Editor's note: NESN.com will preview each Hockey East school this week.
The Minutemen limped to the finish line last season and narrowly earned the final seed in the Hockey East Tournament before being swept by top seed Boston College. Veteran head coach Don "Toot" Cahoon seeks to restore order to his program and guide UMass-Amherst to an improved Hockey East finish in 2011-12.
Record/finish in 2010-11
5-16-6 (16 points)
Eighth in Hockey East
Lost in Hockey East quarterfinal (Boston College)
Key 2010-11 stat
While they had little trouble with in-state rival UMass-Lowell, going 3-0 against the Riverhawks, the Minutemen struggled against the rest of the league, going 2-16-6 versus the other eight Hockey East schools. The club also went winless in its final 14 games, posting an 0-11-3 record from Jan. 28 to March 12.
Player to watch in 2011-12
With 10 goals and 10 assists in his freshman campaign, forward Michael Pereira caught the attention of league coaches by being named a unanimous selection for the Hockey East All-Rookie team. This season as a sophomore Pereira will look to again lead the Minutemen attack.
"I'd like to think that we've grown measurably just because we're a year older, a year wiser, because these guys know what they're getting themselves into. At the same time I don't want to be foolhardy and tell people that we're automatically going to be better. That's an unknown."
–Don "Toot" Cahoon.
Massachusetts brings back three players who scored 20-plus points in league action with Pereira and seniors T.J. Syner (6-18-24) and Daniel Hobbs (9-13-22), so there is room for optimism. The Minutemen must improve on a league-worst penalty kill, however, as the team killed only 78.4 percent of penalties last year. Last season UMass snuck in to the Hockey East Tournament as an eight seed. Expect a similar finish this winter.