UMass looking to start its season strong against Minnesota State

The Mullins Center will be at full capacity when the Minutemen raise their championship banner Saturday

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Nina Walat / Daily Collegian

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts hockey team spent the summer celebrating its national championship victory, but now all attention is turned towards the current season with the goal of continuing to play to its standard and making it back to its third consecutive Frozen Four.

With their game against No. 5 Minnesota State fast approaching, the Minutemen have spent time fine tuning each line and preparing to defend their title, knowing the Mavericks will come into the Mullins center hungry.

“It will be a really good test for us,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “They’re like us two years ago. They made it to the final four, now they have that taste and know they can be a championship team and so my concern is it is a tough place to be in. I tell our guys, I’m sure they have been thinking about us all summer, but I’m not sure we have been thinking about them and that is not good.”

No. 1 UMass lost nine players in the off-season including Filip Lindberg, Marc Del Gaizo, and Zac Jones, who all elected to leave school early and sign their entry-level contracts with the NHL. With 10 new players on the team including three transfers and seven freshmen, the offseason focus has been learning to play together.

Inversely, the Mavericks lost very few members of its Frozen Four squad, allowing them to continue improving and working on any challenges from the previous season. Dryden McKay will be back in net for his senior year after a stout junior season that saw the netminder finish as a runner-up for the Hobey Baker award. His strong goaltending combined with solid defense helped Minnesota State form its identity.

“I think they are very similar to us,” senior captain Bobby Trivigno said. “They are playing fast. They have a really good coach that gives out a really good game plan, so we’re expecting a really tight defensive game that’s definitely going to be hard to play against, but we are ready to go for sure.”

At the start of this season, Trivigno was elected captain and fellow teammates Colin Felix and Mattew Kessel were named assistant captains. The trio was able to spend time practicing and bonding with the team in person over the summer — something that was unable to happen the year prior.

“We just talk a lot about our culture,” Felix said. “Last year we had a COVID-19 summer, so a lot of zoom calls and stuff like that obviously. Being face to face with the guys and being able to hang out and be under the same roof is nice so just kind of brings everyone together quick.”

For the first time in almost two years, UMass will skate in front of a capacity crowd at the Mullins center on Saturday night and feed off the energy provided by the warm welcome from the fans and the buzz of raising a national championship banner.

“Those kids accomplished so much, and did it in front of very few eyes,” Carvel said. “I hope the kids get the cheer, the applause they deserve, it’s pretty incredible what they did last year and being national champions … that’s big time.”

Carvel and UMass’ main goal is to get back to the Frozen Four and repeat, not wanting the excitement of being on top to keep the Minutemen from staying there.

“We are definitely hungry for the next one,” Trivigno said. “There is no complacency here between the coaching staff, the guys who won it last year in the locker room, and I know the new guys want to do the same thing this year.”

Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop at the Mullins Center, with the banner ceremony set for a 7 p.m. start. Sunday’s matchup is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

 

Sophie Weller can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SophieeWellerr