Does he stay or does he go?

Published: 4/5/2019 7:08:29 PM

Good morning!

Oddsmakers portend an NCAA championship game between UMass and Minnesota Duluth at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo a week from today. Both teams are goal-and-a-half favorites to beat their respective semifinal opponents — Denver and Providence — in the Frozen Four on Thursday.

Soon, this remarkable season will end and the players will be going their separate ways. The cover boy of The Hockey News, Cale Makar, will likely be on the blue line for the Colorado Avalanche when the Stanley Cup playoffs start, and defenseman Mario Ferraro will find the way to San Jose and suit up for either the Sharks or its AHL affiliate the San Jose Barracuda.

Seniors Kurt Keats, Brett Boeing and Jacob Pritchard must move on, but the core of the team’s 15 freshmen and sophomores will be back in Amherst.

The biggest question mark surrounds coach Greg Carvel. Does he stay or does he go? By all accounts, Carvel likes the town and the university, his wife Daina grew up here and their children Kathryn, Ava and Drew would thrive in the Amherst school system.

Here’s the rub, colleges pay in the hundreds of thousands, and the NHL pays in the millions. Some who could’ve moved on decided to stay on campus. Coaches Dick Umile, Jack Parker and Jerry York were content to remain at UNH, BU, and BC. Parker turned down the Bruins (twice), but Jim Montgomery and David Quinn had no qualms about leaving Denver and BU to coach the Dallas Stars and New York Rangers.

“Greg likes Amherst and he likes UMass, but the money in the NHL…” says a close friend. “You’re talking maybe $2 million a year, a five-year contract… guaranteed.”

In Minnesota, ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reports that Bruce Boudreau’s on the hot seat. First-year GM Paul Fenton grew up in Springfield, his son P.J. played at UMass and Fenton’s aware of Carvel’s pro-style offense.

It has indeed been a volatile year to be behind the bench in the NHL. Seven coaches have already been fired including the Senators’ Guy Boucher, and OttawaMatters.com lists Carvel as a potential successor: “A Bryan Murray favourite, Carvel was an assistant coach for two Murray-managed NHL teams that reached the Cup finals, the 2003 Anaheim Ducks and 2007 Senators. More recently, Carvel has shown the ability to revive a moribund college hockey program, posting the first winning season for UMass-Amherst in 10 years.”

Bryan Murray died of colon cancer in 2017, but his legacy lives on in Ottawa. He hired Carvel, but also fired him when the Sens failed to make the playoffs in 2010-11. This Thursday will be eight years to the day that Carvel was sent packing with coach Cory Clouston and assistant Brad Lauer.

Clouston now coaches a pro team in Germany and Lauer coaches junior hockey in Edmonton. Carvel returned to his alma mater where he took over for Joe Marsh at St. Lawrence, and four years later UMass came calling.

It’s taken him three years to go from five wins to the brink of a national championship, and UMass fans are crossing their fingers he’ll win the title and stay in Amherst.

The field for next month’s Kentucky Derby will come into focus after three key prep races today. The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct (6 p.m.; NBCSN) has an 11-horse field headed by 5/2 morning line favorite Tacitus, trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Jose Ortiz.

Never underestimate a horse owned by Mike Repole when the race is in his hometown Queens. Overdeliver is a 20-1 longshot trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by Kendrick Caramouche.

Another Pletcher entry, Outshine at 6-1, will be ridden by his go-to jock John Velazquez. “Outshine is a perfect match for the historical profile of a Wood Memorial winner,” writes J. Keeler Johnson in America’s Best Racing.

The Blue Grass Stakes (6:23 p.m.; NBCSN) at Keeneland sends out a full field of 14 with the 9/5 ML favorite Vekoma drawing the two post. “Vekoma has every license to benefit from the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, which was also his route debut,” writes handicapper Mike Watchmaker of the Daily Racing Form.

The marquee race will be the Santa Anita Derby where eight-time winner Bob Baffert will saddle Game Winner (7:14 p.m.; NBCSN). “He’s Hercules,” Baffert told the Paulick Report, referring to the colt’s six furlong workout on Monday. Game Winner won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and has already posted an eye-popping 111 Beyer speed figure and is the odds-on (4-5) morning line favorite.

Mark Casse is said to have a live one running today, we just don’t know which horse. It might be either Dream Maker (Florent Geroux) or Sir Winston (Julien Leparoux) in the Blue Grass, or Hoffa’s Union (Dylan Davis) in the Wood Memorial.

NOTES: Luis Saez rode Maximum Security ($11.60) to a convincing win in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. The colt’s fourth straight win began with a $16,000 claiming race in December. The horse that George F. Bush touted — Bourbon War — was fourth at 3-1 odds and is saving its best effort for the Run for the Roses. … usracing.com posts live Kentucky Derby futures odds and at this writing the three favorites are Game Winner at 3/1, Improbable (entered in next week’s Arkansas Derby) at 8/1, and Maximum Security at 10/1.

NHL analyst Pierre Maguire this week on Sirius-XM: “I don’t think there’s a team in the league that wants to play Boston in the opening round. They’re getting guys back and their full-frontal-assault type of attack and transition game is as good or better than anybody in the league right now.”

Former Minutemen hoopsters DeJon Jarreau and Brison Gresham combined for 39 points to help Houston get to the Sweet 16 where they were beaten by Kentucky. The two Louisianans went places as a package, and during the UMass coaching kerfuffle two years ago they split for Texas. Coach Kelvin Sampson’s high-scoring Cougars finished 33-4 this season.

SQUIBBERS: Twenty-five years ago last Thursday, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron hit his 714th home run off the Reds’ Jack Billingham to tie Babe Ruth on the all-time list. … Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia came off a five-game suspension to go on the 10-day injured list, which is the way it is for the Yankees these days. … UMass hoops fans hope Tre Mitchell is the best power forward since Lou Roe. He looks good on the YouTube clips, shoots, rebounds, passes and best of all shows a love for the game. …  Seattle’s Nick Rumblebow was optioned to Tacoma on Wednesday to work on his gopher ball after giving up three-run dingers to Matt Chapman and J.D. Martinez last week. … Anybody wanna buy a golf course? Oak Ridge is on the market for $639,900. … Washington’s Trea Turner squared to bunt and fouled the pitch off his finger on Tuesday. He was replaced by Wilmer Difo, who swung and missed for strike three. “For those of you who keep score meticulously,” said the MLB Network’s Bob Costas, “the strikeout is charged to Turner because Difo inherited a two-strike count. So Turner strikes out, in absentia.” … Bryce Harper’s reception in a Phillies uniform at Nationals Park was reminiscent of Johnny Damon’s return to Fenway Park wearing pinstripes. … Tyler Bertuzzi became the first player in Red Wings history to have three points in four consecutive games in a 4-1 win against Pittsburgh on Tuesday.… Former Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly got torched for six earned runs in two games this week. … Manny Machado (.240) got his first NL home run on Tuesday against the D-backs. … In his new book, former Mets pitcher Ron Darling writes that opposing fans came up with clever taunts when he was on the mound. One of his favorites was “Tell your wife to stop calling my room.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.


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