While other programs had paused activities at some point in the season, the UMass men’s hockey team had played through January. But that all changed in the first week of February, when the school decided to pause all athletic programs for two weeks due to a continuing surge in COVID-19 cases.
By the time the Minutemen returned to game action earlier this week against Providence, they had been 24 days in between games. Coach Greg Carvel reached out to some of the other coaches to see how they got their teams ready to come back from an extended period of inactivity.
One piece of advice he received was to get at least one week of practice to ramp up and be ready to go. That would not be a problem, as there were no positive tests within the program, allowing the players to continue to work out and stay in shape. That’s not to say that there weren’t any concerns as UMass returned to action.
“I was a little nervous about the break, but the positive of the break is that you get energized and you get healthy,” said Carvel after his ninth-ranked squad improved to 12-5-3 with an 8-1 pasting of the Friars. Seven players scored for the Minutemen, who will take on No. 1 Boston College (15-3-1) at Conte Forum Friday night.
The teams met earlier this season, with the Eagles sweeping the Nov. 27-28 series by scores of 6-3 and 4-3. The Minutemen were without Marc Del Gaizo the first time around, but the junior defenseman will be available Friday night.
“Marc’s developed into, I think, one of the best players in our league,” said Carvel. “He has no goals this year, and that doesn’t mean anything. I’m really impressed with how hard he competes.
“There aren’t many kids in the league, where you take them out of the lineup and it makes that much of a difference, but I think Marc Del Gaizo is one of those guys that does that for our team.”
Junior Bobby Trivigno leads a balanced attack for the Minutemen, recording seven goals and 16 assists. Senior Carson Gicewicz, a transfer from St. Lawrence, has 11 goals and five assists. Filip Lindberg has gotten the call in net in recent games, and recorded the win against Providence to improve to 3-1-3.
The Eagles are trying to hold on to first place in the Hockey East Power Index, and enter the weekend with a slim lead over Boston University.
“We’re trying to focus on the playoff championship, because that’s going to be the automatic qualifier for the national tournament,” said BC coach Jerry York. “As we wind down, our goal is to be ready for the Hockey East playoffs and then the national tournament.
“We just want to play well. We’re less focused on how BU’s neck and neck with us, but more importantly, how well we’re playing and keep progressing and getting ready for the tournament.”
NU trio named Kazmaier finalists
Northeastern’s Alina Mueller, Aerin Frankel, and Skylar Fontaine are top-10 finalists for the 2021 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the top NCAA Division 1 women’s hockey player. They are the first trio to make the top 10 in program history, and have led the second-ranked Huskies to a 17-game unbeaten streak and a third consecutive No. 1 seed in the Hockey East Championship.
Roslindale’s Caitrin Lonergan, who played at Boston College before transferring to Clarkson, is also a finalist. The top-three finalists will be announced on March 18, with the presentation of the award scheduled for March 27.
BU resets in goal
With just one goalie available last weekend, the BU men (9-2) had to cancel one of its games with UConn, but managed to keep one on the schedule, defeating the Huskies at Storrs, 3-2, in overtime. Freshman Vinny Duplesis made 27 saves to improve to 4-0 on the season. He will not be the only netminder on the bench when the Terriers face Merrimack in a home-and-home series this weekend, as classmate Drew Commesso (5-1) is expected to return from injury as well.
BU coach Albie O’Connell wouldn’t say who would get the nod for the opener Friday at Walter Brown Arena at 4 p.m.
“We’re watching both guys right now,” said O’Connell. “Obviously Vinny’s been pretty hot, but Drew’s very capable himself. It’s never an easy decision but we like the way both guys have played when they’ve been in there.”
Defenseman David Farrance also will be back on the ice for the first time since Jan. 23.
Reinforcements for NU
Northeastern (9-6-2) is scheduled to play a home-and-home with the Friars this weekend, beginning Saturday at Matthews Arena at 4:30 p.m. before shifting to Providence on Sunday at 7 p.m. NU coach Jim Madigan hopes to have some reinforcements along the blue line, with sophomore Jeremie Bucheler on track to return this weekend. Junior Jordan Harris has begun skating and practicing with the team and could be available as well.
Finalists at UMass-Boston
Congratulations to UMass Boston sophomore forwards Jacob Adkins and Andrew Walker for being named among three finalists for the 2021 Hockey Humanitarian Award, presented annually to college hockey’s “finest citizen” for leadership in community service. The duo teamed up over the summer and rollerbladed nearly 900 miles from Boston to Mason, Mich., to raise money for the American Cancer Society (ACS). Over the course of their journey, the pair raised more than $30,000 for the ACS and raised awareness of the many charities that need continued donations in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
The winner will be honored in a ceremony on April 9 as part of the men’s Frozen Four weekend in Pittsburgh.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.