December 26, 2012

Division 3 Journal: Beacons' fresh faces take no time to jell

By Mike Zhe

Senior Mike DeGrazia has 10 goals and 10 assists on the season. (Photo: UMass-Boston Athletics)

Every time UMass-Boston has taken the ice this winter, it’s scored at least four goals.

Ten games. No off nights. It all adds up to a 7-2-1 record for a team with 13 new faces on its roster, and one that figured to be relying more on its experienced defense as it tried to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish (13-10-3 overall) in the ECAC East.

“You know, we knew we had a lot of talent in the freshman class,” said UMB coach Pete Belisle (Manville, R.I.). “Certainly, it’s the most talented group of freshmen we’ve assembled. But you just didn’t know how quickly they would adjust. We really talked about that in the preseason.”

Only two teams in Division 3 are averaging more than UMB’s 5.10 goals per game – Adrian and Oswego. They’re doing the things high-scoring teams do, like connecting on the power play (14-of-34, or 41.2 percent) and pumping lots of shots on goal (35.7 a game).

And it’s not like the consistent Beacons have just padded their stats in blowouts. They beat struggling Framingham State, 9-4, and defeated Johnson & Wales, 7-4. But they’ve notched four or five goals in every other game, against good teams like St. Anselm (5-4 loss), Castleton State (5-4 loss) and UMass-Dartmouth (5-4 win).

Talented youth aside, it’s been a trio of upperclassmen leading the way

Senior Mike DeGrazia (10-10-20) and junior Travis Daniel (8-12-20) are tied for third in Division 3 in points. Junior Rob Florentino (3-12-15) leads all defensemen in scoring.

“Those guys are playing so well,” said Belisle. “They’ve really helped our younger guys.”

Among the freshmen the Beacons welcomed in this season are forward Peter MacIntyre (Norfolk, Mass.) from the Boston Bandits of the EJHL; forwards Max Reavis and Frankie DeAugustine, a pair of top prospects from the NAHL; forward Derek Colucci (North Scituate, R.I.), who starred for the EJHL’s South Shore Kings; and goalie Zach Andrews , who was named team MVP for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs.

“We did very well in Junior A hockey across the board,” said Belisle.

At 3-2-1 in ECAC East play, the Beacons are in a logjam of teams in that league’s second tier, behind undefeated and top-ranked Norwich. It returns to action the weekend of Jan. 5-6 when it hosts Wentworth, Fitchburg State and Johnson & Wales in the 48th Codfish Bowl.

On the other end, the Beacons are allowing 3.50 goals a game, a number that ranks them 47th in Division 3, something that’s been a little surprising on a team with a good collection of experienced defensemen.

About all they could complain about was the timing of their 35-day holiday gap between games.

“The big break kind of stinks because I really think we had some nice momentum,” said Belisle. “But at least we could feel good about ourselves heading into break.”

Especially on the offensive end.

“We’ve proven we can score goals,” said Belisle. “We still have to tighten our defense.”

Game of the Week

Middlebury Classic, first round

Babson at Middlebury, Sunday, 4 p.m.

Two teams that closed the first semester playing solid hockey. Beavers have won five straight including wins over Castleton State and Curry. High-scoring Middlebury owns a win over No. 8 Plattsburgh, a tie with No. 7 Bowdoin and a competitive loss (5-4) to No. 1 Norwich.

Manhattanville and Wentworth meet in the prelim game, with the two winners playing for the Classic title on Monday.

New England Division 3 Power Rankings

1. Norwich (10-0, 7-0 ECAC East)

2. Bowdoin (9-0-1, 5-0-1 NESCAC)

3. Plymouth State (8-1, 5-1 MASCAC)

4. Amherst (4-2-1, 3-1 NESCAC)

5. Middlebury (4-2-2, 3-1-2 NESCAC)

6. Trinity (5-1-1, 2-1-1 NESCAC)

7. Babson (5-2-2, 3-2-1 ECAC East)

8. UMass-Boston (7-2-1, 3-2-1 ECAC East)

9. Williams (6-2, 5-1 NESCAC)

10. UMass-Dartmouth (5-2-2, 4-1-1 MASCAC)

Mike Zhe can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @MikeZhe603.