Hockey East Preview: UMass Amherst Minutemen

Last season: 31–10–0 (18–6–0 HE, first place); lost in HE semifinals to BC, lost NCAA National Championship to Minnesota Duluth

Head Coach: Greg Carvel (fourth season)

Coaches’ Poll Projected Finish: Second

Losses

  • D Cale Makar
  • D Ryan Bliss
  • D Mario Ferraro
  • F Jacob Pritchard
  • F Brett Boeing
  • F Kurt Keats

Additions

  • G Alex Camarre
  • D Gianfranco Cassaro
  • D Zac Jones
  • D Jaakko Haarti
  • F Jeremy Davidson
  • F Eric Faith
  • F Calen Kiefiuk
  • F Reed Lebster
  • F Peyton Reeves

By Jonathan Golbert

On April 12th, 2019, Cale Makar stepped onto the stage at Harborcenter in Buffalo to accept the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top NCAA men’s hockey player. On April 13th, he stepped on the ice to lead the charge for the Minutemen in the national championship against Minnesota Duluth. And on April 14th, he stepped on to a flight bound for Game 3 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after signing an entry-level Contract with the Colorado Avalanche. The player who took UMass hockey from the conference basement to the national championship in just two years was gone.

Though Makar’s departure from Amherst was expected, it still leaves a gaping hole in UMass’s defense. His accolades seem endless: fourth pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Hobey Baker Winner, Hockey East Player of the Year, First Team All-American. But most importantly, he was a leader on and off the ice for a young, talented Massachusetts team.

The Minutemen have other departures to contend with, too. Sophomore defenseman Mario Ferraro left school early to sign with the San Jose Sharks, and seniors Jacob Pritchard, Brett Boeing, and Kurt Keats also leave holes in the Minutemen’s lines. Pritchard’s contributions will be sorely missed; he notched an exceptional 47 points last season, second only to Makar’s mind-boggling 49.

Head Coach Greg Carvel brings a nine-player freshman class to boost his roster, including New York Rangers’ third round Pick Zac Jones. Jones is the star of this recruiting class: an offensive defenseman who moves the puck well and fits perfectly into the UMass blue line. He will be joined by a crop of USHL talent, plus goalie Alex Camarre and defensemen Jaakko Haarti and Gianfranco Cassaro. Jones and forwards Reed Lebster and Peyton Reeves have the best chances of starting on opening night for the Minutemen.

Junior forwards Mitchell Chafee and John Leonard have demonstrated an eye for goal and excellent passing vision, and will be expected to step up their point production. Long Island native Bobby Trivigno also looks to make his mark after a successful 28-point rookie season. After a three-point performance against UNH in Game 1 of the Hockey East Playoffs, Trivigno received high praise from Carvel, who said, “He’s probably our most important player… He’s the best forward on our team. He’s outstanding.”

Sophomore Marc Del Gaizo played on the top pair with Cale Makar last season and is expected to contribute from the blue line again this year. He is a powerful skater with an excellent shot, comfortable with the puck in both zones. With man-advantage mainstays Makar and Ferraro on to the NHL, Del Gaizo will often be directing the Minutemen power play squad from the point.

One of the more interesting storylines for Amherst will be identifying their top netminder. Both Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg are solid; Murray started the season as Carvel’s number one, but Lindberg took over the starting role come playoff time and was absolutely lights out. Lindberg posted a staggering 1.60 GAA and .934 SV% over 17 games for the Minutemen last year, but without two of his best defenders, he’ll have his work cut out for him.

Bottom Line: The loss of Makar is a crushing blow, but most of last year’s offensive core is returning for the 2019–20 season. With Del Gaizo set to step up and lead from the blue line and reinforcements coming in Zac Jones and others, they’ve hedged their bets to try to reload the defense. UMass will remain an offensive powerhouse, but with the departures of Makar and Ferraro, a weakened defense, and an underwhelming recruiting class, they might fall just short of the Hockey East regular season crown.

Northeastern Women’s Hockey Wins Hockey East Preseason Coaches’ Poll, Ranked 4th in National Poll

Image credit: nuhuskies.com

By Christian Skroce

Boston, MA – After winning the Women’s Hockey East title last season, Northeastern was unanimously chosen to top the standings once again in the preseason HEAW coaches’ poll. The Huskies received nine first place votes (Northeastern voted for Boston University, as coaches cannot vote for their own team), good for 81 points in the poll.

BU finished second (71 points), followed by Boston College (65), Providence (56), New Hampshire (42), UConn (41), Merrimack (30), Maine (29), Vermont (25), and Holy Cross (9).

The team also was ranked fourth in the first regular season national poll. The ranking matches Northeastern’s pre-NCAA Tournament ranking from last year and puts the team in good position to reach the top three. Expectations are high for the Huskies, but they have the talent and coaching to pull off some key wins. The team has thrived using an underdog mentality, but they will be tested as the perceived top dog as they try for their third straight Hockey East championship.

Northeastern has undergone a significant youth movement over the past few years. The team consists of 16 underclassmen, many of whom have already experienced a conference win. Alina Mueller, a Patty Kaizmaier top-10 finalist last year, will look to lead the young Huskies this season. The talented sophomore forward finished with 21 goals and 30 assists last year, becoming the second NU rookie to score over 50 points in a season. Joining Mueller up front is fellow sophomore Chloe Aurard, who finished last season with 31 points of her own.

Backing up the Husky forwards will be the team’s talented defenders, led by the unmatched duo of Skylar Fontaine and Brooke Hobson. The juniors’ unique combination of speed and skill that allows them to defend well and provide extra ammunition for the Husky attack. Behind them is junior goalie Aerin Frankel, who broke out last season with a 1.81 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. Frankel turned in several clutch performances for the team last season, winning Hockey East Goalie of the Year and Hockey East Tournament MVP.

The team will kick off its season on Friday, October 4, when they head to Schenectady, NY for a date with Union College.