Henry Graham embodies the culture of UMass hockey, and he’s being rewarded for it

‘He paid his dues for two years and people respect that’

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Colin McCarthy, Video Editor

Back in October 2022, Henry Graham’s chances of starting a game for the Massachusetts hockey team looked bleak.

Luke Pavicich was stopping so many pucks, Cole Brady had established himself as a solid No. 2 option that could compete for the starting role, and all Graham could do was sit on the bench happy for them. And he truly was happy for them, because that’s just the kind of teammate he is.

“At the end of the day we’re all part of a team and we all want to win,” Graham said. “I’m really close with [Brady] and [Pavicich] so at that time it was practicing and pushing them, making them stay sharp.”

But Graham is still a competitor, and he wanted to play. He took everything he could get; eight minutes of action in the third period of a blowout was still a chance to prove himself. He wasn’t getting the time that Brady or Pavicich were, but at least it was something.

Over time, though, those minutes increased. Graham got his first start against Lake Superior State and made 31 saves. He got 27 more minutes against Boston University and made 20 saves. And on Sunday against New Hampshire, he got to start again. He made 21 more stops in a losing effort, but still gave the team a boost. And Graham quietly holds a .955 save percentage, the best on the team.

“I’ve been here for two and a half years now, and I always wanted to get in and play,” Graham said. “I’m happy I can do a part and try to help the team, I’m excited and very thankful.”

It’s Easy to get up for a game When Henry’s playing”

— Eric Faith

While all eyes were on the other two netminders, Graham was lurking in the shadows. He quietly jumped Brady in the depth chart to be the Minutemen’s backup. And now with Pavicich struggling, Carvel went as far as to say that it’s Graham’s net for now. He earned it.

Graham’s trust with Carvel and the team when he’s in net is growing as he gets more game action. But in practice and off the ice, the support for Graham has always been there. He’s the kind of person that Carvel wants, not only in the program, but as a leader for the Minutemen. The quality of his character doesn’t go unnoticed.

“There’s certain values that we talk about with our team, and he lives to all of them extremely well; he’s very personable, he’s thoughtful, he’s just a really good individual,” Carvel said. “He paid his dues for two years, and people respect that when you show up every day and consistently have a great attitude.”

UMass wants to play for Graham every time he’s in net. He’s a likable teammate that doesn’t get much playing time, and they just want to see him succeed. They know it’s his time now, and they’ll do everything they can to keep his confidence high every time he steps on the ice.

“It’s easy to get up for a game when Henry’s playing,” senior captain Eric Faith said. “He works so hard off the ice, obviously he hasn’t had many chances so when he gets his opportunities we want to make sure we put on our best performance for him and help him out as much as we can.”

At one time, there was a real possibility this moment was never going to come for Graham. He came into a team that had two of the best goaltenders in program history in Filip Lindberg and Matt Murray and became the third string by default. Once Lindberg left, Pavicich entered the fray and once again pushed Graham back to the third spot.

Brady’s emergence from the transfer portal this offseason looked like it would spell the same fate for Graham for a third straight season. But he didn’t budge. Even when he had every opportunity to enter his name in the portal and look for a new team, he didn’t take it. He knew where he wanted to be.

“I truly don’t think there’s another place like this,” Graham said. “It’s a hard opportunity to say bye to and leave, so ultimately I’m happy I’m still here, in my mind [transferring] wasn’t ever really an option.”

Nina Walat/ Daily Collegian (2021)

That aspect didn’t go unnoticed with Carvel either. For as much as Graham appreciates being in Amherst, Carvel loves having him. Every chance the UMass coach had to get Graham into a game, he used it. He hoped Graham would trust the process, and now it’s paying off.

“He likes his teammates, he likes the culture, and he’s a big part of it,” Carvel said. “Even though as a third string goalie for two years he didn’t get playing time, I think he felt important. I think he felt like he had a role within the team, and that’s enough purpose to keep you coming back.”

“We provided him with enough hope that one day you’ll get an opportunity, and he’s getting it now.”

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