Ebene Magazine – Frozen Four: John Leonard and Cale Makar stay in touch with the UMass ice hockey team

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UMass forward Mitchell Chaffee attempts the puck to Minnesota Duluth player Nick Wolff during the third period of the NCAA National Ice Hockey Championship on Saturday, April 13, 2019 at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, NY, GAZETTE FILE steal PHOTO

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Arizona Coyotes right wing Christian Fischer battles for control of the puck with Colorado Avalanche defender Cale Makar in the third phase of an NHL hockey game on March 31, 2021 in Denver. AP FILE

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San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson, 65, celebrates with teammate John Leonard, 43, after scoring against the Minnesota Wild in the third phase of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, California on March 29, 2021 . AP FILE

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He left the Minutemen in March last year to sign a two-year entry-level deal with the Minnesota Wild after his junior season, but remains part of the team culture. Chaffee and other members of the 2017 UMass Recruiting Class who would have been seniors this season, such as Cale Makar and John Leonard, continue to keep an eye on the team and coaching staff.

“It all started from the first day we did everyone was on campus. During much of our freshman class, we became so close and close that we all became best friends, ”said Chaffee, currently at the AHL in Iowa Wild. “It has continued over the years, especially the culture that (UMass trainer Greg) Carvel has built there. This allowed us to grow further. Everyone is still in touch. « 

Chaffee lived with current UMass seniors Matt Murray and Oliver Chau in his first and sophomore years, and had a house with Philip Lagunov and Jake Gaudet in his senior year.

Chaffee has not yet graduated from UMass and is taking online classes to complete his degree. He has 10 assists in 14 games with Iowa this season.

« Even when I’m not there, I feel part of the program, » he said. I still speak to the coaches and have helped set up, they do a great job of keeping in touch. « 

Marc Del Gaizo, UMass junior defender, said the minutemen in the pros write to them regularly a text message, especially during her Hockey East championship run and her return to the Frozen Four.

« You are really, really excited for us. You are a big part of this program. Even if they’re not here, they’re still part of it, ”he said. « We’ve built a lot of connections with these guys and couldn’t be happier where they all are now. »

Makar said he still takes time to watch the Minutemen as often as possible. He was « disappointed » to find out that four UMass players couldn’t travel to Pittsburgh for the Frozen Four due to COVID-19 protocols.

« If there’s a team that can overcome this, it is definitely UMass, « said Makar, who won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year for the Colorado Avalanche last season. “They produced a great culture. Everyone agreed to it. I made so many good friends there. It’s great that they are still finding ways to be successful. I think it’s important for people who are no longer in the program to stay in and around it even though they are now alumni. « 

Fortunately, Thursday night’s semifinals against Minnesota Duluth – a rematch of the 2019 championship game lost by Makar, Leonard and Chaffee – falls on a day off for the Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks and Iowa Wild. Leonard, an Amherst – A native of his rookie year at San Jose, said he and colleague Mario Ferraro would likely watch the game together.

« I’m excited about them. I talked to them the whole time and saw as many games as possible, ”said Leonard. « Hopefully they can quit the job. »

Leonard and Chaffee were on last year’s team that finished the regular season number 2 in Hockey East and finished ninth in the last USCHO poll of the season before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the postseason. That team would have qualified for last year’s NCAA tournament and had the potential to fight for the Hockey East tournament title. This year’s team recognizes that these teammates have been deprived of the opportunity to achieve what they have and partly play for the Minutemen who have moved on.

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