UMass hockey team overcame the challenges to hoist a national championship

  • Massachusetts fans cheer after Matthew Kessel scored against St. Cloud State during the second period of the NCAA men's Frozen Four hockey championship game in Pittsburgh, Saturday. AP

Staff Writer
Published: 4/11/2021 11:19:54 AM

PITTSBURGH – Winning a national championship is never easy, despite the way a 5-0 scoreline makes it look. The UMass hockey team played a five-month, 29-game schedule along with COVID-19 simultaneously. There were no days off against the coronavirus.

The Minutemen were sequestered on campus to their homes, the Mullins Center and the dining halls. They spent Thanksgiving on campus and didn’t see their families for eight months.

Since all Hockey East games are within driving distance and UMass only played conference games until the NCAA Tournament, every road game was a day trip to the rink and back.

“They do everything right all the time. Everything we ask of them,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “Hopefully they all get to go home on Monday and see family and finish out school the right way.”

Carvel and his staff made it a point for the Minutemen to lead the nation in following COVID protocols. UMass didn’t have a positive test until right before the Frozen Four. For much of the season, the Minutemen played the most games in the country.

They had to pause for two weeks in February due to rising COVID cases on campus. That break proved to be just what UMass needed. The Minutemen didn’t lose over the course of their final 14 games and won seven in a row to end the season as Hockey East and national champions for the first time.

That wasn’t without its struggles, however. UMass experienced its first positive COVID test the weekend it was supposed to leave for Pittsburgh and the Frozen Four. Three additional players were deemed close contacts, and the four didn’t travel and missed Thursday’s semifinal against Minnesota-Duluth.

The Minutemen relied on their depth and senior goalkeeper Matt Murray to secure their second consecutive championship game berth. After finally raising the trophy, Carvel took a moment to exhale.

“I tell you what, I'm completely spent. The whole COVID has been tough on everybody. It's been demanding, and you run on adrenaline through these times. And we have all gone through it. We've all had a rough time with it,” he said. “And I shouldn't be complaining. We just won a national championship. But it's been a grind. Even winning every night and winning championships, it's tough to maintain that. And again I'm extremely proud of our kids. They were so consistent all year. All year. Every day. And that's why they're champions.”

“But I know I'm going to go hide out for a few weeks here and reset.”


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