Marinofsky: Carvel’s first bold move of the season proved right in two wins over Union

By Scratching Lagunov and Gaudet, Carvel sent a strong message throughout the UMass locker room


Nina Walat/ Massachusetts Daily Collegian

By Evan Marinofsky, Collegian Staff

No one’s ever doubted Greg Carvel’s ability to be bold.

He famously pulled goalie Matt Murray in Game 1 of the Hockey East Quarterfinals last season and rode Filip Lindberg all the way to a National Championship appearance. Many expected that to take place during the regular season, but not during the postseason.

Carvel’s first bold move of the 2019-20 campaign came this past weekend prior to the Massachusetts hockey team’s 6-1 win over Union on Friday night. That decision continued through UMass’ (3-1, 0-1 Hockey East) 5-0 drubbing of the Dutchmen (0-6-0) on Saturday.

The UMass bench boss elected to healthy scratch Jake Gaudet – the team’s No. 1 center – and pencil in Philip Lagunov, who typically occupies the middle slot on the second line, as the extra skater. Lagunov found himself sitting next to Gaudet as a healthy scratch on Saturday.

Carvel called the reason for the two’s benching, “message sending.”

The move paid off in bunches for UMass, Anthony Del Gaizo produced well between Mitchell Chaffee and Oliver Chau and Jack Suter looked natural between John Leonard and Bobby Trivigno.

“I liked both Anthony and Suter’s games this weekend,” Carvel said. “I thought they made those lines go, which is what we were looking for.”

Granted, it’s an early season back-to-back against Union who seemingly couldn’t get out of their own way on Friday and Saturday night. Granted, the Minutemen have the depth to send real messages. Granted, now is the ideal time to put the veterans in their place.

But it could’ve gone very south very quickly.

The Minutemen looked so-so in their first two contests of the season. They needed these two wins against Union badly. Carvel made it clear after the 5-3 win over RPI when he said they played 30 good minutes and 30 bad minutes. He also put it very well after the 2-1 loss to Northeastern when he said they needed to play harder.

The Chaffee-Gaudet-Chau line is one of the best trios in Hockey East – splitting them up is never an easy call. This could’ve easily been the weekend where they regained form and snapped out of recent funks. The same goes for Lagunov between Trivigno and Leonard.

The performances from Suter and Del Gaizo were equally solid – the only difference was they came on different nights.

Friday evening’s 6-1 win was all about the second line, Trivigno and Leonard lighting up the scoresheet and how Suter fit well between them.

Suter finished the night with two assists. His presence was felt all over the ice. His hard work in corners helped the cycle game and he helped on zone entires.

“He’s a really hard-working guy who plays the way Carv and [Ben Barr] and [Jared DeMichiel] want us to play,”  Leonard said of Suter after Friday’s game. “He’s probably one of our best systematic players; he does everything right so it’s awesome playing with him.

Trivigno concurred.

“Really trustful player,” No. 8 said of Suter. “You always know where he’s going to be. He works super hard and really accountable.”

Del Gaizo took charge on Saturday night centering Chaffee and Chau. He opened the scoring 58 seconds into the game on a breakaway and then assisted on Chaffee’s goal late in the second period. His style as a power forward showed with his plays along the walls and the way he cycled through the offensive zone.

His blocked pass on Chaffee’s second goal of the game was vital for the score to even take place.

“I thought he fit in perfectly,” Chaffee said of Del Gaizo as his center for two straight games. “Coming out there, he works so hard. He’s a good addition to our line and I think it was really good to have him out there. He made a lot of good plays.”

The bottom line is that Del Gaizo and Suter contributed in multiple ways in their new roles against Union. The Del Gaizo line produced a total of eight points in the two games; the Suter line earned the same total over that same span.

Where Carvel and the Minutemen go from here is unknown. It’s hard to imagine Lagunov and Gaudet responding negatively to being left out of the game plan – there’s a very good chance those two come out firing on all cylinders when they get their next chance.

“Yeah, it goes to everyone on the team,” said Chaffee of his coach’s message sending. “From the young guys to the old guys, it sends a message that anyone can be taken out of the lineup. You just have to be performing on the ice.”

After Saturday’s win, Carvel preached the same message with his top two centers as he does with his goalies.

“No one’s a permanent fixture,” he said when asked if Del Gaizo and Suter earned permanent slots on the top two lines. “We take it day-to-day here.”

If for some reason Del Gaizo and Suter are long-term solutions as middle-men on the top two lines, both showed they could handle those duties. And with all these freshmen performing at the levels their performing at, depth certainly isn’t an issue.

Zac Jones, Reed Lebster and Cal Kiefiuk have been point-producing machines.

But there is one thing for certain: Carvel pressed the right buttons by being bold.

It worked in the short-term and with all likelihood, sent a strong enough message to work long-term as well.

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @emarinofsky.