Exhibition focuses UMass ahead of season opener

  • Jake Gaudet, left, and Mitchell Chaffee, right, celebrate with Oliver Chau, center, after Chau scored against Vermont in the Hockey East playoffs last season. The Minutemen open their season, Friday at home against RPI. STAFF PHOTO/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

Staff Writer
Published: 10/10/2018 7:25:57 PM

AMHERST — After five weeks of practice, the UMass hockey players were eager to finally play a game on Saturday.

The Minutemen took care of business as expected in their exhibition game by dominating Royal Military College for a 6-1 win. In the 48 hours that followed the game, coach Greg Carvel and his staff pored over the film, looking for the details they wanted to work on ahead of Friday’s season opener against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Mullins Center.

“The best thing about games is that it helps me determine what we’re going to do in practice next week,” Carvel said. “We spent a lot of time the last two days on video, really went through that game with a fine-tooth comb and make sure everybody is on the same page with how we want to play.”

“There’s certain parts of our system that we worked on (Tuesday),” Carvel elaborated, “and every day we have certain things that I’d like to see tighten up going into the weekend.”

The exhibition was important for the seven freshmen who suited up for the Minutemen on Saturday. Many of them will be expected to play large roles for the squad, including the four defensemen who will be part of the top six on opening night. All of them earned positive reviews from their teammates and Carvel, highlighted by the two-point performance from defenseman Marc Del Gaizo.

Carvel said the exhibition was a good confidence builder for the group and added onto the months of practice the newcomers have been through since the summer.

“Those exhibitions are huge for the freshmen just to see they can play at this pace and can handle the physical part of it,” Carvel said. “It’s been a nice month that we’ve had a lot of time to practice and let those guys catch-up to speed and figure out how we play. It’s our first game, but I feel like we’ve had plenty of time (with the freshmen), they were here all summer, they’ve practiced here for five weeks, they’ve played an exhibition game, they’re ready to go.”

The first game also provided a status update on the team’s structure and discipline. Sophomore defenseman Mario Ferraro said he was pleased to see how much UMass stuck to its game plan even as the game started to get out of hand.

“It was a good test of our compete and our effort,” Ferraro said. “Obviously when the score runs up a little bit like that, most teams start to develop bad habits and start to get a little lazy and sort of be cute with the puck. But we took the positives that we gave it 110 percent for a full 60 minutes and we didn’t get sucked into those bad habits and we were doing all the right things.

“That was a huge game for us to get our feet wet and get ready for this weekend because it’s a big one. It has to be a strong start for us against RPI because we know they’re a good team.”

HEALTH CHECK: The UMass lineup will look a little bit different Friday against RPI than it did in Saturday’s exhibition. Freshman forward Anthony Del Gaizo and sophomore Mitchell Chaffee have both been cleared and should be dressed after missing the exhibition for precautionary reasons.

Del Gaizo had been in a yellow non-contact jersey for most of preseason practice after offseason shoulder surgery. Chaffee took a puck to the ear in practice last week and received some stitches.

However, sophomore Oliver Chau is out indefinitely while he deals with a virus that has kept him out of practice since last week.

Josh Walfish can be reached at jwalfish@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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