Check out the podcast of last night's Bud Light UMass Hockey show, featuring Brock Hines with head coach John Micheletto and player guests senior co-captain Conor Sheary and redshirt freshman Frank Vatrano.
The final Bud Light UMass Hockey Show of the 2013-14 season will air tonight, March 4, live from the Hangar Pub & Grill on University Drive in Amherst at 7 p.m.
Brock Hines will be joined by head coach John Micheletto as well as player guests senior co-captain Conor Sheary and redshirt freshman Frank Vatrano with a look ahead to the Hockey East Tournament, which will open for the Minutemen this Friday night at Vermont.
Dan Malone of the Springfield Republican has a notebook today looking at the announcement of the 2014 UMass football schedule, a preview of the Hockey East playoff game for UMass at Vermont, an update on men's lacrosse moving up in the national polls and an announcement that NBC Sports has added several television games for the Atlantic 10 basketball tournament.
Nick Canelas of the Daily Collegian has a feature story on Frank Vatrano who will be eligible to play for the UMass hockey team this week as the Hockey East Playoffs begin at Vermont. Vatrano had to miss the regular-season due to transfer rules.
"He's a real mellow guy," teammate Michael Pereira said. "He comes off as a quiet and humble and nose-to-the-grindstone type kid. But when he gets down to the rink, he means business."
Notoriously competitive and difficult to play against, Sheary has attracted a lot of attention on the ice lately in what's been an otherwise down year for Massachusetts. He posted an eight-game point streak from Jan. 24 to Feb. 21, totaling five goals and five assists. Over that span, he also strung together a five-game goal streak despite facing two of the top goalies in college hockey, Northeastern's Clay Witt and Massachusetts-Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck, twice each.
"He's just continued to will our team to keep moving forward and stay in games," head coach John Micheletto said. "He's scored some big goals during that stretch."
With UMass hockey entering a bye weekend in the final weekend of the regular season, awaiting its first round playoff opponent, Nick Canelas took a look ahead at the postseason in his column today for the Daily Collegian:
Nick Canelas of the Daily Collegian has an editorial in today's paper saying not to look past the UMass hockey team when the Hockey East Playoffs start up. He says half of the team's losses were by one goal and the addition of Frank Vatrano to the lineup are reasons why UMass can be a scary team in the conference's opening one-game playoff round.
CollegeSpun.com has a quick look at an image tweeted out by NBC Sports today which shows off the back of Jonathan Quick's helmet for the Olympics. It features the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier on the back.
Cameron McDonough of the Daily Collegian has a preview of this weekend's series with Providence. The series will start at Providence on Friday night before returning to the Mullins Center on Saturday night. Prior to Saturday's game, UMass will honor its 2014 Senior Class.
NHL teams returned to practice after their Olympic break ended Wednesday, and with several Washington Capitals still participating at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the Caps found themselves a little thin at forward.
Because of that, Washington recalled centers Michael Latta, Ryan Stoa and Casey Wellman from the AHL's Hershey Bears on Thursday morning.
The puck went in, T.J. Oshie turned and skated back toward the American bench, and before he could cement himself as the early favorite for America's Olympic hero, he stopped and pointed a big gloved finger in the air back towards his own goal, where Jonathan Quick came charging forth.
"We don't get the win without Quickie shutting the door there," Oshie told NBC Saturday, just moments after he went 4-for-6 in the shootout, including five turns in a row, en route to a 3-2 win over the hometown Russians in Sochi.
Yet as Oshie was receiving all the acclaim, his first response was to credit Quick, the Los Angeles Kings netminder who stopped Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin, not just in the shootout but in the hard-fought 65 minutes prior, and gave the first week of games its defining moment.
After being given a game's rest as Team USA wrapped up pool play, former Minuteman Jonathan Quick will be back between the pipes for the U.S. squad on Wednesday against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals at Noon (Eastern) on USA Network.
Several media outlets had coverage of Tuesday's announcement:
Casey Wellman missed two chances to score on Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, but in the same rapid-fire sequence there was another rebound. He finished the job.
The former University of Massachusetts star, who has been traded by three teams, has learned that to be successful in the NHL it sometimes takes a few tries.
Wellman has scored twice for the Washington Capitals since his Jan. 25 callup. Both times, he was on the receiving end of passes from superstar Alex Ovechkin. Wellman's next goal is to prove he should stay.
"I would love for this to be my last stop," Wellman, 26, said after stepping off the ice Tuesday at the Capitals' practice facility. "I'd love to make a spot for myself on this team."
It's probably been barely noticed, but when analyzing the reasons for the 6-15-3 record of the University of Massachusetts hockey team, the strength of its schedule is a contributing factor.
Even including the home loss to American International Jan. 14, the Minutemen's strength of schedule is ranked fifth nationally of all 59 Division I teams. They trail only New Hampshire, with the strongest slate, followed by Minnesota, Notre Dame, and Minnesota-Duluth in the latest Ratings Percentage Index as posted by U.S. College Hockey Online.
Additionally, UMass has played 15 of its 24 games away from the Mullins Center. Its home mark is 3-5-1, but 3-9-1 on the road, and 0-1-1 on neutral ice (UConn Hockey Classic).
"We're never going to make excuses, but we're pretty battled- tested for this time of year," UMass coach John Micheletto said.
The tournaments, the nonconference games and the exhibitions are over.
For the next five weeks, beginning Friday and going until the end of the regular season, the University of Massachusetts will play nine games, all against conference foes, to determine its position in March's Hockey East tournament.
It starts with this weekend's home-and-home series with Merrimack -- Friday at the Mullins Center, Saturday at Lawler Arena in North Andover. Both games are at 7 p.m.
"We've been stressing every time out, no matter who we play, at home or on the road, every league game matters," UMass coach John Micheletto said. "We've tried to create that sense of urgency without creating a sense of panic. The difference is there's nothing but league games mixed in the rest of the way. There's a sprint to the finish line mentality, but I don't know that we're looking at it as any more important or less important than we have with games in the past."
UMass senior co-captain Conor Sheary said the Minutemen will be looking to make a push up the Hockey East standings as they begin their nine-game stretch run with a home-and-home series vs. Merrimack tomorrow in Amherst.
"Well, we've obviously had a few rough patches throughout the season. . . . Right now, we have all league games left, so that's what we're focusing on."
With the Minutemen coming off a bye weekend last weekend before resuming Hockey East play against Merrimack, Nick Canelas takes a look at the team's preparations during the 10-day layoff in today's Daily Collegian.
Cameron McDonough had this preview in today's Daily Collegian ahead of UMass' pair of games against Merrimack this weekend. The Minutemen host the Warriors on Friday before traveling to North Andover for Saturday's matchup.
Dick Baker focused on local product Frank Vatrano in his recap of UMass' 5-2 win in the squad's exhibition matchup against the U.S. Under-18 Team on Sunday:
In computer science, there's a "five-minute rule" for deciding whether a data item should be kept in memory or stored on a disk.
If there was a five-minute rule to determine whether a player should become a distant memory, it would depend on how he handled hockey's version of the disk.
In his first unofficial game with the University of Massachusetts, Frankie Vatrano of East Longmeadow beat that clock by scoring at 4:01 of the first period Sunday to send the Minutemen off to a 5-2 exhibition win over the U.S. National Under-18 squad at the Mullins Center.
Nick Canelas had coverage of UMass' 5-2 exhibition win over the U.S. Under-18 Team on Sunday and the unofficial debut of Frank Vatrano:
It was a day Frank Vatrano has looked forward to all season.
A redshirt freshman on the Massachusetts hockey team, Vatrano is ineligible to play in an official game until the 2014 Hockey East Tournament, but got his first taste of game action on Sunday when the Minutemen hosted the U.S. National Under-18 Team in an exhibition contest.
He made the most of it.
Vatrano scored a power-play goal and assist while playing on UMass' top forward line in a 5-2 win at Mullins Center.
It may have been an ordinary scrimmage for the rest of the Minutemen. But for Vatrano, it was relief. He's practiced with the Minutemen all season, but Sunday marked his first organized game since January 2013, meaning he could finally hit someone in another jersey.
"When you play against your teammates you don't wanna go so hard against them, you don't want to hurt them, but it was great," said Vatrano, who was a former player for the USA. "It felt like a college game to me because I remember when I was in their shoes playing against Michigan, Wisconsin, all those schools."
UMass hockey opens the second half of its season at the UConn Classic tomorrow afternoon in Hartford vs. #8 Quinnipiac. Nick Canelas has a preview:
"The tale of the first half of the Massachusetts hockey team's season could be told in three very unique chapters.
In the first chapter, the Minutemen were an every-other-weekend team over four weeks. They went winless in the first and third weekends of the season, while earning points in both games of the second and fourth weeks. In that time, they got major production from the power play while freshmen Steven Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi quickly emerged as immediate impact players alongside veteran Troy Power on the second line.
The second chapter - the longest of all - was easily the most forgettable of UMass' season thus far. The Minutemen went winless in eight straight games from November into early December, and lost goaltender Steve Mastalerz due to injury for three of those games.
The third is one UMass probably wishes was a little longer. The Minutemen won three of their last four games before the holiday break, including a weekend sweep at Colgate, and got its best penalty killing performance of the season in that stretch."
The Los Angeles Times had this update today on former UMass goaltender Jonathan Quick who has been out of the L.A. Kings' lineup for the past six weeks with a groin injury:
It is not a 100% return to health -- not that any NHL team is ever completely without issues -- but the Kings are inching toward that elusive goal.
On hand Friday in practice for Saturday's game at Nashville were defenseman Willie Mitchell and goalie Jonathan Quick. It is the first trip Quick has taken with his teammates since he suffered a strained groin at Buffalo on Nov. 12. Mitchell suffered an upper-body injury at Ottawa on the Kings' last trip.
Quick's presence is a definite sign of progress, considering Coach Darryl Sutter had indicated recently he did not think Quick would make this trip. General Manager Dean Lombardi said before the holiday break that Quick might be able to return the first week of January.
Matt Vautour talked to defenseman Oleg Yevenko about his trip to Switzerland to play for his native Belarus in the Arosa Cup:
While most of his University of Massachusetts hockey teammates head home for holiday activities and get away from hockey for a few days, junior defenseman Oleg Yevenko will head home to Belarus and compete for his country's national team.
After UMass' loss to Denver on Tuesday, Yevenko flew to Switzerland and will be in uniform for the four-team Arosa Challenge. Belarus will face Slovakia on Friday, and either Switzerland of Norway on Saturday. The event will give the 6-foot-7 defenseman a chance to impress his country's governing body and improve his chances of making the national team that will play in next summer's IIHF World Championship, which Bealrus is hosting in Minsk.
"I'm really excited. It'll be a great experience I think," Yevenko said. "Where I come from, it's the No. 1 sport in my country. With the world championship in my hometown, if I'm able to make the team, that'd be great. My family is really excited, especially my dad, who is a big fan of the national team."
Here's an update on former Minuteman Jonathan Quick and the status of his return to the ice from the Los Angeles Times:
From star goaltender Jonathan Quick to goalie coach Bill Ranford to Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi, the message has been consistent about Quick's recovery from a strained groin.
The Kings are not going to rush the process.
Quick suffered the injury Nov. 12 at Buffalo, a grade two strain. Lombardi said Wednesday afternoon that Quick's return might come during the first week of January.
After Christmas, the Kings leave on a four-game trip that starts Dec. 28 in Nashville and concludes Jan. 2 at St. Louis. Although Quick has been on the ice since last week, and worked with Ranford the last two days, Coach Darryl Sutter did not sound as if the goalie would be accompanying the team on the trip.
"No, until he's full practice ... I thought he'd be closer than he was and we'll just keep going," Sutter said. "... He's got a long ways to go."
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who hasn't played since he strained a groin muscle on Nov. 12, remains on pace to play for the U.S. Olympic team at the Sochi Games.
David Poile, Team USA's general manager, said Thursday he had been told by Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi that Quick is expected to return within a few weeks. That would leave time for him to regain top form before the U.S. opens against Slovakia on Feb. 13. Quick was the third U.S. goalie at the Vancouver Olympics, where the U.S. won a silver medal.
Quick is among several U.S. Olympic hopefuls who are injured; others include Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik (concussion) and New York Rangers forward Ryan Callahan (sprained knee). Poile cited Quick as an example of how Team USA executives will handle those uncertainties.
Nick Canelas previewed UMass' weekend matchups at Colgate this Saturday and Sunday:
The Massachusetts hockey team had little time to relish in its victory over Notre Dame on Saturday - its first win in over a month - because its next big test was only a couple days away.
Final exam week.
It's a particularly stressful time for students. Late nights studying and 10-page papers lead to little sleep over the course of the week, and the only thing keeping them sane is the five-week break that follows.
Student-athletes are no exception, and it has made for a particularly big challenge for UMass coach John Micheletto as his team tries to prepare for its weekend series at Colgate.
The Minutemen held all optional practices this week, and as of Wednesday had yet to have full participation on the ice. But through years as a coach and as an educator, Micheletto knew he had to plan ahead.
"I guess we're just trying to deal with it head on," he said. "My experience over the years is it's gonna be different so you better embrace it and talk about it and understand what the difficulties and obstacles are gonna be. That's how we've dealt with it and are gonna continue to deal with it."
Senior Branden Gracel's goal from UMass' 3-2 win at #13/11 Notre Dame last weekend was selected for the NCAA Hockey Top 5 Plays Of The Week, coming in at #5. The goal is the third by a member of the Minutemen to be tabbed a national Play of the Week this season.
Check out the Plays of the Week, courtesy of NCAA.com:
After missing 24 games with a foot injury, former Minuteman Michael Kostka was back in action for the Blackhawks on Tuesday night and helped Chicago to a 6-2 victory on the road against the Dallas Stars with his first multi-point game of his NHL career, tallying a goal and an assist in the contest. Kostka has three points (2g, 1a) in just three games with the Blackhawks and scored his first NHL goal back on Oct. 19.
Here's video of Kostka's goal last night from NHL.com
Nick Canelas of the Daily Collegian has a story today on UMass hockey's win over No. 11 Notre Dame on Saturday night. Adam Phillips scored the game-winning goal with less that three minutes left in the 3rd period.
Paul Bowker of the Springfield Republican has a recap of hockey's 3-2 win at No. 11 Notre Dame on Saturday night in the second game of the weekend. The Friday/Saturday split was the first-ever meeting between the two schools as Hockey East foes.
The Daily Collegian had a preview and a pair of columns in advance of UMass' Hockey East pair at No. 13/11 Notre Dame this weekend:
The atmosphere was energetic before Massachusetts hockey practice this Tuesday. Music was blaring, players were engaged in highly competitive games of ping-pong and even UMass coach John Micheletto was cracking jokes. It looked like a team ready for a fresh start.
The Minutemen just endured their worst month in the Micheletto era in November. They went 1-6-2 for the month, capped off by a seven-game winless streak that included a 9-0 beatdown at the hands of New Hampshire on home ice Nov. 9 and Saturday's 6-1 loss at Quinnipiac, where they were held to just 10 shots on goal.
But that's in the past now. The calendar has flipped, the Movember mustaches have been shaved off and UMass is looking for a more positive December.
"The start of the new month kind of gives us a fresh page, clear consciences, we got rid of our mustaches, it's a new beginning for us so we gotta leave (November) behind us," senior forward Conor Sheary said.
Matt Vautour had this preview of UMass' first Hockey East games versus Notre Dame in today's Daily Hampshire Gazette:
After going 1-6-2 in November, the University of Massachusetts hockey team is hoping a new month, a new league rival and renewed attention to detail leads to improved results when the Minutemen face Notre Dame for the first time since the Fighting Irish joined Hockey East.
The teams will play Friday at 7:35 p.m. and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Both games are in South Bend, Ind., and on the NBC Sports Network.
Senior Branden Gracel thought the team was getting closer to turning things around.
"Each player tries to simplify their game and get back to basics. A lot of times players will try to do too much and that drags the slump a little bit longer," Gracel said. "If everybody gets back to what they're good at and plays their own game, I think that helps the whole team get out of their slump.
Mark Chiarelli took a look back at goaltender Mac Haight's play last weekend against Boston College while previewing UMass' matchups with Vermont this weekend. The Minutemen host the Catamounts tonight at 7 p.m.
Mac Haight couldn't have ever pictured his first two collegiate starts coming against national power Boston College.
But Haight -- a walk-on freshman goalie who entered the season listed third on the University of Massachusetts hockey depth chart -- quickly found himself saving shots from the likes of Johnny Gaudreau in a pivotal Hockey East series.
It certainly wasn't an enviable situation. Steve Mastalerz, who saved 92.5 percent of shots faced, has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury. Alex Wakaluk, the original backup to Mastalerz, allowed five goals on 10 shots against New Hampshire in a 9-0 loss.
UMass (3-7-2, 1-2-4 Hockey East) coach John Micheletto turned to Haight to steady his team between the pipes.
Haight made 57 saves in two games against the Eagles and allowed just four goals, helping the Minutemen pick up a conference point and establish consistency as it prepares for a weekend series with Vermont (3-5-1, 2-4).
Nick Canelas had this piece in today's Daily Collegian looking ahead to UMass' weekend vs. Vermont and goaltenders Mac Haight and Steve Mastalerz:
Mac Haight's relationship with Steve Mastalerz dates further back than being teammates on the Massachusetts hockey team this season.
According to Haight, the two goaltenders first met six years ago through goalie coach Mike Buckley, who is now the goalie development coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins, when the two were at prep school.
The goalies stayed in contact with one another following that first meeting. Even while Haight was in juniors when Mastalerz was at UMass the last two years, Mastalerz was always there to give advice.
That sort of influence helped him make his decision to join the Minutemen as a recruited walk-on this season.
"It was nice to come in and know someone like Steve to help me out," Haight said. "Because I knew he was gonna help me out through the season and get me into that next level to be ready for college hockey."
On the back of hockey's NLI signing announcement yesterday, Nick Canelas had this piece today on the coaching staff's recruiting efforts:
The Massachusetts men's hockey team had a rare weekend off after their series with Boston College ended on Friday. While the players used it as an opportunity to get some much-needed rest, UMass coach John Micheletto hit the recruiting trail.
Micheletto had little time to digest the Minutemen's hard-fought, 2-2 tie with the Eagles on Friday night. As soon as the team bus returned to Amherst, the second-year coach had his mind set on a 7 a.m. flight out of Hartford, Conn. on Saturday morning.
With practices all week and multiple games during the weekend, it's not often that Micheletto has the chance to do some in-season recruiting. But as a former director of recruiting at Vermont, the experience was certainly nothing new for him.
"It's what you do," Micheletto said. "We gotta take advantage of those weekends. When you're a head coach, you don't get out as much as you used to. So when you're off Saturday and Sunday and you have an opportunity to get somewhere, you gotta take advantage of it."
Be sure to join us tonight at the Hangar Pub & Grill for the Bud Light UMass Hockey Radio Show at 7 PM. Brock Hines will be joined by head coach John Micheletto along with assistant coach Joey Gasparini.
Several media outlets had coverage of UMass hockey's 2-1 loss to #7 Boston College at the Mullins Center last night, including praise of freshman goaltender Mac Haight's performance in his first collegiate start.
The Bud Light UMass Hockey Show returns tonight live from The Hangar Pub and Grill on University Drive in Amherst from 7:00-8:00 p.m. Brock Hines will be joined by head coach John Micheletto as well as player guests sophomore Evan Stack and senior Colin Shea.
Submit a question here or tweet your questions @UMassSportsNet. If you can't make it out to The Hangar, listen live on on WHMP (AM 1400/1240, FM 96.9), online, or on your mobile device via the TuneIn App.
Dan Malone had this preview of UMass hockey's weekend with UNH on MassLive.com, taking a look at the Minutemen coming off a three-point weekend and the Wildcats' early season struggles:
On the outside, the home-and-home series, which opens Friday at the Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H., before returning to the Mullins Center Saturday, is a bit of an anomaly.
The Wildcats, traditionally one of Hockey East's strongest and most consistent teams, were picked in the preseason to finish third in the conference. But after a challenging opening month that's featured matchups with five of the top 16 teams in the nation, including No. 1 Minnesota and No. 2 Michigan twice, New Hampshire's record sits at just 1-5-1 overall and 0-2 in the league.
For UMass coach John Micheletto, it's a strange thing to see. But he knew better than to judge the Wildcats by their record alone, saying it "isn't indicative of the talent that they have or the coaching that they've got."
Nick Canelas has this preview of UMass hockey's home and home weekend with UNH, which begins tonight in Durham, N.H. with a 7:30 p.m. contest that will be televised on WBIN and Fox College Sports.
Massachusetts hockey coach John Micheletto had high expectations for his first line going into the season.
Seniors Conor Sheary, Michael Pereira and Branden Gracel were placed on the same line midway through last season and immediately jelled, finishing the season as the Minutemen's top three leading scorers and accounting for 35 percent of the team's point production.
Micheletto didn't just expect the trio to pick up where it left off; his intentions were for it to be even better.
"We hope they do more than they did last year," Micheletto said in the preseason.
The Province, out of British Columbia, had this piece chronicling former UMass and current San Jose Sharks' defenseman Matt Irwin's development throughout his hockey career:
"Bill Bestwick marvels at Matt Irwin being paired with Dan Boyle and manning the point on the San Jose Sharks' power play.
He can't help but think of the kid from Brentwood Bay, near Victoria, who showed up in Nanaimo with high BCHL hopes and little meat on his 16-year-old frame.
"He couldn't do a pushup," recalled the former Clippers coach and general manager.
"When he played for me at 16, as an affiliate player, I think he was probably scared to death. At 17, he got his feet wet, and at 18, he started to figure out, 'Hey, I'm not bad.' He was 6-foot-2, but still a skinny runt with no strength in his body. Then at 19, his coordination and dexterity came to the forefront."
UMass hockey opened up its home schedule on a high note, sweeping its weekend pair vs. Michigan State and drawing a total of 12,358 fans to the Mullins Center combined over the two games with a record crowd of 4,500 students on Friday night.
Several media outlets had recaps of the victories:
In today's Daily Collegian, Nick Canelas takes a look at the freshmen duo of Steven Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi who skated on UMass' second line with redshirt-junior Troy Power last weekend:
It's not too often that Steven Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi aren't together. They're roommates, they're both freshmen and in a matter of weeks they've already become good friends.
One thing that brings the pair together is a very common interest: hockey. When they're in their dorm room, they're usually talking about it. When they're not, they're practicing and playing alongside one another on the same line for the Massachusetts hockey team.
In the Minutemen's first two games this season, Iacobellis and Pigozzi were placed on the second line with redshirt junior forward Troy Power, and their immediate chemistry was already noticeable.
The trio accounted for two of UMass' three goals this weekend in losses to Boston University and UMass Lowell.
Mark Chiarelli has this UMass Hockey preview in today's Daily Hampshire Gazette. The Minutemen open the 2013-14 campaign tonight at #19 Boston University.
If last year was a fresh start for the University of Massachusetts hockey team, this season centers on cultivating a system already put in place by second-year coach John Micheletto.
"We talked a lot over the last year about resilience and not having a lot of ups and downs," Micheletto said. "That's an easy thing to talk about and understand, but it's a hard thing to implement sometimes."
UMass hopes to build off a 12-19-3 season that saw victories over Boston College, Boston University and New Hampshire. The Minutemen also finished 2-7-1 over the final 10 games and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
The team returns 16 upperclassmen, including nine seniors, something Micheletto hopes will accelerate the growing process. The familiarity is already paying dividends as UMass prepares to open the season at Boston University at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Nick Canelas takes a look at UMass Hockey's scoring depth in this piece for the Daily Collegian Hockey Preview Issue:
With nine seniors, 16 upperclassmen and its three leading scorers from last season on the roster, one would think the Massachusetts hockey team is primed for success in 2013-14.
However, there's a reason why UMass failed to make the Hockey East Tournament last season and why it's yet again picked to finish second-to-last in the conference. Beyond the top forward line of Branden Gracel, Michael Pereira and Conor Sheary, there aren't a whole lot of reliable scoring options for the Minutemen.
There are players who are capable of contributing. But if last season - a season in which the Minutemen went winless in eight of their final 10 games - is any indication, the pressure will once again fall upon the first line to replicate its 2012-13 showing.
Cameron McDonough profiled goaltender Steve Mastalerz for the Hockey Preview Issue of the Daily Collegian. Mastalerz is UMass' lone returnee in net.
It was never a matter of if Steve Mastalerz would attend the University of Massachusetts. Rather, it was a matter of if he would get an offer to play for its hockey team.
And once he got the official offer to play for the Massachusetts hockey team, it was a relatively easy decision.
The reason why the junior goalie from North Andover was so focused on attending UMass was because it was in his blood. His grandmother raised his father, Jim, 20 minutes away from Amherst and his brother, John, started out the tradition of the Mastalerz family attending UMass when he came to Amherst two years before Steve did.
The idea of playing for the Minutemen also had a comfort level attached to it since he knew one of the assistant coaches, Mike Buckley, whose specific job was to work with the goalies. Mastalerz, at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, had worked with Buckley before and he was a "big influence" on why Mastalerz decided to come to UMass as well.
Nick Canelas features one of UMass' nine newcomers, sophomore defenseman Ben Gallacher, in this piece from the Daily Collegian's Hockey Preview Issue:
Ben Gallacher is your everyday laid back guy from Alberta, Canada.
He's a college student who tries not to take life too seriously. He enjoys hanging out with friends and has a supportive family.
Just two years ago, he taught himself how to play the guitar by watching instructional videos on YouTube, and now it's simply become another relaxing hobby for him. He likes to percussively strum the tune of songs by alternative and indie folk artists such as Ben Harper and Bon Iver. It's nothing mainstream, but it's just the way he likes it.
"I'm not playing Avicii on my guitar," Gallacher said. "I'm an acoustic guy. It's really mellow."
Like many young Canadians, there's also another important hobby that Gallacher is more passionate about than anything else: playing hockey.
Cameron McDonough takes a look at the opening weekend matchups for UMass hockey in this piece:
While this weekend will provide the usual nerves and excitement that accompany the season opener, it will also have an added element for Michael Pereira and the seniors for the Massachusetts hockey team.
"Nerves, excitement, bittersweet," Pereira said. "It's your last opening weekend."
And this is an important weekend right out of the box for the Minutemen, because rather than ease into Hockey East action with a slew of non-conference games against unranked opponents, they are opening at No. 19 Boston University on Friday before traveling to No. 1 UMass Lowell on Saturday for what will be a non-conference game against a conference opponent.
Cameron McDonough takes a look at UMass' top line, which features its top-three returning scorers from a year ago: Branden Gracel, Michael Pereira and Conor Sheary:
The Massachusetts hockey team has its fair share of question marks heading into the season.
How will Year 2 of the John Micheletto era go?
Who will replace last year's seniors, especially on the second line?
Will Steve Mastalerz step up and be the No. 1 goalie?
And who will step up on defense and replace Conor Allen?
But there are few questions about who the first line will be.
Seniors Branden Gracel, Conor Sheary and Michael Pereira were all moved to the first line during the 2012-13 season by Micheletto and became an instant offensive force in the Hockey East.
Matt Vautour takes a look at the goaltending battle for UMass and lone upperclassmen goaltender Steve Mastalerz:
University of Massachusetts junior Steve Mastalerz has played like a No. 1 goalie at times.
As a sophomore, Mastalerz stopped 21 shots in a 5-2 upset of then-No. 2 Boston College. It was one of a handful of strong showings during his first two years that showed his potential in goal. But injury-fueled inconsistency prevented him from stringing those types of performances together last season, as neither he nor fellow sophomore Kevin Boyle could ever really seize that No. 1 role.
Former UMass hockey captain Mike Kostka, coming off a stellar rookie campaign with the Toronto last season, is currently in preseason camp with the Chicago Blackhawks and looking to earn a roster spot for the upcoming 2013-14 season after signing with the organization this past summer.
Mark Lazerus had this piece in today's Chicago Sun-Times:
When he's out on the ice, Michael Kostka isn't wondering if one bad pass, one wrong stride or one lost opponent is going to be the one that costs him a spot in the NHL this season. He's not constantly looking over his shoulder to see if Joel Quenneville's glare has found him. He's not sweating every little detail. He's just out there playing hockey.
But when he's sitting around the hotel with nothing to keep his mind occupied? That's a different story.
"I've gotten to a point where I feel I can relax out there and just play my game," Kostka said. "If anything, I'm more stressed when I have free time, and you're sitting there, and you've got friends texting you, 'Are you [on the team]?' Man, shut up! I don't know! I'm trying not to think about that right now!"
There are only four days left before the Blackhawks open the 2013-14 season against Washington on Tuesday night, and the final roster likely will be set shortly after Saturday night's preseason finale against the same Capitals.
And while five forwards are jockeying for three spots, on defense, it's a one-on-one matchup. Joel Quenneville said he will be keeping an eighth defenseman out of camp, so it's Kostka, the veteran, against Ryan Stanton, the rookie. One of those two will be a member of the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. One of them will be a Rockford IceHog.
Jason Menard had this feature on UMass hockey alum Danny Hobbs on Sunday. Hobbs, who spent last season with the Greenville Road Warriors in the ECHL, signed a professional tryout agreement with the Ottawa Senators organization this offseason and attended the Senators' rookie camp and tournament last week:
"Rookie tournaments are generally a place for firsts, from first-rounders to a variety of young players getting their initial taste of professional-level competition. But for some, including 24-year-old Danny Hobbs, they can also represent second chances.
Hobbs was drafted in the seventh round of the 2007 NHL Draft (198th overall) by the New York Rangers. After completing a four-year collegiate career, he signed an AHL deal with the Connecticut Whale, but never got into an AHL game.
While his participation at this year's Toronto Maple Leafs' rookie camp marks a new beginning for him within the Ottawa Senators' organization, he comes to it with something a lot of players participating don't have -- experience.
"Having a year under my belt in pro, I have a little bit of a different perspective coming into this," Hobbs said. "I kind of know what I need to do to catch some eyes, so I've been trying to do that to the best of my ability. It's definitely a tournament that will prepare you for camp and give you a spot to showcase yourself."
And what are people looking for, according to Hobbs?
"Work hard every shift, try to get the puck to the net, try to use my physical ability out there," he said. "Just try to play hard and be hard to play against."
USA Hockey wrapped up its U.S. Men's National Team Orientation Camp in Arlington, Va., at which former UMass goaltender Jonathan Quick was in attendance. Many members of the media have dubbed Quick the favorite to be the starting netminder for Team USA at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Feb. 7-23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Quick was mentioned by several media outlets in their coverage of the camp, including the Associated Press.
NHL.com had this video interview with Quick from camp:
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."