Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar remains UMass’ humble superstar

  • UMass Amherst defenseman Cale Makar (16) reaches for the puck with Vermont forward Vlad Dzhioshvili (10) close behind during a NCAA hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen) AP

  • Cale Makar during a Vermont at UMass Amherst NCAA hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen) AP

  • UMass defenseman, Cale Makar, chases after the puck against a New Hampshire player during a game versus the UNH wildcats, March 16, 2019, at the Mullins Center. UMass shuts out UNH in the Hockey East quarterfinals and clinches a position at the TD Garden for semi-finals. CAROLINE O’CONNOR/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Cale Makar, right, of UMass, moves the puck ahead of David Cotton, of Boston College, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 at the Mullins Center. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Gary Makar, left, and Laura MacGregor, the parents of UMass defensemen Cale Makar, sit in the front row of the Harborcenter, Friday, in Buffalo, N.Y. Cale Maker was named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the nation’s top player. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass hockey coach Greg Carvel applauds from the front row of the Harborcenter as UMass defenseman Cale Makar accepts the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top player, Friday in Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar delivers his acceptance speech after winning the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top player, Friday at the Harborcenter in Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar, left, stands with Tom Hauser after being named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top player, Friday at the Harborcenter in Buffalo, N.Y. Hauser is the chairman of the Hobey Baker Committee. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Massachusetts defenseman Cale Makar (16) controls the puck during the second period in a semifinal against Denver during the Frozen Four NCAA men's college hockey tournament Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts defenseman Cale Makar (16) controls the puck behind the net during the second period in the semifinals of the Frozen Four NCAA mens college hockey tournament against Denver Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts' Mitchell Chaffee (21) and Cale Makar (16) celebrate a goal against Denver during the first period in a semifinal of the Frozen Four NCAA men's college hockey tournament Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

Staff Writer
Published: 4/12/2019 7:52:43 PM

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ask any opposing coach about Cale Makar and each will point out a different aspect to his game.

Many will mention that he’s an exceptional skater and comment on how quick he is on the ice. Some will talk about how skilled he is with the puck on his stick and just how difficult it is to contain a player of that caliber. The word almost all of them associate with the UMass sophomore defenseman is “elite,” and it isn’t surprising given what his future holds.

Whenever UMass’ season ends, Makar will likely jump right into the NHL playoffs with the Colorado Avalanche, the franchise that drafted him with the fourth overall pick in 2017. And everyone expects Makar will make an instant impact with his professional club.

“He’s going to be a great professional,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said after the Fighting Irish lost to UMass in the Northeast Regional final. “He’s got the skating ability; he plays with an edge. He’s got great instincts. We’ve played against good defensemen like (Michigan’s) Quinn Hughes, (Makar’s) a much different player. Quinn Hughes is a one-on-one guy and Cale Makar is a playmaker. He reads the ice extremely well and had a heck of a shot there with that one goal. He’s got all of the tools to be a great professional and he probably will be.”

Before Makar could worry about being a pro, he has to finish his second year at UMass, and he’s made it a memorable one for himself and the Minutemen. He has not only broken records for defenseman at UMass, he’s shattered them. His 49 points entering Saturday’s Frozen Four final against Minnesota Duluth are eight more than Thomas Poeck had in 2003-04, the same margin as his 33 assists so far this season.

His eye-popping numbers earned him the Hobey Baker Award on Friday, given annually to the best player in men’s college hockey. Couple that with a chance Saturday to play in the national championship game, it’s a journey that might have sounded farfetched to the player who re-committed to UMass three years ago.

“In my wildest dreams, probably,” Makar said of if he ever thought to be in this situation. “It’s definitely not something I thought could happen in the two years I was here, but coming into this second year at UMass, I truly thought it was a possibility at the beginning of the season and we’ve just been riding that all year.”

The individual accolades don’t mean nearly as much to the sophomore as what he will be playing for Saturday. Yet that doesn’t stop the conversation around UMass hockey from centering around Makar. Almost every question at Wednesday’s media day was directed to him or about him, and he’s had to deal with far more off-ice distractions than most of his teammates all season. Even at the Hobey Baker ceremony he was asked about being the face of UMass’ ascension to the top of the sport this year.

If it was up to Makar, though, the spotlight might be placed on his teammates. He credits them for his own successes whenever he gets the chance, even during his greatest individual success as a college hockey player.

“I’d like to extend my appreciative handshake possible to all my teammates,” Makar said during his acceptance speech. “They truly are unbelievable. I truly consider this a team award and thank you all for making me a better person and a better player.”

“I’m not an individual guy by any means,” Makar added in the media scrum. “It’s still a team award and I accept it on behalf of the entire team.”

Makar’s humility is a major reason why UMass coach Greg Carvel said Wednesday his fondest memory of this season will be getting the chance to coach Makar. He said regardless of the results UMass had this season, he could not have scripted a better two years for the Calgary, Alberta, native. From Makar’s personal growth to his maturation as a hockey player, Carvel said the defenseman is now more than prepared to handle the professional player lifestyle.

After preaching all year that Makar was the best player in college hockey “by a mile,” Carvel said it was rewarding to see the ultimate payoff Friday.

“This was a really cool experience for me,” Carvel said. “This is big-time stuff. Hobey Baker, it’s like winning championships, you’re remembered forever as that. He’ll forever be known as a Hobey Baker winner. … It’s really special to me to see good kids be rewarded and he’s definitely special.”

The fans who have filed into the Mullins Center in droves this season have witnessed just how special Makar is both on and off the ice. The sophomore electrifies the crowd with his natural gifts by shifting gears in an instant and blowing past opponents like they were standing still. His hair-raising end-to-end rushes have everyone in the arena holding their breath in anticipation for how they will end.

Yet, Makar also makes sure to snap a photo with almost every adoring fan who takes the ice when UMass has postgame skates this season. It is the same attitude of gratitude he takes into the locker room with him as well. He had every right to be enjoying the attention he has received this year or focusing on his future instead of the present. Except that isn’t his personality and his teammates love and appreciate him for that.

“He’s just another one of the guys,” senior forward Kurt Keats said. “Maybe doesn’t even want the spotlight as much as some of the other guys do and downplays it more than anybody. He’s such a humble kid and just one of the guys. That definitely helps the group to have a player that special be such a great kid.”




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