February 19, 2013

Behind the Beacons: Seventh Time's the Charm

Welcome to the first edition of "Behind the Beacons".  The newest member of the BeaconsAthletics.com, Sebastian Lena will be introducing new features on BeaconsAthletics.com on a bi-weekly basis that will cover the many things that are going on behind the scenes in the UMass Boston athletics department.

The first feature takes a look at the success of the nationally ranked men's ice hockey team and head coach Peter Belisle.

Seventh Time's the Charm

by Sebastian Lena, BeaconsAthletics.com staff writer

Before head coach Peter Belisle took over the University of Massachusetts Boston men's hockey program in 2006, the Beacons had a combined total of 15 wins over their previous six seasons. In his first six years at the helm, Belisle easily surpassed that mark, recording a total of 64 victories. 

This season, the second-winningest coach in program history can add another 18 wins and counting to his resume.

A lot can change in six years. 

Following a 13-10-3 (9-8-1) campaign last season, No. 12 UMass Boston (18-5-2; 11-5-2) have surprised just about everyone this time around.

Count Belisle among the surprised.

Well, sort of.

"I knew we had a lot of talent coming in among the [freshman] class," he said. "But you're not always sure how they are going to adjust to the college game. I'm not totally surprised, but certainly pleasantly surprised."

Freshman forward Peter MacIntyre quickly put any of that doubt to rest.

One of 15 freshmen on the squad, MacIntyre has recorded a total of 31 points this season. That includes a team-best 19 goals to go along with 12 assists. He ranks third in the nation (Div. III) in goals, while ranking second among all rookies in points and points per game.

Combined with fellow freshmen Kit Sitterley (26 points) and Frankie DeAugustine (25 points), MacIntyre leads the Beacons' second line. It's a combination that has provided results, with the trio serving as the best scoring line for the team, netting 36 goals.

In fact, six of UMass Boston's top-10 point scorers are freshmen.

"What can I say," Belisle said. "They are having lights out years and are tops, stat wise, nationally."

But every successful team needs a solid backbone.

For the Beacons, that's seniors Mike DeGrazia, Rob Florentino and junior Travis Daniel

DeGrazia, UMass Boston's assistant captain, ranks second on the team with 33 points. He ranks 15th in the nation in points, while ranking 16th in goals with 16 on the year.

Florentino anchors the team's defense, but also isn't afraid to show up on the stat sheet. He has 26 points this season with six goals and 20 assists. He currently ranks 15th in the nation in assists, while being tied for second in points among defensemen.

Daniel serves as the Beacons go-to-guy. Along with leading the team in game-winning goals (four), he's also notched a team-high 38 points—11 goals and 27 assists. The forward is tied for fourth in the nation in points and second in assists.

But while their individual statistics are impressive enough, it's been the strong teamwork between UMass Boston's older and younger players that have stood out the most.

"The key has been the way our veterans have played along with our [freshmen]," Belisle said. "It's been a total team effort."

It's a partnership that has exceeded the expectations of everyone.

Everyone but Belisle, that is.

Entering the season, he put forth three goals for the Beacons: Win the P.A.L. Stovepipe Classic, win the Codfish Bowl tournament and capture the program's first conference championship since 1982.

You can check off the first two, with the last one being decided within the next seven days.

UMass Boston enters this weekend's ECAC East Tournament as the No. 2 seed—their highest tournament seed in over 20 years. They play host to No. 7 seed University of New England on Saturday.

With the win, Belisle can accomplish something he's been striving for since he first arrived in Boston over seven years ago.

"It's been a season-long goal for us every year," he said. "[Winning a conference championship] would mean everything."

The Beacons want this badly. So badly that Belisle has even suggested that he wouldn't hesitate to take another bite out of that codfish he bit into following the team's Codfish Bowl victory back in December.

Maybe this time around, he could be done the favor of having it cooked for him beforehand.