By Meaghan Cahill
The 2019 Hockey East tournament is right around the corner with the men’s teams’ seasons coming to a close. And this year, in what can be considered a Cinderella season no matter the outcome, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst is my pick to win it all in the Hockey East tournament.
In their first winning season since 2007, UMass-Amherst shocked the nation back in December when, for the first time in their hockey program’s history, they were ranked the #1 team in the nation. Currently second in the nation, UMass-Amherst sits comfortably at the top of Hockey East rankings with their 16-5-0 record.
The team, which consists of mostly freshmen and sophomore players, has solid defensive play that is the contributing factor to the overall team success.
“You have to limit time and space especially in the defensive end,” said sophomore defenseman and alternate captain Mario Ferraro. “Defense always leads to good offense.”
UMass-Amherst has a strong offense, which is another factor that will contribute to them winning Hockey East.
In Hockey East’s overall point-scoring rankings, UMass-Amherst players take the top five spots. Jacob Pritchard, Cale Makar, Mitchell Chaffee, John Leonard, and Mitchell Fossier all average more than one point per game. On top of that, Chaffee is also tied for second place for goals scored with 15 goals this season, three less than the leading 18 goals. Pritchard is currently tied at fifth with 14 goals while Leonard is tied for eighth with 13. Sophomore defenseman Cale Makar is the top scoring defenseman in all of Hockey East as well.
Going 2-1 against PC, who holds the number two seed in Hockey East (eighth nationally), UMass-Amherst has had some pretty big wins and upsets this season that bolster their chances of dominating playoffs. They went 2-1 against #9 Northeastern University. They also split a series against Quinnipiac University, who holds the #5 spot on the national level.
Winning six of their last 10 games, the team is one win away from clinching first place for the Hockey East regular season standings, a feat that captain Niko Hildenbrand said would “mean the world” to the team.
If the Hockey East playoffs were to start today, UMass-Amherst, with the no. 1 seed, would face off against the no. 8 seed University of New Hampshire, which is a team that they have swept this season, beating them 5-1 and 4-2.
With their solid defense, league-leading offense, and the fact that the team is having one of the best seasons in the program’s history, I predict that UMass-Amherst will win the Hockey East tournament.