UMass hockey reaches new heights with trip to Frozen Four

  • Massachusetts forward Jake Gaudet, top right, is congratulated by Oliver Chau (20) and Mario Ferraro (5) after his goal against Notre Dame during the second period of an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts forward John Leonard (9) fakes Notre Dame goaltender Cale Morris (32) as he sets up his goal during the second period of an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Notre Dame goaltender Cale Morris (32) drops to his knees as the puck passes through his legs on a goal by Massachusetts forward Jake Gaudet during the second period of an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts forward John Leonard (9) pumps his fist as he skates past the Notre Dame bench after his goal during the second period of an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) looks back as a shot by Notre Dame forward Cam Morrison (26) goes wide, as Massachusetts defenseman Marc Del Gaizo (2) keeps tight, during the first period of an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts forward Jacob Pritchard (14) and Notre Dame defenseman Matt Hellickson (5) chase after the puck during the first period of an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts forward Anthony Del Gaizo (12) threads between defenders as Notre Dame goaltender Cale Morris (32) covers the puck during the first period of an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. At top is Notre Dame defenseman Matt Hellickson (5), at bottom right is Notre Dame forward Cam Morrison (26). (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) makes a save on a shot by Notre Dame forward Jack Jenkins (28) during the first period of an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts players jump over the boards in celebration after shutting out Notre Dame in an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. UMass won 4-0. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Players skate in celebration toward Massachusetts goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) after the team's 4-0 win over Notre Dame in an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Massachusetts goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) is congratulated by teammates after shutting out Notre Dame in an NCAA Division I men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, March 30, 2019. UMass won 4-0. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

Staff Writer
Published: 3/31/2019 12:26:41 AM

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Greg Carvel called his team a “buzzsaw” this weekend.

No one who watched the Minutemen play at SNHU Arena on Friday or Saturday could argue with that. UMass returned to its aggressive, physical brand of hockey for 120 minutes at the Northeast Regional and earned itself a trip to Buffalo, New York, in two weeks for the program’s first Frozen Four.

The Minutemen never wavered from their game plan and dominated the 60 minutes Saturday against Notre Dame. They limited the Fighting Irish to just 13 shots – two of which came in a near-flawless second period – and kept Notre Dame on its heels.

When the final buzzer sounded and the more than 5,000 maroon-clad spectators rose to their feet in appreciation, UMass skated off the ice with a 4-0 victory and a historic date with Denver on April 11.

“One of my great mentors was Joe Marsh, who I played for at St. Lawrence, he took his team to a Frozen Four one year and he said something to the effect of, ‘St. Lawrence being in the Frozen Four is akin to some of you photographers getting a photo of Bigfoot,’ ” Carvel said while tears welled up in his eyes. “I can’t help but feel the same way, UMass in the Frozen Four, somebody probably thought they would’ve seen Bigfoot before that happened. I am so proud, I got emotional on the bench there for a second. These are things that, we realized early in the season that this could be a possibility, and luckily the coaches didn’t mess it up.”

Carvel and his staff did quite the opposite in fact. They always seemed to push the right buttons this season, reflected in the fact UMass (30-9-0) didn’t lose consecutive games all season and scored at least four goals in eight of those nine bounce-back victories. Sophomore Mario Ferraro said Thursday he credited the confidence the staff instilled in the players as a major reason the Minutemen even advanced to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in program history.

UMass looked like it was at home at SNHU Arena this weekend and the vocal support from the stands helped add to the illusion that the games were being played back at the Mullins Center. As Carvel walked to the bench before both games, he was met by a loud chant of “Let’s Go UMass.” The place got even louder when goaltender Filip Lindberg led the Minutemen onto the ice pregame and the anticipation of the game released.

The support is nothing out of the ordinary for UMass, though. Most of the arenas where UMass has played since the calendar flipped to 2019 have been filled with Minuteman fans. TD Garden last week erupted at the mere mention of UMass before the teams even took the ice. Yet despite hearing those chants away from Amherst being the norm, the players still use that energy in critical moments of the game.

“I think as a group we feel that everywhere we’ve traveled this year the fans have kind of come all over the place and it gives us great energy on the bench,” Amherst native John Leonard said. “We definitely feed off it and it’s great to see.”

Saturday’s victory was the culmination of a three-year process for Carvel since he took over behind the UMass bench. He said before he could worry about returning UMass to glory, he had to make the Minutemen relevant again within their own community. In the lead-up to the regional, Carvel said he was disappointed UMass couldn’t make its alums happy in the Hockey East Tournament.

There was no doubting the emotions of the alumni, fans and community members after beating Notre Dame.

“When I came into this program one of my biggest goals was to bring pride to all the former players who wore the sweater,” Carvel said. “To build pride throughout the alumni, the university, our athletic department and first and foremost in our locker room. When I took the job, everybody wanted to talk about the sleeping giant and I said well, if we can put a team on the ice that people can be proud of and entertaining to watch, then we’ll wake that giant, and obviously this year we’ve done that.”




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