UMass Hockey Notebook: Minutemen learn lessons from early-season trip to Michigan

Staff Writer
Published: 3/24/2022 6:03:17 PM
Modified: 3/24/2022 6:02:25 PM

WORCESTER — Midway through its season, UMass traveled out to face No. 6/7 Michigan, the first Big 10 opponent they’d seen all year. To call it a wake-up call would be an understatement; the Minutemen were swept by the Wolverines in 4-1 and 4-2 losses.

“We went out and played Michigan this year. And it was it was an eye opener for us. I think we’re in a much better place now than we were at that time,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “But that was a good experience for us, to play very good Big 10 team. We learned some lessons.”

They’re feeling a bit more prepared now as they get ready for Minnesota, another Big 10 opponent in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the DCU Center in Worcester. Though the Minutemen are the reigning NCAA champs and are also fresh off their second consecutive Hockey East title, the Gophers are going to be a difficult opponent in the opening round.

“We know they’re a fast team, skilled, really good defensemen and they play hard. We’re expecting just a really fast game in general,” captain Bobby Trivigno said. “Especially the Big 10s, I feel like it’s very offensive league, so there’s an emphasis on playing really hard D all throughout the game, in the neutral zone or D zone.”

“(They have) a lot of skill. Really concerned about them getting speed through the neutral zone, through the middle of the ice. Really concerned about giving them space in the offensive zone,” Carvel said. “We don’t mind playing in the NHL rink because it takes away space and time, and we think that that will help us tomorrow. But we’re very respectful of the skill level.”

Minnesota and UMass didn’t cross paths this year, and so are unfamiliar with each other’s style of play. Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko has watched plenty of tape on the Minutemen, and his players found some similarities between Notre Dame and UMass’ style of play.

“They play a little bit of a structured game, a pretty defensive game. It’s kind of like a Notre Dame kind of series that we were comparing them to,” Bryce Brodzinski “The last week, (we’ve) just kind of been making the last separations and still playing our game while kind of molding it to structure against theirs.”

There’s a number of dangerous offensive players that UMass will need to keep an eye on, first and foremost Ben Meyers, but the line of Brodzinski, Sammy Walker and Blake McLaughlin will be one to watch extra close as well. Those three players have found chemistry as the season progressed, and are a threat to score every time they step on the ice.

“(Brodzinski) shoots the puck, those two are the workhorses and they do they do get along. There is chemistry there and it’s kind of a line that kind of has its ebbs and flows but all three of them, when they are on, are very dangerous,” Motzko said. “They were great for us in the playoffs last year, and there have been games this year where we were missing players and that line picked us up.”

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Both UMass and Minnesota are pretty pleased with their placement in the Worcester regional bracket. For the Minutemen, it’s a short drive from Amherst on the Mass Pike to cheer on the defending champs. But Minnesota is just fine with feeling like the away team; the Gophers have been itching to get out of Mariucci Arena, where they’ve played their last four games.

“We’ve been home for a month. We’ve been home for a long time and getting on the road, we’ve had success there. Sometimes you just need to break the monotony up, of your practice gets old,” Motzko said. “We were we were going to need to get out of town. I hope we find all that magic that we had in February.”

(RINK) SIZE DOESN’T MATTER

Friday’s game will feel a little different for the Minutemen and Gophers, who play on Olympic-sized sheets at home, which are 200 feet long by 98 feet wide.

“We play well on the smaller sheet, we play on a Olympic sheet at home, but we adapt well to the smaller sheet,” Motzko said. “Things happen quicker and we’ve got a lot of skill as they do. You can kind of get lost on the big sheet at times. The game slows down on the big sheet and it’s easier to defend. We’ve adapted well to it and our women’s rink is NHL size so that helps us prepare.”

BACK-TO-BACK FOR BOBBY

Trivigno continued his impressive senior year tour with yet another award, picking up his second Walter Brown Award, given annually to the best Division I men’s ice hockey player in New England. He’s a two-time winner of nearly every award possible, and Trivigno was named one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker award, given to the best men’s ice hockey player in the NCAA.

“I think to earn the awards he’s earned, and to earn them all a second time is really outstanding, impressive, unique. He’s on a short list now on all those awards – two-time MVP in Hockey East, two-time Walter Brown winner, two-time first team Hockey East, MVP of the Frozen Four ... I don’t know if anyone can match his resume,” Carvel said. “His resume is unmatched. He had 48 points and not to disrespect our team, but take him off our team, we are not here today. Cale (Makar) won the Hobey Baker a couple years ago. Cale was the best hockey player, not even close. Bobby is the entire package.”


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