UMass learns tough lessons in championship loss

  • Massachusetts' Marc Del Gaizo (2) defends against Minnesota-Duluth' Parker Mackay (39) during the second period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Minnesota-Duluth forward Parker Mackay (39) puts the puck past Massachusetts goalie Filip Lindberg (35) during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts forward Mitchell Chaffee (21) and Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Louie Roehl (6) battle behind the net during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts defenseman Cale Makar (16) looks to shoot on Minnesota-Duluth goalie Hunter Shepard (32) during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • Massachusetts defenseman Mario Ferraro (5) and Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Matt Anderson (3) battle for the puck during the first period of the NCAA Frozen Four men's college hockey championship game, Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Jeffrey T. Barnes

Staff Writer
Published: 4/15/2019 6:45:59 PM

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Youth had never been an issue for UMass in the first 40 games of the hockey season.

Despite having 19 freshmen and sophomores on the roster, a vast majority of whom played important minutes, the Minutemen were an aggressive team that didn’t play with any thought of their inexperience. The group set a program record for wins with 31 while leading UMass to its first Hockey East regular season championship and its first appearance in the Frozen Four and then national championship game. Along the way, it dominated the play against teams that have played on the big stage before and showed the resilience of a veteran squad.

Except against Minnesota Duluth, UMass shrunk down to the young, inexperienced team it didn’t want to admit it was at its core. The defending champions neutralized the Minutemen in every aspect of the game and sent a strong message to the Minutemen if they ever wanted to win a national championship.

“When we played Providence early in the year, they showed us how to play big boy hockey,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “These guys showed us how to play big boy hockey in a big game, that’s what we need to learn.”

All of the signs that UMass was in trouble came in the first period when Minnesota Duluth dominated the play and didn’t let the Minutemen establish any rhythm. The Bulldogs were the more aggressive team from the moment the puck was dropped and had already peppered freshman Filip Lindberg with five shots in the first 2:11. They scored on an early power play and UMass never was able to mount a successful response despite having four chances on the man advantage with its second-ranked power play.

After a hard-fought win over Denver in the semifinals, Carvel wanted to keep the plan straightforward for the Minutemen in the national title game. He hoped the strategy would keep the Minutemen’s legs fresh for the late stages of the game so they could mount a furious push. Instead, UMass never executed its mission and let Minnesota Duluth dictate the full 60 minutes.

“We need to mature and continue to get stronger,” Carvel said. “We still don’t play mature enough as a team. We tried to make it a very easy, simple game plan that wouldn’t be taxing in anyway and we just couldn’t even carry it out. We’re still an immature team that we can’t carry out a simple game plan.”

All season, UMass has used the lessons of previous setbacks to fuel improvement, a main reason why the Minutemen never lost consecutive games this season. But there was always a short window for the players to forget about the setback and move past it with a new opponent days away. This time, it’s a long six months until the next game that counts and an important period of training ahead of the team.

Sophomore defenseman Mario Ferraro said the Minutemen now have a better understanding of what it takes to be the last team standing and has the motivation it needs to return to the Frozen Four next April in Detroit.

“It’s obviously tough right now dealing with the loss,” Ferraro said. “We’re going to need a little bit of time to recover from it. We’re going to get right back on the train this summer and get working here to improve for next year and next September.

“The main lesson we learned is this opportunity doesn’t come around very often,” Ferraro added. “In the room afterwards, obviously a lot of the guys were all emotional in here, but when you see the seniors moving on and one of our best players in Cale (Makar) moving on and how sad they are to have not been able to capitalize on this opportunity, you realize just how much you have to take advantage of this. It’s why we’re not letting up, we’re not going to let up, next year’s a big year. We want to be back here and we want to take advantage of it and capitalize because we know we won’t get this opportunity very often.”




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