UMass captains lead the way for inexperienced players

The Minutemen are building around a young roster this season

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Kira Johnson/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Kayla Gregoire, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts hockey team needs a group of veterans to guide them to adapt to college hockey, and the captains have been the guys the rookies can look to for that help.

Eric Faith was named captain before the start of the season and with that title comes many responsibilities. Reed Lebster and Jerry Harding were named as the assistant captains, and will also help carry the burden of leadership.

The Minutemen (0-0-1) have eight freshmen and four transfers, with all 12 players needing to adapt to UMass. The freshman never played in a college hockey game until their first regular season game on Oct. 8 against AIC. Despite transfers having college experience, they have needed time like the freshmen to build chemistry with their new teammates.

The three captains had many players they could look back to that were their captains as role models. Last year, with Bobby Trivigno as a captain, he set examples for the guys to lead a young team. Trivigno had 10 new players last years, seven of them being freshmen.

“Obviously it’s a huge honor to be a captain for this program,” Faith said. “Just trying to follow in the footsteps of the past few years. I learned a lot from them, and they had a good influence on me so just trying to carry that to the younger guys on the team.”

Faith is someone who has embodied the play style that Carvel wants out of him through his past few seasons. The senior wins faceoffs, something that UMass has valued throughout the years. He has played with numerous well-known players, including Trivigno, Garrett Wait, Cal Kiefiuk, and his fellow captain in Lebster.

He has had a few bumps in the road with an injury last year that took him out of playing an entire regular season. This season, Faith did not play in the exhibition game against Sacred Heart, but he did slot in on the third line in the first regular season game.

“[Faith] plays to [UMass’] identity,” Carvel said. “He’s extremely conscientious, responsible and reliable player. He’s a 4.0 student, he’s in tremendous shape. He’s what UMass hockey is, so I’m not surprised that he was chosen as captain.”

Similar to Faith, Lebster has played all of his college career with the Minutemen. He has a steady spot on the second line last season, playing alongside Faith and Kiefiuk. Lebster last season put up 14 points with nine goals and five assists.

Lebster admitted to being more of a quiet guy but has been using his voice more with his newfound leadership role.

“Just stepping up,” Lebster said about being a captain. “The team needs me to be more vocal. I’m kind of more of a quiet guy so just out on the ice, being more vocal and lead in that way.”

Harding in his time with the Minutemen has been in and out of the lineup. Carvel said that he sometimes needs a challenge like being an extra skater or being on the fifth line to get more out of him. In the game against AIC, Harding was an extra skater, but saw more ice time than a typical extra skater sees. In his shifts Harding made his presence known, taking shots on goal, and adding his size. Carvel said that he proved himself to be ready to be on a line in the Denver game.

Whenever Carvel needs a big body on the ice, he looks to Harding to add that. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he is one of the larger forwards in the lineup.

“My challenge to [Harding] is to be the biggest, scariest player in the league because he scares the hell out of me when he’s skating around,” Carvel said. “I tell him if there’s ever a shift when the other team is not scared when you’re on the ice then you’re not playing to your standard.”

Harding is also known to be the most vocal out of the three captains.

“[Harding] is the voice of the group,” Carvel said. “He’s got the big personality. He’s in tremendous condition, and he really cares about his teammates and is recognized by his teammates for that.”

The captains together needed to step up this week with playing defending National Champions Denver (2-0). Denver is currently ranked No. 1 in national polls, while UMass sits at No. 13.

Faith, Lebster and Harding are all seniors so their experience with playing tough teams will be valued. They all have experience playing teams like Denver in both the regular season and championships.

“I want the whole team to step up,” Carvel said. “Of course, captains should be leading the way and [UMass’] three captains are very capable, veteran experience players. They have played in a lot of big games with a lot of big environments, so this shouldn’t be anything new to them. They need to lead all the young kids.”

The players want to worry about themselves as a team, not just that they are playing a top ranked team. When heading into big games, players do not want the background noise of Denver’s success to take them away from their goals.

“We’re going to try to focus on ourselves, not focus on Denver,” Lebster said. “We have done a lot of video, broke it down. The biggest thing is just focusing on the way we play UMass hockey and not worrying about who we are playing.”

Kayla Gregoire can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kaygregoire.