Massachusetts’ loss to Minnesota Duluth ended the storybook collegiate career of defenseman Cale Makar.After the game ended, the Calgary native removed his maroon No. 16 jersey and boarded a flight for Colorado, where he donned a No. 8 for the first time in his NHL career with the Avalanche.Two days after playing in the national championship, Makar scored his first professional goal in a playoff win over his childhood hometown Flames.His impact, though, will remain long after he establishes what could be a long career at the game’s highest level.For that reason, Makar is the 2019 USCHO Player of the Year.Makar represented the heart and soul of a breakout UMass team that set new levels of excellence in Amherst. He became the school’s first Hobey Hat Trick finalist and subsequent Hobey Baker Award winner as the most outstanding player in college hockey. He also registered the program’s first Hockey East Player of the Year Award, having led his team to its first-ever regular season championship.He averaged 1.20 points per game and led all defensemen nationally with 49 points on the season, a number that also topped Hockey East overall skaters. He was one of four Minutemen atop Hockey East conference scoring and one of only two, with Mitchell Chaffee, to score 30 points in league games, though Makar was the only defenseman in the lot. The next closest blueliners – Northeastern’s Jeremy Davies and Boston University’s Dante Fabbro – were five points behind him.In addition to his offensive wizardry, Makar finished the season with a plus-32 rating and ranked with Marc Del Gaizo as the only two skaters over plus-30. The duo helped UMass to a plus-68 goal differential this season, a staggering number topped only by Minnesota State and St. Cloud State.His efforts helped lead a breakout by the Minutemen that ended last weekend with a loss to Minnesota Duluth in the national championship game. UMass, a team that had only one 20-win season since joining Hockey East 25 years ago, won 31 games this year and advanced to its first Frozen Four semifinal and final. It was just the team’s second national tournament appearance in program history.Makar beat out Michigan State’s Taro Hirose, who was one of only two 50-point scorers this year in college hockey.
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