The magic number is won

Published: 4/12/2019 8:16:43 PM
Modified: 4/12/2019 8:16:32 PM

Good morning!
In September, before the leaves fell and the first puck was shot in anger, the UMass hockey team gathered between the Old Chapel and the campus pond. Next to the statue of the Massachusetts Minuteman, coach Greg Carvel gave his players their marching orders.

“I spoke to them about attitude, commitment and effort, and the tremendous opportunity they’ve been given to be a part of the rebuilding program,” he wrote in his introductory newsletter to the fans last autumn.

Tonight at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, they’re 60 minutes from winning the NCAA championship. It took 25 years, four coaches and hundreds of players, but the sleeping giant has awoken. To quote the New York Times, the University of Massachusetts is “ZooMass no More.”

Northfield’s Doug Farrick and Chris Lesenski were at Augusta National Golf Club for Tuesday’s practice round. “Every year the Masters has a lottery,” Farrick  “I’ve been trying for over a decade to get tickets and Chris got picked on his first try.”

Afterward he texted: “Followed Tiger. Beautiful day. Azaleas in full bloom. Pimento sandwiches still $1.50.”

The Augusta National Golf Club doesn’t divulge attendance figures, but thegolfnews.net estimates about 50,000 watch the practice round and 40,000 get onto the course for each of the four rounds. Tickets are called “badges” and cost $75 for the practice round and $115 each day of the tourney, though they sell for $1,000 and up on the secondary market.

Farrick said he was blown away by the beautiful setting and reasonable concession prices. “Just for fun I wanted to see what $20 would get me for an afternoon snack. Two egg salad sandwiches ($1.50 each), two pimento cheese sandwiches ($1.50 each), one bbq sandwich ($3), two bags of chips ($1 each), two moon pies ($1 each) and two light beers ($3 each).”

He used the leftover dollar for a tip.

The Springfield Thunderbirds drew almost 350 more fans a game this season, which is remarkable considering they didn’t make the playoffs. “We’re very, very pleased,” said Greenfield’s Todd McDonald, who is the VP of Sales and Strategy and is second on the depth chart behind team president Nathan Costa.

The season finale is tonight against the Providence Bruins. It’s Pedro Martinez Night and McDonald said the game will also be a watch party. “We’re working on that right now,” he said of aligning the T-birds game with the UMass title tilt in Buffalo.

UMass Hockey Notes: Asked to name his favorite hockey book, Greg Carvel answered, “The Making of Slap Shot; Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Hockey Movie Ever Made,” written by Jonathan Jackson. … During his day off from the Frozen Four, WHMP’s Brock Hines drove to Toronto to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame and watch the Rays-Jays game at the Rogers Centre. Hines predicted a UMass’ 4-3 win, but not that the game would go into overtime. … That was an NMH kid, Oliver Chau, who assisted in the greatest goal in UMass hockey history on Thursday night. Chau’s brother considered attending NMH but chose Salisbury. … Faces in the Crowd at the KeyBank Center: Tom and Sue Antonellis, Scott Smith and Phil Corrinent, and the South Deerfield Sunset Hoopsters: John Cycz, Dan Carmody, Gary Allen, Ian Grosse, Ron Howey and Joe Long. “We took turns driving,” said Cycz, “and made a few Flomax stops on the way.”

Red Sox fans are lucky to have Dennis Eckersley and Jerry Remy in the NESN booth. Usually it’s one or the other but Tuesday it was both. Their talents were underscored by Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s lack thereof during last week’s three-game series in Arizona.

The former Red Sox catcher didn’t want to offend his teammates. Consequently the word “great” accompanied every comment he uttered. “Mitch great play right there... Walden great job covering... Great play by Bogey… Great inning… Great 0-2 pitch… great at-bat right there… great, great catch.”

Great Scott, Salty, say something original.

Compare that with Remy’s insight when Toronto’s Billy McKinney took second base after catcher Christian Vazquez couldn’t handle Matt Barnes’ pitch in the dirt. “If you read that the ball’s going to bounce, very seldom will the catcher come up with it clean,” said Remy. “You are taught that. You are taught to get the secondary lead and if you see the bounce you just take off. And even though the ball bounced in front of home plate that is very good base running.”

After its usual slow start against strong competition down south in February and March, the UMass softball team has won eight of its last ten games and is 18-15. Both the softball and baseball teams beat Boston College this spring, and UMass fans always enjoy beating those uppity Eagles.

The baseball Minutemen are batting .247 and the staff era is 6.18, which explains their 8-16 record. Coach Matt Reynolds and his staff are often stymied in recruiting battles when all a coach from a southern climate needs to do is point to the Weather Channel.

SQUIBBERS: Former Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason has skated against the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby in celebrity games. “He’s great, don’t get me wrong, but he’s from Nova Scotia and he’s got that Nova Scotia thing in him and if you’ve ever played guys from Nova Scotia, they’re a little bit off. They’re 100 percent off.” …. Bill Belichick chafed at Boston Globe reporter Ben Volin’s question regarding Greg Schiano’s short-lived stint as Patriots’ defensive coordinator. “I mean, we’re not talking about an unprecedented situation here so let’s kind of stick to the draft right now, Ben. But I appreciate the question, I really appreciate you asking that.” … Former Milwaukee Braves catcher Joe Torre will be the graduation speaker at Skidmore College. … Greenfield’s Bob Dobias writes, “As an AIC alum, I was looking forward to a WMass Frozen Four. Maybe next year!” … Two seats atop the Green Monster for Tuesday’s opener at bitter cold Fenway Park cost $619.50 plus fees on StubHub. … Waterbury forward Ty Flowers wound up averaging 13.5 points a game (431 points) for LIU (16-16 overall). Flowers left UMass after Derek Kellogg was fired and followed his coach to Brooklyn. … Houston’s Alex Bregman wore No. 30 at LSU as a reminder that 30 teams didn’t draft him out of high school. … Asked by Boston writers after Tuesday’s home opener loss if the Red Sox are suffering from a World Series hangover, Alex Cora said, “I don’t believe in hangover. The only hangover is when you go out drinking.”

 

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.


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