The 1-7 start to the season was, to
put it nicely, less than desirable for the Massachusetts
Minutemen, especially when they were moving into 2005-06
with a clean slate and trying to put the tumultuous
13-win season from a year ago behind them.
They were heading into a Nov. 12 matchup
against Boston University with a six-game slide that
weighed on their shoulders as though it was the 28-story
UMass campus library, and the two weeks ahead didn’t
look any more comforting. Dates with Vermont, Colorado
College and Denver were looming.
But that is where the story changed.
A 4-2 win over BU launched a three-game winning streak,
and after the home-and-home sweep of Merrimack last
weekend, the Minutemen have put together a 7-4 mark
since Nov. 12, including a 5-2 record against Hockey
East competition. In two months, UMass has made the
leap from being a last-place squad to holding a four-point
edge for seventh place and sitting just four points
behind Maine for fourth place.
UMass senior captain Marvin Degon, who
was named Hockey East Player of the Week for scoring
four goals and adding two assists this weekend, has
figured out the reason for the turnaround.
“I think our team has really figured
out what our identity is,” Degon said. “We’re
a grinding team. We’re going to get into the
corners, and we’re going to beat you down low.
I think it’s really important because the sooner
your team figures out what your concept is, the better
you’re going to be down the stretch, so I think
we’re going to be alright.”
With the mix of tougher, physical players
like Degon, Topher Bevis and Stephen Werner and smaller,
finesse players like Matt Anderson, Chris Davis and
P.J. Fenton, the Minutemen need to be grinders in
order to mesh the group’s talent together to
pick up victories.
“It shows us that we have to be
a grinding team at this point,” Degon said.
“That’s our strength. There have been
spurts this season of us playing really well at that
type of game. But in some of the games that we have
lost, we have gotten away from what we were taught
and what our coaches were trying to tell us what our
Degon’s four weekend goals vaulted
him to the top of the Hockey East list for goal-scoring
defensemen with seven lamplighters, and his 16 points
have him one point shy of former Cushing Academy teammate
and UNH blueliner Brian Yandle for the league lead.
And speaking of former teammates, Degon’s hat
trick in Saturday night’s 4-1 victory means
that he is only the second Hockey East defenseman
in the last eight years to score three goals in a
game. The other is former Minuteman and current New
York Ranger Thomas Pöck, who did so against Providence
on Jan. 5, 2003.
“I think more important [than
the accolades] is that I was able to contribute enough
to help our team win this weekend,” Degon said.
“Granted, I scored a few times, but the team
realized at the same time that we can score goals
now. I think it’s really important that myself,
Stephen Werner and Matty Anderson step up these next
couple weeks to keep this going. We’ve won three
games in a row, and we should go on a pretty good
run here and take a shot at getting home-ice advantage
in the playoffs.”
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Swan Song – Maybe
the headline should instead read, “What Won’t
Be Seen and Heard In Hockey East”. Last week,
the popular Ram Jam rock song “Black Betty”
was blackballed at UNH games since the NAACP contacted
athletic director Marty Scarano to address concerns
that its lyrics were offensive.
A staple at the Whittemore Center since
1993, when Robert McGary was put in charge of redesigning
the arena’s soundtrack, “Black Betty”
was a huge fan favorite, and it was played before
the start of the second and third periods when the
Wildcats skated onto the ice among countless other
times throughout the course of games.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Boston University (Fri.-Sat.) In the series of the weekend,
Maine travels south to Boston University for
a pair on Friday and Saturday. The Black Bears
hold a one-point edge on BU for fourth place
in the Hockey East standings, which is significant
because the No. 4 seed in the playoffs hosts
the three-game series with the No. 5 seed in
the first round. While defending their home
ice for the two-game set is important for the
Terriers’ swagger, it is more vital that
they take at least three points because they
have already played two more league games than
There: After the game on Saturday night, find
a sports bar (Boston has one or two) and check
out the scene while some of the craziest fans
in football root for their New England Patriots,
who take on the Denver Broncos at 8 p.m. in
the AFC Divisional Round.
forward Josh Ciocco may have found a true calling
if this hockey thing doesn’t quite work
out. Ciocco and NESN hooked
up for an intermission segment during last week's
Vermont-New Hampshire game. Ciocco let viewers
into his off-campus crib, where he showed off
things like the kitchen, or “the cleanest
room in the house”, teammate Brett Hemingway’s
“Jungle of Love” and his Honda,
which he dubbed as “the fastest car on
has been shut out four times this season, the
most times the Huskies have been blanked since
1970-71. They have been outscored 67-37 in 18
games this year and are averaging a smidge more
than two goals per game. Thus, the Huskies have
still gone winless since Nov. 11.
But that will be no more; not in Durham
and maybe not anywhere else in the other nine Hockey
East venues, as league commissioner Joe Bertagna sent
a letter to the rest of the schools’ athletic
directors asking them to halt the music, too.
While a majority of hockey fans and
music lovers alike have no idea what “Black
Betty” is even about, the NAACP believes the
lyrics are offensive since they talk about a black
prostitute who finds herself getting pregnant. And
this was enough for Scarano to remove the song from
the PA system’s jukebox, as to not start a public
battle with the NAACP similar to that of Philadelphia
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb’s battle with
the group just last month.
As Ram Jam once wrote, “The damn
thing gone wild.”
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• UNH bench boss Richard Umile
coached in his 600th game on Friday night, a 2-1 victory
over Vermont. Now in his 16th season as Wildcat coach,
Umile boasts a 364-180-58 record.
• Maine easily swept aside
Lowell this weekend by a combined score of 10-2, and
the couplet of victories extend the Black Bears’
winning streak over the River Hawks to nine games.
Maine outscored Lowell 19-4 this season, 12-3 in last
year’s first-round sweep in the Hockey East
playoffs and 47-14 over the nine-game stretch.
• Boston University has followed
each of its last three losses with four-goal victories,
including this past weekend’s 4-0 shutout of
Northeastern the night after a 5-1 loss at the hands
of the Friars.
• In a battle between two teams
tied at the top of the league standings on Saturday
night, Boston College flexed its muscle and brushed
aside Providence 4-1. It was just the first home loss
of the season for PC in its 20th game. Last season,
the Friars dropped their first home game on Nov. 5,
2004, in their sixth contest of the year.
• Merrimack’s Bryan Schmidt
needs just one goal to tie Mike Boyce’s program
record of 32 goals by a defenseman.
• Nineteen of Merrimack’s
37 goals this year have come via the power play, and
Matt Johnson’s 10 power-play goals are tied
for the national lead.
• UMass’ home-and-home
sweep of Merrimack marked the team’s first home-and-home
sweep since Nov. 7-8, 2003, against none other than
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation
of this report.