UMass Lowell River Hawks head coach Norm Bazin is in the early stages of putting next season’s team together. One of the decisions that needed to be made was the captains for the 2023-24 team. There will be two captains for next year’s hockey team. Senior defenseman Ben Meeham of Walpole, MA. and graduate forward Jake Stella of Karlstad, Sweden have been chosen to wear the “C” on their sweaters for next season. The decision was based in part by comments from both the coaching staff and returning players. Everyone felt that these two were the best choices for that important role of leadership both on and off the ice.
Over the past two seasons, Ben Meeham has established himself as a very good two-way player for the River Hawks. This past year, Meeham put up career highs in points with 17 and assists with 13. He played in 34 games for UMass Lowell in 2022-23. He scored four goals on the season, with two coming on the powerplay. Meeham was willing to give up his body as well, blocking 39 shots on the year. He was also a valuable member of a penalty-killing unit that was one of the best in the country. He was a -1 in plus/minus on the season. Meeham had highs in both penalties (3 vs Providence on February 2, 2023, and penalty minutes with 15 vs UNH on January 21, 2023).
Jake Stella came to Lowell as a graduate transfer and quickly found himself getting plenty of ice time up front for the River Hawks. His ability to block shots, he led the forwards with 25 blocks a season ago, and his ability to win faceoffs in all three zones (257 wins, .523 faceoff rate) helped him to gain the trust of the coaching staff which led to more ice time. Stella had four goals and nine assists for 13 points in 36 games. Two of those four goals came on the powerplay, He scored both PP goals on November 4th, 2022 vs Vermont. Stella also came through in big moments for the hockey team as his one overtime goal and one game-winning goal would suggest. He put 39 shots on goal and was a -1 in plus/minus on the year. Despite a hard-hitting style of play, Stella only committed two penalties during the hockey season.
Both of these guys will be given the responsibility of helping the new group of freshmen that will be arriving over the summer a chance to get settled in with their new surroundings before the fall semester gets underway. While it is rare to name captains so soon after a season has finished, Coach Bazin felt it was not necessary to wait until later this spring or even this summer to make the announcement.
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