By: James Duffy
Head Coach: Greg Carvel, 1st season
8-24-4 (2-16-4 in Hockey East, 12th); Lost in first round of conference playoffs to Boston University
Losses: F Shane Walsh, F Dennis Kravchenko, F Keith Burchett, D Maddison Smiley, D Ben Gallacher, G Henry Dill
Newcomers: F Brett Boeing, F Jonathan Lazarus, F Griff Jeszka, F Kyler Nachtigall, F Jack Suter, F Niko Hildenbrand, F Luke McElhenie, D Shane Bear, D Jake McCarthy, D Josh Couturier, D Jake McLaughlin, G Ryan Wischow
After a surprisingly strong start to the season, the UMass Amherst Minutemen eventually sunk to the bottom of Hockey East. They began their season by winning four of their first five games. They ended it by winning four of their final 31. Their only conference wins came in November when they swept UConn. The Minutemen went 0-16-4 in 20 Hockey East matchups after that point. The disastrous second half of the season ended with a surprisingly competitive series with Boston University, where they were swept nonetheless.
Despite only graduating two seniors, the offseason was a tumultuous one for Amherst. Greg Carvel was hired as the new head coach of the team, after spending five successful years coaching St. Lawrence. Following the hiring of Carvel, it was announced that Kravchenko, Burchett, Smiley and Dill would not be returning to Amherst. Kravchenko was the team’s second leading scorer behind Walsh, so the Minutemen lost a bulk of their offense over the summer. The duo combined for 30 of the team’s 84 goals last season. In Smiley and Gallacher, the team lost two starting defensemen as well.
Luckily for Amherst, they pulled an 11 man deep freshman class, with seven of those being forwards. Griff Jeszka leads the forward group, a 6-foot-1 overaged forward who posted 48 points in 59 games in the North American Hockey League last year. Brett Boeing is another interesting freshman forward for Amherst. A star in the United States Hockey League, Boeing left the USHL for Michigan Tech, before leaving the team halfway through the season to return to juniors. After putting up 18 points in 31 games last season in the USHL, and 6 points in 11 games for Michigan Tech, Boeing seems poised to have a breakout season for Amherst.
On the blue line, Shane Bear looks to make an immediate contribution for the Minutemen. He plays a strong two-way game, and can provide defensive scoring on a team that sorely needs it. He’s a bit undersized, at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, but is more of a puck mover than a stay at home defender. They also landed BC transfer Josh Couturier, who figures to be one of their best defensemen down the road. He’ll sit out this season, per NCAA transfer rules, but should contribute for the Minutemen for years to come.
The situation between the pipes isn’t very strong in Amherst, which makes incoming freshman Ryan Wischow a very interesting prospect. Nic Renyard should hold onto the job after an uninspiring season last year, where he posted a .898 save percentage in 26 games. Backup Alex Wakaluk was significantly worse, with a .862 mark in 10 appearances. That gives Wischow a chance to at least seize the backup role, and potentially contend with Renyard for the starting job. He’s coming off a season where he stopped pucks at a .917 rate in the USHL, significantly better than either seasoned goalie.
Bottom Line: The Minutemen will have a hard time recovering from the losses of Kravchenko and Walsh, their leading scorers last season. While their incoming forwards look promising, none can be counted on to contribute at that level this season. In net, look for Wischow to steal the starting job by Christmas, since neither Renyard or Wakaluk has shown that they truly deserve it. Nevertheless, Amherst will have a hard time climbing higher than 8th in Hockey East this year.