as a lifelong colorado avalanche fan who attended the university of massachusetts a decade before cale makar came to campus, i was inspired to write an article about last night’s hero and the best player in the history of college hockey.
a first year that changes culture
makar came to umass in 2017 and joined the program at its absolute lowest point. Aside from the 2003-04 season and jonathan’s fast years of 2005 to 2007, umass hockey was never a very competitive team, however the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons found new lows for the program as umass became he combined to be 13-53-6 in those nightmare years. No one would have blamed Makar for transferring to a different school before his freshman year, especially since the coach who recruited him, John Micheletto, was fired after the worst four-year streak in the show’s history.
But that’s not how Makar is connected, as he remained loyal to a program that desperately needed him, remaining under new head coach Greg Carvel to help transform umass from a perennial doormat into a national powerhouse. After just four games his freshman year, Coach Carvel marveled at his new star defenseman.
makar’s first season helped restore some respectability to amherst, as the team finished just under .500, but it was game 1 of the first round of the eastern hockey playoffs against vermont that served like your coming out party. Down 2-0 to start the third period, Makar assisted on a one-minute power play goal to bring the minutes closer to one, setting the stage for a moment that is etched in the memory of all UMass fans. About eight minutes later, he went coast to coast for an unassisted highlight-reel goal that showcased his ability to take control in the game’s biggest moments and set the stage for a magical second season that catapulted the show into a new era. .
second year domain
The 2018-19 umass hockey season was something alumni like me could only have dreamed of. They broke the school record for wins with 31, eclipsing Jon Quick’s senior-setting mark on campus of 21, while Makar won the Hobey Baker Award as the best college hockey player in the country. He opened the season with a statement game, scoring a goal and assisting on two more to help UMass defeat #1 Ohio State in Columbus, announcing that the Minutemen had arrived on the national stage as a force to be reckoned with.
in late february, with the hockey east regular season title chase extremely close between several teams, makar dominated perhaps the most hyped regular season home game in umass history against the perennial power and the hated rival boston college. He scored a key goal late in the first period to cut the deficit to 2-1 before finding future Nhler John Leonard at the back post on the power play to tie the game at 2-2 midway through the second. With both teams tied at three with the final seconds in the third period dwindling, Makar showed off his immense hockey IQ and innate ability to get pucks through traffic, working his usual magic by dancing along the blue line before throwing the puck into the net, creating a crazy scramble that ended with umass scoring the game winner with just three seconds to go. This caused umass to sweep bc the next night at chestnut hill and win five of their last seven games, escaping a close chase and capturing the first regular season hockey east title in show history.
as umass entered its second ncaa tournament, makar once again took center stage. After coming out with just one assist in UMASS’s tournament opener game in a defensive struggle against Harvard, Makar scored another goal that is seared into the memory of all UMass fans, firing an absolute howitzer through Notre Dame. to put a second-round game beyond reach to help send umass to its first frozen four, where they won a legendary game against the university of denver before running out of gas against minnesota-duluth in the national championship.
we all know how the legend grows from here. While struggling through tears after his last college game and saying he didn’t want to take off his umass jersey and “wear it as much as he could,” Makar jumped right into the NHL playoff pressure cooker a couple days later and scored the His first career goal that ended up being the game winner in a pivotal Game 3 against the Calgary Flames.
The next two years helped avs fans become familiar with the greatness of cale makar as his magic on the ice was made even more impressive by his humility and leadership skills that quickly won over the entire avs locker room. avalanche. scoring or assisting goals in big moments went from surprise to expectation, as it became clear the new AVS star was a rookie in name only. both his skill set and way of thinking showed everyone just how advanced he was for his age, and it came as no surprise to any umass fans that they quickly trusted makar to wear an “a” on his sweater as assistant captain in solo his second full season in the nhl.
last night’s overtime exploits were par for the course for the nhl’s best defenseman, as avalanche coach jared bednar echoed makar’s college coach in his effusive praise of makar’s work ethic which helped avs win game 2.
makar directed 23 shots into the net last night, and in the last 15 years, the only player to reach that mark in a regular season or playoff game is this era’s leading scorer, alex ovechkin.
You didn’t need to see Makar climb the college ranks to understand how special he is; watch any nhl game of his brief career and it’s apparent to even the most casual hockey fan, but his journey from a talented but defensively flawed freshman to a dominant 200-foot nhl force just four years later it’s filled with a litany of examples of a young defender slowly growing into his role as a groundbreaker who strikes fear into the hearts of his opponents during the biggest moments.
makar had every opportunity to take an easier path to the big leagues, but the character and tenacity he developed through the adversity of helping bring a program out of the stagnation of college hockey prepared him well for all that was ahead. the nhl could throw him. legend cale makar forged himself in countless big games at umass before multiplying tenfold under the bright lights of the nhl playoffs, and last night’s winner was another magical moment in what seems to be a career in the living room of the fame for a special player who clearly has the so-called “clutch gene”.