Based on the returning stars and new additions to their roster, I thought it was a mistake when the NCAA left UMass off the top 20 pre-season poll before the college hockey season began. I wasn’t surprised when UMass won its first three games of the season by a combined score of 15-5.
But I never could have foreseen that UMass, who was 17-20-2 last year, would reach the top of college hockey, and stay on top as long as it has.
Head coach Greg Carvel's squad has been ranked in the top five in the country for 14 consecutive weeks, and members don’t appear to be going anywhere. Ranking #2 in the nation, the Minutemen are currently 23-6, and sit in first place with a three-game cushion on top of the toughest division in college hockey.
At the season's start, Carvel urged students to come out and have a lot of fun watching the team. As Bill Belichick would say, the fans "do their job" night in and night out. The team is 13-1 at home, playing in of one of the loudest venues in the sport. And that one loss came during winter break while students were back home.
Before this season, I didn’t think anything could top rooting for your friends in tight spaces back in high school. The intimacy made it much cooler than anything else I had ever experienced. But it doesn’t compare to packing the Mullins Center full with 8,500 other UMass fans, as chants echo all throughout the arena.
Going to the team's games has become a favorite weekend night activity on campus. Students line up hours before the game to catch the best seats in the house and cheer on the Minutemen.
Carvel has managed to completely change the culture of UMass Hockey through the rebrand of "NewMass". And this NewMass team looks like it's here to stay.