Jake McLaughlin named UMass alternate captain

No. 27’s plus-24 rating is the highest among all NCAA skaters

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Jake McLaughlin named UMass alternate captain

Mehroz Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

By Liam Flaherty, Assistant Sports Editor

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Jake McLaughlin was named an alternate captain ahead of his 126th career game over the weekend.

On the way to a workout, the senior was called into the coaches’ office by co-captain Mitchell Chaffee – Niko Hildenbrand fills the other captain role – to learn he would be receiving an ‘A’ and completing the trifecta of three former Fargo Force (USHL) players donning letters on the ice in Amherst.

As one of only three four-year players on the Massachusetts hockey team, the Illinois native’s seen it all with UMass. In his final season, he’s taken his game to the next level and continues to fill the leadership role in the locker room that he began commandeering during last year’s Frozen Four run.

He doesn’t have many goals or a ton of assists, and sometimes his presence goes unnoticed, but with a plus-24 rating, the highest in the nation, it seems like he’s the one always making the crucial plays.

“That kind of grew organically out of the coaching staff and the current captains,” coach Greg Carvel said following practice on Tuesday. “He’s been phenomenal. He does so many things that don’t really get recognized and he was outstanding this weekend. He won so many battles in our zone, he shut the other team down. So, what a response. You give the kid an ‘A’ and he takes his game which was already very good to another level.”

“It was pretty spontaneous,” McLaughlin said. “At first I didn’t know I was going to wear it. I was told in pregame skate, so I was a little caught off guard but it’s definitely an honor and very humbling.”

His teammates expressed their happiness to see him get the well-deserved recognition, as well.

“He’s definitely deserved it,” sophomore Bobby Trivigno said. “He’s had a big impact. You watch him play every shift and he’s money – we call him ‘Ace’ actually. But yeah, we’re all psyched about it.”

Asked if the letter changes his perceived role in the UMass locker room, “not at all,” McLaughlin said.

“I feel like I need to be a leader, which I feel like I have been throughout the season, and honestly it’s a letter and it means a lot, but I’m still going to keep doing what I do and lead by example.”

As the stalwart of the fifth-ranked back end in the nation, holding teams to an average of two goals per game, McLaughlin sets the tone on defense.

Over the weekend, the Minutemen (16-7-1, 9-4-1 Hockey East) got the sweep outscoring UVM 7-1, but the newly appointed alternate couldn’t get one miscue off of his mind from the conference wins.

“We go into games with the mindset that we’re not going to let up any goals,” he said. “The one goal we did let up, it was a total breakdown in the defensive zone. Obviously we won the game, but it’s still unacceptable to us the way we let up that goal. If a team makes a play or whatever happens, hats off to them, but we kind of beat ourselves on that one.”

After the sweep, Carvel gave the players two days off. As one of the oldest players on the roster, McLaughlin realizes the importance of staying healthy and rested this late in the year, and it was much needed after all the recent travel, he said.

“It was nice that we got those couple of days off,” McLaughlin said. “Good to have the guys recharge a little bit. It’s a tough week, but any day we can get off we like to take advantage of it and just relax.

“[Carvel] actually talked about it today. He just mentioned that around this time he likes to give us Sunday and Monday off just because he knows that guys can be hurting a little bit and guys are a little tired too. Just to recharge and to get out of your gear, so it’s awesome he does that, and I think it’s going to pay dividends for us in the long run.”

No. 7 UMass hosts New Hampshire on Friday in Amherst before traveling to Durham on Sunday.

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