It has been a popular refrain for UMass men’s hockey fans, beginning with the team’s run to the national championship game in 2019, then growing louder this season as the team returned to the final and captured the school’s first NCAA Division 1 title.
How will the Minutemen keep coach Greg Carvel?
Perhaps the noise is coming from alumni with long memories, remembering how John Calipari took the men’s basketball program to the Final Four in 1996 before deciding to take the money and run to the New Jersey Nets.
Carvel would certainly appear to be an attractive candidate for NHL clubs given his 12 years of service in the league, beginning with the Ducks as scouting coordinator in 1999, then video coordinator in 2002 before being promoted to assistant coach in 2003. After five years in Anaheim, he moved on to the Ottawa Senators in 2004 and was an assistant coach for seven seasons.
But UMass fans can relax. Carvel seems content in Amherst, where his wife, Daina, attended high school, and where he earned his master’s degree in sports management in 1998. It does not appear he has designs on heading to the NHL any time soon.
“I feel for NHL coaches,” Carvel said this past week. “They get paid well because the instability is really hard to live through.
“I feel really fortunate to be where I am. I loved my time in the NHL, but I knew always that this is where I wanted to be, at this level, because I knew what type of coach I am. What I want to do and accomplish with players can’t be done at the NHL level.”
The college game appears to be perfectly tailored for Carvel, and that extends beyond his dealings with his players. Those who attended his weekly media sessions on Zoom this season saw the coach providing thoughtful answers to the aspiring journalists from the school’s student newspaper, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, while occasionally dishing out some good-natured ribbing.
“I think he views them like he does his student-athletes,” said athletic director Ryan Bamford. “There’s times when he’ll challenge them, and there’s times when he’ll joke with them. It’s a really good relationship. It’s neat to see. I think it shows how grounded he is.”
Every offseason brings a bit of uncertainty, even for the national champions. Carvel has praised assistant coaches Ben Barr and Jared DeMichiel at every turn. Given the program’s success, both would seem likely to draw interest from schools looking to fill head coaching vacancies.
When asked about the possibility of his assistants receiving offers, Carvel acknowledged they would be tough to replace, but believes both will be selective about any jobs they consider. His response was another indication of how happy he is at UMass.
“We have a really good thing going here,” said Carvel. “Not only the winning, it’s the functioning of the program. I know those two guys and I, we appreciate what we’re doing, and understand that going somewhere else, you may not have the same thing.
“Things are good here. You’d hate to walk away from a good thing just to get more money.”
Bamford said Barr and DeMichiel will be given extensions soon. In each of the previous two seasons, UMass has extended Carvel’s contract, essentially keeping him on a rolling five-year contract. Another extension is in the works this offseason, one that the school hopes will keep Carvel in Amherst for a long time.
“I feel like we’re going to do something for Greg in this offseason that will put him in the upper tier of college hockey coaches,” said Bamford. “Knowing Greg as I do, and we’ve had some very honest conversations, I don’t think Greg is going to leave us for another college hockey job.”
That will be welcome news to UMass fans.
Immediately after winning the title last Saturday night, Carvel looked and sounded exhausted. The months of practices and games in this most unusual season of staying socially distant off the ice had taken their toll, and Carvel acknowledged he was spent and looking forward to taking a break.
Yet just a few days later he was making the rounds with media, appearing refreshed as he reflected on the championship season before taking some time off. Playing into the second week of April makes for a shortened offseason, but Carvel was not about to complain, disagreeing with the notion that the program would have to make up ground to get ready for next season.
“I look at it the other way. Our team kept developing for a long period of time while the other teams sat at home and watched,” said Carvel. “The one thing we’re behind is the transfer portal. A lot of kids have made decisions and moved on to other teams.”
UMass has been efficient when it comes to adding transfers. This past season, Carson Gicewicz, Garrett Wait, and Jerry Harding all played big roles for the Minutemen after playing elsewhere.
The decision by defenseman Zac Jones to sign with the New York Rangers this week came as a bit of a surprise, because the belief was that he would return for his junior season.
“When you win the whole thing, you’re All-American, and you play really well, you put yourself in a situation where you get to make those decisions,” said Carvel.
Beyond that, Carvel said he has not thought about next season, instead looking forward to spending time with his family next week when his three kids will be on school break. After a few weeks off, the restless nights will return, and his focus will be on how the program moves forward. He expects the same from his players.
“We can always be better. Believe me, I hate seeing people get comfortable,” said Carvel. “It’s the worst thing that you can do is take your foot off the gas, so they’re allowed to do it for a couple of weeks, but they know what will be coming here this summer.
“We have to be way better, because everybody will be coming, but what a great place to be in.”
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.