By Elle Lucas and Tom Mathiasen
Last week, the St. Lawrence cam- pus was abruptly informed that Skating Saints Head Coach Greg Carvel ‘93 had accepted the head coaching position at UMass Amherst. The news made waves in the St. Lawrence and greater Canton communities as rumors began to swirl regarding Carvel’s decision to leave the coaching job here and the future of St. Lawrence hockey. There was confusion as to Carvel’s motives to leave St. Lawrence and Canton, a place where he not only grew up but also played during his college years and spent the last four years as a head coach.
During a phone interview with Carvel on Wednesday evening, he discussed the decision to take the position at UMass explaining that “this was not a job that I went after.” After the Saints were defeated in Lake Placid by Harvard on March 18, Carvel was approached by UMass Athletic Director Ryan Bamford and presented with an opportunity to interview for the head coaching position. Carvel said “that this was not your normal job interview,” and it “became clear that [Bamford] had his sights set on me.”
Ever a student of the game, Carvel said he “saw [the interview] as an opportunity to get an inside look into another hockey program and see how St. Lawrence compared and how I could make St. Lawrence better.” Bamford’s search for a new head coach began after former coach John Micheletto was fired at the end of the Minutemen’s season. An article by the Daily Collegian published on March 15 mentioned Carvel, along with others, as a potential replacement for Micheletto. With a master’s degree in sports management from Isenberg at UMass, experience coaching under Jack Arena at Amherst College in 1996, and his wife’s family ties in the Amherst community, Carvel’s background – combined with Bamford’s offer – set a foundation for his choice to leave St. Lawrence.
When offered the position, Carvel accepted, expressing that coaching at Amherst seemed like an appropriate next step. “We all – anyone who’s ambitious takes on a project and they do the best they can. And they try as hard as they can and they give everything they can if that’s their makeup. And I feel like that’s my makeup.”
Before confirming his new post, Carvel consulted friends and col- leagues, including Joe Marsh, former Saints Head Coach, and current Athletic Director Bob Durocher. “They all understood and gave me their blessing,” said Carvel.
“We are very appreciative of what Greg has done for the hockey pro- gram in his four seasons as head coach,” said Durocher. “He has taken us to top four finishes in each of the last two seasons in a highly competitive Division I hockey league and served as a great mentor for our student-athletes.
We wish Greg well in his new position at University of Massachusetts-Amherst.”
Despite sentiments from Carvel and Durocher, however, disappointment lingers on campus in the wake of the shocking news. Many have struggled to find answers regarding Carvel’s sudden departure, as he was not only a native son but also a prominent figure in student and alumni circles.
“He’s had such success over the last four years and made many great relationships,” said Alex Camerino ’16, who has attended every home game for which he’s been on campus. “Why would he leave after such a short time?” It was not a stretch to imagine the Skating Saints as ECAC champions under Carvel’s leadership, but those dreams were quickly shattered.
While the players have not been as vocal on the issue, defenseman Ben Masella ’17 has shared optimism for the team’s future. “We view this change as an opportunity for better things, even though Coach Carvel will be tough to replace,” he said. “Whoever our new coach is, they will be inheriting a team that has all the tools to win a championship. I know that whoever steps in will enjoy coaching this group and coaching in this culture for years to come.”
Carvel’s move to UMass has left a level of uncertainty for the program going forward. While Carvel was unable to comment on the ongoing process to find his replacement and what will become of his staff, he expressed confidence in the athletic department’s ability to bring in new talent. It has been speculated by some that his replacement will come from an in-house candidate, while others expect a coach to come from a national search.
In the meantime, Associate Head Coach Mike Hurlbut ’89 will be running the day-to-day operations of the team until a new coach is hired. “I am confident that our program is in excellent hands with Mike and that the transition in our coaching staff will be a smooth one,” said Durocher.
As Carvel has been organizing the move to UMass, he admitted that “the timing wasn’t great, but the job posed a great challenge for me. You don’t know when an opportunity like this will present itself,” he elaborated, “and the different vision and direction UMass offered interested me. I left a job I could have had for the rest of my life, but making a career out of taking risks has helped me grow as a person.”
In making his final decision, Carvel added, “I put everything I had into making the St. Lawrence hockey program as good as it could be and I did that because I played in the program, I went to the school, I grew up in the town…I loved every single minute of it. Every part of the job.”
The Hockey East division will undoubtedly expose Carvel to a new caliber of competition, including teams with storied pasts such as Boston University and Boston College. “There are certain players who come to play in Hockey East,” said Carvel, implying the level of individual talent within the division.
Looking ahead to his career at UMass, Carvel took the time to reflect on his impact on the SLU hockey program. “I can leave knowing that I gave everything I could and that the program is in a better spot than when I got here. I gave my heart and soul to this program. Saints Hockey is a family,” he said.
In his final comments, the passion and pride he has for his alma mater – and its biggest rival – was evident. Carvel recalled the double-overtime
victory against Clarkson earlier this year as his fondest memory. “They thought they were going to roll over us, and they didn’t,” he said. “That’s as good as Appleton’s been in a long time.”
Though Carvel’s time at St. Lawrence has come to a close, he wanted students to know this: “I will always be a Skating Saint. I earned it as a player. I earned it as a coach.”
Additional reporting contributed by Jordan Sheridan ‘17.