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

Gregoire: UMass Hockey deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament

The Minutemen are the No. 14 seed
Kayla Wong
Daily Collegian (2023)

There has been a lot of buzz around the Massachusetts hockey team after it squeezed its way into the 2024 NCAA Tournament as the No. 14 seed. Social media has been vocal about whether UMass (20-13-3, 12-10-2 Hockey East) has truly earned a place in the national tournament. But the Minutemen deserve their spot.

When the Minutemen got into the NCAA Tournament, they changed the setup of the four regionals, creating a lot of talk. No. 2 Boston University would have been placed in the Springfield regional, giving it the advantage of staying in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Instead, the Terriers are forced to travel to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, while No. 3 Denver (27-9-3, 15-7-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) has to travel to Springfield. Denver is also playing the host school, UMass, putting the Pioneers at a disadvantage.

The Minutemen just barely made the tournament; they had to do a lot of scoreboard watching the day before the NCAA Tournament selection show to see if they made the cut. UMass got in because Denver beat Omaha, putting the Minutemen in the tournament by .0004 on Pairwise rankings.

They were battling Colorado College for the final spot in the tournament, and while the Prowlers had one more win than the Minutemen, UMass made the tournament over them.

Despite having a worse record, the Minutemen deserve the final spot over the Prowlers.

UMass plays in a much harder conference as Colorado College plays in the NCHC. The conference has strong teams, including Denver, but Hockey East has the best teams in the country.

UMass played No. 1 Boston College and Boston University a combined five times, which took up five of its 13 losses. They played No. 5 Maine close, losing by just a goal in three games played. The Minutemen’s close losses show they can hang with the best teams in the nation.

Not only does UMass play in a strong conference, but it also has a high number of NHL prospects compared to other college hockey teams. While they can’t compete with teams like Boston College in terms of prospects, the Minutemen have 13 players drafted to the NHL, putting them near the top of college hockey, only behind BC and BU.

Head coach Greg Carvel has led UMass to the NCAA Tournament in four out of the last five years. In 2021 the Minutemen won the National Championship, and two of those players are still on the team –– captain Aaron Bohlinger and Linden Alger –– giving UMass the experience it needs to make a run in the tournament.

Many people look at the 13-17-5 season the Minutemen had last season and think that connects to this team, but it is an entirely different group. The leadership of Bohlinger and Ryan Ufko has been a crucial asset, especially with a large freshman class.

First-year players have also been one of the reasons for the Minutemen’s success. Jack Musa is second in points with 29 and Aydar Suniev is not far behind him with 24 points. Suniev is tied with two juniors, Ryan Lautenbach and Lucas Mercuri.

Freshmen goaltender Michael Hrabal has also been steady in net with his .910 save percentage. He’s one of few freshmen goaltenders that have started a majority of the college hockey season, and he has embraced the role.

Defensemen Scott Morrow and Ufko make the team hard to get around in backend, as they run teams down. When they are playing their best hockey, the Minutemen are a tough team to play.

While UMass has had an up-and-down season, it has earned its spot in the Springfield regional. This team has a shot at making a run in the tournament despite the outside noise.

The Minutemen will play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against No. 3 Denver on Thursday, March 28 at the MassMutual Center. Puck drop is set for 2 p.m. in Springfield.

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

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *