East Regional Notebook
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Some teams get only 15 minutes of fame.
But the Minutemen of the University of Massachusetts have gotten a lot more than that this weekend, attracting the attention of the college hockey world when they found themselves playing for a chance to go to the Frozen Four.
Friday, the fourth-seeded UMass (the overall No. 14 seed in the NCAA tournament) knocked off the number one seed in the regional, Clarkson. And on Saturday, they were scoreless with Maine after one period before eventually falling by a 3-1 score.
Not too bad for the program's first ever trip to the NCAA tournament. Still, to Minutemen coach Don "Toot" Cahoon, the difference in experience between his team and Tim Whitehead's Maine squad was noticeable.
"They certainly played like a team that had been in this situation many times before," said Cahoon. "The way they came out of the gate was an indication that they were ready to play.
"Meanwhile, I thought we were a little off, not playing as organized and with as much conviction as we've played in the recent past. But congratulations to our guys for the effort and focus that they've put forth throughout the year."
Indeed, congratulations are in order. After all, UMass won only 26 games combined over the previous two seasons. This year, they won 21 and finished in fourth place in the regular season Hockey East Standings — one spot above Maine.
Cahoon, who has been coaching now for over a quarter of a century, was able to put the season into perspective.
Said the veteran coach, "Going into the weekend, I thought about how we've grown and why we've grown. It's positive for the most part. The sad thing is, in college hockey, you don't get to hang on to a [player like captain] Matt Anderson. The kid's a 3.8 student with a finite math major and a second major in finance. He's been a captain of this team for three years, and he represents what we're about better than anyone I can think of.
"Now I've got to try and find another kid that will exemplify his character into the future."
Anderson, who scored at least 20 points during each of his season at UMass, took time to reflect as well.
"It's been a whole learning experience," said Anderson. "It's been a real pleasure. It's great to pave the way for someone else. I hope they can come back here and make a bigger push than we did."
And with the way the program has grown under Cahoon's tutelage, it's not a stetch to expect just that.
ALL-EAST REGIONAL TEAM
F — Matt Anderson, UMass
F — Kevin Jarman, UMass
F — Michel Leveille, Maine
D — Mike Lundin, Maine
D — Bret Tyler, Maine
G — Ben Bishop, Maine
NCAA Tournament East Regional Most Outstanding Player: Michel Leveille, Maine
QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND
"I think we've come a long way as a program. It's a credit to the guys in the locker room. We were on a mission this year from the start. We fell short, but I thinking a couple days, we'll look back and be proud of what we accomplished this year." — Clarkson coach George Roll, following the Golden Knights' 1-0 loss in overtime to UMass.
"It hasn't sunk in yet. After it went in, everyone kind of went berserk. It's one of those things, when you're shooting pucks in your garage, that you dream about. It's a dream come true." — UMass forward Kevin Jarman, on scoring the overtime game winner for the Minutemen on Friday against Clarkson.
"For one of the first times, I went in and didn't know what to say to the team. We only gave up 17 shots. That's what's frustrating now at the end of it, that we only gave up 17 shots." — St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko, following his team's 4-1 loss to Maine on Friday night.
"UMass has made us a better team. They beat us four times, and it really brought out a lot of our weaknesses. We were really forced to concentrate on those... in our free time last weekend." — Maine coach Tim Whitehead, referring to the Black Bears' two week hiatus as a result of not advancing to the Hockey East Championships.
"We'll see what hotel we get." — Whitehead, after Maine goaltender Ben Bishop was asked if the team would receive any favoritism at the Frozen Four because of his father serving on the planning committee.
"I feel good. I'm feeling good enough to play. I'm not going to let that bother me. We get two weeks off, so that should only help." — Maine goaltender Ben Bishop, on his return from a groin strain.
"We've had a mantra throughout the year — Coach [Cahoon] uses the word mantra — that it's about us, it's about the guys in our locker room. It wasn't about one player on their team. It was about the 30 individuals in our locker room." — UMass captain Matt Anderson, after being asked if the difference against Maine was having to face Ben Bishop.
"If [Hamilton] was trying to play the puck that way, it was absolutely brilliant. If not, it was an unfortunate play." — UMass coach Don Cahoon, describing Mike Hamilton's goal for the Black Bears in which the puck was shot off Jon Quick's goalie mask and into the net.
"As far as pressure's concerned, you're either feeling the pressure or you're applying the pressure. And tonight, we were definitely feeling the pressure, and they were applying it early. We had to play ourselves through that." — Cahoon, on Maine's fast start to the game.