November 16, 2006
Quick Save ... and a Beauty

By Jeff Howe

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.

Hockey East Notebook

Q school: UMass, buoyed by the strong play of goalie Jon Quick, sits alone atop the Hockey East standings.

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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 Dec. 6.

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 factor.

“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 competition.

“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.”


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 quite large.”

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.”


Great Weekend Getaway
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Boston 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.

Stick Salute

Herb 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.

Bench Minor

We’re going to preface this by saying 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