"It was kind of overwhelming," junior Brett Stern said. "This year, we know what we're getting into."
The Mavericks lost 4-0 to Miami in the first game of last year's tournament, their first NCAA appearance in a decade.
Returning players, such as Stern, and coach Mike Hastings said the team is better prepared this time around because they knew what to expect when they arrived here Thursday evening.
"That doesn’t guarantee us any different result than what happened last year," Hastings said. "We’re going to have to go out and play."
For the seniors on the UMass-Lowell team, the program’s turnaround actually began in Mankato.
After a five-win season in 2010-11, the River Hawks got a new coach, Norm Bazin, and are now in their third consecutive NCAA tournament.
Bazin’s first two games were at Minnesota State, and Lowell stunned the Mavericks, sweeping the series 4-2 and 4-1.
“We didn’t know what to expect going into that weekend,” senior Joseph Pendenza said. “It was a new staff, a new system. We were just trying to go out there and work as hard as we could. We weren’t necessarily trying to get two wins. We were just trying to get back the Lowell identity and the Lowell work ethic.”
Hayes’ new home
The DCU Center is home to the Worcester Sharks, an American Hockey League team and affiliate of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.
Last season’s MSU captain Eriah Hayes plays for Worcester, which is on the road.
“Eriah’s been a guy that since I walked in the door that I looked up to,” McInnis said. “He’s been a guy I relied on to look up to and kind of chase and watch his work ethic over the years.”
Hayes has eight goals and 13 points in 48 games for Worcester. He also spent 15 games in the NHL.
“It’s been fun to watch him get to the next level because he put a lot of work into where he’s at now,” McInnis said. “And he’s getting results, so it’s been fun to watch.”