UMass-ive Weekend

I’m definitely a writer who is happy to give the ol’ mea culpa when I screw something up. So I’m here to tip my hat to the UMass Minutemen. On Thursday, I said that I expected Maine to pretty much walk all over them in their best-of-three quarterfinal series. Instead, the Minutemen played in a business-as-usual form and swept the Black Bears at home – for the second straight weekend nonetheless – and earned their third-ever berth in the Hockey East final four at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Besides just playing impeccible hockey for two nights, particularly in Saturday’s game two where the Minutemen jumped out to a 4-1 lead en route to a 5-2 decision, the UMass community has to be commended for putting forth by far a record turnout for a Hockey East quarterfinal series. Not hampered by Spring Break or any other excuse, the UMass faithful turned out in force with 7,119 in attendance on Friday and another 8,062 for Saturday’s clincher. I can’t speak with absolute certainty, but I’m thinking that has to be a league quarterfinal record for a two-game series. Only BC would ever have a chance of putting in those numbers based on building capacity, and having covered their beat for nearly a decade and following them as a kid growing up, I never remember anywhere near that in terms of attendance.

Back on the ice, the fact that UMass was able to successfully beat Maine four straight games over two weekends to both earn home ice and earn a final four berth is almost unheard of.

Said coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon, who chalked up his 100th victory at UMass with Saturday’s win, “We tried not to get caught up in playing Maine four times in a row. We really spent more time preparing for the things that they do and bearing down on the game and the execution and, believe it or not, the discipline of being able to play and stay with them. For the most part, we had a pretty good time of it.”

The four wins certainly helped UMass’ case for an NCAA bid. The Minutemen – who won 20 games for the first time in the program’s history – two weeks ago were on the far outside looking in in terms of the PairWise Rankings, but the four victories (as of 10:10 ET Saturday) put UMass 10th in the PWR and given the fact that they can only lose one game – either the semifinal against New Hampshire or the championship game – between now and the selection process, it seems UMass is in pretty good position for their first-ever NCAA berth.

“The 20 wins is always a benchmark of a real solid Division I season… hopefully it doesn’t stop at 20,” said Cahoon. “As far as the NCAAs, we’ve been nicked out of this thing a couple of times in the past so we’re not worried about the NCAAs right now. We’re worried about the Hockey East championship and specifically the semifinal game. If we take care of business, the NCAA thing will take care of itself.”

The same can’t exactly be said for the Black Bears. Maine, which seemed a lock for the tournament a few weeks back, lost their final seven road games and now are put in an unfortunate wait-and-see position. After Saturday’s loss, the Black Bears are 16th in the PWR, two positions from the final NCAA berth. But if you add in a bonus of .003 points to Maine’s RPI for quality non-conference road wins (Maine beat Minnesota once and North Dakota twice on the road), the Black Bears jump to 14th in the PWR, literally the final spot. Translation: without any surprise champions at the conference tournament levels, Maine may still have a prayer.

“It’s an uneasy feeling,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “The odds are against us getting into the NCAA tournament. We’d have to have a lot of help from the teams that we beat out west. We’ll have to look at the PairWise but I’d think it’s very unlikely that we’ll be in the tournament.”

The fact that Maine is unsure of its future leaves the Black Bears in limbo for the next week.

“We’ve got to wait and see. We’ll look at the PairWise and what happened this weekend,” said Whitehead. “We’ll look at the teams that are still around and see if there’s a possibility that we could be in. If there is, obviously, we’ll prepare. If not, we’ll close it out right there.”

Other Playoff Musings… 

So Much for That Thought 

Interesting, if you look at the Hockey East playoffs, a lot was made coming into the weekend about the parity of the four pairings. Every higher seed had lost to their first-round opponent. BC had split its season series with Northeastern and BU actually lost its series with Vermont.

All of that said, when push came to shove, it was the home seed that advance in every single series. The only team that even had trouble was BU, which needed overtime in game three to finish off Vermont after falling behind one game to none.

The Harbinger of the Upset?

In my earlier blog posting this week, I picked one series in each conference that I felt could be an upset, and looking at the results I have to pat myself on the back.

  • In Hockey East, I picked Vermont over BU. There wasn’t a single upset in that league, as I just mentioned, but the Catamounts certainly came the closest.
  • In the CCHA, I picked Lake Superior over Miami. I received a lot of flack for that one only to see that the Lakers finished off a two-game sweep on Saturday by identical 2-1 margins.
  • In the CHA, I picked anyone over Niagara (there was a play-in game to decide their opponent). Niagara fell to Alamaba-Huntsville, 5-3, on Saturday.
  • In Atlantic Hockey, I picked Mercyhurst over Connecticut. Close, but no cigar. UConn won, 5-4.
  • The ECAC was my only bomb, picking Clarkson over Harvard. The Golden Knights sailed in a two-game sweep.
  • The WCHA is still to be seen as I write this, but my Wisconsin over Denver picked worked in game one. The Badgers won 3-2 on Friday night and have a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes in Saturday’s game two.

 

20 COMMENTS

  1. I’m hoping for a UAA victory tonight. They’ve been playing tough all season and even stepped it up from there the last few series. They played DU to a tie in thier series finally after a close one goal loss the night before. I think they may be catching DU at a good time. DU is DUE for a loss. They haven’t lost in the last 6, or 8, with 3 ties, and to teams with less or equal skill than UAA.

    I say UAA takes min. 2pts. from DU this weekend.

  2. I’m hoping for a UAA victory tonight. They’ve been playing tough all season and even stepped it up from there the last few series. They played DU to a tie in thier series finally after a close one goal loss the night before. I think they may be catching DU at a good time. DU is DUE for a loss. They haven’t lost in the last 6, or 8, with 3 ties, and to teams with less or equal skill than UAA.

    I say UAA takes min. 2pts. from DU this weekend.

  3. Michigan Tech must fire Jamie Russell, we have only won 1 league game this season to date – by far the worst coach I have ever seen, I am a fan and alumni – been watching the Huskies since they played in the Dee Stadium in the 1970’s. Fire the coach, the athletic director and even the President of the University if they do not turn this team around. The other option is to play Division II or III, or maybe just get rid of Division I hockey altogether and be politically correct and give the Scholarships and money to women’s sports!

    • as a sioux fan i was excited when the huskies started out well. i want your program to do well and alot of people here in north dakota do too. ik the huskies are goin to be a problem for the sioux at the end of the season, huskies always play hard at home against the sioux. i hope the huskies can turn it around bring the program back to what it use to be

  4. Michigan Tech must fire Jamie Russell, we have only won 1 league game this season to date – by far the worst coach I have ever seen, I am a fan and alumni – been watching the Huskies since they played in the Dee Stadium in the 1970’s. Fire the coach, the athletic director and even the President of the University if they do not turn this team around. The other option is to play Division II or III, or maybe just get rid of Division I hockey altogether and be politically correct and give the Scholarships and money to women’s sports!

    • as a sioux fan i was excited when the huskies started out well. i want your program to do well and alot of people here in north dakota do too. ik the huskies are goin to be a problem for the sioux at the end of the season, huskies always play hard at home against the sioux. i hope the huskies can turn it around bring the program back to what it use to be

  5. absolutely the right weekend for a sweep of UND. barely beat Robert Morris the second game, lost on Friday to the Gophers, and had one strong game finally on Saturday

    • just voicing my opinion, i was at all of the games you mentioned and the sioux completely dominated every game. They did lose one but the sioux made critical mistakes in the games that were close. they wont do it again because thats what hakstol does, he has them more prepared as each week goes by. I consider the sioux unbeatable right now. everyone is finally healthy and eidsness is gointa play again. If there was a week for the sioux to get dumped it was against minnesota and i think minnesota is getting really good. they could deff get high in the pairwise before playoffs. Sioux sweep all the way dont forget the sioux crushed duluth three weeks ago

  6. absolutely the right weekend for a sweep of UND. barely beat Robert Morris the second game, lost on Friday to the Gophers, and had one strong game finally on Saturday

    • just voicing my opinion, i was at all of the games you mentioned and the sioux completely dominated every game. They did lose one but the sioux made critical mistakes in the games that were close. they wont do it again because thats what hakstol does, he has them more prepared as each week goes by. I consider the sioux unbeatable right now. everyone is finally healthy and eidsness is gointa play again. If there was a week for the sioux to get dumped it was against minnesota and i think minnesota is getting really good. they could deff get high in the pairwise before playoffs. Sioux sweep all the way dont forget the sioux crushed duluth three weeks ago

  7. UND has as many players from the city of Edmonton as it does from North Dakota (2). It’s new nickname should definitely reference Canada…the actual team has nothing to do with North Dakota.

  8. UND has as many players from the city of Edmonton as it does from North Dakota (2). It’s new nickname should definitely reference Canada…the actual team has nothing to do with North Dakota.

  9. I’m still hoping for Pts. tonight. Keep fighting UAA. Nice job last night. We came up a little short. Great game, against a great team. Lets see what happens tonight. :)

  10. I’m still hoping for Pts. tonight. Keep fighting UAA. Nice job last night. We came up a little short. Great game, against a great team. Lets see what happens tonight. :)

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