Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Top line drives UMass hockey to another victory over UConn Saturday

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

While freshman Nic Renyard continues to solidify himself as the Massachusetts hockey team’s answer in goal and the Minutemen’s defense has shown growth early in the 2015-16 season, it’s been the top forwards line that’s propelled UMass to a 6-2-1 start.

Composed of sophomores Dennis Kravchenko, Dominic Trento and freshman Austin Plevy, the first line’s impact was heavily felt in Saturday night’s 5-3 victory over UConn.

The trio combined for eight points and three goals against the Huskies. Trento scored back-to-back goals to break open a 4-1 UMass lead early in the third period, while Plevy added the Minutemen’s final goal in the 18th minute of the third period.

“Any three of us can score goals, which is good,” Trento said after the game Saturday. “We each bring something different.”

Kravchenko, who finished with two assists, leads UMass with seven goals, while Plevy tallied his sixth in Saturday’s victory. For Trento, his pair of goals brought Trento to five goals, matching last year’s total through only nine games.

According to Trento, the difference between this year and last year has simply been health. Last season, Trento dealt with a series of injuries throughout the year including an ankle injury he had to rehab in the offseason.

“I’m healthy, that’s always a good thing,” Trento said. “Playing with Dennis and Austin, they’re super-skilled guys and I just try to do my job.”

In his first year at UMass, Plevy has fit in nicely, bringing speed and puck skills to the top line. At 21 years old and coming off two years playing for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Brooks Bandits, Plevy brings unique experience as a freshman.

After going three straight games without a goal following a scorching start to his season – including a hat trick in his collegiate debut – Plevy has scored goals in consecutive games this weekend against UConn, including the game-winning goal Friday.

“I’m a little older than a typical freshman so that’s definitely an advantage having a few more years in (junior hockey),” Plevy said. “I’m super happy with the role I have and I’m working hard every day to stay in that role. I had a tough couple of games there but now I’m getting it back together.”

Plevy added that playing alongside two experienced forwards with a year under their belt in Kravchenko and Trento has helped him easily adapt to college hockey and get off to a quick start.

“They’ve obviously been through their freshmen years and through the struggles so I’ve been talking to them a lot and I’m glad to be contributing,” Plevy said.

Vatrano scores goal in Bruins debut

One day after former UMass hockey player Frank Vatrano was called up to the Boston Bruins after scoring 10 goals in 10 games for the AHL’s Providence Bruins, Vatrano recorded a goal in his NHL debut.

On his third career shot Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens, Vatrano found the back of the net to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead in the second quarter. Boston went on to lose 4-2.

The East Longmeadow native grew up a Bruins fan and spent one-plus seasons at UMass before leaving after his 2014-15 redshirt sophomore season to sign his entry level contract. He scored a team-high 18 goals for the Minutemen last season.

“Obviously you run the gamut of emotions for Frank and his family today,” UMass coach John Micheletto said Saturday. “You’re just hopeful that he has a great experience and that he enjoys it. Sometimes that’s the most difficult thing to do in your first game. But then to add layer upon layer with him scoring a goal, I’m sure he’s so happy.

“Obviously, we’re all really fired up for Frank and his family.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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