UMass hockey’s top line returning to form

The top Minuteman line is back and ready to make a big difference on the ice 

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(Caroline O’Connor/UMass Athletics)

By Liam Flaherty, Collegian Staff

Jake Gaudet may not score a goal or dish an assist every night that he steps out onto the ice, but the Massachusetts sophomore certainly does make his presence felt when he laces up the skates.

Rather than filling the sheet, the forward from Ontario is finding other ways to contribute with No. 3 UMass, like imposing his huge six-foot-two, 200-pound frame on unsuspecting opponents.

Paired with linemates Oliver Chau and Mitchell Chaffee for the second-straight season, Gaudet has found a way to use that hard-nosed approach to refine his game and take it to another level.

As a freshman with the Minutemen (11-1-0, 6-0 Hockey East Association), Gaudet played in all 36 games and collected 13 points. In 11 games this season however, he’s earned just four assists.

Although lacking in production right now, Gaudet has grown into one of UMass’ most consistent skaters, a transformation that began during the final coach’s meeting after last season’s playoffs.

“I had moments where I was a really good two-way player that was effective away from the puck last year,” Gaudet said. “So, I’ve focused on [that] this year. It’s made me really consistent so far — just playing heavy, demanding a physical presence, being really effective away from the puck.”

According to Minuteman coach Greg Carvel, those offseason workouts are showing in a big way.

“He just knocks everybody over,” Carvel said after practice Tuesday. “He kills penalties really well, he goes to the net and stands in front of the goalie so that everyone else can score. He does a lot of little things that make teams win that don’t get appreciated by many people but the staff.”

Screening goaltenders has been Gaudet’s mainstay this season and it certainly has aided the scoring of the overall team, but in particular it has bolstered Chaffee’s ability to find the net.

After leading the team in goals as a freshman with 13 last season, Chaffee already has eight so far on the year. With a 6-foot, 205-pound build, the winger adds even more strength to the line.

On the left wing, Chau, a speedy playmaker, compliments the power forwards to perfection.

After missing the first four games due to illness, the sophomore rejoined his linemates on Oct. 26 and began to work his way back into the player that scored nine goals last season as a freshman.

Eight games removed from his return, Chau scored the overtime winner over Princeton on Saturday.

“You have to have a couple of good games [after missing extended time] and you could see that against Princeton,” Carvel said of the sophomore’s return to expected form. “I went back and watched the game and he did a lot of good stuff offensively. You can see it in practice, like he’s got his spark back. If that line starts giving us more 5-on-5 goals, that would be a huge addition.”

According to Gaudet, the late arrival of Chau hasn’t hampered the chemistry of the line one bit.

“We had great communication last year and we’ve gotten even better with that this year,” he said. “We’ll watch clips together and talk about different things, so playing with them is awesome. We generate a lot of offense and I think we haven’t even hit our full potential yet. We have a lot of puck time in the offensive zone and we’re going to start converting those into scoring chances.”

With the opportunity to build on an eight-game winning streak and set a new program record against Connecticut on Friday, the Minutemen are still just focused on improving, Gaudet said.

“We’ve obviously found ways to win,” Gaudet said. “Sometimes that’s been giving up leads in the second and then finding a way to win late in the game, but I think if we can play the way that we have been in the first period and do that for a full 60 minutes and not let up, then we’ll keep winning games. As long as we keep playing our game, it’s up to us to lose games at this point.”

Puck drop for Friday’s game against the Huskies (5-8-1, 2-6-1 HEA) is set for 7 p.m. at Mullins.

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.