Raiola returns to home state, forwards to be focal point for UM

By Dan Gigliotti

Maxwell Sparr/Collegian

Though Minnesota is foreign territory to most of the members of the Massachusetts hockey team, it isn’t to Anthony Raiola.

The Victoria, Minn. native heads back to his home state this weekend when UMass takes on Minnesota, a game he hopes to play in and that will feature many of his former high school teammates. Raiola is a redshirt freshman for the Minutemen, one of nine defensemen on the roster this season.

He played at Minnetonka High School, recording five goals and 12 assists. He last played for the North Iowa Outlaws of the North American Hockey League in 2008-09, and is a member of the Hockey East all-academic team.

Raiola’s family will host a fundraiser for the UMass hockey team at his home on Thursday. His father is promoting the event, called “Pick ’Em By the Pond,” which is presented by the Grammy organization in conjunction with the Pond Club. The fundraiser features two-time Grammy Award winning country singer Lee Ann Womack, among other performing artists, with the proceeds supporting the Massachusetts hockey organization.

Raiola has three years of eligibility left after this season, as the only red-shirt on the squad.

In the Bud Light Hockey Coaches Radio Show, held at The Hangar Pub & Grill, Raiola talked about doing his best to get into the lineup in competitive situations.

“It’s going to be a battle all year and I’m going to take it one step at a time,” Raiola said. “I’m going to hopefully block some shots and do what I have to do to get in the lineup.”
UMass coach Don Cahoon spoke about Raiola during the same interview and discussed his chances of seeing action this season.

“He has some offensive capabilities,” Cahoon said. “Over the last couple of weeks, he has steadily improved. I think part of it is his level of fitness on the ice. He is in the mix, right now, with a lot of groups of young player. His challenge is to give us every reason in the world to be in the lineup night-in and night-out. His situation is no different than any other guys, and he knows that.”

Gophers forwards to be focal point for UMass

The Gophers feature 19 players on their roster who were drafted by the National Hockey League. Five seniors, six juniors, two sophomores and six freshmen all had their names called during the NHL Entry Draft. The latest are freshmen Nick Bjugstad, Mark Alt, Justin Holl and Max Gardener who were picked in the first three rounds and were the top-74 overall picks.

Cahoon said his team will be especially concerned with deterring forwards Jake Hansen and Zack Budish, both recent draftees.

The tandem will be a major focus of Cahoon as he prepares his team to halt a Gophers offense that scored six times in its last exhibition game against British Columbia.

Hansen, a junior, was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third round of the 2007 Draft. In his previous two seasons, he tallied 19 points in 71 games, including seven goals and five assists in 2009.
Hansen netted two goals in the Gopher’s 6-0 win against British Columbia. After the game, Hansen was asked what his role on the team will be.

“Whatever my coach calls for,” he said. “It felt good to get a few goals, get back. It feels good to get a quick start.”

Sophomore Zack Budish joins him on the front line. He was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the second round of the 2009 Draft.

Budish played in all 39 games, mostly on the Gopher’s front-line at right wing. He scored 17 points, on his way to Western Collegiate Hockey Association Rookie of the Week Honors twice last season.

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at [email protected]