Hockey Notebook: Minutemen can’t secure win in Belfast, ink six signees for next season
The Massachusetts hockey team returned home from its more than 6,000-mile round trip journey to Belfast this weekend after playing in the Friendship Four.
UMass (3-7-2, 1-5-1 Hockey East) fell to Hockey East foe No. 20 Vermont 4-2 and battled No. 19 St. Lawrence to a 2-2 tie. The Minutemen held leads in both contests but failed to close the door on overseas victories.
Freshmen Griff Jeszka and Shane Bear tallied the goals against the Catamounts while Austin Plevy and Niko Hildenbrand scored in the two goal tie with the Saints.
The offensive attack showed more presence in the offensive zone with plenty of shots on net. UMass outshot St. Lawrence 37-28 and had 35 against Vermont, besting its season average of 24.4 shots per game.
The Minutemen welcome No. 12 Notre Dame to Mullins Center for a pair of games this weekend as Hockey East play continues to ramp up.
UMass signed six student-athletes to National Letters of Intent during the November early signing period.
The group consists of three forwards, two defensemen and goaltender Matthew Murray.
Five of the six players were rated on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list. Ontario natives Mario Ferraro (defenseman) and Philip Lagunov (forward) are Canadian signees, along with defensemen Cale Makar and Murray, who both reside in Alberta.
Murray is a member of the Fargo Force of the USHL. Through the first 13 games of the season, he holds a save percentage of .908 with a 2.60 goals-against average.
“[He’s] an athletic goaltender that has the ability to make big saves,” Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said in a press release. “He handles the puck well and loves to compete. Matt is a strong skater, challenges well and he can go side-to-side in the blink of an eye.”
Makar is a 5-foot-10 defensemen for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Makar tallied 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 19 games thus far this season, and was the 2016 RBC Cup Top Defensemen and Most Valuable Player.
Fellow defensemen Ferraro plays on the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL after spending three seasons with the Toronto Patriots of the USHL. He has six points with five assists this season.
“Mario is a smart, competitive, puck-moving defenseman that has quick hands and ability to create offense off the rush,” Carvel said. “Cale is a dynamic offensive defenseman who should have an immediate impact on our power play, as well as creating offense from the blue line.”
As for the homegrown signees, forward John Leonard is a homegrown player right here in Amherst. Leonard is in his second season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, scoring 10 goals on 16 points in his 66 game career thus far. He led all Massachusetts state high school players in scoring in 2014-15 with 75 points (47 goals, 28 assists) and was selected as the 2014-15 Western Massachusetts player of the year with Springfield Cathedral.
“John is an athletic forward that has a knack for scoring. He has slick hands and the ability to score highlight reel goals. John will be an asset on our power play, because he can make something out of nothing with his heavy shot and quick hands.”
Forward Mitchell Chaffee of the Bloomington Thunder from the USHL also signed on Nov. 11. Chaffee has 15 points on eight goals and seven assists in his 64 career games with a goal and an assist in six 2016-17 games. Chaffee is a Michigan native.
“[He’s] a power forward that has a heavy shot. He consistently wins battles and opens up space for teammates with his strength, being a bull in a china shop. Mitch has a great ability to make plays and take pucks to the net.”
Lagunov rounded out the signees on Nov. 16. The forward from Ontario is in his second season with the Burlington Cougars of the OJHL and has 25 points in 23 games this season.
“He has quick hands and the ability to make plays at high speed,” Carvel said. “Philip is quick along walls and strong on the puck. He is versatile as he can play on the wing, but is also comfortable in the middle, being strong on draws.”
The newest additions will be sure to factor into the lineup when arriving to Amherst to contribute to the young UMass team nest season.
Kyle DaLuz can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.