Following a disappointing sophomore season, Austin Plevy and his coaches knew he had to refocus and put in the effort to become the player everyone expected him to be coming out of junior hockey.
“At the end of last season [the coaches] challenged me to get in better shape. They had us on campus for six weeks, but I stayed here almost all summer. I committed myself to being a better hockey player. I feel the best I’ve ever felt,” said Plevy, who also interned in the athletic department’s sports information office.
The coaching staff was impressed with his off-season work ethic, and how well he has performed in camp so far.
“We’ve asked a lot of him. During the summer he’s done a lot to show us he wants to be more committed,” said UMass coach Greg Carvel.
“I just feel stronger overall. I’m a smaller guy so I wanted to put on more muscle weight. I needed to get at a higher cardio level and be physically stronger,” said Plevy.
Last year was ripe with disappointment for the Minutemen during Carvel’s first season. The team didn’t always seem to gel and there was a figuring out process, going from former coach John Micheletto to Carvel.
“It was different. Coach Carvel is intense. He knows what he wants. He expects the most from all his players. I needed a little more direction. They’ve been brutally honest with me. It’s been great,” Plevy commented.
Plevy will be counted on to provide offensive punch among upperclassmen on a team dominated by freshmen and sophomores. The Langley, British Columbia native, who had five goals and 10 assists last year, is the team’s leading returning scorer.
“I’m more of a skill-oriented guy. I’m not going to be banging and crashing bodies. Maneuvering quickly, having a quick stick,” said Plevy of his offensive skill set.
The Minutemen have 13 freshmen, including star defensemen Cale Makar and Mario Ferraro. Makar was drafted fourth overall in the NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche while Ferraro was selected in the second round by San Jose.
“They’re great guys to play with. They are guys I can get the puck to or get it back from. It will help us transition and be quicker from the defensive end to start the offense,” Plevy explained.
Makar is the type of special talent that Minutemen faithful hope can turn around the fortunes of the program.
“It’s awesome. He’s a great kid and a great hockey player. He will be an integral part of this hockey program. He’ll be an unbelievable guy moving the puck forward, and on the power play,” said Plevy who played for the same junior team as Makar, the Brooks Bandits.
UMass was picked to finish in a tie for last place with Maine by the coaches in the Hockey East Preseason Poll. Those around the program believe it’s a team destined to finish higher than predicted.
“We know we’re in a transition period. We want to improve from last year. We have some unbelievable pieces. We’ve bought into the program moving forward. We might surprise teams,” said Plevy.
The roster might not be where the coaching staff wants it to be at, but the Minutemen should be more competitive on a nightly basis this season.
“We want to compete. We need to out-battle [opponents]. We have guys that want to go to battle,” said Plevy. “We just have to take it one day at a time. We’re a young team just trying to learn new stuff to become better.”
UMass fans will get their first chance to see the revamped roster Saturday night in an exhibition game against Queens University before the team hits the road for the first three regular season contests.