BY: DAN MCLOONE
Losses: F Peter DeAngelo, F Branden Gracel, G Mac Haight, D Joel Hanley, F Patrick Kiley, F Michael Pereira, F Adam Phillips, D Anthony Raiola, D Colin Shea, F Conor Sheary, F Brandon Wahlin
Newcomers: F Kevin Burchett, G Henry Dill, D Jake Horton, F Dennis Kravchenko, F Patrick Lee, F Riley McDougall, D Maddison Smiley, F Dominic Trento, F Anthony Petrell
Rough would probably be an understatement when it comes to describing last season for the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. A year after earning 12 wins in his first year as head coach, John Micheletto and the Minutemen regressed to 8-22-4 (4-13-3 in Hockey East) and finished tenth in the 11-team conference. He will now be tasked with keeping the team competitive and out of the Hockey East cellar.
Complicating this task is the departure of the three top scorers from last years’ team. Over 33 percent of the Minutemen’s offensive firepower was provided by Conor Sheary, Michael Pereira and Branden Gracel, who have now graduated. Redshirt senior Troy Power now steps up as a returning captain and the veteran scorer up front, and will look to improve on his balanced junior season that included 10 goals and seven assists. Joining him up top will be sophomores Steven Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi, who will try and show that their strong freshmen seasons were no fluke. The two combined for 39 points last season, with Iacobellis tying for second on the team in goals with 11 and earning team Rookie of the Year honors.
Micheletto will also look for his incoming freshmen to make an impact on the attack this season. Kevin Burchett, Dennis Kravchenko, Patrick Lee, Dominic Trento and Anthony Petrella will look to have the same type of seasons as Iacobellis and Pigozzi enjoyed during their freshmen years. More of interest, however, is newcomer Riley McDougall, who finished off last season as the leading scorer on the Calgary Mustangs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League with 30 goals and 31 assists. His pace and hockey sense will help the Minutemen keep opposing defenders on the edge.
On defense, Massachusetts will try to replace graduated seniors Colin Shea and Joel Hanley, both of whom played in all 34 games last season. Beyond their leadership and defensive prowess, the two also finished second and third respectively on the team in assists last season. The team will return junior Ben Gallacher, who instantly becomes the de facto leader in the back. Seniors Mike Busillo and Oleg Yevenko will look to step in and take a larger role than they had last year. Micheletto will also need to get some disciplined play from his youngsters, as sophomore Mark Hetnik, sophomore Brennan Baxandall, freshman Jake Horton and freshman Maddison Smiley will all get opportunities to contribute.
Incumbent starter in net Steve Mastalerz returns for his senior season and will try to best the career high goals against average of 2.77 and save percentage of .907 that he set during his first season as the full-time starter last year. Behind him, the Minutemen have planned for their future, with sophomore Alex Wakaluk and freshman Henry Dill waiting in the wings should help be needed.
Bottom Line: Micheletto is confident that the Minutemen are heading in the right direction. While they may manage to best their four conference wins of last year, it is hard to envision Massachusetts finishing anywhere better than ninth in a competitive Hockey East this season.
Hockey, Team Previews