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

Previewing the NCAA hockey Springfield Regional

UMass, Denver, Maine and Cornell First Round matchups are set for Thursday
Dylan Nguyen
Daily Collegian (2022)

After waiting for the No. 3 University of Denver to defeat Omaha in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Championship to secure its spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Massachusetts hockey team is heading to the Springfield Regional to face the Pioneers. Following the 2 p.m. game, the No. 6 University of Maine and Cornell University will face off for the second spot in the Quarterfinals.

Thursday, March 28th at 2 p.m.: UMass (20-13-3, 12-10-2 Hockey East) v. Denver (27-9-3, 15-7-2 NCHC)

UMass’ fate in the NCAA Tournament remains to be in the hands of Denver. With the Pioneers coming off their NCHC Championship win over Omaha, Denver is riding on a high heading to Springfield. The Minutemen, however, fell victim to the No. 1 Boston College powerhouse in the HEA Championship Semifinals. Head coach Greg Carvel said that not one Minuteman looked like themselves on the ice for the heartbreaking 8-1 loss.

“I praise them a lot and tell them I believe in them,” Carvel said of his team. “It’s a little bit frustrating because I don’t think we should ever lose a game… I hope we get our top-level game [on Thursday].”

Denver will be a similar opponent to UMass’ HEA foes, such as Boston College. Since February 16th, the Pioneers have lost one game. However, Denver heading into Thursday is down Massimo Rizzo. The junior forward has totaled 44 points for Denver on 10 goals and 34 assists, taking the team’s third spot in point leaders.

Recently coming back to the Denver lineup is assistant captain Carter King, the Pioneers’ fifth point-leader with 34 points on 15 goals and 19 assists. King watched his team steamroll to the NCHC Championship where he rejoined his team.

“A lot of different people stepped up,” head coach David Carle said. “It’s been a great opportunity for us to showcase our depth and have guys get more minutes, and they’ve done an excellent job in the absence of [King] and [Rizzo].”

Despite not meeting each other in the 2023-24 season, Carvel said Denver’s team and game is not far off from what he saw early in the 2022-23 season when UMass swept the Pioneers at the Mullins Center. Denver also claimed the National Championship title the year after UMass, giving both teams experience on the NCAA stage.

“I don’t think much has changed. [Denver plays] a very similar game, we play a very similar game,” Carvel said. “Both teams have had a lot of success doing what they do and I don’t think us changing our game is going to help us. We have to be the best at what we do, and I think if we do, we’ll put ourselves in a really good place to win.”

Thursday, March 28th at 5:30 p.m.: Maine (23-11-2, 14-9-1 HEA) v. Cornell (21-6-6, 12-6-4 Eastern College Athletic)

Similar to the early game of the afternoon, Maine and Cornell are heading into Thursday on low and high notes respectively. The Black Bears, despite matching No. 2 Boston University’s game, fell to the Terriers in the HEA Championship Semifinals. On the flip side, Cornell just defeated St. Lawrence for the ECAC Championship title.

This is Maine’s first time in 12 years back in the NCAA Tournament and if it finds success against the Big Red, the Black Bears will secure its first tournament win since 2007.

On the prowl for Maine are brothers Bradly and Josh Nadeau who are tied for leading the team in points with 46 and 45 points respectively. Both brothers have 27 assists paired with their 19 and 18 goals. Against UMass, Carvel commended the talent of the Nadeau brothers, so it is expected for the two freshman forwards to make a statement on Thursday against Cornell.

Not far behind the Nadeau’s, though, is Cornell’s Gabriel Seger who leads the team in points with 42 points on 14 goals and 28 assists. The senior forward earned an ‘A’ for the 2023-24 season and brings experience into the NCAA Tournament having played on this stage last year.

The teams will meet on the ice for the first time since 2013, meaning everyone will be a new face on the ice to each other. Experience and comfort on the NCAA level may prove to be more important than leading scorers, especially given Maine’s rebuilding effort from the 2022-23 season that is heavily reliant on its set of captains and new players.

If HEA comes out on top on Thursday, UMass and Maine will face each other for the fourth time this season. In the regular season, the Minutemen lost to the Black Bears in all three contests. The most recent meeting between the two, though, showcased UMass’ valiance as it took the ice with much more control and almost pushed the teams into overtime if it were not for a late turnover in the third period.

The 2 p.m. matchup can be streamed on ESPN2 and the 5:30 p.m. contest will be available on ESPN+. Following Thursday’s late game, the two winners will face off on Saturday, March 30 at 4 p.m. to see who will travel to Minnesota for the NCAA Frozen Four Semifinals.

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

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