Bentley Falcons (0-2-0, 0-0-0 Atlantic Hockey) vs. UMass Minutemen (0-0-1, 0-0-1 HE)
It is once again the most wonderful time of the year for the young students of the University of Massachusetts. The home opener is upon us again, bringing with it majesty, grandeur, and fresh hope. Although our beloved Mass Attack has already been tested in a fiery duel of aggressive offenses and spectacular goaltending, this Friday’s bout with the Falcons will be the first chance most of the UMass fan base will have to see the team play with their own eyes this year.
In their first game of the season, the aforementioned duel to the death… or tie, the Minutemen found heroes old and new. Senior co-captain TJ Syner scored and was instrumental on the powerplay, sophomore winger Conor Sheary started to make good on my prediction of a 20G/20A season by notching two brilliant assists, winger Emerson Auvenshire tallied his first career NCAA point by assisting on Branden Gracel’s goal, and, perhaps most importantly, goalie Kevin Boyle stood tall in net and made 29 instrumental saves in his very first collegiate start. Unfortunately, the team tired in the third period and Northeastern was hungry for a point. The Mass Attack failed to notch their first win of the year by less than three seconds, and honestly would have had the win if not for some really outrageously bad turnovers in their own zone throughout the entire game. BUT, you, noble reader, must keep in mind that the Minutemen were missing a couple key faces on the ice last Friday in Boston. These faces are, of course, those belonging to senior co-captain Danny Hobbs and sophomore netminder Jeff Teglia; they are once again healthy and ready to join the fray.
Looking at the team offensively, Hobbs can only add to an offense that was firing on all cylinders last week. The Minutemen scored three goals, blasted 39 shots on Chris Rawlings, took nine shots on net in five-plus (technically six, but one lasted only 13 seconds) powerplay opportunities (believe me, I’ve been watching UMass hockey for awhile now, this is a tad better than usual), and even scored a powerplay goal!!!!!!!!!!11 This was all done without last year’s leading scorer, Hobbs, who will certainly be a force to be reckoned with if he wants to improve on last season’s point total of 28.
Defensively, the team certainly will not be made worse by the return of Jeff Teglia. Boyle stopped 29 of the 32 pucks sent his way last week, for a very respectable .906 save percentage. If Teglia wants the full-time starting goalie job, he’ll have to do a lot better than that, and he certainly seems capable. Hopefully a little competition between the two (and, also, Steve Mastalerz) will bring out the best in both goalies and whoever starts Friday night should be looking to shut out an obviously inferior team.
But wait, are the 0-2 Falcons really that bad? Well, to be fair, we can’t really say that just yet. In two games this season, Bentley has scored two goals and given up nine. These numbers have, however, been posted against Michigan. The Michigan that’s ranked number four in the country. That Michigan. So Bentley’s numbers thus far this year are a little skewed. Let’s look at Bentley’s numbers from last year. They went 10-18-6, with nine of those wins coming against fellow Atlantic Hockey cupcakes. They scored 2.53 goals a game while giving up 3.44 and their 8.4% powerplay success rate made the Mass Attack’s mediocre man advantage (12.5%) look downright lethal. Bentley’s meager offense lost two of its top three scorers at the end of last season and only return one guy (sophomore forward Brett Gensler) who scored more than eight goals last year.
One can go on and on about Bentley’s offense, from their lack of true playmakers to the absolute dearth of scoring ability from the point, but what may give Bentley fans a glimmer of hope this year is what’s between the pipes. On back to back nights last weekend, Bentley’s skaters were dominated on the ice by a far superior team; however, their two netminders acquitted themselves quite nicely. Despite giving up five goals, senior Kyle Rank made 44 saves. A save percentage of .898 is not something most goalies aspire to, but it is certainly nothing to sneeze at when you post it against the fourth best team in the nation while they are blasting 49 shots at you. Compared to Rank, sophomore Branden Komm got off lightly, having to face only 42 shots. He saved 39 of those for a very tidy .929 save percentage. That, by the way, is the same percentage Chris Rawlings posted against the Mass Attack while he was standing on his head last Friday.
Okay, I’m just going to say it. Even if Bentley’s goalies play well again, we should win this game. This is a game Kevin Morris probably couldn’t lost. It’s embarrassing enough that I can actually remember the last time we played the Falcons. Because we lost. It was the middle of the beginning of the end for the 2009-2010 Minutemen, who proceeded to follow up the Bentley loss with the worst (by far) Cahoon swoon ever seen. But that’s all in the past, and this is the first half of the season. The Bentley Falcons are a team that managed to finish tenth out of twelve teams in the worst conference in D1 hockey last year. They are, frankly, a joke, and for guys like TJ Syner, Danny Hobbs, Kevin Czepiel, Darren Rowe, Rocco Carzo, Eddie Olczyk, and The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou (By the way, what the fuck was The Mike Marcou Show Starring Mike Marcou doing out there last Friday night?! I mean, yeah, two assists, that’s nice, but where the fuck were you on the defensive end? Clear the fucking puck! For fuck’s sake, man! You are a fucking defenseman. Not offenseman, DEFENSEman. I’m so fucking sick of this. Just make the fucking simple fucking play and get the puck out of the fucking zone. Fuck, am I the only one who sees this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.) to lose twice to Bentley, in two tries, would be absurd. Come on guys, I know you remember that last loss, make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Really, all it’s gonna take to win this Friday is smart play. That’s it, simple, smart play. No bad penalties (I’m looking at you, Oleg), no dumb turnovers in the defensive zone, and just put plenty of rubber on goal. As long as whoever’s in net for Bentley doesn’t decide that last week was just a springboard for an even better performance this week, enough pucks will find their way to the back of the net to top the Falcons’ anemic offense. And, if not, well, I’ll eat Scoops Mazurek’s hat.
P.S. Check back for part two of this weekend preview, which will appear sometime late Saturday morning or early Saturday afternoon.