Keeping Score: Brock talks UMass hockey

  • UMass hockey radio announcer Brock Hines (left) is now in his 25th year. His current partner is play-by-play man Donnie Moorhouse (right). SUBMITTED PHOTO

Friday, February 02, 2018

Good morning!

The weekend sweep by Maine notwithstanding, the UMass hockey team is rising from the ashes. The Minutemen (11-14-1; 5-10-1) can finish with their most wins in nine years if they win four of their last eight games. More importantly, they’d likely be hosting a home ice playoff game.

Hockey East’s format works so that the top five teams get a bye, and six-through-eight will host nine-through-11 and at this writing UMass was in a three-way tie with UNH and UVM for that last home spot.

Brock Hines thinks it’s doable, and Hines knows the hockey landscape. “If UMass takes care of business against Merrimack, UNH and UConn, and steal one against BU, BC, Lowell or Providence, they’d lock up a home first round spot.”

Hines is marking his 25th season as the radio voice of UMass hockey. He’s done color alongside play-by-play voice Donnie Moorhouse (and others), pre- and post-game interviews with coach Greg Carvel (and others), and occasionally pulled a Vin Scully when Moorhouse (and others) were absent.

Two weeks ago, Hines made the 300-mile trek up to Orono, did his interviews, called the game (a 3-1 loss) and drove through snow from Augusta to Portland to get home before sunrise. “I watched some of the Australian Open and went to bed,” he said.

Hines calls Carvel “one of the best bench generals I’ve ever seen. He manages everything well — from his bench to the clock and he’s not afraid of calling out players.”

Now in his third season, Carvel arrived in 2015-16 and cleaned house. Only a half dozen players are still with the team from his first season, creating space this year for 11 freshmen. They include Amherst’s John Leonard, and Northfield Mount Hermon’s Oliver Chau and Mitchell Chaffee, who’ve scored 25 goals to account for more than a third of the goal production.

Frosh blueliners Cale Makar and Mario Ferraro, who were drafted fourth and 49th overall by Colorado and San Jose, have 24 assists. “They’re as advertised,” said Hines. “I also like (Sabres draft choice) Ivan Chukarov and I really like Chaffee. He’s got a touch and size.”

Hines said he expects Carvel to continue alternating between Ryan Wischow and Matt Murray in the crease until one or the other gets hot. “Neither has grabbed the reigns. That’s not a good sign,” he said.

The Maine losses at the Mullins Center were crushers. Back-boned by Jeremy Swayman’s 56 saves in two games, they swept UMass by identical 3-2 scores. The Bruins’ fourth round pick last year, Swayman leads Hockey East in goals against average; Wischow and Murray are last in goals against.

The double dip ended a stretch of eight games in 16 days. “It was brutal, a pro schedule,” said Hines. “The big challenge is putting back-to-back good efforts together and playing better on the road. We’ve been playing from behind and not playing 60 minutes.”

Hines’s wishlist for next season includes more 6-foot, 200-pound forwards like Chaffee, a sniper who can tweak the twine, and another defenseman. “Maker’s been out since he got nailed by a cheapshot against Northeastern. He was the star for Canada at the World Juniors and he’s been sorely missed.”

“Who knows,” added Hines. “They still might be in the market for a goalie.”

Players come and go but only goalies can stand on their heads. It’s no coincidence the only year UMass has made the NCAA tournament was when Jonathan Quick was between the pipes.

Bear Country’s Jeff Tirrell pegged himself as a “Fed Fan” this week. “You should’ve added Roger Federer to your item that the cuckoo clock is the only good thing to ever come out of Switzerland,” Tirrell emailed. “The Australian Open was his 20th Grand Slam, his third in 12 months, and people just can’t do that at age 36!”

If Tirrell hops off the Federer bandwagon, would that make him a Fed-Ex?

At least one Franklin County native will be on the sideline Sunday in Minnesota. NBC Sports Medicine Analyst Mike Ryan grew up in Ashfield and Shelburne Falls and is NBC’s Sports Medicine Analyst. “I’ll be monitoring the field and both sidelines for everything medical and giving the details to Michele Tafoya and the broadcast staff,” he emailed. “My feedback ranges from who’s wearing a knee brace or hand splint to what impact any new injuries will have on the players and teams.”

Busy weekend for camera operator Skip Smith, who was freelancing for a French-Canadian station at the NHL All Star game in Tampa. “I’ve worked with them before and they’re a fun-loving group,” he emailed, “but hearing the director, producer and sideline reporters all speaking back and forth between English and French got confusing.

“Hockey players are the nicest bunch of people in pro sports. Back then, it was Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Phil Esposito, now it’s P.K. Subban, Steven Stamkos and Brian Boyle. Subban was everybody’s favorite. He gives a great interview and made the other players in the locker room feel comfortable.”

“Try finding any Patriots’ stuff here in Florida,” he added. “I’ve searched everywhere and no luck.”

Greenfield’s Steve Kramer was ready to hit the confirm button for his Super Bowl trip to Minneapolis with his son Jake. “We were going to fly in on Friday, we had a car rented and a place to stay and had the tickets locked in at $2K and then the guy backed out. Now it’s $4,500 a ticket, too much.”

SQUIBBERS: Making hay when the sun shines, football writer Peter King appeared on 22 different stations Tuesday on Radio Row. … Only three Super Bowl participants played collegiately in New England: Eagles safety Corey Graham and tackle Will Beatty played at UNH and UConn, respectively, and Patriot fullback James Develin played at Brown. … The GHS Dave Petrin Memorial Scholarship game is Feb. 17 at the Collins-Moylan Arena. The puck drops at 5 p.m. Call 772-6891 for details. … In Las Vegas bettors can wager whether Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will hit over or under 86½ home runs. … According to Forbes.com, 79 percent of the straight-up wagering is on Philly to win outright. … The over/under is 48½ points and CBSsports.com headlined Computer LOVES Under, but take it with a grain of salt. The total’s gone over in four of the last five years. … Ten years ago today, Eli Manning avoided three sacks and threw a completion to David Tyree that he caught between his hand and his helmet. It is considered the greatest play in Super bowl history, and Malcolm Butler’s interception is next. … Memo to Ted Butynski: Brian Gionta is the captain of the U.S. Olympic hockey team, not Chris Bourque. My bad. … While others have pounded out football news from Minneapolis all week, Chris Russo’s had a blast resurrecting playing the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song and challenging listeners to answer MTM trivia. He even interviewed Jennifer Keishner Armstrong, whose book Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted was a New York Times best seller. … Why is it every website shows Matt McCall smiling and holding a basketball? Forget it, I’m not buying tickets. … The Minutemen have fallen to 181st in the Sagarin Ratings, one spot behind Eastern Washington. … A neck injury forced Eric Wood to retire from the Bills, but he keeps the $4.8 million that was guaranteed him for next season. In the words of SXM’s Ross Tucker: “He wanted to play, but that’s a heckuva consolation prize.” … Google “Silver Dollars in Greenfield” and you’ll get Dollar General. … The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore let it slip that up until seventh grade, people called him Jody. “Then no more of that,” he said. … Vlad Guerrero will be the first Angel ever inducted into Cooperstown, and Mike Trout (201 home runs in 925 games) is waiting in the wings. … In case you’re wondering, Steiner Sports sells Vlad autographed baseballs for $199, and Trout’s for $499.99. … Duke and North Carolina lost a home game on the same day last week for the first time since 1973. … You know there’s not much left to cover when the Boston Globe’s lead story is the history of using headsets on the sideline. … Vikings fans will be rooting against the Eagles after the way they were roughed up verbally and physically in Philadelphia. “No words can describe how bad Philly fans are,” said former Giant Ed McCaffrey. “If you want to find a woman who can throw a punch, go to an Eagles’ game.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.