An attitude change brought in by former Colorado College assistant Norm Bazin paid immediate dividends for his alma mater, UMass-Lowell.
“Any new coach brings in their own philosophy and for us that was competiveness in practice and accountability throughout,” Bazin said. “They certainly feel everyone is held to the same standard.”
It paid off last season with an NCAA Tournament berth and win over Miami after UML managed five wins the year before.
This season, the River Hawks (28-10-2) enter their first Frozen Four after winning the league regular-season and playoff championships.
Those three program bests earned Bazin his second Hockey East Coach of the Year award, a league first. Those awards make it four top coach honors in a row for Bazin, who won the New England Small College Athletic Conference award the two seasons prior after turning Division III Hamilton College around.
He received his first Spencer Penrose Award for national Division I Coach of the year on Wednesday.
“The coaching staff has been excellent motivating and teaching us,” junior forward Josh Holmstrom of Colorado Springs said. “Coaches Bazin, (former CC assistant Jason) Lammers and (Cam) Ellsworth all do a special job preparing us.”
UML’s success is thanks to a strong defense anchored by freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck (20-2, 1.31 goals against) and his eye-popping .953 saves percentage. He replaced junior Doug Carr (8-8-1, 2.79, .897), who led UML to the NCAAs last season, after this season's Colorado College game.
The program’s cultural change is reflected on campus with students and faculty excitedly talking about a hockey program that was almost eliminated six years ago. That was only a couple of years after Bazin nearly died when his vehicle was struck by a drunk driver during a CC recruiting trip.
Like UML, he has left the past behind, saying only “every day is a good day.”
It certainly is to be a River Hawk. The school is elevating all its athletic programs to Division I status and large crowds fill the Tsongas Center or wherever they play.
“Just being a part of the team is something special,” captain Riley Wetmore said. “Being around campus and seeing so many smiles on peoples’ faces and having people talking about hockey is a great feeling. The highlight so far has to be playing at the (TD Ameritrade) Garden and looking behind our bench and seeing a sea of blue.”
2013 Frozen Four
Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh
No. 3 Massachusetts-Lowell (28-10-2) vs. No. 15 Yale (20-12-3), 2:30 p.m.
UML resume – Hockey East regular-season and playoff champs (both program firsts); Northeast regional winner
Leaders - Scott Wilson, So., F (16g, 21a); Joseph Pendenza, Jr., F (14g, 23a); Derek Arnold, Jr., F (13g, 16a); Riley Wetmore, Sr., F (15g, 11a); Josh Holmstrom, Jr., F (12g, 12a); Chad Ruhwedel, Jr., D (7g, 16a); Christian Folin, Fr., D (6g, 15a); Connor Hellebuyck, Fr., G (20-2, 1.31 goals against, .953 saves percentage).
Yale resume – ECAC third-place finisher; West regional winner
Leaders - Kenny Agostino, Jr., F (17g, 23a); Andrew Miller, Sr., F (16g, 21a); Antoine Laganiere, Sr., F (14g, 13a); Tommy Fallen, Fr., D (7g, 16a); Jesse Root, Fr., F (11g, 11a); Stu Wilson, Fr., F (9g, 8a); Jeff Malcolm, Sr., G (18-6-2, 2.35 gaa, .916 saves).
No. 9 St. Cloud State (25-15-1) vs. No. 1 Quinnipiac (29-7-5), 6 p.m.
SCSU resume – co-Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season champion; Midwest regional winner
Leaders – Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist Drew LeBlanc, Sr., F (13g, 37a); Nic Dowd, Jr., F (14g, 25a); Jonny Brodzinski, Fr., F (22g, 11a); Kalle Kossila, Fr., F (15g, 18a); Ben Hanowski, Sr., F (17g, 14a); Nick Jensen, Jr., D (4g, 27a); Andrew Prochno, So., D (5g, 23a); Ryan Faragher, So., G (24-13-1, 2.22 goals, .916 saves).
Quinnipiac resume – ECAC regular-season champion, East regional winner
Leaders - Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist Eric Hartzell, Sr., G (29-6-5, 1.55, 9.33); Matthew Peca, So., F (15g, 15g); Jeremy Langlois, Sr., F (12g, 18a); Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Jr., F (16g, 11a); Connor Jones, Jr., F (12g, 14a); Kellen Jones, Jr., F (12g, 14a).