Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Callum Fryer becoming reliable defenseman for UMass hockey

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(#5 Callum Fryer. Alec Zabrecky/ Daily Collegian)

(Alec Zabrecky/ Daily Collegian)

With a defensive core consisting of three NHL draft picks, it is easy to overlook the recent play of freshman defenseman Callum Fryer for the Massachusetts hockey team.

Fryer, who attended a camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs this past summer and is now projected to be a late-round draft pick in the upcoming NHL Amateur Draft, has given the Minutemen (7-12-4, 2-7-4 HEA) reason for optimism in a season that hasn’t offered much.

The 6-foot-3 Ontario native has played in all 23 games for UMass this season, one of only five Minutemen to do so, and leads the team with 42 blocked shots.

When UMass coach John Micheletto first saw Fryer play for the Aurora Tigers of the OJHL, his puck retrieval was one of several things that stood out.

“It’s kind of a package of size and athleticism,” Micheletto said. “A big kid that could get back to pucks with speed and accelerate through his puck retrieval is something that you’re always trying to teach because it doesn’t seem like a lot of guys come into college with that ability.

“I think he’s shown here that he can play on both sides of the puck where the defensive side is always going to be his bread and butter with his ability to block shots and get us out of the zone. He’s not just a one-trick pony,” Micheletto added.

Any transition from Junior Hockey to Hockey East is a difficult one, although Micheletto felt this adjustment came quicker than expected for Fryer.

“He hasn’t had real swings in his play, you see a lot of guys that either struggle early or play really well early and then they have a dip when information seems to be weighing on them,” Micheletto said. “Callum’s been able to play a fairly consistent brand of hockey from the start of the season until now, and I think it’s probably been one of the most refreshing parts of the game, how seamless that transition has been.”

Senior Ben Gallacher, who has played with Fryer for most of the season, also acknowledged his teammate’s quick transition and has acted as a mentor for the freshman.

“Obviously coming in as a freshman it takes a little bit of time to adjust to the speed, there are some really fast players in this league, especially in Hockey East,” Gallacher said. “I’ve just been trying to make sure we’re talking a lot and making sure that we’re sticking together as a pair. He’s done a really good job transitioning right from game one, I don’t think he was slow transitioning into the league at all.”

Fryer also talked about what it’s been like playing under Gallacher’s guidance, calling him a “great mentor.”

“Obviously since he was a fourth round draft pick, he has a lot of experience,” Fryer said. “He’s taught me a lot of different stuff and how to get out of situations that I haven’t been in before. He’s a really good senior for me, and a really good (defensive)-partner.”

UMass has suffered a number of setbacks on the defensive side this season, with absences including Marc Hetnik, Carmine Buono and most recently William Lagesson.

Despite these obstacles, Micheletto acknowledged the dependable play that his top defensive pairing has given the Minutemen and believes when the two are out on the ice together, it has “become more of a collaboration as the season’s worn on.”

“They’ve been very consistent for us and give us an opportunity to get out of the zone as well as both those guys being able to be involved in the offensive play whether it be off the rush or on the offensive blue line,” Micheletto said. “It’s been a good mentoring situation for Callum, Ben’s done a really nice job there.

“At least for the time being, it’s been a real good relationship,” Micheletto said.

With UMass heading down a critical five-game homestretch, Fryer will be called upon to be one of the more reliable defensemen as the Minutemen aim to move up in the conference standings.

Jason Kates can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Jason_Kates.

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