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Hockey Notebook: Physicality translating to points for Mitchell Chaffee

(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

You’ll probably hear Mitchell Chaffee before you recognize him out on the ice for the Massachusetts hockey team.

No, he’s not a yeller or screamer—in fact, he’s quite the opposite, as the soft-spoken freshman lets his actions do all the talking for him.

Specifically, his physical play for UMass (7-6-0, 2-3-0 Hockey East Association).

The first-year from Rockford, Michigan isn’t one to shy away from distributing huge hits to the opposition, often times delivering booming checks that thunder throughout the rink.

Chaffee’s rough and rugged style has been an element the Minutemen haven’t had in recent years, and it’s paying dividends for the group and for No. 21 himself.

The 6-foot, 205-pound forward has been a key cog in UMass’ recent winning ways, racking up points in the Minutemen’s last four games. Chaffee’s offensive emergence includes three goals and six points, with UMass earning wins in three of its last four outings.

“There’s no secret to his success. He’s just a big body, plays the game, plays a very linear game,” Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said. “But he’s such a physical presence. He’s going to start building a reputation in our league as a guy you don’t want to run in to and that’s going to give him some space.”

Sitting with nine points on the year in his first campaign at UMass, Chaffee feels his sudden success has transpired because of a consistent work ethic.

“I’ve been just trying to keep my game simple and execute on the little details,” Chaffee said. “I’ve been paying close attention to what I’m good at and been trying to get better at the small things. It’s been working for me lately so I just got to keep going with that.”

The Minutemen respond well whenever Chaffee pots a goal as they have a 4-1 record when he scores.

Point producing wasn’t an aspect Chaffee was necessarily expected to constantly contribute to when he was recruited to UMass, as he only totaled 29 points in 103 career games between the Bloomington Thunder and Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League, but Chaffee’s scoring has opened the ice for him as well as his teammates.

“It gives [Oliver] Chau space on the ice, I think Oliver would admit that,” said Carvel. “If we can get [Jake] Gaudet playing at the same level as Chaffee, which he’s capable of, it’ll be an effective line because you got two big bodies that can be physical and then Oliver’s a really smart offensive player.”

“I think being physical is a huge part of my game,” added Chaffee. “It not only helps me, but helps my line mates and everyone on the ice. It opens up things and I think that’s a big part of my game that I need to keep doing.”

Last Saturday was a perfect example as Chaffee and Chau connected for each other’s goals, one coming on the power play when Chaffee dished it to Chau in front who was all alone and proceeded to roof it upstairs, signifying a growing relationship between the two that has been hard to miss.

“We do have a chemistry together. I mean, we live together,” said Chaffee. “It’s always fun living with him. But I feel like we’re building a strong chemistry out there.”

With the glut of freshmen the Minutemen possess, it was tough to predict just how all the newcomers would perform. Yet through 13 games, Chaffee’s easily been one of the most recognizable names on a night-to-night basis for a UMass team that seems to be finding its stride.

“He’s been top two line, power play guy since day one. I can’t recall every game but early on he’s found ways to score goals [in] a lot of different ways,” Carvel said. “Again, another thing that [we] weren’t expecting him to bring to the table. He blocks shots, he competes, he’s just a real quality teammate and [I] couldn’t be happier for him and feel very fortunate that he’s on our team. I’d hate to have him on the other team.”

“I feel more comfortable out there now,” Chaffee said. “The more we play the more comfortable I’m feeling and I just feel we’ve been clicking. Hopefully we can keep going with that, keeping things simple.”

Personalities announced for upcoming broadcasts

Eleven Sports announced Wednesday that Tim Neverett, currently the radio play-by-play announcer for the Boston Red Sox, will call all 14 UMass hockey and basketball games in the network’s partnership with Minutemen athletics.

UMass’ game against Connecticut Dec, 1 marks the first of five hockey games on the broadcast schedule and Neverett will be joined by former Minuteman Thomas Poeck, who will assume color commentary roles for the first two hockey games.

Poeck is a UMass Hall of Famer who was an All-America selection in 2004, as well as the program’s first-ever Hobey Baker Finalist the same year.

Former Minutemen head coach Don “Toot” Cahoon will take Poeck’s place for the other three games.

Neverett called the University of Denver’s hockey games for five seasons.

 

Light Load

UMass has played five Hockey East games, serving as the lowest amount among all 11 teams in the league.

The Minutemen split with Merrimack and Providence and lost to New Hampshire 3-0.

UConn, UMass’ upcoming opponent, holds the most league matchups with 11.

 

Ryan Ames can be reached at rames@umass.edu or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.

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