How four seniors built UMass hockey from the ground up

Colin Felix, Ty Farmer, Anthony Del Gaizo and Bobby Trivigno leave UMass in a better place than thy found it

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Thom Kendall/ UMass Athletics

By Sophie Weller, Collegian Staff

For the past four years, Colin Felix, Ty Farmer, Anthony Del Gaizo and Bobby Trivigno went to the rink every day, prepared to prove everyone wrong who doubted their abilities and passed over them during the recruitment process. They gave it their all and were at the forefront of building the Massachusetts hockey team into a national powerhouse.

“We laid it all out there all four years,” Del Gaizo said. “I think we can look ourselves in the mirror and, like, we gave it our all every minute for four years. Coaches hold us accountable 365 days a year, and we take pride in that.”

Head coach Greg Carvel began his head coaching tenure at UMass in 2016, and during his first year the team lost 29 games. While the Minutemen still improved from the prior year, it was hard to get top recruits to join the program. However, high profile names weren’t what Carvel was looking for.

“How do you get a kid to come to a program that lost 29 games?” Carvel said. “You get a kid that wants to prove everybody wrong, and that’s what we did.”

The programs out west like Michigan and Minnesota attract a lot of first round picks, but that didn’t matter much to Carvel because UMass’ resume at the time wouldn’t earn it many first round recruits anyway.

While it wasn’t an easy task, Carvel enjoyed the recruiting process following a subpar season because he got the kind of players he wanted in Felix, Del Gaizo, Farmer, and Trivigno. These were men who flew under the radar but were willing to put in hard work and eventually shined under Carvel.

With a large cut on his face and a broken finger from the previous game, Felix skated over to the bench during the game against UMass Lowell in the semifinals of the Hockey East tournament, itching to return to the ice. Few people would have been able to tell he was playing through pain because he embraced it, and never let his play diminish.

“That’s why you win; kids like that,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “[Felix] has been an absolute warrior for us. He has been for four years.”

Del Gaizo had a quiet freshman and sophomore season at UMass but rose to the challenges and higher level of play necessary during his final two years. Throughout the national championship run, Carvel explained that Del Gaizo’s play was elevated during the tournament, and he came out prepared to defend that title during his senior year. With injuries plaguing the Minutemen early in the 2021-22 season, he was the best player on the ice for a mid-season stretch alongside Trivigno and helped lead the team despite not having a letter on his jersey.

Del Gaizo will be continuing his hockey career in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals, where his brother Marc currently plays.

“All he’s done since he’s been at UMass is step up when we need him to,” Carvel said. “I wish I had a lot more kids like him.”

Ty Farmer was a player who received interest from other big-name programs but faced challenges during the recruiting process and found a home at UMass. He originally committed to Michigan State, but a coaching change left him without a team. After continuing in the juniors, he received a call from Jared DeMichiel and without even visiting the campus, committed to becoming a Minuteman.

He was a steady presence in the lineup for the majority of his career and the defensemen even saw time as a forward throughout the first half of his senior season due to a high number of injuries. His ability to play in any position and do what is asked of him was crucial for the Minutemen.

Farmer opted to use his fifth year of eligibility to transfer to North Dakota as a graduate student.

Trivigno played all four seasons at UMass even though he was approached by NHL teams after his junior year and could have signed a contract after he won the national championship in 2021.

“I have so much respect for the kids who don’t rush off and sign and go pro,” Carvel said. “It gets so old. Stay here. If you get developed well, if you’re around people who love you and people and people who are pushing you to be better. You get to be in college once. You can play pro for the rest of your life.”

In the senior’s first year, UMass embraced an underdog mentality and rode that all the way to the 2019 national championship game. The Minutemen fell short of the title to Minnesota Duluth that year but put their program on the map in the process.

“I don’t think either of us came in here thinking we’re going to be a national powerhouse all four years,” Del Gaizo said. “I mean it definitely exceeded my expectations and I’m so proud of what we accomplished.”

In the following season, postseason play was cancelled, but Trivigno and the rest of UMass came out showing immense growth and determination in 2020. Despite no fans in the stands, they sought to do what hadn’t been accomplished before: win a national championship.

On April 10, 2021, they did just that.

The seniors all padded their resumes in their final season, winning a second consecutive Hockey East championship, with Trivigno earning back-to-back tournament MVP and Walter Brown awards. And most recently, Trivigno was named a First Team All-American.

“When we all got to UMass, it was a mess,” Carvel said. “It was the character of the senior class that really changed things, and no one more so than [Trivigno].”

Trivigno was named captain at the start of the 2021-22 season, and Carvel continuously said that his leadership extended far beyond words. He showed what it meant to be a caption through his play style and hard work.

“Regardless of the situation, you got to be the best captain you can be,” Trivigno said. “I’ve absolutely loved leading these guys, and I’ve gotten a lot of help from the senior class and older guys. But yeah, I love this group for sure.”

For the past two years, he has played alongside Garrett Wait and Josh Lopina on the top line, and the three have accounted for most of UMass’ points.

“I’m going to miss playing with them,” Trivigno said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever play with my best friends again.”

Watching Trivigno hug his teammates at the end of the loss to Minnesota in Worcester and continue being a leader despite the season being over filled Carvel with a sense of gratitude. The two shared an embrace filled with love, and he wanted Trivigno to know that he didn’t owe him a thing, but rather it was Carvel who owed him for all he has done for the program.

“You just want to just be there, support them, and be close to them,” Carvel said. “I wanted to give [Trivigno] a hug one more time.”

With just one question remaining in the final press conference of the year, Carvel didn’t miss a beat, acknowledging that the last four years have been the best of his coaching career. He and the senior class have taken this program from a place where people didn’t think of them as a threat to national champions, none of which would have been possible without the hard work and leadership from the senior class.

While they are leaving UMass, their legacy will be left behind and Del Gaizo left the podium in Worcester with one message he wants to send to the program going forward.

“Every time you’re at the rink, it’s all out, and even when you’re not there, it’s all out,” Del Gaizo said. “I think that was our standard and I hope that they continue that.”

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