Frozen notebook: Return to Buffalo special for UMass coach Greg Carvel

  • UMass Head Coach Greg Carvel, standing left, talks to his team during their 4-0 win against Harvard in the NCAA Division 1 tournament, Friday, March 29, 2019 at SNHU Arena in Manchester, N.H. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Greg Carvel tosses a puck to a group of players during practice Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 at the Mullins Center practice rink. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Greg Carvel talks to his team during their win against Yale, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 at the Mullins Center. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Greg Carvel, right, talks to Bobby Trivigno during practice Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 at the Mullins Center practice rink. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/10/2019 8:20:29 PM

BUFFALO, N.Y. — While UMass is participating in its first Frozen Four and trip to Buffalo as a program, coach Greg Carvel knows the Keybank Center well from his time in the NHL. He was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators from 2005-11 and was behind the bench for four playoff runs.

Ottawa lost 4-1 to Buffalo in the opening round in 2006 but defeated the Sabres in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007, winning Game 5 in Buffalo to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. Daniel Alfredsen scored in overtime to clinch the victory.

“I was coaching under Bryan Murray. I worked for Bryan 10 years, passed away two years ago, Bryan is one of my greatest mentors, basically a second father to me. I was very fortunate to work with him,” Carvel said. “I remember celebrating on the bench with him after we scored that goal. Although we went on to the Stanley Cup Finals, we didn’t fare very well. That goal, that game, this building was my highlight during my time in the NHL.”

One of his strangest memories also occurred in Buffalo on Feb. 21, 2007, when Ottawa goalie Ray Emery fought Buffalo defenseman Andrew Peters.

“That was the craziest game I was ever involved with,” Carvel said. “When your starting goalie is fighting the heavyweight from the other team on center ice, it’s an event you don’t forget.”

FINNISH HIM — There are three players from Finland on Frozen Four rosters: UMass’ Filip Lindberg, Providence’s Kasper Björkqvist and Denver’s Jaakko Heikkinen. Lindberg and Björkqvist both hail form Espoo, while Heikkinen is from Helsinki.

It’s the third-best represented nation at the Frozen Four after the U.S. and Canada.

“I would say it started 10 years ago, more Finnish players started to come to college, look where we are. I think the Finnish hockey, 1995 we won the first World Championship, that was a big boost,” Björkqvist said. “I think that’s opened doors, new doors. Me included, lucky ones that have been able to take that route to then play college hockey and develop here.”

Finland won the 2019 IIHF World Juniors title, besting Canada for its fifth championship.

“I think it tells about the junior work that’s been put into junior hockey,” Björkqvist said.

Overall there are six European players at the Frozen Four, showing a newly developed route to the pros for European players.

“It’s a feather in our cap that we can recruit across the world and the best prospects want to come to college hockey,” Providence coach Nate Leaman said. “It’s made our game very, very good. It’s allowed programs such as AIC, other programs, it’s risen the level of every program.”

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK — UMass is making its inaugural Frozen Four appearance with three programs that have won national championships in the past four years. Minnesota Duluth is the defending national champion and has made seven Frozen Fours. Denver has eight national championships and reached 16 Frozen Fours. Providence is in its fifth Frozen Four and won the title in 2015.

“We’re trying to go out of instincts a little bit. It is the disadvantage of our team, is that we’ve not been here,” Carvel said. “I’m excited to go into this with them. We don’t have that experience, but that’s all right. We have a lot of other things I’m excited about.”

JOB INTERVIEW? — The Buffalo Sabres are in the middle of a coaching search, and The Athletic reported they are courting former Edmonton coach Todd McLellan.

His son, Tyson McLellan, is a junior on Denver.

“This is Denver hockey this weekend. That’s on the back burner,” Tyson McLellan said.

EVERYONE’S EXCITED — All four coaches began their opening statements by stating how excited they and their teams were to be in Buffalo for the Frozen Four.

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