Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Makar’s four points lead UMass hockey to season-opening win

No. 16 scored twice and added two assists

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Makar’s four points lead UMass hockey to season-opening win

Caroline O'Connor / UMass Athletics

Caroline O'Connor / UMass Athletics

Caroline O'Connor / UMass Athletics

Caroline O'Connor / UMass Athletics

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

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He’s back and boy is he here.

Cale Makar scored two goals and added a pair of assists in the Massachusetts hockey team’s 6-1 win over Rensselaer, Friday night at Mullins Center.

The sophomore defensemen led all UMass (1-0) skaters in points in the season-opening victory over RPI (0-1). His four-point night marked the first time a Minuteman defenseman finished with four points since Mike Kostka potted four assists in an 8-1 win over Connecticut, Nov. 18, 2006.

“If he’s not one of the best players at our level, nobody is,” Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said of the sophomore defenseman. “He’s outstanding. He’s gotten quicker, he’s gotten faster, he’s gotten stronger.”

Makar’s skill was on display all night, especially on the UMass power play where he registered half of his four points.

With a 5-on-3 man-advantage about halfway through the first period, Makar hit graduate transfer Jacob Pritchard with a crisp backdoor pass who promptly slotted it past Engineer goalie Linden Marshall, giving Makar his first point of the evening.

Marc Del Gaizo’s first career marker upped No. 16’s point total to two, with Makar earning the secondary assist on his partner’s goal.

“I think we’re exposing they’re kind of zone defense and being able to get a lot of pucks on net,” Makar said. “We focused a lot on practice on getting pucks in from the top and I think we got a lot of pucks through, especially banging rebounds in.”

With the clock winding down in the opening frame, Makar scored a beauty off the rush. Corralling the puck on the UMass blueline, Makar saw a patch of unmarked open ice in between two RPI defensemen and he took it.

The Colorado Avalanche draft pick beat both blueliners and snapped a puck past Marshall’s glove hand—very much like his coast-to-coast goal against Vermont in last year’s opening round playoff matchup—making it 4-1 Minutemen.

“Kind of when it got to my stick,” Makar said about when he decided to rush the zone. “There was a pretty big gap between the [defensemen] and I just felt like I tried to expose it.”

The Calgary, Alberta native’s third point of the period capped off an impressive 20 minutes that saw UMass net three power play goals.

“His skating level is elite,” Carvel said, “he can control the game. His puck skills his hockey sense, he’s able to slow the game down when he needs to and speed it up. His change of pace with the puck is really hard to defend.”

Carvel also noted how Mullins’ Olympic-sized ice sheet also plays into Makar’s stellar skill set.

The Minutemen’s final goal came off the stick of its prized defenseman following a Brett Boeing slap shot in the high-slot, rounding out an all-star caliber-performance from Makar in his first game as an assistant captain.

“I think at the end of the day when everybody’s kind of on the same page, everything’s just flowing very well,” said Makar. “I felt like we did a great job tonight.”

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.

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