Mass Attack preseason begins

By Melissa Turtinen, Collegian Staff

Brian Tedder/Collegian

The Massachusetts hockey team begins its 132-day calendar season on Saturday with an exhibition game against New Brunswick.

Saturday is a big day for the Minutemen because it’s also the first day of formal practice. So far this season they have only been doing on-ice conditioning and training, without being taught systems and technical strategies.

New Brunswick is a team made up of many athletes that have been part of a pro-hockey circuit, but they were filtered out because they weren’t having success in the minor or junior hockey leagues. They are deemed ineligible by the NCAA, but they can still attend and play at Canadian colleges – usually at an older age, ranging from 21-25.

“[New Brunswick will] be a very mature team and this program historically has been one of the better programs in Canada,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “They’ll come in here further ahead in their development than we are.”

The Varsity Reds typically begin practicing at the end of August or beginning of September and have already played eight games this season, winning five of them. The Minutemen are much further behind – taking on the team their first day of practice.

“I’ll have to look by a lot of systemic type mistakes. I’m sure the effort will be real good and it will be a good challenge to get going and be able to identify your areas of strength and your areas of weakness,” Cahoon said.

The Minutemen shouldn’t have much trouble playing together on Saturday because they are returning seven of their top 10 scorers, six defensemen and all three goalies from last year.

“I have confidence in our guys,” Cahoon said. “Things are going to fall in place systemically a lot quicker than they would if it were a younger team.”

But the younger players will still need to learn the system. The Minutemen’s co-captains (senior Cory Quirk and junior Brett Watson) and senior class provide the underclassmen with needed leadership. When the younger players see UMass’ systems executed correctly they will heighten their awareness and make catching onto the system quicker.

This exhibition game will allow the team to realize what they need to work on to start to prepare for the weekend of Oct. 12 when they take on Michigan State and North Dakota in the Ice Breaker Tournament in Boston.

Melissa Turtinen can be reached at [email protected]