Carvel took over as the St. Lawrence head coach in the spring of 2012, taking on a team that lost five of its first six games of the previous season before finishing below .500. In the 2014-15 season, Carvel’s third year with the program, the Saints went on to win 20 games, including a trip to the semifinals of the Eastern College Athletic Conference Tournament.
In three seasons, he had three players signed to NHL free agent contracts and coached four All-Americans. At one point the Saints had the No. 1 ranked power play in the country and the No. 1 goal-scoring forward and defenseman in the country, and six of Carvel’s players were invited to NHL development camps in 2015.
When Athletic Director Ryan Bamford first hired Carvel, the former NHL staffer felt as though there was a “pall” over the program, which rubbed him the wrong way. He came in understanding there was a lot of work to be done, a culture to be adjusted and a new standard to be set.
And he dove in, head first.
“I walked into the locker room one day and I said, ‘this program is not Zoomass, — we’re Newmass and we’re going to lead the way,’” Carvel recalled. “We want to be the team on this campus that leads the way, elevates and plays at a certain standard.”
In just two years with UMass, Carvel spearheaded the largest one-year turnaround in program history; a 12-win improvement, the biggest in Division I hockey for the 2017-18 season. The program hosted and won its first postseason series since 2007 and recruited a top-three nationally-ranked freshman class in 2017-18, all under Carvel’s leadership.
"I walked into the locker room one day and I said, 'this program is not ZooMass -- we're NewMass and we're going to lead the way." - Greg Carvel
Last season, the Minutemen led the nation in freshmen scoring, accumulating the most goals (67) registered by a UMass freshman class in the Hockey East era, topped off with program second-best marks in assists (102) and points (169).
“I like our gradual move up the ladder,” Carvel said. “I’ll take sixth in the [Hockey East 2018-19 Preseason Coaches’ Poll.] I think that’s where we deserve to be. We have to prove a lot more.”
“I think this team could do great things this year. Last year, we could sneak up on teams, that won’t happen anymore.”
The current Minutemen roster is made up of 15 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders, returning 17 players from last seasons’ 17-20-2 squad. Niko Hildenbrand, Kurt Keats and Ivan Chukarov are the only members who weren’t recruited by Carvel and his staff, but he says that he doesn’t think they feel a difference.
“It does help when you have kids that you recruited yourself, there's a different connection with them,” Carvel said. “But everyone who is on this team right now, I don't think anyone feels like outsiders. There's been enough kids that have left the program that if you're still here, you deserve to be here.”