After being crowned Patriot West division champions for the second time in three years, the Massachusetts club hockey team now turns its focus to the Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA) playoffs, which begin this Friday in Nashua, N.H..
Coming off a down season last year, UMass coach Steven MacKay is thrilled with the way things have been going for his team, especially after winning the division.
“It’s pretty rewarding, seeing that we had a less than .500 season last year,” MacKay said. “It feels good to get back on top.”
The Minutemen come into the playoffs as the No. 15 seed in the Northeast region, and will begin play on Saturday when they take on Bryant University at Conway Arena. The sixth-ranked Bulldogs (18-7) have beaten UMass twice season and have won 14 of their last 20 games.
The Minutemen enter the postseason coming off a 14-8-2 regular season, which included a 7-3-2 mark at home. Captain Mark Joyce led the team in total points with 27, followed by freshman Miguel Rojas (23 points) and senior Greg Berube (22).
Although UMass failed to make the American College Hockey Association Regional Tournament, MacKay wants his graduating seniors to go out on top by winning these upcoming playoffs.
“It’s most important for them to leave with a conference championship, because while winning a division title is nice, winning a championship is the most important thing,” MacKay said.
The Minutemen will honor their seniors Feb. 23 when they take on Boston University on Senior Night.
With Mark Joyce, Kevin Joyce, Berube, Craig Charest and Marc Marin suiting up one last time for UMass that night, MacKay reflected on mutual impact the entire senior class had on his team.
“I think they’re all interchangeable, and there’s no one person better than another,” MacKay said.
Military Appreciation night a success
On Feb. 2, UMass beat Maine, 6-0, in a game in which soldiers, public officers and the Shriners Hospital were all honored for Military Appreciation night. In attendance were police officials, EMT’s, Color Guard associates and members of the ROTC unit at UMass.
This game has become an annual event dating back to 2010. Each year, a patient ambassador from Shriners Hospital in Springfield accepts a custom made UMass/Maine jersey that is signed by both teams.
Mark Joyce was also honored that night with the Top Gun award, which honors the player who scores the most points on the team and at the same time received the least amount of penalties. This award, presented to Joyce by Major Sean Halbrook from the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base.
Jason Kates can be reached at email@example.com