Whether Massachusetts can crack the top half of Hockey East comes down largely to one position: goaltender. Prior to graduating, Paul Dainton played almost every game in the Minutemen nets and played well. Freshmen Kevin Boyle and Steve Mastalerz may be well regarded, but that’s no guarantee of success. Sophomore Jeff Teglia struggled in his limited time last year.
“Goaltending is one of our unknowns,” UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon says. “What we do know is that we have three credible prospects at the position. Jeff Teglia had some successes and some real struggles last year. That’s part of the learning curve.
“Steve Mastalerz was an all-prep goaltender and has a great body and a great training regimen. Kevin Boyle was the all-rookie team goalie in the BCJHL. So they come with unquestionable backgrounds. Now the question is, how do they handle the pressure and challenges of this level of play?”
On the blue line, senior Michael Marcou leads an otherwise young group that may sink or swim based on the progression of five sophomores and a few freshmen. If they make mistakes, they certainly won’t have experience in the net behind them to bail them out.
“Those five sophomores all got ample playing time last year,” Cahoon says. “That doesn’t mean automatically that they’re going to be better this year, but it suggests that if the coaches are doing a good job, they’re hopefully going to be a real strong point to our program. [If so], that will make the goaltenders’ transition that much smoother.”
Up front, Daniel Hobbs, T.J. Syner, and Michael Pereira all topped 24 points last year. The big question will be whether some of last year’s freshmen can elevate their game, particularly at the center position.
“Danny and T.J. are real good players and hopefully will have their best year in their final year,” Cahoon says. “Our challenge up front is to find a stable center-ice man who we can depend on. [We have a lot of candidates, but] they are all question marks.”
About the Minutemen
2010-11 overall record: 6-23-6
2010-11 HEA record: 5-16-6 (eighth)
2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Seventh
Key losses: Goaltender Paul Dainton; forwards Chase Langeraap and Marc Concannon; defenseman Doug Kublin
Players to watch: Forwards Daniel Hobbs, T.J. Syner and Michael Pereira; defensemen Michael Marcou, Joel Hanley and Adam Philips
Impact rookie: Goaltender Kevin Boyle or Steve Mastalerz
Why the Minutemen will finish higher than the coaches poll: Other than in net, the losses to graduation were manageable. So if last year’s freshmen can continue to progress …
Why the Minutemen will finish lower than the coaches poll: Neither of the freshmen goalies comes through.