Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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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

Josh Couturier looks to find where he fits within UMass lineup

(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

Hopping in his truck around mid-afternoon this time last year, Josh Couturier would prepare for his two-hour excursion to go watch the Massachusetts hockey team take on its latest opponent.

Fresh off of transferring from Boston College to the University of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts native would regularly take trips to all local games that were within a manageable driving distance. He wanted to make sure that he was there for his new teammates.

Couturier was required by the NCAA to sit a year before fully being able to compete for the UMass hockey team. Participating in games and traveling with the team are prohibited by the transfer regulations.

After finishing his first collegiate hockey season under Jerry York and the Boston College men’s hockey team, Couturier had to make a decision.

“At the end of the day BC is an expensive school,” Couturier said. “I didn’t want to put the financial pressure on my family and I, so I decided to make a change.”

Head Coach Greg Carvel reached out to the defenseman and decided to make some room for the former Eagle.

However, Carvel is still unsure about the former Eagle’s role with the Minutemen this season.  Standing at six-foot-two, Couturier provides size to the roster and Carvel hopes to see him use that to his advantage.

“He’s a bit of a question mark,” Carvel said. “He’s a big guy, he skates well and has a big shot.  But until you’re thrown in the fire you don’t know what anyone brings.”

“We’ve got a defense that’s got some smaller, lighter, offensive-minded, skilled guys and we need him to compliment those guys.”

Carvel, now in his second year, expects a major physical presence from Couturier in hopes that he’ll create difficulty for opponents and instill a reputation for himself because of his size.

A full year has gone by where Couturier has been absent from the actual competition aspect of the sport that he’s dedicated his life to. But according to teammate and fellow defender Jake Horton, Couturier is “ready for a fresh start and [ready] to start off this year on a hot note.”

The Transition

Couturier played in 33 games for BC and recorded two goals and four assists for six points in the 2015-16 season. He netted his first collegiate goal against the University of Connecticut on Nov. 24.

The redshirt sophomore took notice of the high-end facilities that UMass had to offer in the well-kept practice arena and newly renovated weight room. He could tell the program was serious and liked the change of scenery.

“I’ve got to say, UMass’ facilities are a lot better,” Couturier said. “I honestly think coming to UMass has been the best thing for my development.”

Before college Couturier played for the Boston Junior Bruins of the United States Premiere Hockey League (USPHL) in 2014-15. He skated in 49 games and registered 38 points via 16 goals and 22 assists, finishing 42nd overall in scoring for the regular season as a defenseman.

Only being able to participate in practice last season was tough on Couturier, but he strived to remain an essential asset to the team by helping in other ways. He put forth as much effort to bettering himself and the team as possible.

Horton expressed the team’s excitement about welcoming Couturier from BC. The senior said he is “fortunate enough” to sit next to Couturier in the locker room where they’ve gotten fairly close since his arrival.

“I actually met him the summer that he was coming in; they came to the house and I didn’t really know what to expect and then I heard him talk,” Horton said. “He had the typical Boston accent that you can imagine, but he was super ecstatic to be here.”

Horton described Couturier as “a vocal guy in the locker room” and “a natural leader” for the young UMass team. He confidently stated that the whole team enjoys having Couturier around.

The senior expects his fellow defender to use his size and, like Carvel said, provide a physical presence on the back end of the ice. With three freshman defenders on the roster, Horton believes the team needs him to step up as a leader.

“Even in practice you can tell that it’s been a good year for him already,” Horton said. “His attitude is impeccable and he comes to the rink every day with a smile on his face no matter what’s going on.”

Finding A Role

Coming from the Boston College hockey program, where there’s a prominent winning tradition, Couturier believed he brought that winning mentality to the team.

Despite not playing, Couturier continued to try and leave an impression on his new teammates.

“I felt like I set the standard of what needed to be done day in and day out, by coming to work every day, whether it’s in the gym, on the ice or in the classroom,” Couturier said.

In the team’s opening weekend of 2017-18 against Arizona State, Couturier contributed two shots and an assist in the teams’ 3-5 loss on Oct. 6. In addition, he registered two blocks.

“We need him to play as a big body,” Carvel said. “That’s what we’re expecting of him, at this point we haven’t seen it, but we’re hoping to.”

The Minutemen are set to face BC on Jan. 23 and Feb. 15, starting the series in Boston and finishing at the Mullins Center.

Couturier is well aware of when the Eagles are on the schedule and he admitted to circling the date on his calendar. He made a point to say that the matchup was way down the line in the regular season and he plans to take each game one at a time.

“It’s going to be an emotional one, but I’m excited to play those guys,” Couturier said. “But in this league you can’t take a night off, so I’m for sure looking forward to playing them and hopefully beating them.”

Couturier hopes to solidify himself as a true leader on the team this season. He believes that the primarily freshman-built Minutemen are in need of upperclassman guidance.

On the ice, defense is at the frontier of Couturier’s mindset. He takes his size into consideration and plans to protect the defensive zone first. Once the defense is taken care of then he plans to set his sights on contributing on the power play wherever he can.

“I’m coming in as an older guy even though I’m only a sophomore, just trying to bring some leadership to this team,” Couturier said.

Couturier no longer has to rely on his truck for getting from game to game; he can now board the bus for every road trip, suit up for every game and be able to actually execute his hard work and dedication from the practice rink onto the fresh ice of the Mullins Center.

Couturier is ready to find his place within the roster and his expectations for himself align with that of Carvel’s expectations for him.

“Hopefully [I’ll] be able to make a good run in Hockey East,” Couturier said of his expectations for 2017-18. “Maybe even look at making it to the NCAA’s.”

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MWalker2019.

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    Heidi GIgandetOct 24, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    It’s about time this amazing talented kid gets some ice team…BC’s loss is DEFINITLELY’s UMASS gain….keep up the good work Josh you’ve earned it!!!!

  • G

    Gary SavoyOct 19, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Great article!! Looking forward to seeing Josh skate for UMass.