University of Massachusetts hockey coach John Micheletto looks ahead with season over
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO The University of Massachusetts hockey team's season ended last weekend. Coach John Micheletto will get a jump on next season when he heads out to recruit this week. Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — At some point, University of Massachusetts hockey coach John Micheletto plans to decorate his office. Hired last July, well after the normal hiring season, he left his walls mostly empty throughout the season.
That task, like many others, beckons now that the season is over for the Minutemen, who were eliminated from Hockey East tournament contention last weekend.
“I’ll probably get to it at some time in July,” Micheletto said.
While he’d have preferred to be coaching his team in Hockey East playoff games this weekend, Micheletto planned to use the time to recruit.
He expected to meet individually with each of his players after they returned from spring break, which starts Friday.
“We’ll have exit meetings with the seniors trying to get a plan in place for them as far as what their next step is,” Micheletto said. “As far as the guys that are returning, it’ll be a review of their season, a final report card type of thing. We’ll talk about the things we need them to focus in on over the summer.”
He’s hoping to use the offseason to evaluate all facets of the program going forward.
“Part of this decompression will not only be looking at our players and our recruiting but looking comprehensively at everything we do,” he said.
COMINGS AND GOINGS — The Minutemen graduate four seniors, forwards Kevin Czepiel, Rocco Carzo and Ed Olczyk Jr., and defenseman Darren Rowe. All could sign professional contracts shortly.
UMass returns its top three scorers — Branden Gracel, Conor Sheary and Michael Pereira — and will add two players. Frank Vatrano, who sat out this year after originally signing with Boston College, and Northeastern transfer Rob Dongara are expected to impact the offense. Vatrano will be a freshman and Dongara a junior next season.
“Frank came in with a pedigree of being an elite level player and an elite level goal scorer. We certainly anticipate that he’s going to have an impact,” Micheletto said. “Rob came to the program after putting together one really good year as a freshman. It was no surprise if you knew what his work ethic was, but I think he surprised a few people around Hockey East. A lot things can happen, but we’re certainly hopeful that those guys can step into the mix to make us better.”
Micheletto said he didn’t expect any of his returning players to leave for professional opportunities, but didn’t rule it out.
“You always have to be prepared for it. The way the (NHL’s collective bargaining agreement) is written, we don’t have a lot of protections,” Micheletto said. “You see every year guys that are college free agents that you don’t expect to leave early, end up doing that. I certainly hope not. I think the guys we have returning, it would behoove them to stay. But in the back of our minds we always have to have a fall-back plan in case some team ends up making a run at one of our guys.”
Junior forward Troy Power, who suffered a knee injury 11 games into the season, will apply for a medical redshirt.
2013-14 SCHEDULE — The addition of Notre Dame next season, and Connecticut the following year significantly changes the Hockey East schedule. Each team will go from playing each league opponent three times (27 leagues games) to playing each other twice. There will be 20 league games next year and 22 in 2014-15.
Filling those extra nonconference games creates some challenges. Micheletto said UMass and Maine will play each other four times, twice at Alfond Arena and twice at the Mullins Center. Only one game at each venue will count in Hockey East standings.
The Minutemen and UMass-Lowell will also play a nonconference game to preserve their best-of-three Governor’s Cup rivalry.
Micheletto said UMass will host Michigan State for two games at the Mullins Center and that a home series is nearly set with “another western school.” He declined to name the opponent because the contract hadn’t been finalized.
UMass will play in the Connecticut Holiday Tournament and have nonconference games with Quinnipiac and Colgate.
PARKER RETIRES — Micheletto was one of many around college hockey that had a hard time picturing Boston University without Jack Parker. The legendary coach announced Tuesday that he is retiring after 40 years at the school.
“It’s a huge loss for college hockey and a huge loss for our league. He’s a guy that’s been the voice and face of our league for so many years,” Micheletto said. “It’s a huge change dropping the puck on a Hockey East season next year without Jack Parker behind the bench.”
Micheletto said Parker has been an influence on coaches in Hockey East for a long time.
“He’s been so good at mentoring young coaches like myself. When you’re an assistant coach, he talks to you and talks seriously to you and is curious about what you’re doing and is open to discussion,” Micheletto said. “He’s not a guy who is shy to share his opinions and beliefs. In a sport where coaches are leery about giving out competitive advantages, he’s been an open book. When you go to Agganis Arena, you’re sure to get a visit from Jack Parker. He makes time in his schedule to come down and talk about your players and your program.”