Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

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

Cale Makar returns for Hobey Baker ceremony

No. 16 was dubbed 2019’s top college hockey player in April, the first winner in UMass history
(UMass Athletics)

Cale Makar was at the Bell Centre in Montreal with the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.

On Friday, the Hobey Baker winner returned to his old stomping grounds at the University of Massachusetts to be recognized as the top college hockey player in 2019, in front of the same fans that watched him grow into the player worthy of the accolade – the highest honor in college hockey.

After helping the Avalanche to a 3-2 win over the Canadiens, he flew to Boston for Saturday’s game against the Bruins then endured the 90-mile drive to be present for the banner raising ceremony.

In front of 4,507 fans, Makar walked onto the ice of his old rink to boisterous cheers ahead of head coach Greg Carvel, assistants Ben Barr and Jared DeMichiel, and Athletic Director Ryan Bamford.

Highlight videos of his collegiate career played over the big screens as he looked on from the ice. After the banner settled into the rafters, Makar got up on the bench alongside his ex-coaches for the national anthem, before dropping the ceremonial puck ahead of UMass’ 5-1 blowout over Maine.

“Definitely a special night,” junior John Leonard said. “A few of us were able to grab lunch with him today at the dining hall [Hamp] and catch up a little bit. Obviously we wanted to put on a good performance for him and he wasn’t staying the whole game, so we had to start off strong.”

“Great evening to have Cale here,” Carvel said. “It was a nice combination of, great to be able to recognize Cale and have him here, and doubly nice to be able to follow it up with a real solid effort.”

Makar won the award as a sophomore Minuteman with 49 points in 40 games, leading the dormant program out of the basement and into its first-ever Frozen Four and national title game. Over the course of his two-year UMass career, the 21-year-old racked up 70 points in 74 games. He’s off to quite the start in the National Hockey League, too.

Collegian File Photo

Through 28 games with Colorado, Makar has accumulated 28 points, the most among all NHL rookies. With eight goals, he is just three behind Buffalo Sabers’ rookie forward Victor Olofsson. He has 12 power-play points on two power-play goals.

Asked on Tuesday if what Makar is doing has surprised him, Carvel’s answer was simple.

“No,” he said with a laugh, “everybody asks me that. No. He’s the best player I’ve seen at this level, he’s a star. We were lucky to watch him for two years. He grew a lot as a player here, and he needed it and that’s one of the great things about him. It was awesome coaching him and it’s awesome seeing what he’s doing up there. Not the least bit surprised. I’ve coached at that level, I know – he’s an unbelievable player. He’s one of the best in the world and he’s going to keep impressing people.”

After UMass fell to Minnesota Duluth in the NCAA title game, Makar joined Colorado in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs matched up with his hometown Calgary Flames. In his first-ever period on the NHL stage, No. 8 became the first rookie defenseman in history to score a goal while making his debut in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In 10 playoff games, Makar picked up five additional points.

Two months into his rookie season, Makar has yet to commit a penalty as a pro, and with such an electric start he’s high in the conversation to win the Calder Trophy – the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.

“He represents the school and the program extremely well,” Leonard added following the game. “He’s obviously a very special player who’s exceeding at the highest-level right now and we’re obviously very proud of him. It’s nice to catch up with him a little bit when he has the chance.”

“It’s crazy,” senior defenseman Jake McLaughlin said. “Obviously we knew Cale was going to go to the NHL, and Mario [Ferraro] as well, but it’s kind of all talk until then you finally see them in the NHL and it’s like wow – you’re just happy for them. They were obviously good friends so it’s very satisfying to see them finally make it and finally doing well.”

Makar was not available for comment.

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

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    Harold EvansDec 8, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    being a fan also a former director with the Brooks Bandits we are so proud and we knew he was special. Now have the pleasure of enjoying his brother Taylor show some of the same skating and puck handling skills. We have been blest