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UMass hockey gets pepped

  • UMass marching band director Tim Anderson said that athletic director Ryan Bamford wanted the hockey team to have its own pep band. PHOTO COURTESY OF UMASS



For the Recorder
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

When the UMass hockey team skated onto the ice to play Princeton Saturday night the public address announcer screamed, “Minute Maniacs… on your feet!”

Nobody budged. Excitement is spontaneous, it can’t be manufactured.

The adrenaline rush that got the 3,049 fans inside the Mullins Center on their feet was goals by Mitchell Chaffee and Cale Makar, and the game-winner in overtime by Northfield Mount Hermon School graduate Oliver Chau.

What also got them on their feet was the national anthem performed by the UMass Ice Band. Part of the allure of watching college athletics is seeing the student pep band play pop music during timeouts and the school fight song at the end of each period.

The rallying cry from behind the visitors’ net didn’t become an integral part of the UMass hockey experience until Ryan Bamford was named athletic director in 2015. “It was his idea,” said Tim Anderson, who came to UMass from Fresno State to replace George Parks, the legendary marching band director who died in 2010.

Anderson has music degrees from the University of Iowa and Florida, and a PhD. in music education from the University of Illinois. According to the UMass website, he and his wife Jennifer have a cat named Gatsby.

An hour before the puck dropped Anderson thumbed through his 70-page songbook while a drummer positioned himself behind the last row of seats on the lower level. Others fidgeted with trombones and trumpets that glistened against the overhead lighting. “Normally, we’ll have fifty (members), but tonight a lot are gone for Thanksgiving,” said Anderson. “We play Uptown Funk, Crazy in Love, Rocky…”

“How about the Brass Bonanza?” interrupted a fan, referring to the jubilant burst of celebratory music that accompanied every Hartford Whalers’ goal.

“No, but that’s not a bad idea,” he said “I know the story behind it.”

It was a time when the “Nut Rocker” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll” blasted from the loudspeakers at the Boston Garden and Big E. Coliseum, and when Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where We Started From” headlined the soundtrack from “Slapshot” starring Paul Newman.

Not a bad idea indeed, it’s the music that gets hockey fans off their feet.

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After Saturday’s win, UMass coach Greg Carvel said on the postgame show, “I told guys who hadn’t scored a goal to go stand in front of the net.”

It worked. Oliver Chau potted his first of the season, leaving Jake Gaudet and Niko Hildenbrand as the only two regulars without a goal.

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Any added incentive the team might need was provided by an article in a recent College Hockey News. Columnist Ryan Lambert penned a story titled Is UMass for Real? and claimed the team’s 11-1 record “is driven almost entirely by luck.”

Lambert used hazy, data-driven analytics to back up the claim. “I looked it up,” he wrote. “Since 2012-13, only 21 teams got to mid-November with a PDO (the sum of a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage) north of 105 (and) 12 made the NCAA tournament. Many of the nine that didn’t were either underwater in SF% (shots for percentage) or from lesser conferences.”

Come again?

Contrarians had more than a decade to criticize UMass hockey, but now? That ship has sailed.

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There are two things missing from the Mullins Center. The first is UMass hockey jerseys hanging from the rafters. When the time comes, defenseman Brad Norton’s number six (according to Brock Hines) should be among the first to go up. After a PG year at Cushing and four years at UMass (1994-98), the 6-foot, 225-pound Acton native played 124 games for five teams in the NHL. 

What’s not as important but what would help the coffers is a Mullins Center gift shop. The hockey team’s doing well at the gate, and fans could shop without being jostled by the crowd coming through the doors. The team’s success has created a demand for t-shirts, winter caps, baseball hats, kids hoodies and game sweaters, and it’s easier to shop for apparel in the arena, than over at the book store.

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SIGHTINGS: The Powertown’s Zino George made his first trip to see a UMass hockey game on Saturday and talked about Greenfield’s 40-38 win against Turners Falls at frigid Vets Field. Zino was amazed by Greenfield’s R.J. Byrd and Turners Falls’ Wyatt Keith, who ran for 301 and 346 yards, respectively.

“I said to the wife, ‘I’m going,’ and I’m glad I went. Coldest I’ve ever been at a game. Those two kids put on a show. Up and down, up and down. Never seen anything like it.”

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SPORTS SHORTS: “Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge,” by the late Bob Probert has been made into a documentary. Considered the all-time best brawler in the NHL, Probert’s honest and fascinating autobiography was published posthumously in 2011, and the documentary will be released in Canada on Dec. 14 and next year in the U.S. …  Whoever’s the next UMass football coach might have a chance to win his debut at Rutgers next season. The Scarlet Knights finished 1-11 and were winless in the Big 10. … Playground basketball is fun, but playing defense is difficult. On Saturday in the Las Vegas Classic, the UMass hoops team allowed the sixth-ranked Nevada Wolfpack to score 110 points. It was the most a UMass team has let an opponent score in a game since before 1999-2000. … It’s early, but the UMass women’s team is 5-2 and has a shot of its first winning season since 2006-07. … Fifty-three FBS teams reached the Top 25 this season,  breaking the old mark of 51 that was set in 2008. …  Jordan Cronkrite, who rushed for 302 yards and three touchdowns against UMass, finished the regular season with 1,095 yards and nine TDs for the South Florida Bulls. …  Not a good year for New England I-AA teams. Only Maine (14) and Dartmouth (15) made the Coaches Top 25 poll. … Kill your TV: It took 20 minutes to play the final 63 seconds of the first half of Michigan-Ohio State on Saturday. … UMass quarterback Ross Comis had the 10th-best QB rating in the FBS according to teamrankings.com.