Despite inexperience in Frozen Four, UMass’ plan is to ‘just go out and play’

Minutemen are the newbies at the 2019 Frozen Four


Judith Gibson-Okunieff

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

BUFFALO, N.Y. —The 2019 Frozen Four features four teams that have won a combined 11 national championships.

The Massachusetts hockey team has not won any.

Denver leads the bunch with eight, Minnesota-Duluth holds two titles and Providence claimed its first in 2015.

UMass (30-9-0) are the new kids on the block, if you will, out of the quartet of teams competing for this year’s national championship. This marks the first time the Minutemen have been among the last four teams standing in college hockey, in program history.

Even though UMass does not have the same amount of experience on the national stage as the other three teams, the mindset is the same as it has been all season.

“Just go out and play. Just play,” coach Greg Carvel said during Wednesday’s media availability. “As coaches we don’t oversaturate them with too much information, video, the rest of it. You almost want to just not show them any video, just say, ‘go play, have fun, play as hard as you can. You guys know what to do.’”

The stage won’t get any bigger than what the Minutemen will experience Thursday night at the KeyBank Center and they feel they’ve adjusted from the last time the stakes were similarly high in Boston for the Hockey East semifinal.

“We learned a lesson from Boston,” Mario Ferraro said. “We kind of turned the page on that. We know what’s at stake. It’s the semifinals, [the] Frozen Four. We got to be dialed in.

“That kind of experience, that game there, has really taught us a lot,” he added. “We know what we got to do in order to win these games. We know what Denver is going to bring. We know what we have to bring in order to win.”

The last time UMass played on an NHL rink, the bright lights of the TD Garden had a noticeable impact on its performance. The Minutemen ultimately dropped their Hockey East semifinal game to Boston College, 3-0, and Carvel started to see similar signs from his team during their practice Wednesday afternoon on the ice the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres play on.

“The first 10 minutes, not unexpectedly again, wasn’t very crisp, wasn’t our usual day before a game practice,” Carvel said. “Called the guys in and said ‘Hey, let’s take a breath. We’ve been through this. Same practice we do every day before a game’. The guys settled down. We looked faster and crisper as the practice went on.

“Again, I’m glad we got to skate today, get that stuff out of the system and be ready to go.”

In the Northeast Regional in Manchester, UMass left no doubt that it had shed the nerves that plagued them on Causeway Street with back-to-back shutouts.

Two weeks later with college hockey’s top prize hanging in the balance, the Minutemen feel they belong and aspire to be back at this stage again.

“It’s like anything else: now that we’ve been through it a couple times, you hope there’s a comfort zone, again, because we do lack some experience compared to the other teams here,” Carvel said. “But that’s part of building the program. Hopefully we’ll be back here again.”

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