The Greg Carvel era is reshaping the hockey landscape in western Massachusetts. His image snaps in the wind outside the sporting fortress known as the Mullins Center. Every conceivable hockey goal has been reached in his three-year tenure, and there is clearly more to come as the Hockey East regular season champions advance to Boston Garden and beyond.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a three-year plan,” said Carvel shortly after his Minutemen swept UNH in the conference quarterfinals. “I came here and just did the same things I did in my previous job.”
Although Carvel brought both St. Lawrence and UMass to their respective conference semifinals in three years, the similarities end there. Carvel is currently driving a juggernaut at UMass, a superpower that is the top-ranked team in Eastern hockey, having dropped but a single game at home. This from a program that suffered 29 losses just two seasons ago.
“It was really a mess when we got here, every last square inch of it,” said Carvel, who proceeded to lavish praise on his unheralded staff. “This wouldn’t have happened if my staff wasn’t as good as it is. And they don’t get any recognition, but they come every day and they do an unbelievable job. I’m very grateful.”
Hockey has uplifted the flagship university of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, creating a winning culture on its campus that builds with every victory. “It’s been great knowing that fans are going to come out to games and they’re going to go home happy, because the team played well and won,” said Carvel. “It’s been a lot of fun seeing the building full, or close to full, feeling the pride around campus, around Amherst. It’s been an extremely rewarding year, and winning at home every night’s been awesome.”
Carvel’s gratitude extends to his own hockey opportunity. For a guy whose coaching odyssey includes a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals as an assistant with Ottawa, the 2018-19 season contains a rare first for Carvel. “I’ve never coached an NCAA [Tournament] game. I’m excited for that experience.”
He was clearly enjoying himself at his last home game press conference of the year. Surrounded by friends and family, he teased his tireless sports information director, pumped the tires of freshman goaltender Filip Lindberg and continued his theme of gratitude, especially towards his sophomore superstar Cale Makar.
“I feel extremely fortunate to coach him, and as good a hockey player as he is, I don’t know how many kids match that kind of hockey skill with that kind of character, humbleness, the whole package.”
Although Makar will never admit it, Carvel knows that he will only get one NCAA run with his phenom. The two men have combined to propel this program to dizzying heights in two seasons together. Next stop—Boston Garden for the Hockey East Championships, a venue UMass has not been to in 12 years; then on to the NCAA regionals for the second time in program history. Should the Minutemen reach Frozen Four in Buffalo, something no UMass team has ever accomplished, UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford should consider putting up a flag outside the Mullins Center with the image of Makar, right next to Carvel’s.