By Matt Noonan
University of Massachusetts’s men’s ice hockey team will need to work hard and cooperate with one another, especially if they’d like to rebound from last season’s dismal performance, which ended with six wins, (five of them being in the Hockey East conference) and 23-losses.
Head coach Don Cahoon is optimistic about the upcoming season, and certainly hopes to find Paul Dainton’s replacement between the pipes. The Minutemen currently have four goaltenders on their roster, so expect all of them to get an equal opportunity to showcase their talents, but most likely, Jeff Teglia will be the opening day starter against Northeastern University.
Here’s our conversation with the head coach, enjoy.
How much of an honor is it to be the only college or university from Massachusetts to participate in this season’s Frozen Fenway event?
“I think first you start with a university – the flagship program of the state. We have hundreds of thousands of people that have either come to [University of Massachusetts] or moved back to this – inside [Route] 495 corridor, living and working here, so it’s a real tribute to their support of our university and you’ll see them come out in droves. I think you’ll also see that Maine, New Hampshire [and] Vermont will support this [event] in a big way because Boston’s the hub of the universe, but it’s certainly the hub of New England, and so it’s a real thrill for our kids. It’s going to be a nice opportunity for them to handle a big time venue, a big time platform and it’s going to be exciting for us to prepare for that, participate in that, be part of [the event].”
Looking ahead to the upcoming season, what are some challenges or obstacles that you’re team will have to overcome in order to have a successful season?
“Well [the] biggest question we have is [that] Paul Dainton is now playing professional hockey. [He] graduated and gave us four great years and was a terrific team leader. That’s a void. We have one player that got enough ice time to get a taste of it in Jeff Teglia, but he certainly didn’t play on a regular basis. We have a couple of recruits – freshmen recruits in Steve Mastalerz, who played at Kimball Union Academy and Kevin Boyle, who played for the Westside Warriors in the BCHL and they come with good portfolios, they come with some credible statistics, but at the same time they haven’t played at this level, they haven’t dealt with the pressure of playing at this level and that’s an unknown, so that’s a real challenge for us to be able to move forward and really understand what we have in that position and feel comfortable that everything’s in order [and] where it needs to be. The other challenge was getting [the] center ice position really understood. We’ve had all sort of choices, but we need a lot of those guys to really elevate their level of play, whether it be Branden Gracel, who was a freshman last year or Eric Filiou or [Steven] Guzzo, who got out knocked out with an injury and now is back or whether we play Rocco Carzo there or move Danny Hobbs from the wing into the middle or [Michael] Pereira – we’ve got all sorts of challenges in terms of getting that position solidified.”
One of the biggest keys to winning in the Hockey East is goaltending. How important is it to have solid goaltending against league opponents?
“I don’t think there’s a team that’s ever had great success at this level that didn’t have great goaltending. At a minimum you need very good goaltending. You can’t win in this league without very good goaltending and if you do, it means you’ve got a team that basically is a national championship contender because every team exposes one another enough to penetrate anything less that very good goaltending.”