Keeping Score: Closing thoughts on UMass hockey

Monday, April 16, 2018

Good morning!

College hockey insider Brock Hines ranks Providence, Boston College and Boston University as his preseason picks to rule the roost in Hockey East next season.

“Goaltending won last season, and it’ll factor again this season,” emailed the longtime UMass hockey analyst.

The next three spots, said Hines, would be up for grabs between UMass, Maine and Northeastern. “UMass has the two horses on the blue line coming back (Cale Makar and Mario Ferraro) and the Del Gazo brothers (Marc and Anthony) will add much-needed depth for a team that will probably let some more players go this offseason— but not the exodus seen last spring.”

UMass came on strong at the end of 2017-18, beating UVM in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs at the Mullins Center. Hines lamented the lack of a stand-on-his-head goaltender who could’ve gotten UMass past Northeastern in the conference quarterfinals. “Ultimately neither Matt Murray nor Ryan Wischow had that resume,” he said.

Enter Filip Lindberg, a 19-year-old goalie from Finland, a country that pumps out goaltenders like Switzerland pumps out cuckoo clocks. “If Lindberg lives up to his billing, a first-round bye is not out of the question,” said Hines, who called Greg Carvel one of the four best head coaches in Hockey East. “He should be rewarded later this month with a contract extension.”

Greenfield is mourning the passing of Butch Margola, who died at age 73 on April 5. Margola was born, raised and educated in Greenfield and at UMass-Amherst. He was the local boy who stayed local. He opened a successful accounting business in Greenfield, golfed at the Country Club, worked out at the YMCA and belonged to a slew of civic organizations.

Margola had a cutting wit and was a fierce competitor, something I learned on Sunday mornings decades ago at Vets Field, where he teamed up with Billy Burns, Jay Healy and others to make Northwest Mutual a dynasty in the men’s touch football league.

Greenfield native Zach Schonbrun has written a book about what it takes to hit a 100 mph fastball over the fence or drop a football into the arms of a streaking receiver. The Performance Cortex, How Neuroscience is Redefining Athletic Genius (Dutton/Penguin) will be released on Monday.

“It’s a blend of sports, science, business and current events,” emailed Schonbrun, who lives in New York City and has written for The New York Times, ESPN the Magazine and other publications. “It goes beyond statistical analysis and the million dollar arm to finding the million dollar brain.”

There was a line from Damn Yankees— It’s fine to be a genius but keep the cart before the horse, first you gotta have heart— and Schonbrun will be able to address that issue and others on May 1 when he signs copies and discusses his work at the Odyssey Bookstore in Hadley.

The last two Kentucky Derby preps — the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland— will be raced today without much fanfare.

Several horses punched their tickets into the Churchill Downs starting gate last week. At Keeneland the reigning 2-year-old champion Good Magic went off at 8/5 in a 15-horse field at the Blue Grass Stakes. Jockey Jose Ortiz sat him fifth rounding the far turn, moved outside past three horses at the top of the stretch and out-ran Flameaway in the final furlong.

In California, the undefeated Justify won his fourth straight race at odds-on in the seven-horse Santa Anita Derby. The 1,260-pound colt out-muscled even money second choice Bolt D’Oro, but NBC analyst Jerry Bailey cautioned: “Not impressive as it should’ve been. I wouldn’t make either the prohibitive favorite.”

At Aqueduct, Vino Rossi survived a stewards inquiry for bumping the 6/5 favorite Enticed in the stretch and won the Wood Memorial.

The Arkansas Derby entries include the Bob Baffert-trained Solomini and Todd Pletcher’s three-year-old Magnum Moon. Conditioner Steve Asmussen’s three entries are Tenfold, Combatant and Dream Baby Dream.

At Keeneland, My Boy Jack is the expected favorite in the field of 12. “If I can’t win the Lexington this horse has no business being in the Kentucky Derby,” trainer Kent Desormeaux told the Courier-Journal.

Montague’s Mike Johnson took exception to the Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo contention that Tiger winning the Masters would’ve been the greatest comeback in sport. “He needed only to think about Ben Hogan’s comeback story from 1950,” Johnson emailed. “His horrific car crash in 1949 easily could have killed or derailed his career, but he went on to win six more majors after his head-on with a Greyhound Bus. C’mon, Frank!”

HARDBALL NOTES: Brock Holt’s rational response to Wednesday’s melee at the ball yard: “We’re not gonna fight those guys over there, they’re big,” said the 5-foot-10, 180-pound infielder, joking that next time he’ll go after 150-pound Ronald Torreyes. “As soon as I see Judge and Stanton, I’m backing up,” he said. … This is the 100th anniversary of Boston’s 1918 championship season and the stars are aligned for a healthy renewal of this old-time rivalry. … Bothered by the lousy view from her broadcasting perch on Tuesday, WFAN’s Suzyn Waldman called the Fenway Park press box a “monstrosity.” … Rafael Devers is the lone variant in Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s batting order. While the other hitters are comfortably slotted, Devers has batted sixth, second, fourth, eighth, fifth and second again, and the disruption can’t be helping his .256 average. … The Marlins averaged fewer than 7,000 fans a game during their three losses to the Mets this week at Marlins Park. … At this writing both Miami and Tampa Bay had three wins, meaning they’re better than the 1988 Orioles who started 0-21. … How long before Shohei Ohtani makes the cover of Time?“I had to go all the way back to Doc Gooden to think about someone like this,” Eduardo Perez said of the Japanese phenom’s near perfect game against Oakland on Sunday. … The Angels play at Yankee Stadium May 25-27 and come to Boston on June 16-18. … Caleb Joseph turned a rare 1-2-5 DP with the bases loaded on Sunday, but the umpires goofed and ruled the runner at third was safe. You’ll have to YouTube it to understand it. … Red Sox fans got a John Farrell flashback Tuesday when the deposed Boston skipper spoke yet said nothing on ESPN.

SQUIBBERS: Only nine students have signed up for Pioneer Valley High School football, meaning the school will either co-op with Turners Falls High School or drop or suspend the sport. .… The Crumpin-Fox Club opened this week and Northfield’s Bill McGee said the 18-hole course is pushing to crack the Top 100 of Golf Digest’s best 100 public access courses in the country. Daily rates vary from between $79 and $115, depending on the day and time. … Greenfield native Mark Snyder emailed a photo of his snow-covered Honda CR-V parked in his driveway. “Here is what Opening Day in Chicago looks like,” said Snyder. …All you need to know about Patrick Reed’s one semester at Georgia is he was wearing Notre Dame gear during the Bulldogs’ 20-19 win against the Irish last season. … SXM’s Pat Kerwin on Odell Beckham: “There’s plenty of video on YouTube of high school guys making one-handed catches.” … Farrell should take a cue from “Brockmire,” IFC’s ribald comedy about a baseball broadcaster that stars Hank Azaria. The show’s second season starts April 25.

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.