Rangers have their eyes on UMass star Bobby Trivigno

When hockey fans think of UMass, the name that usually comes to mind is Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar.

And rightly so. After becoming the first UMass player to win the Hobey Baker, college hockey’s most prestigious award, Makar made a memorable jump to the Colorado roster in the first round of the 2019 playoffs before winning the Calder Trophy in his first full season in the NHL. Makar is now in contention for the Norris Trophy and leads all defensemen in points this season, in which the 23-year-old has already amassed 71 points.

Anyone who has seen UMass’ transformation into one of college hockey’s powerhouses will tell you that Bobby Trivigno was at the center of it.

The New York Rangers know it too.

“Anyone can talk about Cale Makar,” UMass head coach Greg Carvel told The Post in a recent phone interview. “But the guy who for me will go down in history for changing this program is Bobby Trivigno.

Bobby Trivigno plays for UMass
Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics

“He’s not the hockey player that Cale Makar is, but what he’s done for four years here – two Hockey East championships, a regular season championship and a national championship – he’s more responsible for the success of this. program than any other player.

Trivigno, an undrafted forward from Setauket, New York, has been on the Rangers radar for some time. He would have attended Rangers development camp this year were it not for NCAA rules that prohibit players from missing school for NHL events, but a source claims the pesky 5-foot-8 competitor has previously encountered members of the front office on Broadway.

If the stars align for Trivigno, there could be a contract with the team he grew up waiting for him at the end of his senior season early next month. Because he was undrafted, he is eligible to sign with any team at the end of the season.

Madison Square Garden is already familiar territory for Trivigno, whose family had season tickets when he was younger. Trivigno said he even remembers seeing current chairman and general manager Chris Drury during his playing days with the Blueshirts.

Bobby Trivigno celebrates the UMass National Championship
Bobby Trivigno celebrates the UMass Hockey East Championship
Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics

Trivigno’s style of play checks all the boxes Drury decided to add to the Rangers this past offseason, but his resume speaks for itself. A top-10 finalist and Hobey Baker favorite this year, Trivigno just led UMass to back-to-back Hockey East championships and was a two-time tournament MVP in the process. He was also recently named UMass Student Athlete of the Winter Season.

Last year, UMass won its first national championship in program history. It wouldn’t have been possible without Trivigno’s assist after 14½ minutes of overtime in the semi-final against Minnesota Duluth, earning him Frozen Four MVP honors and a spot on the team. All Tournament.

“I think the success I’ve had here with our teams has definitely prepared me in a way for the next level,” said Trivigno, who is the captain of UMass. “Whether it’s in the playoffs or in big games, big games. I think the only difference would probably be more fans in attendance.

Carvel, who served as an NHL assistant coach for the Ducks and Senators, watched a few of his UMass players turn pros. Besides Makar, there are Mario Ferraro and John Leonard from the Sharks, and Zac Jones from the Rangers.

Carvel said he knew Trivigno was going to find a way to impact games at the top level.

Despite his size, Trivigno is still the most conditioned, disciplined and hard-working player on the ice, according to Carvel. Not only will Trivigno’s consistency earn the trust of an NHL coach, Carvel said, but his speed and skating abilities should also separate him from the pack.

Bobby Trivigno plays for UMass
Bobby Trivigno plays for UMass
Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics

“His willpower really makes up for that size difference,” Carvel said. “Throw a puck in the corner with him and anyone at that level, I don’t care how big the other person is, he’ll come out more often than not.

“We used to start almost every video session with him knocking someone over twice his size.”

When UMass first reached the Frozen Four in Trivigno’s first season and Makar’s final year in 2018-19, the former was suspended for the league game for an illegal head check during the semi final.

UMass lost 3-0, but Carvel argues Trivigno may have made a significant difference. That proved likely when UMass cruised to a 5-0 win in their second title crack.

“Without him on this team this year, we’re a hugely different team,” Carvel said. “His impact on this team alone is greater than any player I’ve coached at this level.”

Makar is known for his elite skills and hockey IQ beyond his years. Trivigno is known for its heart and game-changing impact that comes from within.

The Avalanche has a UMass star. Rangers could get the other one.

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