AMHERST, Mass. – Adding to his list of accolades this week, UMass hockey junior forward Branden Gracel (Calgary, Alberta/ Fort McMurray (AJHL)) has been selected as the Athletic Republic Hockey East Player of the Month, the conference office announced on Thursday. Gracel is the third Minuteman in program history to earn Player of the Month recognition, and the first since October 2009.
Over six games in the month of December, Gracel totaled a league-best nine points on three goals and six assists while winning 85 of 131 faceoffs (64.9%) to help UMass to a 3-3-0 record. Beginning with a three-assist outing in a 6-3 win over Northeastern, Gracel logged his name on the score sheet in five of six contests, including three multi-point efforts.
He capped off the month by helping the Minutemen win the Ledyard Classic with a goal and three assists over the two games on his way to Tournament MVP honors. Gracel assisted the game-winner against Bemidji State and scored his third game-winner of the season in the championship against No. 10 Dartmouth as UMass handed the Big Green their first home loss of the year. For his efforts, the Calgary, Alberta, native was named the Hockey East Player of the Week for the first time in his career.
On a career-high eight goals to go along with nine assists, Gracel currently leads the Minutemen in scoring with 17 points in 18 games. He sits among the Hockey East leaders in points (7th), goals (t-6th), assists (t-9th), game winning goals (t-2nd) and boasts the conference's best faceoff percentage at 61.8% (201-of-325).