Scrolling Headlines:

Report: UMass football’s Todd Stafford arrested Saturday morning in Stamford, Connecticut -

Monday, July 20, 2015

UMass names Molly O’Mara newly-created associate director of athletics for communications and PR -

Monday, July 20, 2015

Baker approves state budget, UMass to receive $5.25 million less than legislature’s proposed figure -

Friday, July 17, 2015

UMass bathroom policy to provide comfort, safety for transgender and non-gender conforming students -

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Long-time UMass professor Normand Berlin, 83, dies -

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

UMass professor and poet James Tate dies at 71 -

Thursday, July 9, 2015

State legislators propose budget, UMass could receive almost $532 million -

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cause of death determined for UMass student Chloe Malast -

Monday, July 6, 2015

Nick Mariano, Zach Oliveri transferring from UMass men’s lacrosse program -

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Four months after banning Iranian students from certain graduate programs, UMass announces new measures to ensure compliance with U.S. law -

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Justin King sentenced to eight to 12 years in prison -

Monday, June 29, 2015

Two future UMass hockey players selected in 2015 NHL Draft -

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Supreme Court ruling clears way for same-sex marriage nationwide -

Friday, June 26, 2015

Former UMass center Cady Lalanne taken 55th overall by Spurs in 2015 NBA Draft -

Friday, June 26, 2015

Second of four men found guilty on three counts of aggravated rape in 2012 UMass gang rape case -

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Boston bomber speaks out for first time: ‘I am sorry for the lives I have taken’ -

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

King claims sex with woman was consensual during alleged 2012 gang rape -

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wrongful death suit filed in death of UMass student -

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ryan Bamford uses online Q&A session to discuss UMass football conference search, renovation plans, cost of attendance -

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Opening statements delivered, first witnesses called in second trial for alleged 2012 gang rape at UMass -

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Canelas: Improved scoring depth essential for UMass in 2013-14

Nathalie Sczublewski/Daily Collegian

With nine seniors, 16 upperclassmen and its three leading scorers from last season on the roster, one would think the Massachusetts hockey team is primed for success in 2013-14.

However, there’s a reason why UMass failed to make the Hockey East Tournament last season and why it’s yet again picked to finish second-to-last in the conference. Beyond the top forward line of Branden Gracel, Michael Pereira and Conor Sheary, there aren’t a whole lot of reliable scoring options for the Minutemen.

There are players who are capable of contributing. But if last season – a season in which the Minutemen went winless in eight of their final 10 games – is any indication, the pressure will once again fall upon the first line to replicate its 2012-13 showing.

The trio produced 35 percent of the points for UMass last season and quickly became one of the most exciting and dynamic scoring lines in Hockey East, if not in all of college hockey, once they were regularly placed in the lineup together in the middle of the season.

The problem was the wins weren’t coming with it. Steven Guzzo (5 goals, 9 assists, 14 points) underachieved, Troy Power was out with a season-ending injury and there simply wasn’t enough talent to roll out four quality lines.

“Depth in scoring is a key,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “You can’t be a one-line team, a one-trick pony in this league. Credit to Mike and Conor and Branden last year because they did carry the bulk of it while being targeted by other teams.”

This trend can’t continue if the Minutemen want better results this year. The burden now falls upon the likes of Guzzo, Power and Shane Walsh among a group of others, and a crop of freshmen to take the pressure off “The Big Three” of Gracel, Pereira and Sheary.

“I think in the past we’ve been so heavily one or two line based,” Power said, “and you look at the good teams around the league, they have great goaltending, they have good defense and they have four lines that can put good numbers on the board and that’s what we’re looking to do here.”

A team that exemplifies Power’s point is UMass Lowell, which also happens to be the defending Hockey East champions and UMass’ second opponent of the season. The River Hawks certainly didn’t have the best player in the conference on its roster. In fact, it’s likely none of their forwards are in any person’s top five in Hockey East. However, UMass Lowell relied on three 30-point scorers and five 20-point scorers to reach the Frozen Four for the first time in program history.

The difference there, of course, is that the Minutemen don’t have the same kind of talent that the River Hawks have, but there’s also no excuse for having nine role players to go with three goal-scorers up front.

Someone else has to emerge. Gracel (14-20-34) was that player last year and he led the team in scoring. It was essential. But it wasn’t enough from a team standpoint.

“For some of the year last year (Micheletto) even said that we didn’t have some of the secondary scoring that we needed,” Gracel said. “If we can get a couple other lines scoring it’s gonna be huge and help us compete with the best.”

Not only will it figuratively take some pressure off “The Big Three,” but it will also force opposing teams to spread out the defensive pairings and potentially force a mismatch on the ice. Gracel, Pereira and Sheary saw the best defensemen in Hockey East on a nightly basis, but that could change with a few more threats out there.

At this point, however, the Minutemen’s greatest hope for more offense comes from their freshmen. Steven Iacobellis has already shown flashes of offensive prowess and he’s yet to play in a game, while the rest of Micheletto’s first recruiting class, which includes names such as Ray Pigozzi, Brandon Wahlin and Brennan Baxandall, are bound to be fast, aggressive players built for the second-year coach’s system

UMass may have had its answer in Frank Vatrano, but the redshirt freshman and former Boston College commit is ineligible to play until the Hockey East Tournament due to academic issues dating back to his brief stay in Chestnut Hill last season. He’s never played in a game for the Minutemen, but he will certainly be missed.

“He’s made us better since he’s been here in January,” Micheletto said. “The guy hasn’t played a game, but the way he competes, his approach to the game, skill aside, how good a teammate he is, all those things impacted us so positively.”

Until Vatrano actually gets a chance to be the impact player he’s expected to be, UMass will have to find other answers. Watching Gracel, Pereira and Sheary skate together is as great of quality of hockey as it gets. But that won’t win the Minutemen games.

That responsibility falls upon everyone else. There needs to be a fourth and fifth 20-point scorer.

If not, the 2012-13 season could be on repeat this year.

That includes the wins and losses.

Nick Canelas can be reached at ncanelas@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.

 

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