Cale Makar’s return to UMass hockey comes with ambitious goals

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar attempts to get the puck past Boston Univerity's defense, Friday, Feb. 2, 2018 at the Mullins Center. GAZETTE STAFF / CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman, Cale Makar carries the puck during a game against Vermont, Thursday, March 1, 2018 at the Mullins Center. GAZETTE STAFF / CAROLINE O’CONNOR

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 4/6/2018 9:13:19 PM

AMHERST — With the Will He/Won’t He return questions of the offseason behind him, Cale Makar said he’s focused on the 2018-19 UMass hockey season and has set ambitious goals for himself and the Minutemen.

Like most top draft choices do, Makar, Colorado’s No. 4 pick in last summer’s NHL draft, met with the Avalanche to talk about his future.

The Hockey East all-rookie defenseman and New England co-rookie of the year had a chance to start his professional career but opted for another year in Amherst.

“I’m putting that all behind us and focusing on summer workouts,” he said. “I’m very excited for next year. I wish it was October already.”

Makar said he processed advice from a lot of people and was confident in the his decision.

He said how much he learned from UMass coach Greg Carvel and the Minuteman staff as a freshman influenced his desire to spend another year in program.

“I think coming back to school was the right decision. I think the staff here will do a great job in developing me,” Makar said. “I have so much respect for him as a coach and so much trust in the entire coaching staff. They taught me a lot of habits I need to tweak in my games. I can see a lot of that developing in my game. (Carvel’s experience as an NHL assistant coach) played a role. I have an immense amount of trust in him.”

Makar said what he did on the path he chose would have more to do with his future success or failure.

“At the end of the day, I control my own destiny. It’s whether or not I make the most of my opportunity,” he said. “For decision purposes, I felt like this was right. That’s the outlook I have on it.”

Even before making his intentions official, Makar went to Worcester on March 24 to see Northeastern and Michigan’s play in the NCAA Tournament.

“It was awesome to see the unity and commitment through both teams. Michigan is really good. You can take a lot of pointers watching that team,” he said. “I’ll definitely be watching the Frozen Four. I love watching hockey.”

That game in Worcester was the final one for Northeastern star Adam Gaudette, who signed with Vancouver after his junior year. On Friday, he won the Hobey Baker Award for the best player in college hockey.

Makar said he thought it wasn’t far-fetched to think the Minutemen could be competing for a spot in the NCAA field next year, and he hoped to be in the mix for the 2019 Hobey Baker.

“(The NCAA Tournament) is definitely a realistic goal. If everyone comes back and does what they should in the summer, it could be a very big year for us,” he said. “I want to be considered for the Hobey Baker. That’s one of my big things. I don’t think it’s unrealistic at all if we have a good year as a team. It’s not about your personal success, but about the team success.”

Makar was careful to emphasize that none of that was possible if the Minutemen skipped steps.

“Being diligent with everything and being dedicated is what’s going to make us better in the long haul,” he said. “I feel like our team surpassed expectations, and I think we’re going to build on that next year. We’re going to have expectations which is something we didn’t have this year. We obviously we had team goals, but nobody was expecting us to do anything special. Now that we’ve set the bar. We want to have a big year next year to show people what this was really all about.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage




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