UMass’ second line playing and succeeding with young talent early in the season.

By Jason Kates

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(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

When asked how he came about forming the line of Ray Pigozzi, Steven Iacobellis, and Patrick Lee, Massachusetts head coach John Micheletto joked and simply replied, “coaching genius.”

Although Micheletto was joking around, his coaching decision was exactly that, genius. The unofficial second line’s performance in the win against Michigan State this past Saturday pleased Micheletto as the line combined for three goals and 10 points in a 4-3 victory against the Spartans.

“Last year Ray and Steven had such great chemistry together with Troy (Power) really showing them the ropes of college hockey, so we wanted to take advantage of the chemistry they already had,” Micheletto said. “Then we’re looking at skill sets that complemented them. Patrick can certainly play the game at an elite level, along with his puck skills and hands.

“If (Saturday) night was any indication, they’re really starting to come together with knowing where each other are and how to utilize each other to the maximum. They’ve clearly done the work to make it successful.”

Three games into the season Iacobellis leads the Minutemen with four points (two goals, two assists), while Lee (one goal, two assists) and Pigozzi (three assists) have three points apiece. This past week, Iacobellis was named Hockey East Player of the Week after performing well in all four of UMass’ goals against Michigan State, scoring two and assisting on the others.

Despite struggling in the first two games of the season, Pigozzi believes he and his linemates have picked things up.

“I think we’ve done a good job,” he said. “I think we had a slow start against BU and the first game against Michigan State, but playing together and the more you practice together you get used to where guys will be on the ice. Hopefully we keep it going and I think it’s gelling right now, so hopefully we can continue that.”

Iacobellis later added that there was chemistry from the beginning of the year with the mentality they had towards the game, calling Pigozzi and Lee “two great guys” both on and off the ice.

“It was nice to see that we finally took it to another level and I’m just looking forward to the future with them,” he said.

Pigozzi and Iacobellis remember vividly what it’s like to be a freshman on a team, just one year removed from their first season in college hockey. Their experiences from the previous year have helped them ease Lee into the system and make him feel more comfortable.

Last year the two were on a line with current captain Troy Power, and feel that learning from him has helped them in the process of making Lee feel at home.

“We tried to do the same thing that Troy did with us last year,” said Iacobellis. “He did an unbelievable job answering any questions we had, so we’re just letting (Lee) know that anything he needs or if he has any questions, let us know.”

Being in Lee’s shoes the previous year, Pigozzi recognized the difficulties that come with getting used to the style of play, and the expectations of playing in the Hockey East. Like his fellow teammate, Pigozzi has relayed the advice he received from Power last year to Lee.

Micheletto thinks the duo has done a tremendous job with Lee, and knows it all stems from Power pushing them last year.

“Having two resources on your line that were in the exact same spot you were in last year is really valuable,” he said. “Troy was so good with those guys, and I think for Patrick’s transition to college their two different personalities have helped blend and send the right message to Patrick when he needs it.”

On the ice, Micheletto believes the three of them complement each other very well, and are able to work to each other’s strengths, which could be instrumental to the team’s success in the future.

“They can all skate, and can all make plays,” said Micheletto. “With them, it’s not a matter of ‘geez we’ve got nobody 6’3” and need size.’ It was just the matter that if we’ve got three guys that can make plays, why not put them together and see what kind of magic we can get out of them.”

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