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Offseason update No. 1: Oh so many things to get to!

June 3, 2008

It’s been a few months since we last updated this space and, well, a lot of things have happened. Let’s get right to it.

Rausch out, McEachern in
You probably heard the rumblings long before it was announced last week, but former BU Terrier, NHL player and Northeastern assistant coach Shawn McEachern has been named UMass Lowell’s new assistant coach in the wake of the departure of long-time Blaise MacDonald sidekick Kenny Rausch.

Rausch had been MacDonald’s assistant for pretty much the entirety of his post-college life. Though he was an assistant for one year at BU, he has spent the last 10 years standing alongside MacDonald behind the bench at both Niagara and Lowell. Rausch’s stated reason for leaving was that he wished to pursue other coaching opportunities (there were rumblings from up in Anchorage that he interviewed for the then-vacant position at Alaska), though the Lowell Sun, of course, made it sound more insidious.

McEachern, for those of you unaware of his credentials, is a veteran of 911 NHL games, a Stanley Cup champion (as a rookie with Pittsburgh in 1992), a former NHL captain (with Atlanta from 2002-04), and a college standout. He is still the sixth-leading scorer in Boston University history despite only playing there for three years. While there he was an All-American, a Hobey finalist and a Hockey East tournament MVP.

His coaching credentials, too, are top-notch. He’s been an assistant at Northeastern the last two years, and was in charge of recruiting their outstanding freshman class that included the outstanding Wade MacLeod and Tyler McNeely, as well as the incoming class that includes four players listed in the NHL’s Central Scouting final predraft rankings. Lowell, by contrast, has none.

Word from our spies on Huntington, though, indicate that not only did McEachern run the recruiting for NU, he also pretty much ran the day-to-day operations of the team in a very real way. This is in no way meant to belittle Greg Cronin, whom we quite like, but it does illustate just how valuable a coach like McEachern can and will be.

We’re glad he’s finally on our side.

Recruit update
Now that everyone’s junior hockey season is wrapped up, here are some final stats for Lowell’s incoming class for the 2008-09 season.

Tim Corcoran
Corcoran, a defenseman playing for the EJHL’s Bay State Breakers, scored nine points (all assists) in 23 games this year. He also had 22 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Milton, Mass. native, not to be confused with the one-time Florida Marlin reliever by the same name, is an ’88 birthdate who previously played for St. Sebastien’s School.

“Tim is a heads up defenseman,” Breakers head coach David McCauley told the EJHL’s website. “These days it’s tough to find defenseman that realize the importance in defending and having pride in just that. Tim sees the ice very well and makes good decisions in our own end. He is a very coach-able kid who competes hard everyday.”

David Vallorani
Vallorani, a 5-8, 175-pound center out of the OPJHL’s Milton Icehawks program (which also gave us Jason Bergeron), popped in 32 goals and 55 assists (87 points) in 49 games. He also scored 3-11-14 in 11 postseason games.

Vallorani was named OPJHL West Division Player of the Month in December for scoring 16 points in only six games. He was also invited to play in the OPJHL All-Star game.

There’s not a lot of info on Vallorani out there, but an old scouting report from Red Line Report describes him thusly, “Small centre competes very well. He’s a quick skater who edges well and is not afraid to get his nose dirty in high traffic areas. Controls the puck well in tight spaces.”

Vallorani is an ’89 birthdate.

Tim Carr
Carr, of course, is the son of UML’s all-time leading scorer Mike Carr, but unlike his father, he’s a defenseman.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder from of the OPJHL’s Burlington Cougars, netted nine goals and 28 assists in 49 games to go with 65 penalty minutes. He had a goal and four penalty minutes in Burlington’s three playoff games.

Michael Budd
Budd is Carr’s teammate in Burlington, and scored 14-32-46 in 35 games and had one assist in the Cougars’ three playoff games.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound left wing is an ’89 birthdate and, according to thescoutingnews.com, “sees the ice well, makes smart decisions with the puck and sets up plays.” Budd says that his primary weakness is his acceleration.

Matt Ferreira
Ferreira, as you may know, was scheduled to come to Lowell for last season, but had emergency brain surgery before the season started and played another year for his hometown Brampton Capitals. Five weeks later, though, he was back on the ice.

With the Caps, Ferreira earned the OPJHL West Division MVP award, collecting 39-18-57 in 43 games, and 4-4-8 in eight playoff games. The Brampton website describes Ferreira’s game as “understated brilliance.”

There’s a great story on Ferreira, who has a sick red mohawk, here. This kid is going to be a good one.

T.J. Massie
Massie is a highly regarded goaltender out of Cushing Academy, the one of the top prep programs in New England.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Lexington native reportedly chose Lowell because it offered him a full scholarship, immediate playing time, and did not require him to play juniors as other schools likely would have. Massie was also listed as a Player to Watch by Central Scouting before its midterm rankings.

Sam D’Agostino
D’Agostino will be a sophomore, eligibility-wise, this fall after transferring from UMass, where he scored no points in seven games during the 2005-06 season.

He is a 6-foot, 200-pound forward.

Awards and whatnot
There were few surprises at UML’s awards banquet a few weeks ago.

Kory Falite was named team MVP for his 18-14-32 line to go along with seven game-winners and a Hockey East-leading 15 in league games, and Maury Edwards was named Rookie of the Year. Edwards scored eight goals and 19 points from the blue line.

Falite also took home the G. Harvey Chandler Award, given to the team’s top scorer, and the UMLHockey.com Fan Vote award, which, obviously, is chosen by the fans.

No shock here, but Jeremy Dehner took home the Best Defensive Player award, his second in as many years. Our bet is that he, like Matt Collar before him, will win it every year until he’s done.

Kelly Sullivan picked up the Unsung Hero award, Ben Holmstrom won the Gus Coutu award (for best exemplifying the spirit of UML hockey), Paul Worthington took home the Coaches’ Perseverance award, and Ryan Blair was named Most Improved Player.

We were also happy to see UML’s overworked and criminally underpaid sports information director Jonathan Albert take home the Marc Connelly award, which is given to the non-player that has the biggest positive impact on the team. The award is voted on by the players, and well deserved.

A few Lowell players also took home Hockey East awards. The ‘Hawks took home the Team Sportsmanship award for the second time by virtue of having the fewest penalty minutes per game. Falite, meanwhile, was the only sophomore named to a Hockey East All-Star team, and Edwards was named to the All-Rookie team.

S-M-R-T (I mean S-M-A-R-T)
The entire hockey team also won the school’s award for best team GPA, marking the third time in four years it’s won. The time it didn’t win, it was runner-up. The team GPA was 3.064.

Despair in the departure lounge
First and foremost, of course, is that Boston University, which beat Lowell in the Hockey East quarterfinals, promptly flamed out in spectacular fashion against Vermont less than a week later. The next night, Vermont fell to Boston College, who eventually became national champions on the back of one Nathan Gerbe.

That prompted the Buffalo Sabres, who drafted Gerbe in the fifth round of the 2005 NHL entry draft, to sign the sensational, diminutive forward to a three-year entry level deal that could net him up to $2.55 million if he meets certain roster and performance bonuses.

That, obviously, is bad news for Boston College. The Eagles, though, shouldn’t have too much cause to worry. They always find someone to step up, and still have three incoming players and one current one ranked by Central Scouting, as well as seven players that have already been drafted.

Unfortunately, the same cannot beside for the woeful Maine Black Bears, who were going to lose six of their top seven scorers to graduation. That is, until, Andrew Sweetland, their No. 4 scorer, also bolted for warmer climes. That leaves Maine with two CSS-ranked players coming in, and three drafted players remaining (though we are of the belief that Maine’s returning leading scorer, the all-but-talentless Simon Danis-Pepin* shouldn’t count). Maine also lost Ben Bishop, who played 95.6 percent of the time this past season, to St. Louis.

Matt Jones also left Merrimack, but they actually have a pretty good recruiting class (y’know, Merrimack-wise) coming in and he might not be so dearly missed. We cannot believe we typed that.

Northeastern’s Chad Costello also left school. He signed with an ECHL team, and was promptly released.

Ex-Friar Cody Wild, on the other hand, signed a three-year deal with Edmonton, which plucked him in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.

Of further interest is that BU forward and Hockey East Rookie of the Year Colin Wilson is the 10th-ranked North American skater in this year’s NHL entry draft, and some have him going as high as No. 10 overall in the draft, which is less than 18 days away. Wilson at times looked disinterested in the level of competition in Hockey East (he was benched in a playoff game against Lowell for not trying the previous night), but his skill set is electrifying. One can bet that whichever team drafts him will be eager to sign him straightaway, or at least convince him to jump to major junior. Whether or not he will remains to be seen, but it would certainly be a big blow to the Terriers if Wilson left.

But not everything’s doom and gloom in Hockey East as far as highly sought-after players are concerned. UNH wunderkind and old school hip hop enthusiast James vanRiemsdyk has confirmed that he will stay in college for another year despite being heavily courted by the Philadelphia Flyers, which took him No. 2 overall last June.

On Comm Ave., too, there is reason to celebrate. Matt Gilroy, the hotly-pursued defenseman who had reportedly received interest from all 30 NHL teams to leave school early, will stick around. And sure, he will probably cite things like “loyalty to BU” and “I want to play with my brother (incoming recruit Kevin Gilroy),” but the fact is it all boils down to money. Gilroy could have signed an entry level deal with literally any NHL team for the rookie max of $850,000 plus incentives. But he turns 25 during the upcoming season and, as such, the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement frees him from the obligation of signing an entry level deal after reaching that age. That could mean bigger bucks for Gilroy, and it certainly means better defense for BU.

We are trying our hardest not to laugh hysterically, but concede that it is awfully difficult
We know of at least one player who won’t be making it to college. Former UMass recruit John Carlson recently made the decision to sign with the OHL’s London Knights instead of heading to Amherst this fall. The big defenseman was chosen in the second round of last month’s OHL draft and is ranked No. 17 by Central Scouting. This is a big blow to the Minutemen, who barely made the Hockey East playoffs last year and hilariously laid a gigantic egg down the stretch after being as high as No. 5 in the country.

We never tire of UMass’ numerous failures (how’s that 0-fer on getting UML punted from the league, buddies?), and this is just another in what we’re sure will be a long line down the road. We can only hope the great Paul Dainton* is next to wise up and skip town.

Over at the UMassHoops.com message board, “transrapide” found himself inconsolably crying into his pillow:

This hurts. The one difference-making player we’ve signed in a long time bails.

Quite disappointed to hear this news.

Others, like persee, are happily munching on some sour grapes:

Ummm I’d hardly consider Carlson “the one difference making player”. Sorry the kid is reportedly good, but no matter how good a kid is in their JR etc league there is no guarantee they’ll be able to have the same impact at a college level. Conversely kids who may have looked “average” in juniors can come into college and turn heads in a major way. Carlson has probably gotten extra notoriety due to his size. Unfortunately scouts are still hung up on size despite the new NHL showing us that physical stature is no guarantee for or against success. The difference between two equally talented players may be their stature – you can bet the 6’1 kid gets at least double the hype to the 5’9 kid.

I think a statement like the above is an insult to all the great kids who have come, are at, and will come to UMass to play hockey. Many of whom will be impact players and difference makers regardless of what the NHL scouts say.

We’d feel bad if this was, say, Merrimack. But it’s not. It’s UMass. And it’s hysterical.

That’s all we can think of for right now. Check back later this summer.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jay permalink
    June 10, 2008 1:29 pm

    Its sad that Riverhawk fans get such a kick out of the failings of Amherst.

    Just shows you to be small and pathetic.

    But hey, good luck next year!

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