In the year of COVID-19, UMass Amherst’s NCAA men’s ice hockey championship has been a shot in the arm for the entire campus, and it has had particular impact for Isenberg—15 of the team’s 21 players are Isenberg student-athletes. They represent five of the school’s seven majors, including Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Management, OIM, and Sport Management.
“Isenberg is a magnet for high-quality, high-character kids,” notes head coach Greg Carvel, himself a 1998 sport management MS grad. “They are extremely focused students and athletes. Getting into Isenberg is itself an accomplishment. The school helps us attract quality people.”
In his five years as head coach, Carvel (left) has been a change agent extraordinaire. When he arrived as head coach in 2016, the team was in disarray. In his second year, the team posted a 12-win improvement. In his third, it made it to the national championship game. Last year, the playoffs were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but this spring the team repeated its trip to the Frozen Four tournament, this time winning it all. “We attract the right people, but we’ve built the right culture as well,” he observes. “That means holding everyone to the highest standards. There are no shortcuts; everyone must play at their absolute best and support one another. Everything comes down to relationships and respect; how you treat people. We live by those values every day.”
Forward Anthony Del Gaizo, a third-year OIM major, says the team’s core values include integrity, connection, and commitment. “For me, it’s a first to have a culture’s values instilled so explicitly. That helps me internalize and apply them, on and off the ice.” Senior finance major George Mika (also a forward) concurs: “Those ‘intangibles’ will resonate in work and life long after graduation.”
Senior goal keeper Matt Murray says, “We believe in our work ethic and in one another.” A native of Alberta, the dual sport management/finance major credits Carvel’s program for much of his personal growth. “You go through things, physical and emotional,” he remarks. “Training and the gym impact you emotionally. So does your focus on not losing. It can alter your grasp of reality.” Dealing constructively with all that, he insists, strengthens your game and your business mindset.
“Everyone on the team—coaches and trainers included—commits 100 percent to our core values,” adds junior forward and sport management major Bobby Trivigno. “Our coaches and staff care more about you than most bosses in business.” One of the team’s coaches, he adds, focuses on mental training, like building confidence and mental toughness. He guides the players in positive imagery and breathing exercises, employing heart rate variability and other devices. “I think his work is a secret sauce,” says Trivigno.
After graduation, Murray, Trivigno, and Del Gaizo want a crack at professional hockey. Del Gaizo will earn a master’s degree in alternative investments from Isenberg and Mika will join an investment house full time. “I’m planning on 80-hour workweeks,” he says. All four are confident that their Isenberg skill sets will prevail after hockey. “Sport management gives you the option of a second major,” notes Murray. “Mine is finance, where I’ve learned general financial skills, including real estate. I want to keep as many doors open as possible.”