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April 10, 2019
Buffalo, New York
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with some opening thoughts from Coach Carvel.
GREG CARVEL: Very excited to be here. The kind of season we had early on, we thought that this was a possibility. Give the team a lot of credit, I thought we were very consistent all year long, not too many stumbles along the way. Last weekend I thought we played extremely well. We're going to try to carry it into this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the players.
Q. Cale, with your backstory, the commitment you made to UMass, to be here at this podium two years later, show your loyalty, Hobey Baker finalist, what has the past two years meant to you?
CALE MAKAR: Obviously it's very special. Carvie touched on it. Coming into this year, we knew we had a special group. I think it's a credit to everybody on our team coming to the rink every day knowing and wanting to work hard, make everybody else better.
Q. Cale and Jacob, you had shutouts in both of your regional games, but going against a team that also had shutouts. What is going to be critical from an offensive perspective?
JACOB PRITCHARD: Both teams are obviously playing well defensively. It's going to come down to maybe the first goal is a little bit grittier, maybe it's a rebound, maybe it's guys going to the net. We just got to play our game, UMass hockey, and we'll be good.
CALE MAKAR: Yeah, I think exactly what Pritch said. We got to stay to what our strengths are, kind of play to that.
Q. The one advantage that you really do have is a terrific power play that they don't seem to have. How much is the power play going to affect that?
CALE MAKAR: If we get into special teams, it's going to be big for us to be consistent, be able to portray their weaknesses in their zone. We'll look forward to doing that.
THE MODERATOR: Jacob, you good?
JACOB PRITCHARD: I'm all right.
THE MODERATOR: Nothing for us?
JACOB PRITCHARD: Obviously special teams, they win you games. If we can get a goal or two, it's going to be big. Win special team battles, you'll also have a chance to win the game.
Q. Mario, you in Boston played the late game. The first game went to overtime, threw off the timing a little bit. How do you stay prepared and focused playing the late game again?
MARIO FERRARO: Yeah, we've all said this plenty of times. We learned a lesson from Boston. We kind of turned the page on that. We know what's at stake. It's the semifinals, Frozen Four. We got to be dialed in.
It all starts with our practice today. We got it under our belt, went out there, cameras were on us, on the ice for the first time.
Come tomorrow night, it's all business when we get to the rink. All the distractions, count them out. We got to go out there ready to play the first five minutes. We're going to go do that.
Whatever happens in the first game, we're not worried about that. Worried about Denver, and we're going to bring it to them strong.
Q. Jacob and Mario, talk about what it's like to play with a player like Cale. Make it easier for you guys when you're out there?
JACOB PRITCHARD: Yeah, not to pump his tires too much with him right here (smiling).
Obviously he's a pretty special player. When he's on the ice, you know there's a pretty good chance we're going to possess the puck. Makes things a lot easier.
MARIO FERRARO: Like Pritch said, it's obviously really special to be able to play with a guy like Cale. He's a great player, great person off the ice. He pushes you to be better. That's what he's done for the team all year. It's going to continue into this weekend. We're happy to have him on our team.
THE MODERATOR: Other stories here? You can feel, something else cooking here, boys. What don't we know about him?
MARIO FERRARO: He's a huge Marvel fan.
Q. (No microphone.)
CALE MAKAR: Definitely be seeing it.
Q. Cale, when you look back at this season, what were the positives about coming back for a second year as a player, a teammate, as a person?
CALE MAKAR: Yeah, from the beginning, my goal was to go play college for two years. I had some stuff I wanted to work on coming back. I really felt our team could make a run at it this year. We would have the opportunity to play in the Frozen Four.
I think it's just a testament to the teammates, everybody coming back, working hard, everybody making each other better like I touched on earlier.
Q. Did you have a fun year?
CALE MAKAR: Yeah, college is a fun time you get to hang around with these guys every day. We all live in pretty much the same building. We're hanging out with each other 24/7.
Q. Cale, back a while ago, you talked about wanting to have fun at the college level, committing to two years. What do you think you gained as opposed to rushing to an NHL career?
CALE MAKAR: Yeah, I think more experience. There are aspects of my game that needed more work. I felt coming back for another year at this level would ultimately tune those up in order for me to play pro.
I feel like I'm getting to that level and I'm being more consistent now.
Q. Cale, the other two guys sitting next to you. I feel like Mario gets overlooked a lot. What does he bring to this team? What has he done to lead you guys to this point?
CALE MAKAR: Yeah, he's definitely one of the best leaders I've ever played for. Comes to the rink every day with the most energy I've seen out of anybody in the entire world. You know he's going to compete. Every day you step on the ice with him, he's the guy you want to compete against in every single drill, he's going to make you better every single day. He's always one of the last guys in the weight room as well.
Q. And about Jacob, getting here this year as a grad transfer, revolutionizing the power play?
CALE MAKAR: He's just brought such a big sense of experience and calmness. Like I said, a calmness. He comes to the rink every day, he's never going to be a guy that freaks out. He brings his energy, but you know he's going to make guys better. He has a calm presence in the room, reassures everybody that everything is going to be okay at all times.
Q. Coach, Denver is a team that's been here before. UMass is on this big stage for the first time. How are you going about preparing your team for the moment?
GREG CARVEL: Well, we're trying to read the room. We're trying to go out of instincts a little bit. It is the disadvantage of our team, is that we've not been here. But I said this last week. I had the same question in Manchester. I'll take this team without experience over anything else. The quality of the kids that we have, the character, the skill level, their unity, everything, they're a good group.
I'm excited to go into this with them. We don't have that experience, but that's all right. We have a lot of other things I'm excited about.
Q. Cale and Mario, you didn't really face a whole lot of adversity in the regionals. Against Denver, it may be that things go differently. How are you mentally preparing yourselves if you fall behind?
MARIO FERRARO: That's something we've talked about this week, is being mentally prepared, having that mental strength to fight through adversity and whatnot.
But we experienced adversity throughout the year. We've experienced it in Boston. That kind of experience, that game there, has really taught us a lot. We know what we got to do in order to win these games. We know what Denver is going to bring. We know what we have to bring in order to win.
As long as we stick to our compete and our effort, our identity, good things will happen. That's what we're focused on more so than anything, is our own compete level in order to take that game.
CALE MAKAR: Yeah, just touch on the same thing that Mario said: the mental toughness. Two of the last four games of our regular season we were down 3-0, came back in both those games. It's a scenario we're familiar with, being down in the first period. It's not going to change the way we play at all, it's just going to amp us up even more.
Q. What are your impressions of Denver?
CALE MAKAR: I mean, we've watched a lot of clips on them and stuff. They're a very skilled, fast team. We're just going to have to shut them down offensively. They have a lot of key pieces we'll have to be aware of at all times. It's just a factor we need to be prepared for.
JACOB PRITCHARD: Obviously they're a pretty good team. At the end of the day it's what we do, how we execute our systems, how we play UMass hockey that's going to determine our success.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, we'll let you go. Best of luck. We'll continue with questions for Coach Carvel.
Q. You were disappointed with the practice last Tuesday. How do you feel like practice has gone for you over these last six, seven days?
GREG CARVEL: It's a challenge when you have that long break. When your team is playing well, you want to get back out on the ice. You try to balance recharging the batteries, but have them not lose that edge they had two weekends ago in Manchester.
We kept them short, tried to compete as much as we could. That first practice back was, not unexpectedly, the guys were a little too loose. Like I said, we're trying to read the room, push the right buttons, make sure they're ready to go tomorrow night.
We're really good when we start games strong, come out in the first five minutes show we're ready to play. That's a real good sign. That's what we're hoping for tomorrow.
Q. How important do you think guys like Bobby and Jacob are going to be to set the tone, play the physical style, speed, forecheck? Underrated part of your team's game the whole year.
GREG CARVEL: We say to our guys that everybody is responsible to our identity. Not every guy is 6'2" and 200 pounds. Some guys like Bobby are 5'8", 150 pounds. They all have to play with an aggressive mindset that we try to play.
Again, I like my team because they're versatile. They can play a skill game, fast game, physical game. We can do a lot of different things.
Ultimately, this year it happened early, the guys realized when we do this, we're a really good team, really tough to beat. We did that last weekend in Manchester, didn't do the weekend before against Boston College.
At this point of the year the coach shouldn't be doing too much other than staying out of the players' way, trying to keep them on course. That's all I'm trying to do right now.
Q. After the game you talked about the guys feeling a little bit overwhelmed with the atmosphere. First practice out there today, do you feel the guys will be a little bit more comfortable?
GREG CARVEL: Were you watching practice?
GREG CARVEL: You're lucky you missed it (smiling).
The first 10 minutes, not unexpectedly again, wasn't very crisp, wasn't our usual day before a game practice. Called the guys in. Hey, let's take a breath. We've been through this. Same practice we do every day before a game. The guys settled down. We looked faster and crisper as the practice went on.
Again, I'm glad we got to skate today, get that stuff out of the system and be ready to go.
Q. In terms of the adversity, did things maybe even go a little bit too easily for you in the regionals? What things are you mentally doing to prepare the players for things possibly going wrong early?
GREG CARVEL: Did not go too easily. Went great. I thought it was awesome.
Cale mentioned it. We were down 3-0 in the first playoff game of the year. We were down to UNH 3-0 halfway through the game. We've been down. Again, when we start real well, we usually play a good, solid 60 minutes. When we don't start well, we've still proven we can come back in games. I think we were down 2-0 against Boston College, came back and won that game. Again, down to UNH, came back. We have won games where we haven't won the first goal.
As far as adversity, I don't care, when you've played 40 games, you've had adversity, a lot of adversity, whether it's in a game or in practice or an off-ice issue, whatever it is.
This time of the year ideally we score the first goal because two teams playing well defensively. But if we don't score the first goal, it's not like our bench is going to sag and think, Thanks for coming, game's over. We'll keep grinding.
Q. A couple times down the stretch you talked about wanting to push the right buttons with the team. Before you take the ice tomorrow, what kind of buttons are you hoping to push?
GREG CARVEL: Just go out and play. Just play. As coaches we don't oversaturate them with too much information, video, the rest of it. You almost want to just not show them any video, just say, Go play, have fun, play as hard as you can. You guys know what to do.
Again, it's much more important that we do what UMass wants to do rather than trying to prevent Denver from doing what they want to do. Two good hockey teams, great time of the year.
Again, I said earlier, I just need to stay out of their way, not put any pressure, anything else on them. They're a great group of kids. I'm extremely proud of them. Extremely excited for them.
Again, this is a very young team. What they've done in two years to get to this, I don't want to be in the way at all. So I'm excited for them.
THE MODERATOR: You'll be here tomorrow, though?
GREG CARVEL: Yeah, I'll be there (smiling). Had to think for a minute.
Q. When you look at Cale's second season, what did he do this year to improve himself after the rookie year?
GREG CARVEL: He grew up. He's a young kid. Pritch isn't, he's 24 or something. Cale needed to grow up physically. He needed to mature. Extremely self-aware young man.
Last year we play Friday, Saturday. A lot of Saturday nights he turned to us, I can't go, I can't go. That's not a kid ready to go to the NHL. He's matured physically, the weight room. He's a super hockey strong kid. Again, he's only 20 years old. He's going to be a phenomenal player.
The thing I love about his family is they looked at UMass as a complete development stage. This wasn't just a hockey development. They were excited. I think the family really liked the coaching staff, the administration. They really liked the energy that was around the program. They wanted him to learn life lessons, and he has.
This whole year for him, as outstanding as he's been, it's given him good experience on how to handle media before he gets to the next level, the lights get a little bit brighter.
I think his two years at UMass have gone exactly as you could have hoped in the best-case scenario. We got a little bit farther to go to get to the ultimate best-case scenario.
Q. The family did their homework?
GREG CARVEL: Absolutely. We have a tremendous -- I have a close relationship with his dad. His dad is an unbelievable guy. Has his head on. Realized that the first time I met him. We communicate with him all the time. It's a really nice relationship.
I think, again, when they made the coaching change at UMass, they were really comfortable with the fact that I'd coached in the NHL, so the hockey part they thought was going to be covered.
They were just as concerned with the people that were going to be surrounding Cale. That's where I think we really excel, is that we surround our players with really good people who do a really phenomenal job helping them develop.
Q. Pretty simple. The biggest week of the year in your career as a head coach, how are you?
GREG CARVEL: You like to think I'm trying to just make it another week, another game. Similar to my feelings for my players, I'm very proud. It's a very proud week for me and our staff. Very proud of what we've been able to do.
I think one thing that I feel, as well, is I'm proud of what we're doing for the university. It's a big state school. To be able to work up the energy and the support that we have on campus, in town. When I got to UMass, it was definitely missing. From day one, all I've ever said is I want to bring pride to the program, to the alumni, all the guys that wore the jersey before, and for these kids. They're an outstanding group. They've sacrificed, done absolutely everything we've asked of them.
To me, this is a very rewarding weekend. Again, trying to stay out of the way, soak it in as much as I can, and hope that we got two more wins in us.
Q. Do you feel this team is more comfortable in these settings now?
GREG CARVEL: Yeah, it's like anything else: now that we've been through it a couple times, you hope there's a comfort zone, again, because we do lack some experience compared to the other teams here. But that's part of building the program. Hopefully we'll be back here again. This won't be the only time. Someday hopefully we can say, Think back to Buffalo, what we did there.
Q. Looking beyond hockey, what has been your favorite memory from being a part of this program this season?
GREG CARVEL: Favorite memory? That's a tough one.
There's so many things. I think my favorite memory will be coaching Cale Makar. It's been a special opportunity. He's a really special kid. I hope he's rewarded tomorrow, Friday at the ceremony, because I think he's everything that you want out of the Hobey Baker winner.
I'm excited that in the two years, again, it's gone exactly as I hoped it would for him, but it's gone exactly as I hoped it would for us, me and Cale. I really like the relationship we have, the trust that we built, the way that I've been able to coach him, him coach me at the same time.
Other than winning championships, helping Cale develop and - again - not getting in his way, but helping him become the player that he is. I'm just really excited to watch him at the next level because I've coached at that level, too. He's phenomenal. He's going to be a hell of a player.
I really like the fact that my six-year-old son knows him. He knows Cale Makar, and he talks about Cale. He says things like, Dad, look at my cheeks, they're red like Cale Makar's.
Cale doesn't want to talk about the future. He's very much in the now. But I asked him to sign a picture for my son. He did that a couple days ago. I think being able to always know that we had an impact on a guy that's going to be really I think a superstar at the next level has been memorable.
Q. Have you liked what you've seen from Lindberg in practice since Manchester?
GREG CARVEL: I hold my breath and don't look at goalies. We've got two good goalies. I just asked Jared, Who should play? We'll have that conversation here probably on the bus ride.
I don't know who's playing tomorrow. Jared will get mad at me if I told you right now, but I don't know who's playing. I watch our goalies only as something to do. Jared is locked in on them. Again, it's another luxury that I have is to have a really good staff member that takes part of that.
THE MODERATOR: Will you tweet that out to us on the bus ride home?
GREG CARVEL: No (smiling).
Q. You mentioned what Cale has taught you as a coach. What has he taught you?
GREG CARVEL: He's kind of like a barometer for me. At times I'll get too excited on the bench, too emotional, too loud, too something. He'll look at me, might say something to me. Just keeps me in check. He does a great job. He's a very even-keeled kid. That part I respect.
He's one of these kids, as a coach, when you go up to the board, try to explain something to the team, he gets it instantly, the message, whatever it is. So I'll bounce things off of him. He'll let me know, Coach, I don't think they got that. He usually gets it.
But other than that, he's an extremely respectful young man. He's a leader on the team. Mario and Niko, we met with them regularly. He tells you what you need to hear. Again, we all do that. It's a nice part of our team.
We're extremely honest, we communicate a lot. Sometimes it's not what you want to hear, but it makes you better. He buys into that fully.
Q. Your power play is one of the top two in the country. Weakness for Denver. They're number 48. Other than the obvious talent that you have out there on the power play, what is it that makes it so effective?
GREG CARVEL: I think it's having five players who are very good at their roles on the power play, from Marc Del Gaizo's ability on the blueline to Jacob Pritchard on the goal line to Mitchell Chaffee in the slot. I don't know the numbers, but all five of those guys scored goals on the power play. We have a lot of different threats.
Believe me, I won't take credit for the power play. I run it, but these kids, they execute, see the game. They're all very good offensive players. They just go out there and they play. I give them a little bit of structure, a little bit of guidance. They're just good players. They just create the offense mostly themselves.
Q. In your professional time with the Senators, you had a number of battles against Buffalo in this building. Are there any particular fond memories of coming back here?
GREG CARVEL: Yeah, my fondest NHL memory took place in this building. Well, my fondest and also one of the strangest. I was on the staff here when Ray Emery fought Andrew Peters. If any of you saw that, that was the craziest game I was ever involved with. When your starting goalie is fighting the heavyweight from the other team on center ice, it's an event you don't forget.
I think it was the same year, when I was in Ottawa, Buffalo and Ottawa were the best two teams in the Eastern Conference. The year before they beat us in the second round I think in six games, beat us in overtime the last game. The next year, we played here in the Eastern Conference Finals. I was coaching under Bryan Murray. Daniel Alfredsson scored here in overtime to send us to the Stanley Cup Finals. I worked for Bryan 10 years, passed away two years ago, Bryan is one of my greatest mentors, basically a second father to me. I was very fortunate to work with him.
I remember celebrating on the bench with him after we scored that goal. Although we went on to the Stanley Cup Finals, we didn't fare very well. That goal, that game, this building was my highlight during my time in the NHL.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports