Football Friday Notebook: Welcome Back Football!

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By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Welcome back, football (and yes, we are officially back, too – no more vacations, folks!).

A brand new NFL season has officially begun with all 32 teams in action as of today.

Per the Washington Post, the Arizona Cardinals Denver BroncosLos Angeles Chargers and Minnesota Vikings kick-off their respective training camps today – these are the final four teams to report to camp after the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears commenced their respective seasons earlier this month. Both Baltimore and Chicago will compete in the Hall of Fame Game next Saturday, August 4th.

The New England Patriots began their preparations for the upcoming season yesterday at Gillette Stadium. Here are a few stories you should read from the first day of camp:

Let’s switch gears to some local college and high school news from the six New England states:

That concludes a new edition of the ‘Football Friday Notebook’ – vacation time is over, so get excited for loads of football content to come for the next six months!

Stay connected with Noontime Sports’ football coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_FB

Mass. College Hockey: UML Tops UNH, Claims Second Straight Hockey East Crown

By Matt Noonan 

BOSTON, Mass. – For the second straight year, UMass Lowell claimed the Hockey East crown as the River Hawks skated past University of New Hampshire, 4-0, on Saturday evening at the TD Garden.

With the win, UMass Lowell is now 2-2 in title contests. Their last win occurred last season when the River Hawks defeated Jack Parker and the Boston University Terriers.

Similar to their semifinal contest against Notre Dame last night, the River Hawks scored two goals in both the first and second periods. They also relied on their backstop, Connor Hellebuyck, who deflected 30 shots and was named the Hockey East Tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“I thought we started the game rather well,” said UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin, who guided the River Hawks to its second consecutive Hockey East championship.

“(The) first and second periods obviously were very opportunist and getting off to that type of lead certainly eases attention, but it didn’t make it easier in the third, I can tell you that.”

A.J. White provided the River Hawks with an early lead as he redirected a shot in front of the New Hampshire cage at 12:12.

UMass Lowell netted its second goal literally three minutes later as Josh Holmstrom fired a shot past a diving Casey DeSmith (26 saves), which provided the River Hawks with a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.

Joe Gambardella and Jake Suter each netted goals in the middle frame that pushed the River Hawks ahead by four goals.

New Hampshire ramped up its intensity during the final minutes of the third period; desperately trying to find a goal, but Hellebuyck and the River Hawks defense dashed any hopes of a potential comeback.

“It was a strange game,” said New Hampshire head coach Dick Umile, who guided the Wildcats to the title game following a series win last weekend against Northeastern University and a semifinal victory last night against Providence College.

“I thought our team competed, we played hard, (but) it just didn’t happen. Eric (Knodel) and the seniors have been a great group for us with great leadership and the difficult part is it’s a team with great chemistry, we wanted to keep going, (but) not only were they winning and playing hard, but we were enjoying it and having fun doing it and its tough for the season to end.”

UMass Lowell finished with 35 shots on net, while New Hampshire fired 30 shots. The River Hawks were one for four on the power play, thanks to their final goal by Suter, while the Wildcats were unsuccessful on two attempts.

UMass Lowell, which will be making its sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, will look to build on its success this weekend when they return to the ice next week. The River Hawks made it to semifinals (Frozen Four) last year, but lost to Yale University, 3-2.

“Tonight, like I told you, it wasn’t a work of art, but we found a way and that’s a good trait of a winning club,” said Bazin. “This year was such a grueling year. We’re going to give them some time off here before we play next week and we’re going to make sure we keep working on special teams, (which) seems to be the difference in all these games. Thankfully for us we were one for four I believe tonight, scoring another power play goal. Yesterday, we scored a couple, so from that standpoint it has been the difference and will be for all teams.”

Mass. College Hockey: Five Games To Watch This Weekend

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s Friday, which means the weekend is finally here!

Below are a few college hockey games to watch this weekend. And as always, make sure to check back throughout the weekend for scores and roundups.

Men’s Ice Hockey:

No. 8 UMass Lowell vs. No. 7 Providence College (Fri-Sat): This weekend series will feature two of the top three goalies in the country ranked by save percentage, according to the Hockey East weekend preview. UML’s Connor Hellebuyck ranks first in Division 1 in save percentage (.946 save percentage), while Providence’s Jon Gillies is third (.936).

No. 11 Northeastern at No. 15 Notre Dame (Fri-Sat): The Irish enter this weekend’s tilt on a four-game winning streak, while the Huskies have won four of their last five. Both teams are in the top three in scoring offense in the conference. Notre Dame ranks second with 3.43 goals per game, while Northeastern is third with 3.38.

Bentley at Holy Cross (Sat. 7 p.m.): The Falcons will take their 12-8-3 overall mark on the road Saturday and look for their 13th win against the same squad they defeated at Citi Frozen Fenway a few weeks ago. Keep an eye on Bentley’s Brett Gensler, who enters the contest on a 12-game scoring streak (he’s netted at least one goal in seven of his team’s last night outings). On the opposite end, make sure to watch Matt Vidal and Adam Schmidt, two players that lead the Crusaders in points (14).

No. 6 Babson vs. No. 9 UMass Boston (Fri-Sat): The Beavers and Beacons rank second and third in the ECAC East conference, so expect a great weekend series, which begins in Boston and ends at Babson Park. Since falling to Norwich at Frozen Fenway, Babson has won its last three outings, while UMass Boston has won six of its last seven, including its matchup at Fenway Park against Salem State. Last season, the Beacons were 1-1-1 against the Beavers, including a 4-3 loss in the conference tournament.

Women’s Ice Hockey:

New Hampshire at Boston College (Sat-Sun): The Wildcats are the only Hockey East squad that’s defeated the Eagles this season, but since then BC has rebounded by winning 10 of their last 11 contests, while outscoring opponents, 46-19. Keep an eye on BC’s Haley Skarupa, who ranks fourth in the conference in points scoring (14 goals, 12 assists).  

Mass. College Sports: Midweek Check-In

By Matt Noonan 

It’s “hump day,” which means we’ve officially reached the midway point of the current week. So, let’s take a trip around the Bay State and catch up on some of the latest college sports news.

* Tuesday was a special day for the Anna Maria College softball team as the AMCATs snapped a 40-game winless streak by defeating Penn State – New Kensington at the Dot Richardson Invitational, 6-1. Saugus’ Nicole Lowe earned her first victory on the bump this season, while Kayla Lapierre recorded two runs and two hits.

* Northeastern University’s men’s basketball team finished their season with a loss to Old Dominion at Matthews Arena last weekend. However, they did earn the season crown and will tip-off against the winner of Drexel-George Mason on Sunday. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed for the Huskies!

* In case you didn’t know, Boston College’s Nicole Boudreau was named to the 2012 ACC All-Freshman team yesterday. Boudreau, who hails from Andover, became the first Eagle freshman to earn this award since Carolyn Swords during the 2007-08 season. According to the Boston Herald, Boudreau appeared in every game this season and netted 324 points, recorded 105 rebounds and tallied  67 assists.

* The Worcester Telegram reported that the Nichols College field hockey team received the 2012 Gladiator by SGI/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division 3 National Academic Team Award. Congrats Bison!

* Holden native John Henrion was named the Hockey East’s Athletic Republic Co-Player of the Week on Monday following a four goal weekend for the New Hampshire Wildcat. Henrion registered his first collegiate hat trick during Saturday’s 4-0 victory against UMass. Henrion has been a major contributor for the Wildcats this season and currently has 22 points (13 goals, nine assists).

* Sticking with the Hockey East, the league announced its women’s Pro Ambitions All-Rookie Team for the 2012-2013 season and a few local teams featured some skaters on this team. CLICK HERE to access the team and release.

* Finally, I’d like to wish the local men’s Division III hockey clubs the best of luck this evening as the quest for Lake Placid begins. We’ll have highlights from the games posted later.

Mass. College Sports: Saturday Basketball & Hockey Highlights

By Matt Noonan 

Most teams will enjoy a day of rest today, while others will compete. Here are a few highlights and notes from the past two days:

Basketball:

* Boston University’s women’s basketball team extended its winning streak to 11 games on Saturday with a victory against American East opponent Binghamton. The Terriers won 13 consecutive contests last season and certainly are on par for matching that record pending two more wins against Maine and New Hampshire.

* Behind 56 rebounds and 18 points off the bench, Babson College was able to defeat Smith College, 59-50 and remain undefeated in NEWMAC (New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic) conference play. With the win, Babson extended its conference-winning streak to 73 and has now defeated Smith in their last nine meetings.

* WPI’s men’s basketball team has won 16 consecutive games this season and picked up another conference win against Wheaton College. Sam Longwell recorded a game-high 22 points for the Engineers, a squad that’s currently 3-0 in the conference.

* Amherst College and Tufts University kept their perfect marks in tact with wins in the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) this past weekend. The countdown for this particular showdown in Amherst is officially on.

* Bentley University’s women’s basketball team stretched its winning streak to 13 games, as the Falcons soared past Pace, 69-53. With the win, Bentley has now won 26 straight contests against East Region opponents.

Hockey:

* One of the biggest stories from Saturday was Babson College’s men’s ice hockey team upsetting the best team in the land. The Beavers topped Norwich University, 4-1 in Vermont, and picked up two important points in the ECAC East Hockey Conference.

* UMass Boston’s men’s ice hockey team rebounded from their loss on Friday to Norwich with an enormous win against St. Michaels. The Beacons have been a great story this season and certainly have a chance to climb out of third place with a few more wins.

* Something drastic must have happened in Steve Hoar’s locker room following Becker College’s 9-5 thumping a few weeks ago against Wentworth Institute of Technology. The Ice Hawks have won five of their last six games and preserved a one-goal lead yesterday against SUNY Potsdam, which earned the men’s ice hockey team their eighth victory of the season.

* I predicted that Boston College and New Hampshire were going to split their weekend series, and it happened. The Wildcats potted two goals against the Eagles to improve to 14-4-2.

* Haley Skarupa tallied five points in Boston College’s win against Vermont by tallying three goals and two assists. The freshman forward has recorded 37 points this season, 18 goals and 19 assists.

* Harvard’s women’s ice hockey team earned a convincing conference win on Saturday, as they defeated Quinnipiac, 4-0. Harvard is now 13-1-1 overall and 11-0 in ECAC Women’s Hockey.