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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Three’s Company

Eight seasons and 145 losses later, UMass Boston’s men’s hockey team is relevant again. It’s been a long road for a Beacons program that last won a tournament game in 2000, which, coincidentally, is the last time they eclipsed the 10-win plateau. That season, the team was led by a trio of two seniors (Matt Anthony and Jamie Graham) and one sophomore (T.C. Harris), who together scored 45 goals and totaled 93 points.

This season, UMass Boston has renewed its winning ways, posting a 10-13-2 overall record and forming a twenty-first century trio of their own. The three-man wrecking crew consists of sophomore Kris Kranzky and freshmen Matt Atsoff and Eric Tufman. Together as the team’s first line since Adam Larrabee left prior to winter break, the three have accounted for 25 goals and 86 total points. These three young stars scored 30 percent of the team’s goals and accrued 39 percent of the team’s total points.

Tufman (fourth), Kranzky (seventeenth), and Atsoff (eighteenth) all finished in the top-twenty in points scored this season, and head coach Peter Belisle wondered outloud about the feat. “When’s the last time UMass Boston had anybody in the freakin’ top 20?” he rhetorically asked. “I dunno, and we got three guys in the top 20, so thank God for that and then God for those three.”

Higher powers aside, Belisle doesn’t dole out too much credit to one player over the others. He explains that all three have certain traits that allow this line to work so seamlessly. “They feed off each other so well because you got Eric Tufman, who’s the anticipator, Johnny-on-the-spot; he’s always in the right place at the right time. He sees the ice so well and he’s a smart hockey player.

“Then you’ve got Matt Atsoff, who’s just such a power forward, the prototypical power forward who… loosens stuff up. He’s a crash-and-bang guy. Atsoff is usually the first fore-checker who’s gonna come in and really hammer a guy and loosen stuff up.

“[Finally, Kris] Kranzky’s so big and strong and powerful. He shoots the puck so well, and he’s a smart hockey player, too; I mean, they’re all smart hockey players, but they each bring something different to the table.”

It’s these particular skill sets and their unselfishness as offensive forces that have allowed Kranzky, Atsoff and Tufman to thrive and become such a threat every single shift. Belisle admits that Tufman is the most creative of the three, but says “he couldn’t be as creative if Atsoff wasn’t a good fore-checker, always banging the body and laying huge hits all the time.”

To further intertwine the three, Belisle adds the fact that “Kranzky seems to go in there and scoop the puck up and really feed Eric. He’s a good passer as well, and he’s got such a strong shot that Tufman’s scored a lot of rebound goals from Kranzky’s shot.” Kranzky, a touted goal-scorer coming into his second season with the team, became a facilitator, leading the team in assists with 19.

Tufman, who is one of the front-runners for ECAC East Rookie of the Year along with Salem State College’s Justin Fox, sees how he and his two teammates have grown together this season. “It just seems [like] we have everything in that one line. We have the speed, we have the grittiness, we have the size with Kranzky. That guy’s a monster.

“Matt’s an aggressive player. We just complement each other in every aspect of the game and we back each other up.

“We had an exceptional season, and we all have the work ethic to go with it, which I believe is the main reason why the chemistry is there.”

The best part of all is that these three will have another two full seasons together. There will be no break-in period, no adjustments, no six-game suspensions, and, last but not least, there won’t be a losing culture anymore.

Not with these guys patrolling the ice.

About the Contributor
Ryan Thomas served as the sports editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2007-2008; 2008-2009