Lesson learned: UMass eschews busy Friday at Frozen Four in favor of rest

UMass celebrates Zac Jones’ first-period goal against Minnesota Duluth on Thursday (photo: Jim Rosvold).

PITTSBURGH — Coach Greg Carvel filed away a lesson two years ago when UMass played in the national championship game.

On the Friday between Frozen Four games, less is more.

In Buffalo, N.Y., the Minutemen had a busy schedule planned throughout the day before they played Minnesota Duluth for the title, from practice in the early afternoon to the Hobey Baker Award ceremony for Cale Makar at night.

“We felt like we were a tired team going into the championship game last time,” Carvel said.

With that in mind, this Friday at the Frozen Four was intentionally calm for UMass ahead of Saturday’s game against St. Cloud State at PPG Paints Arena.

The same breakthrough NCAA title is on the line but the Minutemen are approaching it with a different lens.

UMass was ground down by Minnesota Duluth in the last championship game and has made a point about growing and evolving to be ready this time. The same goes for off the ice.

“That experience was really critical,” Carvel said. “You’ve heard it many, many times, NHL teams that have to lose in the Stanley Cup finals before they come back and win it. I think it’s similar for us.”

The Minutemen also won the late semifinal game in overtime in 2019, leading to a late night before the busy Friday. This year’s victory against Minnesota Duluth was a taxing one, forward Anthony Del Gaizo said.

“We’re all beat up. We’re all sore,” said Del Gaizo, who scored the tying goal in the third period. “We’re all getting those extra hours of sleep and getting those ice bags on us.”

The day of rest was a sign to Del Gaizo that Carvel trusts the players to take care of themselves physically and get prepared in their own ways.

“He knows that we’re all men on this team and we’re all going to take care of our bodies individually,” Del Gaizo said. “There’s not as much stress on having to do everything as a team, monitored. He knows that we’re going to do our job individually. I think that’s great.”

There has been a shift in mentality with UMass over the last two years. Going through the Frozen Four once makes the next opportunity easier to navigate.

“The first time you get here, it’s fun, it’s exciting, you’ve never done it before,” Carvel said. “The second time you’re more on a mission. The first time you learn lessons. And we learned a big lesson, that we ran around on this day (in 2019).”

Not this time. Lesson learned.