Basketball and Hockey Season Recap

It is with a heavy heart that I write this article, as UMass now cannot complete any of its remaining winter sports or even begin its spring sports as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic. While the decision is best for the safety of our community and students, it is still sad nonetheless to have to go the rest of the semester without UMass sporting events. This article will reflect on the teams’ seasons and some things to expect for next year’s teams.

– Freeman Alfano and Bri Repetto

Men’s Basketball

Cover Photo: Jessica Hill, AP Photo

While the UMass Men’s Basketball team finished with an overall record of 14-17, their season was highlighted by constant improvement and impressive play from underclassmen. The most notable of those underclassmen, of course, was freshman center Tre Mitchell, who was named A-10 Rookie of the Year after the remainder of the season was cancelled. Mitchell averaged 17 points per game on the season, which was good for first in the conference among rookies. Additionally, he scored 20.8 points per game in the second half of the season, which would have led the conference overall.

Mitchell is a player UMass can really build around for his next three years on campus. The big man can score from anywhere on the court, grabs rebounds on both ends, and seems to improve his defense every game. The only flaw with him right now is his small frame, which can be improved upon during the offseason. If Mitchell gets his weight up, don’t be surprised if he is one of college basketball’s premier centers next season.

Another freshman who contributed to UMass’s success this season was wing TJ Weeks, who led the team in scoring with over 15 points per game until surgery ended his season in December. Weeks was a long-ball specialist who came off the bench and drained over 48 percent of his threes on the year. Him and Mitchell should be a formidable scoring duo for years to come. 

Another scoring contributor throughout the season was junior guard Carl Pierre, who started every game for the Minutemen and averaged over 12 points per game. Samba Diallo, another solid player, averaged over 6 points and five rebounds per game on the season, and the team had an 8-2 record when Diallo scored in double figures. Unfortunately for UMass, the sophomore forward recently announced his decision to transfer; we wish him the best of luck wherever he winds up next.

Towards the end of the season, freshman guard Preston Santos’s addition to the starting lineup provided a huge spark for the Minutemen. In the last 12 games of their season, all of which Santos started in, UMass went 7-5; Santos scored in double figures in half of those games after recording no double-digit scoring efforts before then.

The team will be even deeper at the guard spot next year with the addition of former three-star Massachusetts native Noah Fernandes, who played at Wichita State last season. He will be replacing Sean East, who made his decision to leave UMass last week. We wish the best for East and hope he ends up in a favorable situation next year.

Despite finishing the season under .500, the Men’s team has a promising future ahead. With a trio of skilled freshmen and an up-and-coming star, the Minutemen will be a team no one wants to face next year.

– Freeman Alfano

Women’s Basketball

Thom Kendall, UMass Athletics

The Women’s team fared much better this season, as they finished nine games over .500 with an overall record of 20-11. Despite losing in the second round of the A-10 Tournament, the Minutewomen had an impressive run before then. In December and January, they went on an 11-game winning streak and beat their opponents by an average of 14.3 points per game. 

Although she didn’t suit until December and didn’t start until late January, Penn State transfer Sam Breen was the best player for the Minutewomen once she hit the court. The junior forward averaged over 18 points per game as a starter, which included a stretch of five straight 20-point games. Breen also led the team with 9.2 rebounds per game, and the Minutewomen were 7-1 when she recorded a double-double with the only loss coming by one point.

Outside of Breen, the only other UMass player to average over 15 points per game was Hailey Leidel. The senior also made 41 percent of her threes, creating a dynamic duo with Breen in the frontcourt as players who could score in the post or from distance. However, Leidel has now played her last game as a Minutewoman, and will be sorely missed next year.

In Leidel’s absence, look for first year frontcourt player Maeve Donnelly to step up in her place. As a starter, Donnelly averaged over five points, five rebounds, and two blocks per game this past season. Going forward, she will be a fierce rim protector for UMass, as she had three games with five blocked shots or more, including a 10 block effort against Holy Cross in December.

On the other hand, the backcourt was also a strong suit for the Minutewomen in 2019. The unit was led by Destine Philoxy and Vashnie Perry, who averaged over nine points, three assists, and a steal per game each. Perry, who was a senior, will have her production covered by junior guard Bre Hampton-Bey, whose versatility and defensive prowess keeps the Minutewomen together and competitive whenever she hits the court. 

Although there are some tough departures the team will have to deal with next season, the Minutewomen will be more than prepared with players ready to step up in their place. Behind the impressive scoring ability of Breen, look for UMass to remain competitive in 2020 and continue to battle near the top of the A-10.

– Freeman Alfano

Hockey

Picture from the UMass Daily Collegian 

Nobody could have planned for how this season has come to a close and I sadly have to report that although the regular season has ended, there will be no Hockey East or NCAA tournament this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. That being said, the Minutemen continuously worked hard all season to be able to finish at #9 in USA Hockey and #2 in Hockey East. 

A big thank you is owed to our seniors, captain Niko Hildenbrand, Jack Suter, and Jake McLaughlin. Niko Hildenbrand finishes out his college career with 20 goals, 31 assists, and 135 games played as a Minuteman. Jack Suter closes out with 12 goals, 25 assists, and 123 games played. Last but not least, Jake Mclaughlin finishes with 10 goals, 32 assists, and 137 games played as a Minuteman. In addition, Jake Mclaughlin has also just signed an AHL contract with the Las Vegas Golden Knights to be playing for their AHL team the Chicago Wolves. Although not seniors, Mitchell Chaffee and John Leonard deserve recognition for their contribution as Minutemen as both move on to their NHL careers. Chaffee, who has recently signed with the Minnesota Wild, has had an outstanding college career finishing his junior year with 47 goals, 48 assists, and 108 games played. Leonard signed at the end of March with the San Jose Sharks, the second to do so under Carvel’s coaching. He finishes an amazing college career with 56 career goals, 49 assists, and 105 games played. Congratulations and best of luck to all of you!

The Minutemen faced a tough loss against Boston College in the end of January, but came back and won 5 out of their 7 last games. Beating Providence back to back, with a nice 3-1 win from a goal by Reed Lebester in the first and two goals from Niko Hildenbrand in the third to close it up. The following game, the Minutemen won 5-1 with John Leonard getting his first career hat trick. A huge effort by Oliver Chau pushed the Minutemen to 3-0 going into the third, his goal was assisted by none other than goalie Matt Murrary and defensemen Colin Felix. Jack Suter also scored to close out the game, giving UMass the fifth and final goal and causing Providence to go home defeated.

The week after was the road trip to UMass Lowell, it was unique and interesting as they allowed one of our fans to face one of theirs in a sandwich eating competition in the stands. It looks like we’re used to good dining, because your flagship campus came out on top! This was a battle of a game as it started off with UMass Lowell in the lead, however John Leonard and Bobby Trivingo gave UMass our lead going into the third. Sadly, UMass Lowell was able to score twice in the third, putting them up by one with only a few seconds remaining. Both teams faced a lot of shots on net and close chances that gave rise to the tension in the stands. Many back and forth chants from both UMass schools aided the rivalry and caused one to try and out-chant the other. The bitter defeat didn’t go unmatched as the following night, your Minutemen came back and won 5-3. During the game, John Leonard scored his well deserved second career hat trick.

To close out February, the Minutemen faced UCONN back to back. In the first game of their match-up, the Minutemen faced a difficult defeat 2-3. However, on Saturday the tides turned when we won 4-3 with a huge two goals by Marc Del Gaizo, and goals by Bobby Trivingo, and John Leonard. The final game of the season was a hard-fought victory over Vermont with Matt Murray’s eighth career shutout, stopping all 17 shots on net. The only goal of the game was scored by the birthday boy himself, Reed Lebester, with just about three minutes left in the game. As soon as he scored, the whole crowd literally jumped out of their seats, people banged on the glass, and Mullins Center as a whole erupted in victory. Definitely a hard fought and well deserved win for the Minutemen. 

The Hobey Baker Memorial Award is still scheduled to continue and will announce the winner on April 10. Keep an eye out for John Leonard, who made the top ten finalists. We will find out this Thursday (4/2) if he made the top 3! There were many achievements gained this season by a few of the Minutemen. To begin, both Jake McLaughlin and John Leonard were named as Hockey East First and Third Team All Stars, respectively, as Leonard led the nation with 27 goals this season and McLaughlin led defense in the league in scoring. Leonard also became the first winner of Hockey East Three Stars Award in UMass history. Zac Jones was also named the top point-producing rookie for Hockey East and one of the top rookies in the nation. Thank you for your support all season and make sure to be in Mullins next October to cheer on your Minutemen for their 2020-2021 season! Be safe and see you next year, GO UMASS!

– Bri Repetto


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