UMass looks to overcome low expectations in Hockey East



Last modified: Saturday, October 10, 2015

BOSTON — If UMass is going to make a move forward in Hockey East, they’ll have to confound low expectations.

The league’s coaches picked the Minutemen last (12th) in the annual poll that came out Monday at Hockey East media day at the TD Garden.

UMass junior Steven Iacobellis, who will be a captain this season, said rankings, good or bad, don’t mean much.

“We don’t really think about it that much. They’re preseason rankings,” he said emphasizing ‘preseason.’ “We’re just going to go out there no matter if we were ranked first, second third or last. It’s what you do on the ice that matters. That’s what we’re going to put our head toward. We’re going to focus and keep our minds set on the start of the season. We’re not going to worry about it. It’s not something that goes around our dressing room. It doesn’t really matter.”

UMass coach John Micheletto said while a lot of attention has been place on the early departures of Frank Vatrano (Boston Bruins) and Brandon Montour (Anaheim Ducks), who each signed professional contracts, he likes the capacity for improvement even without them.

“Not only do we have adds in terms of our recruiting, but I think you’ll see guys within the program take big steps in terms of their development. I think you’re going to see significant growth and maturity in their game,” Micheletto said. “Every year you have a chance to take the group that you have and make them better as a whole.”

Boston College was picked first with seven of the 12 first-place votes, followed by rival Boston University, which got three No. 1 votes. Defending national champion Providence got the other two first-place votes and was third. No. 4 UMass-Lowell, No. 5 Northeastern and No. 6 New Hampshire rounded out the top half of the league.

No. 7 Notre Dame, No. 8 Vermont, No. 9 Connecticut, No. 10 Maine and No. 11 Merrimack were all ahead of UMass.

Sophomore Dennis Kravchenko, who led UMass with 33 points (10 goals, 23 assists) last year, thought the Minutemen would exceed expectations.

“We just have to play our game, learn the systems and get the young guys to buy in and we’ll be just fine,” he said. “I think our team is a lot better than people think.”

Iacobellis was eager for the chance to prove Kravchenko right. The Minutemen play Canadian college Dalhousie in an exhibition on Oct. 3 before travelling to Colorado Springs to face Colorado College on Oct. 9 and 10 to open the regular season.

“We’re excited to be back. I can’t wait to get going,” Iacobellis said. “We had lot of time to think. The biggest thing is coming together as a team, responding not as individuals but as a whole group. We lost a lot of passion, good players and good locker room guys, but our coaching staff did a really good job bringing some guys in. Our freshman seem to be coming in quite comfortable in a good way. I think they’re all excited to get the season going.”

Micheletto thought setting a good tone early would be important.

“Good starts are always wanted. We’re looking at October like ‘let’s get a bit of confidence’ especially with a young team,” he said. “We know as a returning team, that confidence went up and down a lot in the early going last year. If you can string together a couple of weekends, not just with wins or points, but feel-good performances, that’s valuable for pushing you forward and keeping the wind in your sails. We’re looking at October as a real chance to get off on the right foot.

MOOREHOUSE RETURNS — Donnie Moorehouse, who did play-by-play for UMass hockey games from 2001-02 to 2008-09, will return to the booth this season. He’ll rejoin longtime color man Brock Hines, who has been on the broadcast since the program was reinstated in 1993. Moorehouse replaces John Hennessey.

NEW TV PARTNER — Hockey East is one of many sports leagues around the country that have announced deals with the American Sports Network. ASN isn’t an actual network in the traditional sense, as it doesn’t show up on anyone’s channel lineup yet. It produces games that are aired on other stations, usually regional sports networks.

UMass’ Feb. 12 game vs. Northeastern at the Mullins Center is the Minutemen’s only ASN game among the network’s 13 men’s games. It hasn’t been announced yet who’ll carry the game. With no Bruins game that night, NESN is a likely possibility.

Hockey East is expected to announce further TV games in the coming weeks.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage


 


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