UMass Lowell Connector Logo

Amazin’ Bazin: Lowell legend leading hockey team to new heights

A vocal teammate during his playing days, Coach Bazin knows what to say to get his teams fired up. (George DeLuca/Connector)

Kyle Gaudette
Connector Editor

The rugged walls of UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Center now protect a new dynasty built off a tough brand of hockey on the ice, and that dynasty is led by a man who bleeds River Hawk blue.

If Norm Bazin did not become a Lowell legend after his playing days for the River Hawks ended in 1994 with a trip to the second round of the NCAA Division I tournament, then he is doing so now with his work as the head honcho on the bench. In now his fifth year as UMass Lowell’s head hockey coach, Bazin has transformed the River Hawks from a middle-of-the-road Hockey East competitor into a national powerhouse.

In arguably the toughest conference in college hockey, UMass Lowell has made it to four consecutive Hockey East championship games, won two of those and made a run to the Frozen Four in 2013. This is the fourth time in Hockey East history that a team has made it to four consecutive title games, and UMass Lowell is the third team to accomplish such a feat – Maine made it to seven straight from 1987-93, and Boston College made it to four straight from 1998-01 and 2005-08.

“The culture around here is very healthy and very strong,” said Bazin. “The guys expect a lot of each other and hold each other accountable. We have great leadership coming from our Chancellor and Athletic Director, and the guys just really buy in to the program that we’ve put in place here.”

When head coach Blaise MacDonald left after the 2011 season, Bazin was a popular candidate to take over the program. During his playing career as a River Hawk, Bazin tallied 32 goals and 36 assists in 134 games. He also received the coveted Unsung Hero award from his teammates during his senior campaign when he scored 20 goals and assisted on 15 others.

The River Hawks experienced their best season-to-season turnaround the year Bazin took over. After inheriting a team that went 5-25-4 the year prior, Bazin coached his 2011-12 squad to a 24-13-1 record, and a tie for second in Hockey East. With NCAA Tournament game(s) still to play this season, Bazin currently sits with a 123-56-18 record as UMass Lowell’s head coach – a .601 winning percentage which places him second all-time among UMass Lowell coaches behind Bill Riley’s .801 mark.

“It’s a real privilege and honor to be here after my playing days,” said Bazin. “I’m really proud of the program and the great leadership we have. The success is a credit to the culture and the team’s that have come through. We can compete with anyone in the country. To get to the championship game we beat B.C. the last week of the regular season, then B.U. and Providence. That’s a heck of a statement because you won’t find a better set of opponents out there. It’s exciting for the program.”

The current River Hawks run of success has been nothing short of sensational. While the quality of talent on the ice has improved and developed over Bazin’s time with the team, there is no denying that the top-tier prospects are still looking at the universities with greater notoriety.

Just looking at Hockey East alums, UMass Lowell currently ranks tied for eighth in the conference with only three active players on NHL rosters. Boston College leads all Hockey East schools with 16, followed by Boston University at 11 and Maine at seven.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to wait for first-round type guys to sit on our doorstep,” said Bazin. “I mean if we ever had a first-rounder wanting to come here we would never turn them away, but generally, we get the guys who were late bloomers when it comes to hockey – which is okay. We want our guys to be hard-working more than anything, and that is how we’ve won the amount of games we have recently.”

“They’re mature and deep,” said Boston University head coach David Quinn. “They have no stars other than the goalie. It’s just a group of a lot of good players. They keep the game very simple, and you have to appreciate that.”

C.J. Smith leads this year’s incarnation of River Hawks with 39 points on 18 goals, and shot-stopper Kevin Boyle recorded a school-record seven shutouts this season as well as a 58-save performance in the team’s 2-1 victory over Providence in the Hockey East semi-final game. After those two, however, the team’s stats are a log-jam of players all producing the same offensive output – something that has become a staple of the Bazin-led UMass Lowell squads.

Above all else, Bazin knows what makes up a winning formula on the ice. His experiences with the game of hockey are astounding, and his team’s exhibit the grit and never-say-die attitude that replicate Lowell itself. The next Bobby Orr is probably not going to be suiting up in the home team locker room at the Tsongas Center, but that does not matter to the coach. For Bazin, as long as he is giving back to the community that gave so much to him, winning a bunch of hockey games is just a bonus.

“We’re very much like the city of Lowell,” said Bazin. “Our program is based around hard work, and the guys holding each other accountable to be their best. We’re tough and resilient like the people of Lowell, and our goal will always be to give them a hockey team to be proud of.”

Editor’s note: This article was written before the River Hawks’ NCAA East Regional matchups against Yale and Quinnipiac Saturday and Sunday nights, respectively.

Related posts