UMass hockey notebook: Focus quickly shifts to NCAA Tournament

  • UMass "properly" celebrated winning its first Hockey East championship Saturday at the Mullins Center. Then Greg Carvel and his coaching staff ensured the Minutemen "properly" refocused on this weekend's NCAA Tournament. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/23/2021 8:52:52 PM
Modified: 3/23/2021 8:52:50 PM

Winning the program’s first Hockey East championship won’t weigh down the UMass hockey team as it approaches the NCAA Tournament.

The Minutemen “properly celebrated” the historic milestone Saturday night after beating UMass Lowell 1-0 at the Mullins Center, then they turned their focus toward the Bridgeport Regional and Lake Superior State with practices Monday and Tuesday.

“We luckily have experience and understand how focused you need to be to find success in the NCAA tournament,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “The focus is there. It took a little bit. The messaging was ‘we’re champions forever, that’s awesome, let’s make sure we don’t regret coming up short on our next goal.’”

There are 11 players remaining from the 2019 team that reached the national championship game, including captain Jake Gaudet and assistant captains Marc Del Gaizo and Bobby Trivigno. They’ve ensured their less experienced teammates at least know what to expect in Bridgeport, Conn.

“It’s very similar to Hockey East where it’s single elimination, so if you take off a period or five minutes, it’s going to hurt you,” Trivigno said. “Every shift matters, so it was making sure the guys were prepared.”

UMass (16-5-4) will play in its third NCAA tournament after receiving an automatic bid for the first time. The Minutemen are the regional’s No. 2 seed facing No. 3 Lake Superior State, which won the WCHA title for the first time Saturday. The Lakers (19-6-3) have won six games in a row and only allowed multiple goals in two of them.

“I guess I’d rather have someone who’s limping in instead of running in but you’ve got to beat everyone anyways,” Carvel said.

Preparing for an unfamiliar opponent on short notice has become routine for the Minutemen. Hockey East threw away its long-term schedule on Jan. 19 in favor of matchups determined on a week to week basis to maximize the number of games played after many series were scrapped or rescheduled by COVID-19 pauses.

“This year has conditioned us and it was just really another week and throwing another opponent that we’re not going to get overly involved with trying to break down their game,” Carvel said. “We feel strongly that if we do what we do really well it doesn’t really matter what our opponent does.”

ANOTHER FIRST – The Gridiron Club of Greater Boston announced Monday that Trivigno was the recipient of the 69th Walter Brown Award, handed out annually to the top American-born college hockey player in New England. He’s the first player in program history to receive the award. 

The Walter Brown Award is the oldest nationally-recognized college hockey award, established in 1953.

Trivigno was named the MVP of the Hockey East Tournament and a first-team Hockey East all-star. The Setauket, New York, native tied for the league’s scoring lead after the tournament.

“It’s funny, I think you under value your own players because you’re always asking more from them,” Carvel said. “When you take a step back and you think about Hockey East this year and think about which kids were the biggest difference makers, and Bobby was a huge difference maker.”

The award came down to Trivigno and Boston College goalie Spencer Knight, the Hockey East Player of the Year, Carvel said, and UMass winning the conference title separated him.

It’s the latest in a series of “firsts” for the Minutemen in recent seasons. UMass also picked up its first conference Rookie of the Year this season honor when freshman Josh Lopina shared the honor with BC’s Nikita Nesterenko. Two years ago, Cale Makar won the program’s first Hobey Baker, the Minutemen claimed their first regular season Hockey East title and UMass reached its first Frozen Four.

“A lot of firsts. You’ve got to get those firsts and try to get seconds,” Carvel said. “As much as we’ve grown the program, it’s important to get those highlights. Instead of moral victories, we’re getting trophies and recognition. It’s pushing the program forward.”

NICE DIGS – UMass unveiled Tuesday its final plans for an updated locker room. The $2 million project was funded entirely by donations. It’s the final phase of facility upgrades for the program.

“This was a big project for us. It’s going to be a game changer for the players here and recruiting and it doesn’t happen without the success we’ve had,” Carvel said. “These kids do everything in a first class manner and they deserve to have first class facilities.”

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