Big goals are in Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar’s DNA

Like a life Colorado avalanche fan who attended the University of Massachusetts a decade before Cale Makar arrived on campus, I felt inspired to write an article about last night’s hero and the greatest player in college hockey history .

A culture-changing first year

Makar came to UMass in 2017, joining the program at its absolute nadir. Aside from the 2003-04 season and the Jonathan Quick years from 2005 to 2007, UMass hockey has never been a very competitive team, but the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons have found new lows for the program, while UMass combined to go 13-53-6 in those nightmarish years. No one would have blamed Makar for transferring to another school before his first season, especially as the coach who recruited him, John Micheletto, was fired after the club’s worst four-year spell. history of the program.

But that’s not how Makar is hardwired, as he stuck with a program that desperately needed him, and he remained under new head coach Greg Carvel to help transform UMass from a perennial doormat into a a national power. After just four games in his freshman year, coach Carvel amazed to his new star defender.

Makar’s first season helped restore some respectability to Amherst as the team finished just under .500, but it was Hockey East’s opening-round playoff opener against Vermont that served as an exit party. Trailing 2-0 to start the third period, Makar assisted on a power-play goal a minute later to fire the Minutemen in one, setting the stage for a moment that is etched in every UMass fan’s memory. About eight minutes later, he traveled coast to coast for a highlight reel lens who showed his ability to pick up the slack in the game’s greatest moments and set the stage for a magical second season that catapulted the program into a new era.

Second year dominance

The 2018-19 UMass hockey season was something veterans like me could only have dreamed of. They broke the school record for wins with 31, eclipsing the mark set in Jon Quick’s senior year on campus of 21, while Makar won the Hobey Baker award as college hockey’s top player. from the country. He opened the season with a statement game, scoring one goal and assisting two more to help UMass upset No. 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 Hockey East’s regular season title race extremely close between multiple teams, Makar dominated perhaps the most publicized regular season home game in UMass history against the eternal power and Boston College’s hated rival. 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 the two teams tied at three and the final seconds of the third period dwindling, Makar showed his immense hockey IQ and innate ability to pass pucks through traffic, doing his usual magic dancing along the blue line before tossing the puck to the net, creating a wild ride that ended with UMass winning the game winner with just three seconds to go. It prompted UMass to sweep BC the following night at Chestnut Hill and win five of its final seven games, escaping a tight chase and clinching the first Hockey East regular season title in program history.

With UMass only entering its second NCAA tournament, Makar once again took center stage. After coming away with just one assist in UMass’ tournament opener in a defensive struggle against Harvard, Makar scored another goal that is etched in the memory of all UMass fans, firing an absolute howitzer through our Lady to put a second-round matchup out of reach to help send UMass to its very first four frozenwhere they won a legendary game in overtime against the University of Denver before running out of gas against Minnesota-Duluth in the national championship.

NHL Superstar

We all know how the legend grows from here. While fighting through tears after his last college game and saying how he didn’t want to take off his UMass jersey and “wear it as long as possible,” Makar jumped straight into the pressure cooker of the NHL playoffs days later and scored his first career goal which ended up being the winner of the deciding game 3 against the Calgary Flames.

The next two years helped Avalanche fans become familiar with the greatness of Cale Makar, as his magic on the ice was made all the more impressive by his humility and leadership qualities which quickly conquered the entire locker room of the Avalanche. Scoring or assisting on goals in big moments went from a surprise to an expectation as it became clear the new Avs star was a rookie in name only. His skills and mindset proved to everyone how advanced he was for his age, and it was no surprise to any UMass fan that Makar was quickly trusted to carry an ‘A’. on his jersey as an alternate captain in his second full season. in the NHL.

The heroism of last night’s overtime was normal for the NHL’s top defenseman, as Avalanche coach Jared Bednar echoes Makar’s college coach in his enthusiastic praise of Makar’s work ethic that helped the Avs win Game 2.

Makar had 23 shots on the net last night, and over the past 15 years the single player to reach this mark in the regular season or in the playoffs is the greatest scorer of this era, Alex Ovechkin.

You didn’t have to watch Makar rise through the college ranks to realize just how special he is – watch any NHL game from his brief career and it’s glaringly obvious to even the most casual hockey fan – but his journey from a talented but defensively flawed freshman to a dominating NHL 200-footer just four years later is filled with a litany of examples of a young defenseman slowly growing in his role as game breaker who strikes fear into the hearts of his opponents during the greatest moments.

Makar had every opportunity to take an easier path to the big leagues, but the character and tenacity he developed in the face of adversity to help lift a program out of the college hockey slump served him well. prepared for anything the NHL could throw at him. Cale Makar’s legend was forged in countless big games at UMass before he soared in the bright lights of the NHL playoffs, and last night’s OT winner was just another moment magic in what looks like a Hall of Fame career for a special player who clearly has the so-called “clutch gene.”

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