Sorry for the lack of wrap-up on last week’s Maine series, which fit the Halloween theme in the sense that nobody bothered to show up leaving the Mullins as a spooooooooky hauuuuunted hooooooouse ooooooooohhhh. You know what else was scary? Steve Mastalerz, as in scary GOOD hahahahhaa alright that’s enough of that. So UMass “wins” the season series with Maine, by winning one out of the four games between the teams this weekend by a single goal, thanks to the first two being essentially exhibitions. To be fair, the Minutemen put a buttload of shots on net in the two games at home, stymied at times by the play of Maine netminder Stephen Ouelette, and the puck-possession game and forecheck were on point.
UMass now turns its attention to Maine’s neighbors, the current state of residence of the writers of this blog, to take on the hated and imaginatively-named Wildcats of New Hampshire in a home-and-home. Surprisingly, the Wildcats, ranked highly in the preseason for some reason, have stumbled out to a 1-5-1 start. Yes, their schedule has been rough, with games against the likes of Michigan, RPI, and Lowell, but even so, the Wildcats have historically been a fast-starting team. Alas, not so much this year, but you have to think they view a two-gamer against the Minutemen as an opportunity to kickstart their season. And they’d better start now, because as you’ve heard a billion times now from every Hockey East pundit and fan in the universe, the 20-game conference schedule makes EVERY WEEKEND THE MOST SUPAR IMPORTANT!!!!11 Haha but really, they’re fucked if we sweep them this weekend. Which we won’t, but that’s fine.
Actually, if anything, the Minutemen are due to win one at the Whit. UMass last won a game there…drumroll please…my freshman year, 3-2 on October 26, 2006. For some sports context, the Celtics were starting Sebastian Telfair and Wally Szczerbiak, Justin Verlander was the Rookie of the Year, and young rookie Phil Kessel had just begun lacing them up for the Bruins. So yeah, it’s been a long time. Here is a season by season breakdown of the Minutemen’s trips to the Granite State:
06-07: W 3-2, L 5-1
07-08: L 5-3, (HE Quarterfinals: L 4-1, L 7-2)
08-09: T 1-1, L 3-2 (OT)
09-10: L 7-2
10-11: L 3-0, T 3-3
11-12: L 7-3
12-13: T 2-2, L 4-0
For those keeping track at home, that’s 0-9-3, with the last two ties both coming on last-minute UNH goals to snatch non-defeat from the jaws of, well, defeat. The last two years, UMass, in spite of overall struggles, has managed to crack one of its many houses-of-horrors (BC last year, BU the year before). No time like the present to snap it, right? Alas, being that this is UMass we’re talking, you almost sort of have to set “three point weekend” as the absolute best case scenario here, and even that feels like a stretch given that this is such a do-or-die weekend for UNH.
Let’s look at the Wildcats on paper. Their two go-to guys at the front are Nick Sorkin (no relation to Andy “the UMass ref” Sorkin) and Kevin
Goumass Goumas, whose name makes Matt’s “GOUMASS” NH license plate look like an endorsement of the Wildcat senior forward and current leader in career points (an even 100). They each bring three goal, three assist seasons into the fray. UNH’s strength, of course, is their defensive corps. Their two draft picks are senior Eric Knodel (2 G/3 A/5 P, +2) and sophomore Brett Pesce (1 G/0 A/1 P, -3), and junior Trevor van Riemsdyk (1 G, 5 A, 6 P, +4, and yes, he’s James’s brother) is tied for the team lead in points. Dick Umile always seems to have dynamic guys on the blue line who can contribute offensively. UNH does, of course, have to deal with some key departures. Noted UMass-killer John Henrion has graduated, as has fellow 15-goal scorer Austin Block. Defensive stalwarts Brett Kostolansky and Connor Hardowa are gone as well. Grayson Downing, their third-leading scorer last year as a sophomore, has just a goal and an assist so far this year, but that just indicates that he’s due. In net, ace Casey DeSmith has been a far cry from his 2.04 GAA campaign of a year ago. He’s 0-4 with a 3.02 GAA and .891 SV% in five games, while senior backup Jeff Wyer has let just six goals through in three games, and has been in goal for both of UNH’s non-losses so far. That said, I’d expect DeSmith to be in net for both games unless UMass roughs him up in Durham, which is about as likely as me becoming mayor of Toronto and smoking crack. Others have done it, but it’s still somehow impossible.
My bold prediction? Both teams win at home. Ho hum.
Sidebar: Look. UMass, I love you…but you’re bringing me down. First, you want me to pay for separate packages for hockey and basketball when the issues with the quality of both feeds is already in question. Then, you do this to us:
UMass, what are you doing. Gimme your keys. You’re drunk.
Seriously, I get the whole “pay homage to the troops” and all that, so the red-white-and-blue motif fits just fine. But holy god almighty these are ugly. First of all, have you ever seen a camouflage uniform before that looks so completely blocky and fake? It looks like it was literally drawn in MS Paint and stretched over the surface area of a jersey. Seriously. Who saw this and thought it looked good? This is something that would get laughed at nationwide if anyone outside of New England and the Midwest actually cared about a sport that isn’t college football. Thankfully, the ridicule will be kept to just New England in this case for the time being. But we deserve it. Why not just put the flag-colored logo on our standard uniforms? It would clash a bit, but certainly not as badly as this monstrosity. In fact, the more I look at it, the more it started to be clear. We’re not saluting the troops at all! Nay, the nerds have finally won, and we’re finally paying tribute to them and, specifically, this:
That’s right bitches. It’s Minecraft night, this Saturday at the Mullins Center. The UNH Wildcats will take on the UMass Skating Minecraft Cactus Dude Things (apparently they’re called Creepers, which sounds about right). All for the troops, somehow. Sigh.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Chazketball has creeped up on us, by the way, so I’m hoping to spend some downtime Saturday to put together a season preview before we trek down to the Garden for the showdown with BC. See you there.