Hockey Notebook: UMass used offseason to get a head start on ’17-18 year

By Ryan Ames

(Caroline O’Connor/ Daily Collegian)

The college hockey season doesn’t officially begin until Sept. 30, but for the Massachusetts hockey team, the scrimmage against Queens University this Saturday might feel more like a late-November contest rather than an early season tune-up.

That is because, for the first time in UMass hockey history, the Minutemen hosted a six-week workout/training session on campus during the offseason, where almost the entire roster was on-hand to train and prepare for the 2017-18 campaign.

Activities included weight room work and on-ice drills, giving UMass extra time to weed out the initial kinks that will assuredly come with a roster that features 20 underclassmen.

“Our guys were able to train together, really push each other in the weight room,” Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said. “They got to skate a couple times a week on their own, take a class, but the best part of it was them being able to get accustomed to campus and each other.

“The freshman all took courses and again, UMass had never done that before. Most teams in Hockey East do that, and it’s such an advantage.”

For sophomore forward Niko Hildenbrand, the summer program was valuable in helping shape the Minutemen’s overall team morale.

“I thought it went great. I think getting all the guys to campus, and honestly even more than the weightlifting and the conditioning and all the stuff that we did, I think it was good to get everyone here for the six weeks and kind of bond,” Hildenbrand, who tallied 8 points in 32 games last season, said. “I mean that was one thing coming here last year as a freshman, you kind of get on campus, everything hits you at once, and you don’t really know anyone on the team yet. Whereas here, these freshmen, they’re already our brothers.  It’s been six weeks training hard with them so I think that was the biggest impact and I think it’ll show on the ice.”

Jake Gaudet, one of the 13 freshmen UMass currently carries, also thought the offseason practice period was beneficial in more ways than one.

“We came here at a time when there was no students here, so we had no choice but to spend all our time together,” said Gaudet, who also attended Ottawa Senators development camp in July on an invitation basis. “I think at the same time, we spent three days on the ice a week as a team, working on skill stuff [like] scrimmaging, and working together. I think we’ve had extra time to grow that chemistry together and that’s made an impact as well.”

New Threads

Earlier this week, the Minutemen revealed new home and away jerseys on their Instagram account, with some notable changes apparent.

The home jerseys feature the most drastic alteration as the new sweater showcases the “Power U” UMass logo on the front, as opposed to “Massachusetts” that previously appeared on the crest of the jerseys. The away garments look very similar to last year’s, with the only change coming in the gray trim around the lettering.

Athletic Director Ryan Bamford tweeted out that these jerseys will act more as third jerseys for UMass, as opposed to its primary apparel.


Wait and “C”

The Minutemen have not announced captains as of Sept. 29, and according to Carvel, that decision might not come for a while.

“We only have one senior, [so] we wanted to allow these guy [to] let it evolve organically and see if somebody arose and was truly deserving,” said Carvel. “I would guess it’ll be a little while before we make any decision.”

Defenseman Jake Horton is the only senior in the UMass lineup, and is one of eight upperclassmen the Minutemen have.

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.