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River Hawks Take the Ice

Team Looks to Build on Historic Season

Zack Kamrass trains. Bob Ellis photo
Sophomore defenseman Zack Kamrass trains with his teammates in the new hockey performance center. Photo by Bob Ellis.

By Julia Gavin

When the River Hawks hit the ice against the University of Vermont on Oct. 12, they’ll be bigger, stronger, faster and even more in tune with each other than last season. With the completion of the new hockey performance center and a summer of training together behind them, the men’s ice hockey team is ready to improve on their exemplary 2011-12 season.

“Fans can expect that we will be the hardest working team on the ice and will play Lowell-style hockey,” says senior business management major and team captain Riley Wetmore. “If we follow our coaching staff and their philosophy, we’ll have great success this season. We have the best fans in college hockey, and we will give them 110 percent every night.”

While Wetmore’s positive attitude and work ethic are longstanding traditions in Lowell hockey, the team’s training has been overhauled. The new performance center at the Tsongas Center, which includes a hockey-specific training area and conference room, will help the team maximize its workouts, says Devan McConnell, director of sports performance for the Athletics Department.

“The new facility will help us take our training to the next level and do things not possible in the old gym,” says McConnell, who joined the River Hawks last year and helped design the training center. “Everything is planned to improve their performance on the ice. The key in our methodology is consistency. I work with the team every day, even though we only lift twice a week and everything is focused on honing their skills and keeping the players healthy.”

Several squat racks, sets of adjustable dumbbells, stationary bikes and other equipment allow the entire team to work out together. One equipment area that is already popular is the synthetic ice, a large section of specialized flooring where the players can practice on skates without using ice time or damaging equipment.

“Shooting pucks is a lot of muscle memory and it’s important to practice from the same level as when on the ice,” says second-year coach Norm Bazin. “Stick handling, dribbling, the knee bend and followthrough are all keys to shooting and made more realistic on the synthetic ice.”

Bazin also believes that having the team stay on campus for the summer and take a class together while training will improve their success this season.
“Hockey is chemistry and camaraderie,” says Bazin. “We had good chemistry last year, we wouldn’t have had the season we did without it, but the more time the team spends together the better we’ll be.”

High Goals for 2012-13 Season

Although they’re ranked No. 7 nationally and No. 2 in Hockey East pre-season polls, the team and coaches are not letting predictions get in the way of their focused training.

“We trained very hard this summer off-ice getting bigger, stronger and faster for this upcoming season. Now, we’re taking that training to the ice and getting into ‘hockey shape,’” says Wetmore. “We have great leadership throughout our team, and everyone holds each other accountable not only on the ice, but in the classroom as well.”

That leadership stems from Coach Bazin, who says he expects excellence from his entire team, staff and himself on and off the ice. And to stay focused, he’s not spending much time thinking about the season ahead.

“Every year has its challenges and I’m cautiously optimistic right now,” says Bazin. “I’m excited for the new season, but still want more time to train our guys. A coach always wants more time.”

Bazin and the team have every reason to be excited for the new season. The River Hawks return 18 players from one of the strongest seasons in program history as UMass Lowell went 24-13-1 overall, earning its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1996. Under the Hockey East Coach of the Year, Bazin, the River Hawks completed the second largest turnaround in Division I NCAA history, winning 19 more games than the previous season.

In addition to its regional games, UMass Lowell is set to play the University of Denver on Oct. 19 and Colorado College on Oct. 20. Home games at the Tsongas Center, which was recently ranked No. 13 worldwide for its size in Venues Today magazine, will have themes and guests including indoor fireworks at the home opener, a visit from Milan Lucic on Nov. 16 and pink ice for breast cancer awareness on Jan. 26. 

For a full list of promotions and ticket information, visit the River Hawks website. For more photos of the new training center, visit our gallery on Facebook.