Transfer Jacob Pritchard needs no introduction By Mollie Walker

Photos by Collegian Photo Editor Caroline O'Connor and Collegian Staff.

Senior transfer Jacob Pritchard was familiar with the Massachusetts hockey team before he even got there.

The 6-foot forward left St. Lawrence University after three seasons, one of which, his first, he spent under now UMass coach Greg Carvel and assistant coach Jared DeMichiel. That year ended up being Carvel and his staff’s last year in Canton, New York before they took over the Minutemen.

“I loved my freshman year playing under [Carvel],” Pritchard recalled, “with D-Mike [DeMichiel] and Luther [peak performance consultant Mark Randall] and B [director of operations Brennan McHugh] and a bunch of guys who were here too.

“I absolutely loved [playing at St. Lawrence] and it was the most fun I've ever had playing hockey, so I decided to come back for my senior year with them."

The Michigan native finished his rookie season as a Saint on a 13-game scoring streak and tied for fifth overall among all Eastern College Athletic Conference rookies in scoring with 21 points. Despite struggling with an injury early in the year, Pritchard was named to the ECAC All-Rookie team for the 2015-16 season.

His sophomore year saw a season-opening six-game point streak on the way to an eventual career-high 22 points on nine goals and 13 assists. He notched another nine goals as a junior, recording double-digit assists again and leading the team with four power play goals. To top off his career at St. Lawrence, Pritchard was named to the ECAC All-Academic Team.

Carvel is excited for Pritchard. He spoke highly of his former recruit, noting his tremendous academics as well as his character. He considers the 23-year-old to be an ideal fit for a competitive culture.

“I think he's a hell of a hockey player,” Carvel said. “Everybody loves him, he's just positive energy. He very quickly ingratiated himself into the team and I want him to have a great, enjoyable, memorable season here."

The third-year coach intends for Pritchard to step up as a goal scorer. Carvel knows that his stats at Saint justify his capability, but thinks he will have to get accustomed to the new league and playing with a new team before he can find “exactly where within that he can excel.”

“And he will,” Carvel nodded.

In practice leading up to and during the preseason exhibition matchup with the Royal Military College of Canada this past Saturday, Pritchard skated on the starting line with John Leonard and Philip Lagunov. Leonard, who was drafted 182nd overall by the San Jose Sharks this past summer, took note of Pritchard’s previous success at St. Lawrence.

The sophomore considers Pritchard to be a “great locker room guy,” someone that is always fun to be around — but mostly importantly, Lagunov considers him a good teammate, who had “no problem fitting in.”

“Last year I played with Phil the entire year and then right now he's in the middle of [me and Pritchard],” Leonard said. “I've got some [chemistry] with Phil and now also playing with Pritchard for about a month or so. He's a great player who likes to shoot the puck, same as me, likes to create offense. So, I think we'll work well together this year."

Putting Leonard, who led UMass in scoring last year with 28 points (13 goals and 15 assists), on the same line as Pritchard was a move that Carvel believes teams will take notice of come the season.

Carvel is pleased with how much depth has been added to his group of scorers, with the transfer of Pritchard as well as the addition of Bobby Trivigno and Anthony Del Gaizo this offseason. But Pritchard, who notched a goal and assist during the exhibition game, might be even more thrilled about it.

“I was on a team that won eight games, so it's tough you're always looking at what other teams are doing,” Pritchard recalled. “I want to create offense, score goals, be in the top six. Just produce offensively, that's what I'm best at and that's why I'm here."

Senior Kurt Keats is also familiar with Pritchard’s offensive abilities after the two played for the Powell River Kings in the British Columbia Hockey League in 2014-15. Pritchard said that when he first announced that he was leaving St. Lawrence, Keats was one of the first to text him.

Keats said that Pritchard is exactly the type of player that he remembers playing with in the Junior League, referring to him as a “character guy” and a “glue guy that you want to have around in the room.”

“[He’s] definitely skilled with the puck,” Keats said, “and he makes plays that will just kind of wow you and stuff like that. I think, he'll probably tell you too, his shot and release is the best part of his game."

If you asked anybody on the team, Pritchard has integrated into the program seamlessly. The combination of his will to win with a developing squad that could use a tenacious attitude in the offensive zone, could prove to be lethal this season.

“At the end of the day I saw a team that won 17 games last year,” Pritchard said, “they were all coming back this year and then with the coaching staff that I know is going to build a successful culture. I see that number rising and I'm excited to be a part of it."

Mollie Walker can be reached at molliewalker@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @MWalker2019.

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