Sophomore defenseman Cale Makar signs with Avalanche, will join team immediately

  • UMass head coach, Greg Carvel, left, and players, Cale Makar and Kurt Keats, right, speak at a post-game press conference about the loss to Minnesota-Duluth, Sat., April 12, 2019 at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. For the Gazette/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman, Cale Makar, skates with the puck in the Bulldog's defensive zone during the NCAA Ice Hockey National Championship game against Minnesota-Duluth, Sat. April 13, 2019, at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. For the Gazette/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman, Cale Makar, skates with the puck in the Bulldog's defensive zone during the NCAA Ice Hockey National Championship game against Minnesota-Duluth, Sat. April 13, 2019, at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. For the Gazette/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman and Hobey Baker Award winner, Cale Makar, hugs head coach, Greg Carvel after losing the NCAA Ice Hockey Championship title to Minnesota-Duluth, Sat. April 13, 2019, at the KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y. For the Gazette/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

Staff Writer
Published: 4/14/2019 1:55:18 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Cale Makar kept his maroon UMass jersey on as long as he could after the national championship game. He wore it to the postgame press conference and was the last one with it on in the locker room.

“It’s a jersey I’m very proud to wear. Our team has brought so much respect to this program,” he said. “Honestly, it’s going to be a couple years I never forget in my entire life.”

It was the last time he wore the jersey for UMass. Makar, a sophomore from Alberta, Canada, signed with the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday to a three-year entry level contract, the team announced. They drafted him fourth overall in 2017. Makar will join Colorado immediately, where the Avalanche are heading back to Denver for Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoff series against Calgary, Makar’s hometown team, tied 1-1.

“Cale obviously had a tremendous season, winning the Hobey Baker and getting his team to the Frozen Four," Avalanche Executive Vice President/General Manager Joe Sakic said in a release.  "He is a game-changing type of player who made a lasting impact on the UMass hockey program. We are excited to have him join our team."

There’s not much left for him to achieve at UMass. Makar won the Hobey Baker Award on Friday as college hockey’s player of the year. He was named an All-American and also won the Hockey East Player of the Year. UMass won the Hockey East regular season title for the first time in its history and set a program record for wins. Makar set single-season records for points and assists by a defenseman. He finished his career with 21 goals, 49 assists and 60 points.

“I feel very fortunate that I got to coach him,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I don’t expect him back.”

Makar was a key component in UMass’ dramatic turnaround over the past two years. The Minutemen won five games during Carvel’s first year in 2016-17. Makar headlined a stellar recruiting class, and they improved to 17-20-2 and won a Hockey East playoff series the next season. It culminated in this season’s triumphs, reaching the program’s first Frozen Four and national title game while setting the UMass wins record with 31.

“When you get a kid like Cale, you feel a lot of responsibility as a coach to develop him and make sure – he could have gone anywhere, could have done anything,” Carvel said. “But he chose to stay loyal to his commitment to UMass. I took it and our staff took it as a huge responsibility. The thing that I love about Cale is that he never makes you feel like he’s doing us a favor by playing for UMass. He’s very grateful for what we did for him. It’s genuine. You just got a sense of it there.”

However his career in the NHL progresses, Makar’s time at UMass won’t be a footnote.

“I’m so fortunate that I chose this school, under such great staff, not just the coaches but support staff, training and everything as well,” Makar said. “It’s just a sense of pride now. As I touched on, we brought so much respect to this crest. This program is no longer an embarrassment. Everybody can look at us as a program that’s going to be successful for years.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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