The goalie had planned to take the season off before re-joining the program for 2013-14, but when backup Anthony Stolarz left the team Jan. 6, UNO coach Dean Blais got in contact and Massa registered for classes Jan. 7 and joined the Mavericks for practice Jan. 8. Massa, who had been in town practicing with the Omaha Lancers, is still planning to redshirt and serve as the Mavs’ third goalie, unless there is an injury or other unforeseen circumstance involving John Faulkner and Dayn Belfour. As a freshman last season, the 6-foot, 179-pounder from Littleton, Colo., earned the majority of the Mavs’ minutes in net, going 7-8-2 with a 2.60 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. But he struggled in most of his starts after suffering a concussion in a Jan. 20 game against Minnesota State-Mankato.
Q: What’s it like to be back?
A: It’s great to be back in this locker room, with this team and with all these guys. We’ve got an amazing group of guys and they welcomed me back with open arms. It was certainly a whirlwind few days to get everything situated. It was pretty crazy making sure all the T’s were crossed and all the I’s were dotted.
Q: So you had no plans to enroll in school before that Monday (Jan. 7)?
A: No. The plan was to take the year off. I got a job up at J.Crew in Village Pointe and they were awesome in being really flexible with my schedule so I could practice and work out (with the Lancers). It gave me a chance to stay in shape, and it made the transition very easy.
Q: So how did Dean contact you?
A: I was playing ping-pong in the (Lancers’) players lounge, and he opened the door and said he wanted to talk to me. I was a little surprised. He just said he had an interesting opportunity, that Anthony had left and they wanted to get me in as soon as possible. He gave me the option. He said he didn’t want to disrupt me or the Lancers, but I said without a doubt, skating with some of the best players in the WCHA, I definitely wanted to be a part of that.
Q: That was right around noon or early in the afternoon that day. What happened next?
A: I practiced with the Lancers, and then I started working with (Director of Hockey Operations) Sam Spomer, making sure I got an appointment with my adviser at the business school as early as possible the next day, and by the skin of my teeth I got into a bunch of classes I needed and walked out with my schedule. I ended up missing only two classes because of late registration, and I was in a class Tuesday night. Physical the next morning and my first practice was after that.
Q: What led to your decision to take this year off?
A: The way last season ended, I was kind of disappointed with the way I finished. I didn’t feel like I was the same after my concussion. The NCAA gives you five years to play four and I needed to take a step back and find that hunger, that passion, again that I needed to be successful.
Q: It was announced from the start that you planned to take a year off and then come back, so the fact that Anthony was coming in and John and Dayn were coming back wasn’t a factor?
A: There was no plan, zero chance, negative zero chance, of going anywhere else or looking at anywhere else. I made a commitment to come play at UNO and commitment is a big thing for me. I love it here. I love Omaha, I love Coach Blais and I love this team. There was a lot going on (with the goalie situation), but it had no impact on my decision whatsoever.
Q: Do you feel like you’re back where you want to be in terms of that hunger and passion you were trying to find?
A: I got a lot of reps with the Lancers and since I wasn’t in class I had the opportunity to be there early in the morning and leave early in the evening. I was able to really focus and refine some of those things I really wanted to improve upon and I really feel the transition has been smooth.
Q: Why not just redshirt this season in the first place, go to school and practice with the team?
A: For me it was a change of scenery, taking a step back from everything and having an opportunity to clear my head and refocus. But at this point, I was definitely ready. I was getting that itch right before Christmas, so it all worked out really well. I’m happy to be back in class again, too.
Q: And so you’re definitely going to sit out the rest of this season and you’re OK with that?
A: Absolutely. That’s the plan. Take it day by day. John has been solid in net and the team has been playing well.
Q: You’re redshirting but you’re also the backup plan in case something should happen to John or Dayn, so would you be OK with playing if pressed into duty because of injury?
A: I’m right here. I sat down with Coach Blais and he said he wanted to preserve the redshirt so I would have three years left. But if, heaven forbid, something like that came up, I’m preparing myself every day in practice right now to make sure I’m ready. That’s all I can do. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.