scrolls down the list of Los Angeles selections post-Kopitar that year, the record wasn't pretty. There's T.J. Fast and Dany Roussin, best known for scoring a bushel full of goals on Crosby's line for the Rimouski Quebec junior major team. Roussin's failure at the highest level of hockey is a minor footnote to number 87's greatness and furthers the argument that I could pot double digit markers on if placed on his flank.
With his fourth pick in the third round, Taylor selected a player that shows although the Kings Hall of Famer may have had challenges building an organization, his eye for talent is among the keenest in the game.
At the time, Jonathan Quick was a record setting prep goaltender for Old Avon Farms School in his native Connecticut. His record was a sterling 47-3 over two seasons with his senior season being the finest. He fashioned nine shutouts in combination with a 1.14 goals-against-average and .956 save percentage with the goose egg total still a New England prep record.
Quick declined to go the professional route, preferring to enroll at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, at last check not one of the Boston area powerhouses among NCAA's sextet. Continuing the credo of low fanfare, high performance, Quick led the Minutemen to their first NCAA Ice Hockey Championship appearance in 2006 in his sophomore season. His first NCAA tournament appearance was a shutout victory over Clarkson, a 33 save affair and while a championship was too daunting a task given the lack of top talent on the team, Quick departed Amherst as the holder of numerous records that still stand.
While those numbers were impressive, to say that his future professional employers were impressed would be a bigger stretch than one of Quick's own acrobatic saves.
Read the entire feature here.
Dick Baker of the Springfield Republican has a look around Hockey East which includes a mention of Michael Pereira being named the Hockey East Player of the Week after scoring his second hat trick of the season against Providence after scoring a goal and an assist in the win over No. 1 Boston University.
Dick Baker has his weekly "UMass hockey: A Baker's Dozen of thoughts for the week" on MassLive.com today.
Among the mentions is that Toot Cahoon was a three-peat Beanpot winner as a player for Boston University. Cahoon appeared in three Beanpots, and the Terriers won all three. In 1970, they beat BC 5-4 to win the Beanpot final, and took Harvard by identical scores the next two years.
Former UMass hockey standout Casey Wellman, who was traded by the Minnesota Wild last Thursday to the New York Rangers, is featured today by his new team, the Connecticut Whale, on the squad's web site, CTWhale.com
Casey Wellman played several sports growing up in Brentwood, Calif., hardly a hotbed for hockey.
But Wellman got hooked on the game played on ice after his father, Brad, met several New Jersey Devils players who asked him to skate with them in Boston.
"Dad didn't know how to skate, so he was pretty upset about that," Wellman said with a smile.
But Brad, an infielder for 441 games for three major league teams over eight seasons who later managed in the Houston Astros organization, introduced Casey and his brother, Logan, to hockey, and 31/2-year-old Casey fell in love with his new endeavor.
"I have some vague memories (of his dad playing), but I was pretty young," said Wellman, whose uncle, Tom Candiotti, is a former major league pitcher known for his knuckleball. "Having pictures of a father-son game is pretty cool, but I haven't played baseball for a while. It's a great sport, but at the time, it was just a little slow, a little boring, so I stuck with hockey."
Despite his West Coast upbringing, Wellman is now surprisingly playing professionally with the Connecticut Whale, who are about 70 miles from where he competed collegiately on the East Coast. When Wellman was on his way to practice with the Houston Aeros last Thursday, he got "a pretty big surprise," a call that the Minnesota Wild had traded him to the New York Rangers.
"It was definitely pretty crazy, a bit of a shock," said Wellman, 24, acquired for center Erik Christensen, who had a two-week conditioning assignment with the Whale in mid-January, and a conditional seventh-round pick in 2013. "It was tough to say goodbye because I had some good friends (in Houston), but that's the business and that's what can happen and probably won't be the last time."
Wellman quickly returned home, packed and headed for Hershey, Pa., where he met his new teammates. Whale coach Ken Gernander put Wellman on a line with All-Star Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and rugged Andre Deveaux, and the trio helped produce a 4-1 victory over one of the AHL's top teams, including going 5-for-5 on the penalty kill against the league's top power play.
In his home debut Tuesday night, Wellman again helped on the penalty kill, played the power play and assisted on Blake Parlett's winning goal in a 3-1 victory over the Syracuse Crunch as the Whale won their third in a row after an 11-game winless streak (0-6-3-2) in January to reclaim first place in the Northeast Division from the idle Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Two seasons ago, Jonathan Quick played a franchise-record 72 games for the Kings. Unless Quick plays every game for the rest of this season, he won't match that record, but he might get close.
Quick started his 45th game on Tuesday -- in the Kings' 54th game, a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay -- and coach Darryl Sutter indicated that, as the Kings fight for a playoff spot, Quick will get a lot of work.
The Kings are in seventh place in the Western Conference, with their spot in the postseason far from secure with two months remaining in the regular season. Backup goalie Jonathan Benier has been reliable, for the most part, this season, but Quick has been stellar.
Quick has ranked in the top five in the NHL in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts for almost the entire season.
The Kings have six sets of back-to-back games remaining this season, so Bernier is likely to get some work, but Sutter said he doesn't have a schedule, and Quick is likely to get the vast majority of the work.
"It's the age-old thing about coaches trying to decide when their goalies are going to play," said Sutter, whose team next faces Florida on Thursday. "It's easy to have a plan when you're 10 points free of a (playoff) spot or 10 points out of a spot. Then you can have a plan.
"When you've got a clear-cut No. 1 goalie, and he's fresh and sharp, then he's going to play. You'd like to be the New York Rangers. They have the best goalie in the league right now, the goalie with the best goals-against and save percentage, but he has played fewer minutes than our guy. That's the perfect situation."
Dick Baker of the Springfield Republican has an update on Paul Dainton returning to Springfield last night to make 37 saves in a 4-2 win over Worcester. One of the goals he allowed was against former teammate Matt Irwin who also assisted on the other goal.
Several Minutemen are have written "JABS" on items of their equipment to honor Minnesota High School player Jack Jablonski, who was paralyzed in a game on Dec. 30 after a hit from behind. His injury has spurred an outpouring for support throughout the hockey community with players from every level of the game, including the Minutemen, sending well-wishing messages on Twitter with the hashtag #Jabs.
UMass' sophomore defenseman Anthony Raiola, who attended Minnetonka, a rival of Benilde-St. Margaret's, where Jablonski played, organized the effort.
"I felt like as a Minnesotan and as a hockey player I wanted to make the guys aware of what's going on," said Raiola, who has been Tweeting to him from his @Razor5Guy handle. "We wanted to show him support from out here from some guys he doesn't even know."
Rich Hammond of the L.A. Kings has a feature on Jonathan Quick as he prepares to play in his first career All-Star game which is this Sunday. Coverage of the All-Star weekend begins tonight at 5 PM on the NHL Network. Sunday's All-Star Game will be televised at 4 PM on the NBC Sports Network (formerly VS).
Scott Cournoyer of the Daily Collegian has a look at the start of the second half of the 2011-12 season with the UMass hockey team riding a three-game winning streak heading into this weekend's home-and-home series with No. 11 UMass Lowell.
Behind a hat trick from Danny Hobbs and another 35 save effort from Steve Mastalerz, the UMass hockey team defeated Vermont 4-3 to stay perfect at home this season and took its second season series from a Hockey East opponent.
Dick Baker of the Springfield Republican takes a look at the season of Springfield native T.J. Syner who is one of 77 candidates on the Hobey Baker Award this year. The award honors the top collegiate hockey player.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette looks at the success both the men's basketball team and the hockey team have been having at the Mullins Center this year. The hoops team is 9-0 in the building (10-0 overall at home with a win at The Cage), while the hockey team is 6-0-3 and the only team in the country to be undefeated at home.