Trivigno drawing on college experiences as he makes pro debut

Photo: Kelly Shea

📝 by Alex Thomas | AHL On The Beat

As the seconds ticked off the clock at PPG Paints Arena on April 10, 2021, there was only one reality in the minds of University of Massachusetts forward Bobby Trivigno and defenseman Zac Jones.

That reality was that they were national champions, that they would be bringing college hockey’s ultimate prize back to Western Massachusetts for the first time ever.

One other reality that wasn’t in their minds that night? That it very well could be the final time that Trivigno and Jones would suit up together in a hockey game.

Trivigno would return to UMass for his senior season in 2021-22, another year in which the Minutemen won the Hockey East Tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Jones, meanwhile, would sign an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers three days after the triumph in Pittsburgh.

It seemed like these two star players’ paths were going separate ways. However, it took them less than a year to come together again.

On April 1, Trivigno agreed to an entry-level contract of his own with the Rangers, choosing the club as an undrafted free agent. The native of Setauket, New York, was coming off a career season in which he scored 20 goals and 29 assists in just 37 games for the Minutemen.

Less than 24 hours later, Trivigno was in Connecticut signing an amateur tryout agreement with the Hartford Wolf Pack. And just hours after that, he was making his professional debut inside the XL Center against the Syracuse Crunch.

Smiling next to him, joking in the pregame warmups, was Jones.

From the NCAA tournament to the Calder Cup Playoff push, Jones and Trivigno are together again in search of their second championship.

“It’s awesome to have a familiar face in the locker room,” Trivigno said. “When you come to a new team, a lot of the time you don’t know anyone, but in this situation, I was fortunate enough to know someone on the team before coming here. It’s great playing with him again because I know what he is capable of. Zac has been very helpful with giving me advice on adjusting to everything pro hockey has to offer. Having someone that I’m already close with and has played pro hockey for a year has definitely helped me a ton.”

Trivigno certainly didn’t look like a rookie in his debut, setting up two goals in an eventual 8-5 defeat against the Crunch. He’s played in all six games he’s been on the roster for, games that have had a playoff-like atmosphere as the Wolf Pack chase down their first postseason berth since 2015.

“At UMass, we played in some pretty big games,” Trivigno said. “We played in a championship game every year I was at UMass where the stakes were really high. I feel like being in those situations has helped me deal with the playoff push going on in Hartford.”

Trivigno wasn’t just in those situations while at UMass. He thrived in them. He was named to the All-Tournament Team following his national championship triumph in 2021, while also securing MVP honors. In that 5-0 victory over St. Cloud State, Trivigno scored the final goal that put the exclamation mark on a dominating performance by the Minutemen

Not every big game was peachy for Trivigno and the Minutemen, however. Their 2021-22 season ended with a 4-3 overtime loss to the University of Minnesota in the first round of this year’s NCAA tournament on March 25. Just a few weeks prior, the club came up short on their regular season goal of winning Hockey East.

“There were times at UMass where we did exactly what we wanted to do, win championships. Then there were times where we came up short and didn’t reach our goal,” Trivigno said. “This season, we wanted to win the regular season Hockey East title. We needed one point to clinch it in a two-game series against Boston College. We got swept by them and Northeastern ended up winning the regular season. We responded really well and won Hockey East playoffs.”

That experience could only help Trivigno, who joined the Wolf Pack in the midst of the club’s first seven-game losing streak since the 2018-19 season. He learned a valuable lesson from a painful final weekend of the Hockey East regular season that he’s been able to apply in his early days in the Connecticut capital.

“Every single game matters, every point matters,” he continued. “With the positioning in our division, any team is going to be able to make those last couple playoff spots. It might come down to a decimal in our win percentage to determine if we are in or out. It’s critical we just take it one game at a time, do our job, and win some hockey games.”

The Wolf Pack did win a hockey game, the first Trivigno has been a part of, on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte.

Despite recent struggles, the Wolf Pack still control their own destiny for a playoff berth as they barrel down the stretch. For the second season in a row, Trivigno is chasing down the dream of a championship with his good friend Jones by his side. This time, it’s the Calder Cup they are after.