UMass hockey team gets champions welcome

  • UMass men’s hockey captain Jake Gaudet holds the NCAA national championship trophy as the team arrives on campus Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/DUSTY CHRISTENSEN

  • The UMass men’s hockey team arrives on campus Sunday, a day after winning the NCAA trophy with a 5-0 win over St. Cloud State in Pittsburgh. STAFF PHOTO/DUSTY CHRISTENSEN

  • John Solem—UMass Amherst

  • The UMass men’s hockey team is welcomed back to campus Sunday, a day after their victory in the NCAA championship. John Solem/UMASS AMHERST

Staff Writer
Published: 4/11/2021 8:31:45 PM

AMHERST — Their arrival wasn’t announced widely on campus, but that didn’t stop hundreds of students and community members from congregating on the UMass campus Sunday to welcome home the university’s national champion hockey team.

Students streamed across Boyden Fields for the team’s arrival, many wearing their maroon-and-white university apparel to welcome the team to campus. For many, it was the continuation of celebrations that had begun the evening before when the horn blew to signal the end of the national championship game.

“It was electric,” junior Hannah Orujev said of the atmosphere on Saturday night, when UMass defeated St. Cloud State University 5-0. “Something I’ll remember forever.”

The mood was exuberant on Sunday, too, as two chartered buses pulled onto Mullins Way, the back entrance to the team’s home ice at the Mullins Center. The Minuteman Marching Band lined the street, playing the university’s fight song as throngs of fans cheered the champions’ arrival.

“I’m pumped! I’ve been on a high since yesterday,” said Sam Leonard, a sophomore. After the team’s win, he said, he purchased loads of UMass apparel to remember the moment, from shirts to beverage koozies. “Even a cat collar for my cat.”

Cristina Curry was in town from the Philadelphia area to watch her daughter, Ella, play on the university’s women’s soccer team against Fordham. She said the family has been following the hockey team ever since her daughter committed to play at UMass four years ago.

“This is awesome,” Curry said. “It’s great for the kids, especially this year with COVID … For them to come home and see all this is great.”

The pandemic certainly didn’t deter Sunday’s crowd from welcoming the team in droves.

As the team arrived, UMass players lifted open the windows of the bus, hanging out to high-five fans crowded around. The gathering of mostly students cheered raucously as the players leaned out the windows, smiles glued to their faces. Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” the inevitable anthem of sports victors, played from inside one of the buses.

Ted Mone and Jeanne Horrigan of Amherst were standing behind the crowd that rushed the buses. As season ticket holders, the two said they have attended every game since the Mullins Center opened its doors in 1993.

“We watched every minute,” Horrigan said. “It’s a huge deal.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Horrigan said she was unable to attend games in person this year. But with next year’s Frozen Four taking place in Boston, and UMass hockey’s status as a national powerhouse cemented, she’s hoping for another shot at attending collegiate hockey’s top tournament.

“God, I really hope so,” she said.

As the buses passed the crowd and turned toward the Mullins Center, fans sprinted across the fields one more time to greet them at the arena. The mass of mostly students chanted and cheered as players paraded the NCAA trophy in front of them, savoring every moment of the program’s first national title.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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