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January 8, 2018

UMass defensemen register all four goals in 4-0 victory over Merrimack

Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts hockey team showed up to play on Saturday night and defeated Merrimack College 4-0 at the Mullins Center to snap its two-game losing streak.

In its first Hockey East Association matchup of the season, the UMass (4-3, 1-0-0 Hockey East) defense really stepped up on both sides of the puck, registering all four goals while aiding freshman goaltender Matt Murray to his first career shutout.

With all four tallies coming from defensemen (Jake McLaughlin, Eetu Torpstrӧm, Cale Makar and Josh Couturier), Minutemen coach Greg Carvel was pleased with the contributions from his blueliners.

“I always want our defenseman to be a part of the offense. The guys skate well and they’re offensive-minded so we don’t hold them back,” Carvel said. “We try to play a system where we’re getting them the puck in offensive situations. A big part of our game plan tonight was to try to get them the puck in the offensive zone.”

Four of the six UMass defenseman in the Minutemen lineup tallied goals. Three of those four, from Torpstrӧm, Makar and Couturier, came as firsts for the UMass first-years.

“Good teams have a back end that really makes their offense go,” Carvel said. “I think we have that capability here.”

McLaughlin, a sophomore defender, got things started for UMass at 13:37, when a large scrum in front of the Merrimack net resulted in a loose puck, who then shoved it home past Warriors (0-4-2, 0-1-0 HE) netminder Drew Vogler.

According to Carvel: “[McLaughlin] was really good. I thought it was his best game by far.”

Nearly two minutes after McLaughlin’s second goal of the season, a flashy assist from Philip Lagunov, who registered two helpers on the night, allowed Torpstrom the opportunity to net his first goal.

Makar and Couturier added a pair of their own in the second period. Makar’s unassisted shot from the high slot resulted in his first goal at the collegiate level. Couturier’s tally comes as his first playing for the Minutemen since transferring from Boston College and redshirting an entire season following his freshman year.

The defense also excelled on taking care of the man-advantage, stopping Merrimack on each of their five opportunities, an aspect of the game that the unit struggled with last weekend, giving up two to OSU on Friday.

“Through seven games we haven’t won the special teams battle too many times but tonight I think it was pretty dominant for us,” Carvel said. “Merrimack did a good job last week scoring a handful of power play goals so to get them five opportunities tonight was playing with fire. But I thought our penalty kill was excellent. We were in good shooting lanes and we took away the options they wanted to use.”

Following its success tonight, the penalty kill group moves to 31-for-35 on the season.

Matt Murray finished with 21 saves in net for UMass and captured the first shutout of his collegiate career.

Liam Flaherty can be reached at lpflaherty@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.

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