UMass hockey’s LaRue ready for increased responsibility

By Jason Kates

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(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

After nearly four years of hard work and patience, Massachusetts hockey player Zack LaRue is finally seeing his efforts pay off. Prior to the season opener versus Boston University, the senior was rewarded for his leadership and commitment to the program by being named an alternate captain along with fellow senior Oleg Yevenko.

“First of all, it’s an honor to be assistant captain for this school,” LaRue said. “It’s been easy following in the footsteps of (captain Troy Power). He’s been a great leader and a great roommate. He’s helped us all and led the way for us.”

LaRue, an Ontario native, played in every game for the Minutemen last year and recorded four points. UMass coach John Micheletto – who has coached LaRue since his sophomore year – praised the forward for his dedication to becoming a better player.

“I’ve been impressed for the two-plus years that I’ve been here that Zack just does things the right way,” Micheletto said. “If not the hardest, he’s among the hardest working guys we have. He’s physically very fit and he takes his training in the offseason equally as diligent as he does when someone is watching him here.”

Micheletto also commended LaRue on being a player who cares about his teammates and is always conscientious about helping out others, regardless of his own performance.
“If they need a tap on the shin guards and a positive word he’s there for them,” Micheletto said. “That, combined with his work ethic, has really garnered the respect of his teammates.”

As a senior on a UMass team that has 15 underclassmen, LaRue was already viewed as a leader, and that role will only increase now.

“(The underclassmen) have made it really easy for me,” LaRue said. “All of these guys come from either winning programs or leadership roles back at their junior teams, so they know what it’s like. If they have questions, I’ve been here for three years so showing them the ropes hasn’t been difficult at all.”

“I want to help them as much as I can and I’m happy if they feel comfortable coming to me whenever they need something.”

Micheletto said that LaRue was an important leader for the team, but rejected the idea that LaRue had to step up. Instead, Micheletto said that the alternate captaincy was a result of the qualities LaRue had shown before being given the “A”.

“How he deals with other guys and the concern he has for his teammates won’t change now that he’s got a letter on his shirt, and that’s that beauty of it,” Micheletto said. “These guys have really embraced being leaders, even without (being alternate captains) prior to last weekend.”

During LaRue’s first three years with the Minutemen, UMass failed to record a winning season. It’s something LaRue would like to change, especially as a senior in his final season.

“It means everything to me. This is the last time I pull this jersey over me, so I want to go out with a bang,” LaRue said. “I unfortunately haven’t had a winning season since I’ve been here and I plan on changing that. I expect big things from this group.”

Like Micheletto, Power complimented LaRue on his ability to do things the right way, and do them efficiently.

“Zack is a prime example of a guy who comes in everyday and does things the way they should be done,” Power said. “He’s a hard worker, is a vocal leader, and also leads by example. It’s very deserving that him and Oleg both got assistant captain.”

Finally, Micheletto complemented LaRue on his consistency.

“What Zack does is very consistent. He’s going to get up and down the wings, he’s going to utilize his speed in all situations, and will funnel pucks to the net in the offensive zone whenever he gets the puck on his stick,” the said.

“In the last two years he’s embraced that role, and has been really good at it,” Micheletto said. “This year we’re hoping he can expand his role a little bit more, and know he is capable of doing so.”

Jason Kates can be reached at [email protected] and followed @Jason_Kates