Massachusetts Daily Collegian

McDonough: No need for UMass hockey fans to panic

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Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

There have been multiple disappointing moments for the Massachusetts hockey team this season; from an eight-game losing streak that lasted nearly a month to three blowout losses by at least four goals.

But perhaps the most disappointing moment of them all came last Tuesday night when the Minutemen lost to American International College at home.

For those who don’t understand what that loss means, AIC hasn’t had a winning season since it was a Division I independent in 1993-94. The Yellow Jackets have since moved on to play in the Atlantic Hockey Conference, which has the perception as one of the bottom leagues in Division I hockey. Meanwhile, UMass, although it is in the bottom three of Hockey East, still plays in the premier league in college hockey.

To put this into football terms, this would be like one of the bottom teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, UMass, from one of the bottom conferences, the Mid-American Conference, going up against one of the bottom teams in the Southeastern Conference, Tennessee, and winning on the road. UMass should not beat Tennessee in football just like AIC shouldn’t beat UMass in hockey.

Alas, it happened. The Minutemen once again failed to score more than two goals in a game this season and lost 3-2. UMass’ goals per game is still stuck at 2.0, which will not get it done in most hockey games no matter how well your goaltender is playing.

The loss to AIC certainly hurts the perception of the program, and it was a failed opportunity to gain some momentum heading into the second half of the Hockey East season.

But the loss to AIC doesn’t hurt the team in terms of postseason aspirations. If UMass was in contention for an NCAA Tournament at large bid, a loss to AIC would certainly hurt it in the PairWise. But with a record of 6-15-3, the Minutemen’s only chance at making the tournament is to win the conference tournament.

As for how the team is doing in conference, they are actually mildly exceeding expectations. They currently sit in ninth place ahead of Boston University and Merrimack. UMass was predicted to finish 10th based on the Hockey East coaches preseason poll.

And don’t forget, every team makes the Hockey East Tournament now so the Minutemen are not in danger of missing the postseason for the second straight year.

Right now, UMass is in an OK place, sitting one point behind Notre Dame for eighth place. That eighth seed hosts a first-round playoff game.

The bottom line is things could certainly be worse. Remember that Frank Vatrano guy who was all over the place in the exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 National team? Well he’s eligible to return for the Hockey East Tournament that the Minutemen are guaranteed to make and could still host in.

Those who are calling for the reset button to be hit on this team need to take a deep breath. John Micheletto is only in his second season at the helm, and he took over a team that only won 19 games combined in the two seasons before he got here under Don “Toot” Cahoon.

This is a program that has had three winning seasons since it joined the Hockey East in 1994-95, and has made the NCAA Tournament just once during that time thanks to a guy named Jonathan Quick (heard of him?) in 2006-07. So one could argue Micheletto is trying to turn around a program that has been in need of a turnaround for over 20 years.

I usually have a strict three-year policy in regards to coaching. Don’t even talk to me about changing coaches until they have had at least three years to change things, barring extenuating circumstances (i.e. Charley Molnar). In some cases,like with Derek Kellogg, you need six years for that turnaround to come full circle. I’m sure it’s going to take Mark Whipple a few years as well to bring winning football back to Amherst.

The moral of the story is the loss to AIC was disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. The Minutemen are still in good position for the Hockey East Tournament. Give Micheletto some time to turn around a program that has made the NCAA Tournament once since 1994-95 and has had three winning seasons during that span.

Capiche?

Cameron McDonough can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.

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