BUFFALO — There are a lot of responsibilities a team has to deal with when navigating its way to a championship. Travel arrangements must be made, team meals planned, media obligations fulfilled.
Another key duty would be scouting the next opponent, but UMass coach Greg Carvel initially left the task of watching video of Minnesota Duluth to his assistant coaches after the Minutemen dispatched Denver, 4-3, in overtime Thursday night/Friday morning. Carvel will have time later to get a look at the Bulldogs, with the championship game scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m.
There were more pressing concerns the coach was facing.
“I’ll share a secret with you,’’ Carvel said toward the end of his Friday afternoon press conference. “My parents go to Florida and I go visit them every year with my kids, and that’s kind of our getaway. In September, I made a flight for April 13 at 6:30 for a family trip. Then in February, I was like ‘Oh my god.’ ’’
Carvel paused as his realization that he booked his vacation the night of the championship game drew a round of laughs, but he wasn’t finished.
“So this morning I had to make changes to my flight reservation. It was the happiest $200 per flight I’ll ever make. But that’s been the biggest stress in my family,’’ Carvel said, before offering an impersonation of his kids. “‘When are we going to get to Florida? How do we get to Florida?’ I said ‘We’re going to Buffalo and hopefully stay there.’ So that consumed an hour of my morning and that’s all set.’’
Carvel’s story seemed to be an indication that UMass was feeling pretty loose on the eve of its first national championship appearance. The good feelings may have been tempered a little bit later, after the NCAA announced that freshman forward Bobby Trivigno would be suspended for the game as a result of a hit to the head of Denver’s Jake Durflinger with 3:10 left in regulation Thursday.
Trivigno skated at right wing on the second line against Denver and had 13 goals and 15 assists in 39 games. He was not whistled for a penalty on the play, but teammates Niko Hildenbrand and Mitchell Chaffee were handed five-minute majors and game misconducts for hits to the head earlier in the game. (Denver’s Ryan Barrow was as well.)
“In the course of the game, the two kids that got kicked out, when those hits happened, I wasn’t thinking, ‘They’re going to be kicked out of the game,’ ’’ said Carvel, before Trivgno’s suspension was announced. “You’ve seen our team play. We check. It’s hockey. You run into people. I guess they unfortunately hit heads first. I honestly haven’t really gone back to dissect them.
“But that’s our identity. You play hard. I don’t think Duluth is any different. There’s always the line that you can’t hit the guy in the head. I don’t consider ourselves a team that looks for that. But I consider ourselves a team that we want to be a heavy team, we want to be hard, we want the physical part of the game to be a factor that goes in our favor.
“We won’t change anything except ask the guys to be a little more disciplined in how they go about it.’’
To win their first national title, the Minutemen will have to beat a Duluth team playing in its third straight championship game. The last school to pull that off was Boston College from 2006 through 2008. The Bulldogs are also looking to be the first school to repeat as champions since Denver won in 2004 and 2005.
Duluth coach Scott Sandelin bristled at the notion that his team has the advantage due to its experience, pointing instead to UMass’s 31-9 record.
“All I know is you win 31 games, you’re a damn good hockey team. And they are,’’ said Sandelin, who will become the ninth head coach to appear in at least four championship games. “Yeah, we have been here before. But when the puck drops, it’s a hockey game regardless of who’s played how many games. Hopefully our guys, because they’ve been there, will start the game well and hopefully play their best game.
“It’s going to be a great hockey game.’’