Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Michael Pereira returns to lead Minutemen

For Michael Pereira, his love for hockey came at first sight.

Maria Uminski/Collegian

Once he held a hockey stick in his hands for the first time, he was never letting go.

And that was when he was a 3-year-old.

Now Pereira, 20, is playing the sport he loves for the Massachusetts hockey team.

The junior forward returns to the Minutemen after a stellar sophomore campaign in which he led UMass in goals scored with 17, third in points with 34, and fourth in assists with 17.

But, in order to build upon that success this season, he will have to learn an entirely new system.

After last season ended, UMass head coach of 12 years, Don “Toot” Cahoon, stepped down, paving the way for new Minuteman head coach John Micheletto to take over the program.

It was a “rollercoaster” of an offseason, but for Pereira, that’s all behind him now.

As far as the new system goes, Pereira said he is adjusting well.

“It’s just a different style of play,” Pereira said. “Just more of an up-tempo, quick transition type of mentality that I think is definitely going to pay dividends for the whole season. I think we’re going to be a fast team and I think everyone knows that.”

In order to get ready for this new system, Pereira worked hard all offseason on “the little things.”

“Just getting bigger in the corners and making myself a little more strength orientated,” Pereira said. “Obviously, I’m a quick player, but the past two years I’ve been getting bumped off the puck a bit more. I really want to take pride in maybe laying out a hit or two and not really getting bumped off the puck as much, and just working on quick releases.”

His new coach is impressed not only with Pereira, but all the upperclassmen.

“I’ve been very impressed not only with Mike’s skills but a lot of our other guys,” Micheletto said. “We’ve got a lot of guys I think who can contribute out of that class… It’s a nice situation to be in because they are guys who have been through the battles a little bit. They’re guys who we can lean on. … So, I feel very fortunate that we have Mike and the rest of that junior and senior class.”

But a big reason why Micheletto is impressed with Pereira is his role as a leader on this team.

“He’s done a nice job I think,” Micheletto said. “He’s got a big personality. The guys have always really liked Mike and I think he’s tailoring that into more of a leadership role for himself and that’s going to be important in moving forward.”

While younger players may come to him for advice, Pereira looks to his older brother Joey.

Joey Pereira played hockey for Boston University and graduated in 2011 after being a team captain his senior year.

Joey Pereira also was the reason why Michael Pereira started playing hockey. It was the trips with Joey Pereira to the hockey rink to see him play that drove a young Pereira to pick up a stick.

And now, Joey Pereira is always there for him in return.

“He’s somebody that can really give you advice when you’re going through a slump or you’re playing well,” Pereira said. “I can’t say enough about him.”

All that hard work he put in with his brother is paying off for Michael Pereira, and as a result, the future is very bright.

He is after all only a junior and this past summer he was invited to a New York Islanders prospect camp.

But for Michael Pereira it’s all about the present. It’s his dream to someday play in the NHL, but for now, he’s focused on this team, this year and Connecticut on tonight.

“You know I’m not really looking ahead that far,” Pereira said. “I’m looking to do whatever I can to win the home opener and obviously the play will speak for itself, but I’m not really worried about that. I’m just worried about more of the team and what it takes for our team to be not only a league contender, but a national contender as well. I think we have the team to do it and I think it’s something we are striving for.”

Cameron McDonough can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_McDonough.

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