Jared DeMichiel’s been here before

UMass assistant coach carried RIT to the Frozen Four in 2010

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Jared DeMichiel’s been here before

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

Jon Asgeirsson

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

Jon Asgeirsson

Jon Asgeirsson

(Jon Asgeirsson/Daily Collegian)

By Liam Flaherty, Collegian Staff

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Before today, only one member of the Massachusetts hockey team has ever played in a Frozen Four.

In 2010, Jared DeMichiel was a senior goaltender at Rochester Institute of Technology when the Tigers burst onto the college hockey scene. As the four seed in the East Region, they upset top-seeded Denver, blew out New Hampshire and, like the Minutemen, advanced to their first Frozen Four in program history.

Nine years later, DeMichiel, in his third season as an assistant coach for UMass (30-9-0), is the only member on the staff with Frozen Four experience and he’s made sure to pass down his wisdom.

“Just focusing on the things that matter and what got us here,” he said on Wednesday afternoon. “When we went to it back in 2010, we didn’t forget about those things, but you want to double down and focus on the important things and the details. A few of the guys on the coaching staff have asked me what the routine was like, a lot of the off-ice stuff that you may not expect, but our players are pretty dialed in. They’re excited to be here and want to show everybody what we can do.”

When DeMichiel arrived at RIT in 2006, it was the program’s first season in Division I. He played in just eight games in his first two seasons, before splitting time with the starter, Louis Menard, as a junior.

“I just showed up every single day and wanted to work hard,” he said of what changed. “At the end of my sophomore year, I sat down with the coaches and just said, ‘hey give me a game early in the season and let me see what I can do and if I play brutal, I don’t ever need to play a game again.’ But luckily the team played really well in front of me and then it kind of just snowballed positively from there.”

As a junior, DeMichiel built a 13-6 record, while the Tigers rode an 11-game win-streak to sneak into the playoffs. That run fell short in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals, but it was a sign of things to come.

The next year, the Avon, Conn. native recorded 27 wins in net, a single-season program record, and willed RIT to the Atlantic Hockey championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. For stopping 63 of 66 shots in the regional upsets to make the Frozen Four, he was named the East Region’s Most Outstanding Player.

The Tigers’ run faltered in the national semifinal, but it remains the program’s most successful season to this day, and DeMichiel was at the center of it. Spurred in large part by his shutdown efforts as a junior and senior in net, the 33-year-old owns Rochester’s all-time wins (41) and shutouts (7) records.

After leaving RIT and enduring a three-year pro career, DeMichiel transitioned into coaching. At first, he  returned to his roots in Western N.Y. to work as an assistant coach for the RIT women’s team that won the DIII national championship in 2011. Then, he spent three seasons as an assistant with Nazareth College. In 2014, he was hired as an assistant coach at St. Lawrence by Greg Carvel.

When the Minuteman hired Carvel for the head coaching job in 2016, he brought DeMichiel with him to lead UMass’ recruiting team and oversee its goaltenders, as well as the penalty kill. Goaltenders Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg have been stout all season and UMass’ PK is fourth-best in the nation.

As for the young Minutemen taking the ice on Thursday, it wasn’t too long ago that DeMichiel was at each of their houses convincing them and their parents that UMass was the right choice.

“It’s awesome to see them be able to experience this,” he said. “I’ve gotten text messages from some parents being like, ‘hey we sat down with you your first summer at UMass and now seeing this come to fruition is awesome.’ A big reason you get into coaching is because you want guys to have success and grow as human beings and also grow as hockey players. Not many kids get to experience this, so for our guys to be able to do that definitely makes our staff look like we knew what we were talking about a few summers ago when we sat down and said, ‘hey we’re going to build something special here.’”

The Minutemen have built something special, indeed, but they look to further their historic run when they step onto the ice on Thursday to battle it out with Denver for a shot at the title game.

At this point, everything has come full circle for DeMichiel. Now, he hopes to help lead UMass one game further than RIT.

“Something in the back of your mind every year is that you want to make it as deep as possible and once you get that taste you want to get that taste again,” he said in the shadows of KeyBank. “To do that senior year, it was awesome, and then getting into coaching, obviously you want to have success, but just as much as the players grind, the coaches have to work just as hard.

“So, it’s awesome to be back here and be rewarded for our efforts this far, but we got a pretty tough task against Denver.”

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