Recruiting roundup: UMass signs defensive tackle, aims to bolster kicking position

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Those who are accustomed to seeing members of the Massachusetts football team’s coaching staff regularly may be experiencing some type of withdrawal.

UMass coaches immediately hit the recruiting trail following the team’s 41-21 loss to Buffalo on Nov. 28, hoping to bolster a its recruiting class before the winter dead period of recruiting kicks in next week, when coaches are not allowed to contact recruits.

It’s been a busy recruitment period. The Minutemen have reportedly touched base with prospects ranging from Ohio to Arkansas and even hosted multiple players from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, which recently announced it would not continue its football program next season.

Two days ago, UMass picked up a verbal commitment from 2-star defensive tackle Mario Patton, as reported by the Maroon Musket. Patton, a 6-foot-3, 290 pound senior from Cleveland, is the 10th verbal commitment to the Minutemen’s 2015 recruiting class. He visited Amherst in early December, and spoke with Hustle Belt regarding his decision,

“I chose UMass because it was a great academic school, and I am very comfortable with the area. I really connected with the players, and the coaches there. Another reason why I chose them was because I want to get out of Ohio, and have new experiences,” he said.

Patton joins these nine other verbal commits to UMass. Continue reading

Behind enemy lines: Baron praises UMass, questions officiating in Minutemen’s 75-58

Photo courtesy of MCT

Photo courtesy of MCT

Canisius coach Jim Baron spent most of his team’s 75-58 loss to UMass Saturday pleading with officials over the discrepancy of fouls whistled.

Ultimately, it was to no avail, as the Minutemen attempted 26 free throws while Canisius took 10 freebies, and was awarded only two free throws in the second half.  The Golden Griffins committed their seventh team foul with 13 minutes remaining in the game and spent the rest of the half building a comeback bid against the Minutemen despite UMass earning free throw opportunities at every foul situation.

Canisius cut the deficit to as low as 64-53 after trailing by as much as 26. After the game, Baron voiced his displeasure regarding his team’s perceived disadvantage in terms of fouls called.

“I don’t know, you saw the game,” Baron told reporters.

“It was physical both ways, but they got a lot of foul shots when we couldn’t even get into the 1-and-1. I thought a lot of calls were missed, like walks and carries. I haven’t seen that. I haven’t been away from the Atlantic 10 for too long, but man, oh man. That’s basketball. I don’t care what league you’re in, that’s basketball. And they’re telling me they can’t call it. That’s a walk. I don’t care what it is. The guy takes two steps, three steps.”

Baron was a head coach in the Atlantic 10 at both St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island for 20 years.

He also noted that UMass was potentially vulnerable in the second half despite assuming a large lead due to its relative inexperience.

“They’re coming off three losses, so they haven’t been in that position in what, how long?” Baron said. “So they don’t know. They’ve got some inexperience, too, so they’re trying to find their way.”

Baron was quick to give UMass credit, however. He noted they shot well (UMass shot 50 percent in the game) and pressured the Griffs.

“I’ve got to give UMass credit — they hit shots,” he said. “They got us to turn the ball over and they made plays when they needed to do it. They’re a good team and they’ve got a lot of talent. I think as the season moves forward and they keep coming together, I think that they’re going to win a lot of games.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at mchiarel@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli. 

Seth Berger likely out for Saturday’s game against Canisius

Photo by Alec Zebrecky/Daily Collegian

Photo by Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

After missing Sunday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast University with a left foot injury, Massachusetts forward Seth Berger will likely be out for Saturday’s game against Canisius as well.

“He’s on track in his mind to play. I’m not sure what the trainers are saying,” head coach Derek Kellogg told MassLive on Tuesday. “I just want him healthy, put it that way. If he has to miss last game and this game, then he will.”

Berger had started all eight games prior to Sunday’s game against the Eagles. Berger is averaging 2 points and 2 rebounds per game to go along with his 11 steals, which is good for second on the team only behind Derrick Gordon (24).

“If it was later in the season or in the postseason I would be more inclined to go, but with so many more games upcoming I’d rather take it slow and not miss more games than I have to,” Berger said.

“I feel 100 percent better than I did last week. I’ve been keeping up with the treatment every day. It’s just precautionary and I don’t want to rush anything back too quickly,” he added.

Berger said that the training staff doesn’t have a specific return date in mind but things were definitely improving.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at arcyr@umass.edu, and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

UMass basketball notebook: Seth Berger questionable with injured foot, UMass excited to face ‘Dunk City’

Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

When the Massachusetts men’s basketball team takes the floor against Florida Gulf Coast Sunday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, it may do so with a slightly altered starting lineup.

Sophomore forward Seth Berger, who has started every game this season for the Minutemen, is questionable with a left foot injury. Berger said he’s “proceeding with caution,” and isn’t sure if he’ll be healthy enough to face the Eagles.

“I’ve never had to miss practices in season,” said Berger, who missed time this pre-season with a right wrist injury.

“It’s frustrating and hopefully it heals quick and I’m ready to go. Hopefully I proceed with caution.”

Berger said the injury was “cumulative” and worsened over time. He said the injury bothered him significantly in Tuesday’s 82-60 loss to LSU and was even worse when he woke up the following morning.

Following a difficult eight game in 17 day start to the season, Berger said he and athletic trainer Dave Maclutsky are hoping rest will prevent the injury from worsening further.

“I kind of looked at it, Dave also looked at it as something that if I keep pushing, it could turn from a one or two week thing into a couple months kind of thing,” Berger said. “It’s definitely something I’d rather take care of now and not make it worse.”

It’s unclear who would fill in for Berger in the event he could not play Sunday. UMass coach Derek Kellogg said in the preseason that a three-guard lineup featuring Trey Davis, Derrick Gordon and Jabarie Hinds could potentially be his best lineup, but he hasn’t featured it in abundance this season.

Reserve forwards Donte Clark or Zach Coleman could replace Berger as well.

Gordon’s excited to face ‘Dunk City’

Florida Gulf Coast captured the entire country’s attention two years ago, when the Eagles rode a string of upsets to a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA tournament.  Continue reading

Second period: Notre Dame-3, UMass-0

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Notre Dame scored three goals in the second period to take a commanding 3-0 lead over UMass.  The Minutemen continued to struggle offensively and are now getting outshot 21-6 for the game.  The Fighting Irish saw goals from Robbie Russo, Austin Wuthrich and Mario Lucia to take control of the game in a similar fashion to last night’s third period breakthrough.  Here are a couple of observations from the second period:

  • It seemed that frustration boiled over for the two teams as two separate scrums emerged, causing 11 combined penalties between Notre Dame and UMass.  On the first instance, Steve Mastalerz got hit with a stick after the whistle, causing multiple UMass players to take exception, including Keith Burchett who first pushed a Fighting Irish player in retaliation.  The result gave the Minutemen a 4-on-3 opportunity.  Seven minutes later, a hard hit on the boards by Mike Busillo caused more action after the whistle, resulting in four penalties–two on each side–including 10-minute misconducts on Anthony Petrella and Vince Hinostroza.
  • Mastalerz was shaken up in the final minute of the frame after being ran over after the whistle by a rushing Notre Dame player.  Trainers came out to check on the senior netminder but he remained in the game for the waning seconds.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at achiusano@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

First period: UMass 0, Notre Dame 0

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

After one period at Mullins Center, UMass and Notre Dame are tied 0-0. Shots are 8-1 in favor of the Irish, but neither team really had any established offensive presence. As we saw last night, though, both teams are capable of scoring goals in bunches. A few other thoughts from the first:

  • Steve Mastalerz made his return to the starting lineup in net, and looked confident in the first period. He made a couple big saves and handled the puck well. The starting job is his for the taking with the recent struggles of freshman Henry Dill, and he’s playing like he knows it.
  • Oleg Yevenko was a strong defensive presence throughout the period. He blocked several shots, made himself known physically with a few bruising hits, and generally ate up space in the defensive zone. Yevenko also saw big minutes on both of UMass’s successful penalty kills.
  • With Ray Pigozzi dealing with an upper body injury and the Minutemen shorthanded in the forward department, sophomore defenseman Brennan Baxandall has played as a forward on the fourth line for the past two nights. It’s an interesting placement. He’s been very physical in those two games, with several hits each night
By ross gienieczko Posted in Misc.

Game Notes: UMass hockey vs. Notre Dame

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts hockey team looks to split a two-game home series against Notre Dame Saturday night at the Mullins Center. Coming off a 7-5 loss to the Fighting Irish Friday night, UMass (4-10-0, 1-8-0 Hockey East) sits in last place within the conference and is winless in its last seven Hockey East matchups.

On the rebound

The Minutemen held a 3-2 lead heading into the final frame Friday night but allowed four consecutive ND goals to place themselves in an insurmountable 6-3 deficit with under eight minutes left in regulation.  Despite a late surge–UMass scored two goals  in the 17th and 18th minute to trim the Fighting Irish’s lead to one–ND held on for the win behind an empty-net insurance goal in the final minute.

Vatrano rides hot streak

Redshirt sophomore Frank Vatrano entered Friday’s game with a two-game goal streak and seven points in his last nine games.  The forward continued his success against the Fighting Irish with a pair of goals and an assist.  Vatrano now has a team-leading seven goals and will play on the starting line alongside Steven Iacobellis and Shane Walsh for the second straight night Saturday.

Pigozzi still out 

Ray Pigozzi will sit for the second straight night Saturday due to an upper-body injury.  The forward has 12 points for the season, usually playing alongside Iacobellis and Vatrano.  In his place Friday, Walsh recorded a goal and a team-high eight shots.  Pigozzi is listed as day-to-day and should be back in the lineup for the Minutemen’s next game on Dec. 16 against Northeastern.

Mastalerz gets the call

Steve Mastalerz will be UMass’ starting goaltender Saturday.  The senior has a 5.03 goals against average in four starts and five games played this season, following a junior campaign where he saw starting action in 31 of the Minutemen’s 34 games and posted a 2.77 goals against average.  Freshman Henry Dill, who has started 12 of UMass’ 14 games in 2014, will be the backup after allowing six goals Friday.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at achiusano@umass.edu and can be followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.