The responsibility of the returning players on UMass Hockey

Not enough players have stepped up in the beginning weeks

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Kira Johnson / Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

Always the last off the ice in practice, Bobby Trivigno, Matthew Kessel and Colin Felix set an example for the younger members of the Massachusetts hockey team to continue to practice and persevere even after the final whistle blows.

Trivigno was named captain at the beginning of the season with Kessel and Felix earning the title of assistant captains. While only a sophomore, Josh Lopina returned to the team and has made his presence known.

“Trivigno, Lopina, Kessel, Felix, you know the guys that really lead the team,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “I think they are playing a good, hard brand of hockey, but there are not enough guys that I can put on that list right now.”

Following the game’s opening weekend against Minnesota State, the disappointment was clear across the Minutemen (2-2), with the leaders taking it on their shoulders to push the team harder. Trivigno explained that the feeling of winning from last season had vanished and the team was focused on improving and playing to the level that is expected.

“Our veteran players, our guys that have been here a long time, they have to play a certain level,” Carvel said. “It’s critical that our seniors, our captains, play at a level, and I think they did against [American International], and it just wasn’t there against Dartmouth.”

With 10 new players added to the roster in the off-season, including seven freshmen, the leaders have a responsibility to help them acclimate to college life.

Ryan Ufko, a freshman defenseman, has worked his way up to the first line playing alongside Kessel. Despite having played for two years with the Chicago Steel in the United States Hockey League, the change to college left him struggling with how to adapt, and he turned to the returning players to help him.

“They are always positive,” Ufko said. “They are always teaching us in video or away from the rink just telling us ways that they handled it.”

Their leadership extends far beyond the ice, helping the freshman establish routines so they can manage the student-athlete lifestyle. Part of this is talking to them about getting schoolwork completed on time, sleeping well each night and eating right so they can perform their best during practices and games.

“It’s one thing leading by example, but also you can use your voice too,” Kessel said. “Just making sure they are doing everything they can to get everything out of this program with their routines and everything on the ice to classes as well.”

With a two-week break following the game against the Mavericks (4-2), UMass was able to regroup and review what went wrong. In the series against AIC, success was clear from the jump with the Minutemen scoring four unanswered goals in the first period. For the rest of the game, the Yellow Jackets (1-4, 1-1 Atlantic Hockey Association) were able to contain and prevent more scoring opportunities, only allowing one goal but getting one back themselves. The following night, the game began more evenly matched, but UMass separated themselves throughout, winning 4-2.

The following week, however, struggles showed once again for the Minutemen in their exhibition against Dartmouth. Despite outshooting the Big Green (0-0) 44-18, Dartmouth scored three unanswered goals while UMass could not find the back of the net. The third period saw a last-minute surge scoring two goals, but ultimately losing in regulation.

“We’re going to keep pushing them,” Carvel said. “I’m not happy at all where we are at right now.”

Heading into Hockey East play, the Minutemen are looking to show improvement and begin to create one team identity, not show the inexperience that has been apparent throughout the beginning of the season.

“Starts with the coaches, but then it goes to the captains, then your veteran players,” Carvel said.

Sophie Weller can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SophieeWellerr.