UMass defenseman Cale Makar to return for another season with Minutemen

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar will return for another season with the Minutemen. THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar will return for another season with the Minutemen. THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar, right, will return for another season with the Minutemen. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 4/1/2018 10:07:08 PM

No matter what happened there was going to be increased optimism around the UMass hockey team heading into the 2018-19 season. The Minutemen took a big step with a young team and finished strong.

Just how much optimism depended on whether freshmen defensemen Cale Makar and Mario Ferraro, who were both Hockey East All-Rookie Team selections, opted to return. Ferraro pledged to come back immediately. On Saturday, Makar, the New England co-rookie of the year, confirmed he too would have a sophomore year in Amherst.

On a podcast with Tyler King, a communications manager for the Brooks Bandits, Makar’s junior team, Makar announced that he planned to spend at least one more season in college.

Makar, the No. 4 overall pick of the Colorado Avalanche, had five goals and 16 assists in his first collegiate season. According to multiple sources, the Avalanche offered him a chance to sign a contract and turn professional after the season, but the Alberta native opted to continue his development at UMass.

UMass coach Greg Carvel thought is was a good decision for Makar and a great development for the Minutemen.

“I think it’s really important for our program. His staying is going to help us take that next step. I think he’s going to have a stellar season and really help us,” Carvel said. “At the beginning of the year we discussed a two-year plan. I think Cale is a very honest evaluator of himself and he wanted to make sure he was completely ready before he takes the next step. It’s a big step, if you’re not ready it starts your pro career in not the most advantageous way. Cale felt he had some things to prove at this level.”

Carvel said he appreciated the communication from Makar and the Avalanche throughout the process.

“We knew he was talking to Colorado and we were respectful of that process. Colorado has been very good to us and the communication has been very good,” Carvel said. “We’re all making sure where we’d all like to be in terms of his development. It’s been a very good process overall with them.”

UMass has been burned by defections before. After the 2014-15 season, Frank Vatrano and Brandon Montour both departed; Vatrano following his first full season as a Minuteman and Montour after a semester. UMass bottomed out going 8-24-4 the following year.

Carvel said Makar’s decision could send a message to future recruits that a top NHL draft pick thought his career development was best served playing for UMass.

“I think it’s a huge statement that a kid who has the option to move on stays to be part of what we’re doing,” said Carvel, a former NHL assistant coach. “We take a lot of pride with a No. 4 draft pick in our program of helping him develop. He’s showing a whole lot of trust in me and my staff. We have to make sure we’re doing all we can to help him. ”

Carvel welcomed the added expectations that come with the excitement surrounding the team coming back.

“I like the fact that the players are thinking big. It’s good to have goals but it’s what you do day to day that’s going to get you results,” he said. “As soon as we lost the game at Northeastern, the players were excited about what we could possibly do next year. We’re going to set a goal of playing in the Hockey East championships in Boston. That’s a reasonable goal for us. Hopefully we can go even beyond that.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage



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