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

Marc Del Gaizo set to return to the ice for UMass hockey

Del Gaizo missed UMass’ first four games
Collegian File Photo

With four games already completed, the Massachusetts hockey team welcomes back defenseman Marc Del Gaizo, who missed the start of the season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

“When you start the season and you know you aren’t going to have him for four games, you hold your breath a little bit,” coach Greg Carvel said. “But when you get him, it feels like a free surprise. Like you traded somebody for nobody, it makes you better.”

By adding Del Gaizo back to the lineup, the Minutemen (3-1, 0-1 Hockey East) are getting their best returning defenseman from a season ago for their Friday night game against American International (1-2, 1-0 Atlantic Hockey). With 13 goals and 16 assists as a freshman, Del Gaizo proved his value to the UMass defense. His shining moment came when the Minutemen needed it most, in overtime of their national semifinal game against Denver. Del Gaizo’s shot from the top of the left faceoff circle gave UMass the win and sent them to the National Championship game.

After a loss in the title game brought his freshman year to a close, Del Gaizo decided to opt for surgery on a nagging shoulder injury during the offseason.

“Before I went under the knife, I went talked to my old coach,” Del Gaizo said. “He said two things: control what you can control, which is how I eat and how much rest I was getting, and he said, ‘You’re going to learn a lot about yourself.’ I think I’m stronger as a person now, in all areas of my life and that I’m in the best shape of my life right now.”

While Del Gaizo hasn’t taken the ice for a game as of yet, he’s been practicing with the team for well over a month at this point.

“[Having to watch the games] is tough,” Del Gaizo said, “’cause I feel like I could’ve helped out. But at the end of the day I got to do what’s right for the team, and me not being 100 percent is not benefitting the team.”

Although there’s little concern about Del Gaizo’s health as he returns from injury, missing the offseason could be an issue. His brother Anthony missed the offseason going into his freshman year and followed it up with a disappointing campaign.

“The kids that go home for the summer on a mission, they come back and they are better players,” Carvel said. “It’s the kids who go home comfortable, they come back and they end up not in the lineup and not where they want to be in the lineup.”

With Carvel setting a focus to avoid complacency and have players continue to grow, it remains to be seen if Marc Del Gaizo takes a step forward after a promising freshman campaign.

Although teams struggle to score against the UMass defense – opponents are averaging just 1.75 goals per game – Carvel still sees plenty of room for improvement.

Early in the year their defensive-zone coverage was an area of concern as the Minutemen featured three freshmen on the back end. With four games under their belts, Carvel is beginning to see more comfort for the freshmen in their first taste of collegiate hockey action.

“Those young defensemen, they don’t know how to defend at this level,” Carvel said, “and as good of players any of them are with the puck, it’s a struggle. So, if I wasn’t seeing growth I’d be concerned, but I am seeing it. And with adding Marc back into the mix that’ll help stabilize us as well.”

Regardless of the growing comfort level with first-year players on the back end, Del Gaizo represents the best returning defenseman on the UMass roster.

Del Gaizo has been impressed with the younger players during his absence.

“I’ve seen a lot of improvement,” Del Gaizo said of the defense thus far, “especially our three freshmen. They’re making quicker decisions and finding out what they have to do to help us win.”

It’s yet to be seen what this will mean for the defensive pairings. One thing Carvel revealed was he plans to dress seven defensemen for the immediate future. That will at least keep all six defensemen from the first four games in the lineup for this weekend’s AIC matchup.

The Yellow Jackets offer a good test for Del Gaizo and the Minutemen defense. Scoring just 2.00 goals a game, their numbers don’t jump off the page, but Carvel sees a talented offensive team.

“They’ve got good skill level– they’ll be the best team we’ve played so far at home,” Carvel said. “They’ll be a good test. They’re an NCAA [Tournament]-level team. They play with good pace, good skill level, they play fast hockey.”

One thing is for sure, Marc Del Gaizo cannot wait to get back on the ice and get his sophomore season underway.

“I feel good,” Del Gaizo said. “I just want to get back to game speed.”

Puck drop against AIC is set for 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

Noah Bortle can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.

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