Hockey East media day: UMass hockey picked 3rd, not sneaking up on anyone

  • UMass hockey coach Greg Carvel, left, and sophomore defenseman Scott Morrow at Hockey East Media Day on Tuesday at TD Garden in Boston. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass hockey coach Greg Carvel, left, and sophomore defenseman Scott Morrow at Hockey East Media Day on Tuesday at TD Garden in Boston. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 9/13/2022 1:30:11 PM
Modified: 9/14/2022 3:30:40 PM

BOSTON – UMass used to sneak up on teams in Hockey East.

The Minutemen regularly languished among the conference’s lower rungs and could surprise an unprepared opponent. Those days are long gone.

UMass has won the Hockey East tournament two years in a row and been to three straight NCAA Tournaments.

“The last three years at UMass have been a lot different than the first three years. There’s no nights off in our league. We’re learning how prepared we need to be every night. That’s fine,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I think it helped the development of our players because every night we’re getting the best from our opponents.”

The Minutemen were voted third in the preseason Hockey East coaches poll with 93 points. They received three first-place votes. Northeastern received the top honors with 105 points and seven first-place votes. UMass was just edged by Boston University, which was second with 94 and one first-place vote. The original poll had UMass and BU swapped Tuesday, but and updated version was released Wednesday.

A clump of four team sits between 70 and 75 points.

“That’s our league, there’s no nights off, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing. It is drastically different,” Carvel said. “I did like it when we could sneak up on teams a bit.”

Upon reflection, Carvel said he felt like the Minutemen snuck past the three teams they faced in the postseason. He said UMass stole the quarterfinal against Providence and was outplayed against UMass Lowell in the semifinal. The Minutemen downed UConn in overtime to claim the title last March at TD Garden.

“We were fortunate to get to Boston,” Carvel said. “When you go into that weekend with the other three teams, I didn’t go thinking we were going to win the championship. All three playoff games could have gone either way. We were fortunate to come out on top.”

A dozen new players will help UMass aim for three straight conference championships and another NCAA Tournament berth. That includes eight freshmen and four transfers from schools like Providence, Michigan State and Arizona State.

“We had 10 or 11 new faces last year, and that was new. We learned a lot of lessons about what we did to prepare for the season,” Carvel said. “We learned a lot of lessons about how we can do things differently to onboard kids, how we want to play the game and maybe push the kids a little harder through the summer like we did through September.”

SHOWCASES – UMass will take its show to spectacular and unique venues this season. The Minutemen will face Boston College at Fenway Park in Boston at 6 p.m. on Jan. 7. It’s their third time playing in Frozen Fenway. Previously UMass lost to Boston University in 2017, Carvel’s first season, and beat Vermont in 2012.

“It’s great exposure. We’ve got a huge fanbase in the state, so I imagine we’ll have huge support,” Carvel said. “It’s very memorable, it’s historic. Let’s hope it wasn’t as cold as it was last time.”

The Minutemen also have a return trip booked to Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the Friendship Four for the second time with games lined up against UMass Lowell and either Quinnipiac or Dartmouth Nov. 25 and 26.

“It’s super memorable. It’s not the typical environment,” UMass defenseman Scott Morrow said. “Those types of experiences are super fun. They’re challenging because you’re outside your normal routine. It’s going to be a super-exciting trip.”

UMass also will visit Milwaukee, Wisc., Dec. 28-29 for the Kwik Trip Holiday Face-Off at the Fiserv Forum, home to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. The Minutemen will face Clarkson first then either Lake Superior State or Wisconsin depending on results.

RAISE THE BARR – Being a head coach for the first time taught former UMass assistant coach Ben Barr about the day to day responsibilities that lead to success.

“You learn the challenges and opportunities you have at your particular institution,” he said

Maine went 7-22-4 (5-17-2 Hockey East) last season and finished 11th out of 11 Hockey East teams. More than half of those victories came against teams who were ranked at some point in the season, including an overtime victory at the Mullins Center.

“On the ice we need to get better, and that starts with things behind the scenes we need to get better at,” Barr said. “We need to create the best environment for our student athlete. It’s incumbent upon you as the head coach to make those changes.”

NEW FACES ON COMMONWEALTH AVENUE – Both Boston College and Boston University have new head coaches for the first time since 1972. Both went with program alumni. The Eagles replaced longtime leader Jerry York with his former assistant Greg Brown, and the Terriers went with their associate head coach Jay Pandolfo, who prior last year spent his career with the Bruins.

“Jay and I both lived in this rivalry a long time both being players and living in the city,” Brown said. “The whole atmosphere, you get to see each other the whole time. You’re combating each other for recruits and combating each other in the game.”

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