UMass trying to replicate winning formula with new cast

  • Massachusetts forward Bobby Trivigno celebrates his goal against Denver during the first period in a semifinal of the Frozen Four NCAA men's college hockey tournament Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts goalie Filip Lindberg (35) stops Denver forward Jarid Lukosevicius (14) during the overtime period in the semifinals of the Frozen Four NCAA mens college hockey tournament Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts forward John Leonard (9) is congratulated by teammates after his goal against Harvard during the third period of an NCAA Division 1 men's ice hockey regional game in Manchester, N.H., Friday, March 29, 2019. UMass defeated Harvard 4-0. (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

Staff Writer
Published: 10/10/2019 7:26:19 PM
Modified: 10/10/2019 7:26:09 PM

AMHERST — Greg Carvel had found the recipe for success for UMass hockey by January.

It’s a secret combination of six attributes — some of which Carvel said don’t show up on the stats tracked by the NCAA — that led to the Minutemen’s best performances of last season. There were the obvious factors that helped UMass, a top-five penalty kill, a top-ranked power play and the seventh-best scoring defense in the nation, but those were only some of what Carvel said he and his staff figured out were the keys to the team winning.

Although the personnel has changed, UMass’ formula for success won’t as the season begins Friday at 7 p.m. against RPI at the Mullins Center.

“Last year, it was pretty obvious we needed to elevate in those three areas (power play, penalty killing and save percentage), and we did a really good job at it,” Carvel said. “Through the course of last year with the success we had, we could really narrow our focus to six things. If we did those six things well, we were a good hockey team and we were tough to beat. Those six things, we’ve discussed a lot through the NCAA Tournament last year and carried it into the fall.”

Special teams were vital to the Minutemen’s success with the team setting records for both power-play (28.5 percent) and penalty-killing (86.9 percent) effectiveness. However, many of the key contributors on the UMass penalty kill unit departed and there will be plenty of new people being asked to step up in those roles.

Yet, the UMass power play returns most of its production from last season. There are two notable losses in Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar, who quarterbacked the unit from the blue line, and forward Jacob Pritchard, who set a program record with 26 of his 47 points coming on the man advantage. Carvel said he lets each power-play unit form its own identity around the basic structure he puts into place, a strategy that worked several times last season when the players created plays on the fly during games.

Amherst native John Leonard, who scored seven power-play goals last season, said the depth between the two units should benefit the Minutemen and that he believes the power play is still set up to be very successful.

“It’s different, but at the end of the day, we have the same objective we did when they were here,” Leonard said. “When they were here, it was their job to do that, and now we have some new pieces that are thrown into the power play and it’s their turn to make an impact. I have full confidence in the power play we have right now and we have high expectations for it.”

UMass will certainly feel Makar’s loss in other places, especially in combination with Mario Ferraro’s ascension to the NHL after last season. While Ferraro’s offensive stats dropped last year, he was an anchor defensively for the Minutemen and was just as valuable on the blue line as Makar.

The onus now falls on sophomores Marc Del Gaizo and Ty Farmer to replicate what Ferraro and Makar did last season after studying under them as defensive partners. The Minutemen will have at least two freshmen within the defensive pairings all season, and will likely have three Friday with Del Gaizo being held out for precautionary reasons after offseason surgery.

The only UMass defensemen who isn’t a freshman or sophomore is senior Jake McLaughlin, who took a major stride last season on the third pairing. He said he likes how Carvel has set up the pairings to keep a sense of balance on the ice.

“The pairings are set up where each partner complements the other in a way where it’s a bigger defenseman paired with a smaller guy, who’s kind of offensive,” McLaughlin said. “Those are the best pairings. I know Carvy has touched on it a bunch, but we have depth within our team and our D core. We’ll still bring a lot of offense but still be really strong defensively.”

Coming one win away from the national championship has been a quiet motivating factor for the Minutemen off a historic season. Although the success of last year will be honored before the game and the memories will still follow UMass all season, the attention has shifted to trying to make UMass a perennial name in the conversation of title contenders.

Leonard said last season’s success only added fuel to the goal of bringing respect to the UMass brand.

“It’s just motivation,” Leonard said. “We’re not satisfied at all with what happened last year. Obviously, it was a tough ending, but it’s put past us. It’s in the back of our mind how we lost, but at the same time it’s just motivation and we want to get there every single year and be the team to beat.”

CARVEL EXTENDED — On Wednesday, UMass announced it has extended Carvel’s contract for an additional year through the 2023-24 season.

Carvel led the Minutemen to their best season in program history last season, capturing UMass’ first Hockey East regular season title and advancing to the Frozen Four and national championship game for the first time in program history. In three seasons in charge, Carvel has a 53-59-4 record while seeing double-digit win improvements from year-to-year.

In addition, the school extended assistant coaches Ben Barr and Jared DeMichiel through the end of next season.

“We believe that Greg, Ben and Jared are the best staff in college hockey and we have a strong desire to keep them at UMass for the foreseeable future,” UMass athletics director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “In partnership, they have built a first-class program that has grabbed national attention on the ice, doing it with student-athletes that achieve at a high level in the classroom and commit to service in our community. We will continue to invest our energy and resources in keeping Massachusetts hockey regionally dominant and nationally prominent.”

Josh Walfish can be reached at jwalfish@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.



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