It has been a historic season for the No. 2-ranked UMass Minutemen, whose nickname reflects the time the Maroon and White need to take over a game in 2018-19.
The Minutemen have had a season of firsts. On Dec. 3, they earned their first-ever No. 1 national ranking. On Feb. 16, they won their record-setting 23rd game for the program. Then, on Feb. 28, the Minutemen clinched the top spot in Hockey East with a 4-2 win over Merrimack, earning them the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
HOCKEY. EAST. CHAMPS. 🏆🏆🏆 pic.twitter.com/uaXi1BA0qS— UMass Hockey (@UMassHockey) March 1, 2019
With just one regular-season game remaining, the Minutemen sit at 26-7 and are tied for first in the Pairwise Rankings with an eye on just their second NCAA Tournament berth in the program’s 25th season. Their first and only bid came in 2006-07.
Third-year coach Greg Carvel is leading the resurgent program with one simple motto: #NewMass. Carvel’s Minutemen have stayed true to themselves and played for each other all season, helping them dig in when times got rough.
Yet, “rough” may not be the right word. The Minutemen have been resilient, five of their seven losses have come against ranked teams, where they’ve gone 7-5 overall. Moreover, they’ve followed all seven losses with decisive wins, scoring a total of 33 goals in their next contest.
It’s that resilience that will help the Minutemen continue to add firsts to their 2018-19 run. They have a Hockey East Tournament title calling their name and an NCAA Championship to play for.
And, much like it has all season long, those hopeful titles will come down to the play of captain Cale Makar. The fourth overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Makar is a blossoming superstar and leads the Minutemen with 40 points (13 G, 27 A) in 33 games.
Cale Makar is very good at hockey. pic.twitter.com/FkooOtTGeQ— Mike Grinnell (@MikeGrinnell_) February 2, 2019
The 20-year-old is the full package defenseman in all three zones, as his speed, intelligence and creativity make him nearly impossible to defend and difficult to beat.
The sophomore is a leading Hobey Baker candidate as the top player in NCAA hockey and has dominated all season long. Over the weekend, he set a new program record for assists among defensemen.
“He is, to me, the Hobey Baker winner,” Carvel told FloHockey’s Tim Rappleye last month. “He’s the most dominant player.”
Winning the Hobey Baker would be yet another first for the UMass program.
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