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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston Men’s Hockey Season Preview

Hockey season is gearing up and the scene is becoming clear at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The Beacons Men’s Hockey team is looking to improve on their 2016-17 record of 12-11-3. The team is now two seasons removed from their first New England Hockey Conference regular season and tournament titles, as well as the first NCAA tournament and Frozen Four appearances in school history. With a mix of returning senior stars, emerging underclassmen, and a pair of goalies with plenty of improvement in their games, the Beacons will be ready to make their voyage back to NEHC title contention and potentially back to this year’s NCAA Division III Frozen Four in Lake Placid, where the Beacons historic 2015-16 season concluded.
For game dates, the season starts with an exhibition game against the stars of the Eastern Hockey League on Oct. 21. The EHL holds a notable presence on the roster, with seven Beacons having played in the league for their junior careers, including sophomore goalie Jordan Bustard. The first official games of the season come the following weekend with Wentworth and Curry at Barry Rink.
While November will only have two home dates as opposed to the five last year, the season before that had no home games at all. The same month also sees the Beacons welcoming the newest member of the New England Hockey Conference in Hobart, their first contest since beating the Statesmen in the quarterfinal round of the 2016 NCAA Division III tournament which punched their Frozen Four ticket. December will see the Beacons play host to three games, starting with the back end of the home-to-home with rival Babson, and capping off the month with the 53rd Codfish Bowl Championship tournament.
January will hold the most home games of any month with four dates, all against NEHC opponents, starting on the Jan. 19 against Southern Maine, and ending with reigning league and NCAA champion Norwich on the Jan. 27. The final month of the regular season will be capped with a weekend home slate on the Feb. 9 and 10 with New England College and Southern Maine once more. This is where the imbalances are explained for scheduling: they will be playing four NEHC opponents three times this season, instead of the usual two. This imbalance applies only for this season, as it will be corrected next year when Suffolk University and Johnson and Wales University join the league. Looking from the roster is an assortment of high-scoring talent, led by senior captain Colin Larkin, the 2017 NEHC Player of the Year, with 20 goals and 39 points.
Impressive as his numbers were, his point total was only second on the team to the league’s Freshman of the Year, Ryan Cusin, who had 40 points complemented by 16 goals. Nolan Redler is also another standout young talent, notching 10 goals and 27 points in his freshman campaign. While the blue line will miss the savvy offensive skills of Tyler Bishop, Gabe Chuckran will take the helm as the top scoring threat on the team’s defensive core, evidenced by his four goals and 16 points as a sophomore. Garrett Gallagher, Bryan Carter, and Dante Suffredini are the other notable names among the Beacon defensemen.
The team’s goaltending department will look to improve their game on consistency that former stars Billy Faust and Zach Andrews perfected in the team’s 2016 Frozen Four season. Jordan Bustard showed plenty of his potential in his first season, going 9-5-2 with a 2.47 goals against average, .901 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. Fellow sophomore Bailey MacBurnie went 3-6-1, with a 2.61 GAA and .919 save percentage. If both goalies can improve on their GAAs, the Beacons will be a force to be reckoned with once again in the New England Hockey Conference.
With the details all explained, there isn’t much of anything to complain about if you’re a Beacons fan. The boys in blue will host at least two games per month, enjoy a more competitive schedule with Hobart making their maiden season in the NEHC, and renew a pair of red-hot rivalries with Babson and Norwich. This will help with the league’s stature as one of the tougher leagues in Division III men’s hockey. With a primed offensive attack and two talented young goalies, the Beacons will definitely improve from their 12-11-3 record of last year, and will come closer to their 23-5-3 NEHC championship form from 2015-16. I, for one, can’t wait for the day of the first puck drop.