Massachusetts couldn’t just casually
snap their fingers before this season started and assume
everything would be all right. The program has had a couple
down years since advancing to the Hockey East championship
in 2003-04, and with the exception of Chris Capraro and
Mark Matheson, the only traces left from that team are photos
on the wall.
Q school: UMass, buoyed by the strong play of goalie
Jon Quick, sits alone atop the Hockey East standings.
It’s a new year and a new group with
new leaders. And after getting off to a 5-1-1 start (4-1-0
and alone in first place in Hockey East), there appears
to be a new winning attitude in Amherst. That pales in comparison
to last season, when the Minutemen got off to a horrific
1-7-0 mark, and UMass didn’t win its fifth game until
In part, the formula the Minutemen are working
with can shed some light on the hot start. The coaching
staff is in its second full year together after a brief
shakeup following Mark Dennehy assuming a new position as
bench boss at Merrimack. Red Gendron, who revamped the special
teams last season, is in his second year, and Lenny Quesnelle
is in his third.
Head coach Don Cahoon said that plays a more
important factor than people might think. They better understand
each other’s protocol and can work at the same tempo,
which puts them “five steps ahead” of where
they were last season, according to Cahoon.
Plus, UMass is much improved and very solid
in all four lines at center. Matt Anderson is stronger after
playing his first full season in three years. Mark Matheson,
who still plays some defense in the league’s smaller
rinks, has adjusted nicely to the position. Cory Quirk is
no longer a freshman. And freshman Brett Watson, who Cahoon
recruited solely because of his natural ability at center,
is off to a nice start.
But outside that formula, Cahoon stirred things
up a bit in the offseason by bringing in a sports psychologist,
a move that sophomore goalie Jon Quick said played a huge
“We went over little things like how
to make the team better and how to build team chemistry,”
Quick said. “I think that really helped us off the
ice just because we know each other better as a team now.
“He worked in the pros and with the
Canadian national team. He has worked with some talented
athletes, mainly in hockey so he knows a lot about what
we go through. He understands it, and he helped us to understand
it as well.”
Quick acknowledged the psychologist didn’t
exactly break the bank with a wealth of unknown knowledge,
but his presentation was enough to bring the team closer
as a whole.
And on the back end of that whole has been
a truly impressive goaltender. Quick split time with senior
netminder Gabe Winer last season, but has really come into
his own as the top guy in the Pioneer Valley through the
first month of this campaign.
With all of the high-profile backstops smattered
across the league – Cory Schneider, John Curry, Ben
Bishop, Joe Fallon – Quick is currently the class
of the conference. His .940 save percentage and 1.81 goals
against average lead Hockey East.
Though he is relatively unknown across the
college hockey world, he isn’t exactly a Cinderella
story. Quick was one of the top-rated incoming freshman
goalies last year, and ranked third by Inside College Hockey.
“I expected to play well, and I always
expect to play well every game,” Quick said. “But
my team has played well for me, and my defense is helping
out a lot. It just makes things easier for me.”
“Jon is clearly a great athlete, and
no one can dispute that,” Cahoon said. “He got
enough experience last year to be able to realize what his
strengths and weaknesses were. And he has worked hard on
the weaker part of his game. His strengths are so sensational
that he can make the game look easy sometimes. He has a
chance to be a great goalie at this level.”
Quick displayed some great flashes at times
last year but struggled midway through the season. Combined
with the reemergence of Winer, Quick lost playing time.
That, however, helped him heading into this
season. He amped up his summer workout program to prep for
a longer season, and he admitted he is stronger mentally.
“I feel like it may have been my maturity
level as a freshman,” Quick said. “I haven’t
been through a season with this many games and this much
of a grind. I’m not going to lie; I think it got to
me a little bit in January. Hopefully this year, it will
be different. I know what it’s like, and I’ve
been through it once. Hopefully I can correct some of the
mistakes I made last year.”
So far, he has. And so far, the Minutemen
have as well. Another difference between the new-look Mass
Attack and last year’s version has been its ability
to win close games. In games decided by one goal, UMass
is 4-0, compared to a 5-6 record in such contests last season.
Does all this mean the Minutemen are now wearing
a bull’s-eye? Not exactly. But while Boston College,
Boston University and New Hampshire have struggled to find
consistency, UMass has gotten a nice jumpstart on its heavy
“It’s a great start,” Quick
echoed. “But you can’t get overconfident because
we’ve still got 30 games left. Everyone is thinking
the same way. We realize we have a good team here. We’ve
got a talented group of kids, and we’re capable of
doing something big this year. But we’ve got to keep
it in perspective – no looking into the future, just
one day, one practice at a time.”
“After you enjoy success, you have to
be able to show humility,” Cahoon said. “And
when you experience failure, you have to show persistence.
We’re at a point where we have to be humble and understand
that everyone out there is pretty good. If you let up –
regardless of the team you’re playing, what league
they’re from or what their record is – it’s
usually about yourself and your ability to bring your best
game. Our focus has to be on that.”
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Josh Ciocco bares all: After
stumbling across UNH’s game program for its contests
against UMass and Yale on Oct. 26 and Oct. 28, respectively,
we felt the need to share a few excerpts. This is an interview
done by Al Pike with Wildcat senior captain and resident
funnyman Josh Ciocco.
AP: Who is the
best practical joker?
JC: “I hate to toot
my own horn, but I have a lot of notches on my belt in that
category. Mike Radja and Brian Pouliot are kind of having
it out right now. [The other day] Radja put shaving cream
in Pouliot’s gloves which will lube them up for about
a month, and in return Pouliot had [Radja’s] clothes
in the shower the next day.
“After a game [pretending to be a reporter]
I interviewed [former Wildcat] Preston Callander [on a cell
phone] from the front of the bus. I got him going about
himself and had him pumping his own tires for awhile. I
don’t think he appreciated that too much when he heard
the whole front of the bus cracking up and realized it was
me, especially since he was a senior and I was a sophomore.
He had a couple goals, and he was pretty high on himself
so I thought it was a pretty good time to strike.”
AP: Who has
the best nickname on the team?
JC: “Jerry Pollastrone
is a little pudgy so his dad used to call him Jerry ‘Bag
of Doughnuts.’ That one kind of stuck a little bit
in the locker room. Bobby Butler, you can have your way
with his name in a million different ways being that ‘But’
is the start of his last name, so that has a bunch of renditions
Kevin Kapstad, we like to call ‘Kevin Kap-head’
because of the size of his massive head. He’s in denial
about it, but if you ever take a look at him, it’s
AP: Who has the craziest
superstition on the team?
JC: “I think Matt Fornataro’s
got a superstition for absolutely everything. You can’t
touch his sticks before games, yet Mike Radja feels the
need to touch them before every single game.”
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
College at Maine (Sun.)
Hockey East’s two Frozen Four participants from
a season ago (they were each dealt losses by Wisconsin)
meet for the first time this year. The Black Bears
swept the Eagles in their three regular-season meetings
last year, but BC had the last laugh by knocking off
Maine in the Hockey East semis.
What To Do While You’re There:
We’ve sent you to Maine twice already so you
should have a pretty good idea of the area by now.
But the Maine football team closes its regular season
with a game against hated UNH at noon Saturday.
Brooks didn’t exactly have roots in
Hockey East, but with his enshrinement in the Hockey
Hall of Fame this week, he deserves a spot here. His
accomplishments in hockey – and life as a result
– needn’t be listed. My only regret in
my life as a sports fan is being unable to witness
the events of 1980.
going to preface this by saying HockeyEastOnline.com
is a great site. But we don't understand why
the "Upcoming Games" and "Recent Results"
features have disappeared from last season.
Bring them back!
• Terrier Sean Sullivan matched his
career-high with three assists in Friday’s 4-4 tie
at New Hampshire. The Hockey East Defensive Player of the
Week leads all league defensemen with nine points (one goal,
eight assists) this season.
• Harvard shut out Boston College for
just the fourth time in the 111-game series with its 4-0
win on Tuesday night. It was the first time it had happened
since March 10, 1982, a 2-0 victory in the ECAC Tournament.
• For the first time in school history,
Boston University registered a tie in three straight games
(1-1 at Lowell on Nov. 3, 2-2 against Lowell on Nov. 4,
and 4-4 at UNH on Nov. 10).
• It might be a good idea for Maine
to squash Sunday afternoon games from now on. After getting
taken to the woodshed by UNH on Sunday, the Black Bears
fell to 1-3 on Sunday matinees over the last two years.
From the “Oh No From Orono” department, Maine
hosts Boston College this Sunday afternoon.
• With its 4-1 win over UMass Lowell
on Friday, Maine extended its winning streak against the
River Hawks to 12 games.
• Northeastern’s Mike Morris has
come back nicely of late, scoring four goals and four assists
in his last five games. He now has 99 career points (42
goals, 57 assists).
• With its 3-1 win over Merrimack on
Friday, BC is now undefeated in 12 straight games (10-0-2)
against the Warriors.
• In its nine games this year, Northeastern
has scored first in six of them. That’s the good news.
The Huskies have a 1-5 record in those games. That’s
the not-so-good news.
• Vermont has killed 52 of 57 penalties
(91.2 percent) this season, a mark that tops Hockey East
and is third in the nation.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report