Greg Carvel to face former assistant Ben Barr in weekend series against Maine

“He’s one of the finest people I’ve met in the game of hockey”

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Jon Asgeirsson/ Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

Massachusetts hockey coach Greg Carvel looks back on his time next to Ben ‘Benny’ Barr with fondness.

The two were together at the beginning of Carvel’s tenure at the University of Massachusetts and Barr was an integral part in building back the program from the ground up. Five seasons and one national championship victory later, Barr is on a new journey to turn around the hockey program at Maine—the same way he helped Carvel in Amherst.

“I would’ve loved to have kept [Barr] here forever and kept him on our bench, he was a very big part of building this program,” Carvel said. “Watching Maine on tape, they’re a mirror image of us doing the exact same things, so he knows us and we’re apparently going to know him, and I imagine that [his] kids are going to play really hard for [Barr].”

Carvel, Barr and Jared DeMichiel all helped formulate a blueprint for success unique to them. The path was not easy, and the coaching crew only won five games in their first year guiding the Minutemen. Similarly, Barr has earned just four wins so far in his first year behind the bench for the Black Bears but is showing signs of positive growth within the program.

“I imagine he’s doing exactly what we did here in rebuilding that program, it’s mostly about getting good people and holding them to high standards, and that’s easier said than done,” Carvel said. “[Barr] has an incredible amount of integrity and he combines that with an incredible sincerity in everything that he does. He’s one of the finest people I’ve met in the game of hockey.”

Barr’s impact during his time at UMass stretched far beyond giving the program its first national championship and developing a strong bond with Carvel. He made a positive impact on every player, from Colin Felix, who was not initially recruited by Barr and Carvel, to Matthew Kessel, whose decision to commit to the program was based primarily on Barr.

Barr coached Kessel’s brother Will at Western Michigan and established a solid connection with the Kessel family from there. When a spot opened up for the Minutemen, the now-assistant captain trusted his relationship with Barr and made the leap from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. to Amherst, Mass.

“Definitely appreciate ‘Benny’ for all he’s done, it was great having him here my first two years,” Kessel said. “Sad to see him go, but that’s the next step for him to take, taking a head coaching role, and from what I’ve heard he’s enjoying it out there with his family and his young kids so I’m happy for him.”

On Tuesday, both Kessel and Felix expressed excitement to face Barr, not only to embrace the challenge of facing a coach very familiar with them, but also to see where Maine stands as a program under Barr in comparison to previous seasons.

More than anything, there is a buzz around just getting the chance to take the ice again with Barr on the bench in the Mullins Center like he was for so many years. Even if this time, he’s on the opposite bench.

“I love ‘Benny’…It’ll be good to see him again, especially with his twins and everything, so I’m excited for him to come back,” Felix said.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.