By Matt Noonan
The UMass Minutemen concluded their season last March with two back-to-back losses to Boston College in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.
After the Eagles dislodged the Minutemen, former head coach Don “Toot” Cahoon resigned a few months later, which paved the way for the former University of Vermont associate head coach John Micheletto to be named the program’s 13th head coach.
Once officially introduced on July 16, 2012, Micheletto began crafting his goals and objectives for the upcoming season, which he highlighted below in an interview that was conducted last Tuesday at the Hockey East Media Day.
Here is the transcript from his conversation with reporters:
On prior knowledge of the team: “The three games we played them [when I was an assistant coach at University of Vermont] – well, I know they beat us at Fenway [Park]. Like I say, I think the biggest thing that I was all impressed with is their speed and their work ethic and those are things that we’re going to try and capitalize even further this year. Again, in the early going just being on the ice a couple of times with the guys – their commitment level and willingness to try things and their ability to pick up information and assimilate it pretty quickly has been pretty impressive.”
On the team’s goaltending: “Well, I think the good thing from my perspective is that yet three guys prior to coming to UMass were all starting goaltenders and were all highly regarded, so it’s going to create a pretty impressive competition between the three of them. Kevin [Boyle] maybe saw a bit more of the work later in the season last year, but as with all of our guys I have encouraged the goaltenders that this is a clean slate for everybody and we’re making decisions moving forward. It’s not just I know about the guys from the past, [but] it’s about what you do from day one until we get on the ice against UConn on [Oct. 6] that will determine who will get in the lineup.”
On the team’s commitment this offseason: “I don’t know that I could say there was a change not really having a personal knowledge of the inner-workings, [but] I will say that I was impressed with their commitment level through the transition, what good of shape they came in [to camp], so that really indicated to me the dedication to the offseason program. I think where a lot of guys could have gotten a jaded view or lost their motivation or maybe not have committed as well [it’s] quite the opposite [because it] seemed to kind of bond the guys together and even more, and so it became even easier then once I took over because that base was already there.”
On the team’s veteran presence: “I think going being from what’s considered a young team being considered a veteran team or a more veteran team, you’re certainly hopeful that guys take that step forward in terms of their mental approach, in terms of their consistency, so like I say, 17 or 18 juniors and seniors is certainly a better equation for a coach than to have 17 or 18 freshmen and sophomores.”
On the team’s defensive unit: “I’ve been really impressed with our [defense] because they’ve got the ability to play at both ends of the ice. You’ve got Joel Hanley, you’ve got Conor Allen, you’ve got Adam Phillips, you’ve got Colin Shea, Oleg Yevenko, Darren Rowe, you’ve got freshmen added to the mix, [so] those are all guys that can get around the sheet pretty well, they can defend pretty well, we’re certainly going to ask them turn more pucks over for us this year, but they’ve also proven especially two years ago to be able to contribute offensively quite a bit. So from the style of play that we want to have an attacking style of play you need to activate your defensemen and have them be able to – don’t need them to lug the puck like Bobby Orr used to do, [but] you need them to be involved and I think all those guys regardless of how “offensive defensemen” they are they all have the capability of doing that and contributing a little bit.”
On the team’s offensive unit: “We’ve got the great majority of our top five scorers back from last year just losing T.J. Syner from last year to graduation, so the guys who were up near the top last year – the Conor Sheary’s, the Mike Pereira’s, the Steve Guzzo’s, the Troy Power’s – I would imagine those guys are going to be near the top again, but having said that we need to get more productivity out of maybe that middle tier to close the gap and get more 20 point scorers, more guys that are in that range because our depth is certainly going to be a strength of ours up front