Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Cheers and tears send off the UMass seniors and graduates

Eight Minutemen wave goodbye to the Mullins Center
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

On Saturday night, the Massachusetts hockey team said goodbye to its eight seniors and graduates, captain Aaron Bohlinger, Linden Alger, Elliott McDermott, Cole Brady, Samuli Niinisaari, Liam Gorman, Lucas Vanroboys and Christian Sanda during the Senior Night celebration at the Mullins Center.

The Minutemen (19-10-3, 12-8-2 Hockey East) took on UMass Lowell in the second night of the weekend series. UMass came out on top against the River Hawks (8-21-4, 4-15-3 HEA) in a 4-3 overtime score.

After missing three games due to injury during the season, Bohlinger’s presence on the ice was not only noticeable, but necessary in the weekend series. On Friday night, the senior slotted the only and unassisted regulation goal for the Minutemen in the second period. Though not finding the back of Lowell’s net, the defenseman’s presence did not go unnoticed.

This included a key block during Lowell’s second power play in the first period.

“You find good kids [who] you want to go through it together with and [Bohlinger] from the minute I met [him], I knew he was the kind of kid I wanted in my program” head coach Greg Carvel said. “He’s a captain, he’s a leader, there’s an endless list of compliments.”

Bohlinger’s four-year fellow defenseman Alger was a symbol of perseverance throughout his time at UMass. With much of his ice time being cut short due to an already strong backend and injury during his four years, Alger bounced back for his senior season playing alongside Ryan Ufko for a majority of it.

“[Alger] is the poster boy for [fighting] his way to the top,” Carvel said. “Finally gets his chance and he makes the most of it [and] now he plays a really important role for us.”

On Saturday just above the halfway mark of the third period, the defenseman worked against three River Hawks single handedly trying to release the puck back out to the other Minutemen. Alger’s resilience on the ice and holding himself to a higher standard reflected his collegiate hockey career.

“The growth from when you’re a freshman to a senior is crazy,” Alger said. “It’s crazy how fast it went by and [I’m] just so happy to be able to do it with [Bohlinger].”

McDermott and Brady transferred to UMass after their sophomore years, adding more depth to the Minutemen’s defensive status in the pairings and in net.

In a battle for the net for his two years, Brady proved to be a solid goaltender. In UMass’ time of need during the 2022-23 season, he stepped up to the challenge and was a force to be reckoned with against Maine and Union. Against Union, Brady completed his first shutout and secured goaltender of the week in Hockey East.

McDermott held his spot in a defensive pairing for a majority of his collegiate career. As an older and smart player on the team, the defenseman guided many of the young defenseman. This included Owen Murray and Sebastian Törnqvist.

“[They’re] really, really good kids,” Carvel said of Brady and McDermott. “Exactly the kind of kids you want in your program.”

The set of graduates added maturity to the UMass 2023-24 roster to balance out the handful of incoming true freshmen.

In the second period with a loose puck dangerously close to Hrabal, Niinisaari shot his stick out to battle with a River Hawk before slinging the puck against the glass for it to bounce out of harm’s way. He continued to keep Hrabal in check throughout the night, helping the freshman keep his head in the game after allowing three goals. The graduate defenseman closed his night with three blocks.

As for the graduate forwards, Gorman, Vanroboys and Sanda, their quick adaptation to the UMass program was seen through their strong, physical play coming off of a 2022-23 season that was largely missing that element.

For Gorman, Carvel noted that the graduate started off slow as he worked to mesh into the new UMass style. However, he quickly stepped into a veteran-like role, finding breakaways and creating plays for the Minutemen. He played a big role off the ice as well, serving as an emotional mediator during times of stress.

Vanroboys was also a model of perseverance, battling injury and sitting out for nine games during the season. But this did not deter his determination to step back out on the ice and have a major positive impact. He secured nearly a 60 percent in face-off wins, led Hockey East with his face-offs and was fourth for face-off wins in the NCAA.

While Sanda did not see much time on the ice, he was a huge addition to the maturity levels for UMass as the oldest Minuteman on the roster. In his 13 games, he logged an assist as part of the Providence 3-2 victory.

 “Our [graduate] students… they’re big, physical, play a hard game,” Carvel said. “All of them really helped us rebuild our identity.”

To finish out the regular season, the Minutemen head to the University of Maine for an away weekend series. Puck drop on Friday, March 8 is set for 7 p.m.

“It just means so much,” Bohlinger said. “Four years, it goes by too fast, but it means something and it’s going to mean something long after we’re gone, but luckily we’re not done yet. We have a little time to go.”

Sydney Ciano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SydneyCiano.

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