Hockey East media day: Coaches torn about 19th skater

  • UMass hockey players celebrate a goal against AIC, Oct. 14, 2017. UMass will have a 19th skater on its bench this season after the NCAA approved a rule that increased a game roster by one player. STAFF PHOTO/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

Staff Writer
Monday, October 08, 2018

BOSTON — Citing the desire to give more student-athletes playing opportunities, the NCAA increased the number of skaters a hockey team could dress from 18 to 19.

UMass coach Greg Carvel voted against the rule change, one of several coaches at Hockey East media day at TD Garden who voiced some type of opposition to the change. Many of them offered the same rationale behind their decisions.

“In a game situation where a player gets disqualified early or midway through the game, that team doesn’t really get penalized,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “They get penalized that they got to kill off what in that case would probably be a five-minute major, but they don’t get penalized with losing a player.”

However, Madigan said he is excited about the flexibility that the extra skater gives coaches. He said the Huskies have toyed with potentially using the 19th skater for a specific role such as penalty killing in addition to the more traditional choice of a seventh defenseman.

Carvel said he will always dress the extra player for games, but admitted it might just be as a precaution against an injury or ejection shortening his bench.

“We’ll likely dress an extra defenseman with that kid knowing he’s probably only going to play if there is an injury, a kid gets kicked out or we have guys who are really tired,” Carvel said. “We’ll always dress the extra guy just to be safe, but that guy who dresses knows he may just be a grocery stick separator behind the forwards and defensemen.”

NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT: Hockey East is reverting back to an eight-team playoff for the first time in six seasons. Under the new structure, the top-four seeds will host quarterfinal best-of-three series March 15-17 before the four semifinalists meet at TD Garden for the Hockey East Championship.

The change gives teams an extra week during the regular season to play games, reducing the number of midweek games that schools have to play. Last year, UMass played a Tuesday game three times in a four-week stretch from mid-January to early February. This season, the Minutemen play just once on Tuesday, a Dec. 11 game against Yale that is the final contest before an extended winter break.

“The positive side of it is it gives us an extra week to stretch out our regular-season schedule,” Carvel said. “Last year, we had a tough schedule, we played three Tuesday games over a month period and it led to us losing some games where with the young team we had, we were pretty tired. So the positive is that it balances our schedule throughout the year, it allows us to be more rested for each game. And then you’ve got to hope you can break into that top four, which obviously isn’t easy to do in Hockey East.”

Carvel also lamented the loss of home playoff games for more teams across Hockey East. Last season, seven of the 11 conference teams earned the chance to host a series on campus with the No. 6-8 seeds hosting first-round contests and the top-four seeds hosting the quarterfinals.

The third-year coach said the energy from UMass’ series win over Vermont last year in the first round was a great atmosphere for the program.

“It was a lot of fun last year to host a playoff series, it built a lot of excitement around the program and around the school,” Carvel said. “Going to an eight-team playoff limits only four teams in our league are going to host playoff series on campus.”

PRESEASON POLLS: Both the Hockey East coaches and the Hockey East Writers & Broadcasters Association announced their preseason polls Monday.

UMass was picked to finish sixth by the coaches and seventh by the media. Providence edged out Boston College for the top spot in the media poll, while the Eagles nipped the Friars for the No. 1 slot in the coaches’ rankings.

Boston University, Northeastern and Maine were ranked Nos. 3-5 in both polls, while UMass Lowell finished sixth with the media and seventh with the coaches. The coaches rounded out their preseason rankings with UConn, New Hampshire, Vermont and Merrimack, while the media swapped the Wildcats and Catamounts in their poll.

The media also selected an all-conference team, which features UMass sophomore Cale Makar as one of the two defensemen chosen. BU’s Shane Bowers and Bobo Carpenter joined BC’s Logan Hutsko as the forward picks. Northeastern defenseman Jeremy Davies and goalie Cayden Primeau were the other two players named to the list.

Josh Walfish can be reached at jwalfish@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.