On Saturday night, University of Massachusetts (UMass) Head Coach Greg Carvel completed a comeback five seasons in the making. There was no comeback in the NCAA championship game: the Minutemen dominated St. Cloud State, winning 5-0 to capture the program’s first title. But there was a comeback for the program as a whole from basement dweller to national juggernaut.
Since joining the Hockey East Conference in 1994-95, the Minutemen recorded just two winning seasons (2003-04 and 2006-07) before Greg Carvel took over. In Carvel’s first season —2016-17—UMass finished with a 2-19-1 record.
Then came a freshman class—highlighted by Cale Makar and Mario Ferraro—that helped turn the program around.
Since then, the Minutemen have appeared in back-to-back NCAA championship games, now winning their first. Nashville’s 2019 fourth-round pick—Marc Del Gaizo—has been there for all of it.
The junior defender came to UMass in the 2018-19 season, scoring 29 points in 41 games playing alongside Makar. He also notched what was, at the time, the biggest goal in program history, sending the Minutemen to the 2019 national championship game.
Last year, he battled injuries but managed to collect 15 points in 22 games. This year, the assistant captain was a fixture as UMass’ number one defender, collecting 14 points in 27 games—six of which were primary ones scored at even strength.
Del Gaizo was the leader of a stacked blue line that featured Zac Jones (NYR), Matt Kessel (STL), veterans like Colin Felix, and freshmen like Aaron Bohlinger.
On their way to a national title, UMass has been unstoppable. The Minutemen haven’t lost a game since January 18; they outscored their opponents in the NCAA tournament 17-3; and they overcame what could have been a crippling blow from COVID-19, losing their leading goal scorer and starting goalie for their Frozen Four semifinal matchup with the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
So, on Saturday night, Marc Del Gaizo became just the second Nashville-drafted prospect to capture a college hockey title—alongside his brother Anthony and their Minutemen teammates.
The tenacious, puck-moving defender does have remaining college eligibility, but, as I noted previously this year, I view Del Gaizo as a dark horse candidate for the Nashville Predators to sign this summer, which would pull him out of college early.