Minutemen come out on top in first overtime challenge

UMass completes sweep over Merrimack

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(Caroline O’Connor/UMass Athletics)

By Mollie Walker, Assistant Sports Editor

NORTH ANDOVER–It was a physical matchup at Lawler Rink Saturday night.

After Merrimack suffered a 5-1 blowout at the Mullins Center the previous night, tensions boiled over in North Andover for a competitive and arduous rematch with the Massachusetts hockey team that saw each team score a goal every period on the way to overtime.

Marc Del Gaizo buried a rebound with just over a minute remaining in the extra time to lift No. 16 UMass (5-1-0, 2-0-0 Hockey East Association) to a 4-3 win over the Warriors (2-4-0, 1-1-0 HEA). It was the first overtime the Minutemen faced this season.

“It was an odd-man rush, there was a minute left, it was a good opportunity for us to score and it worked out,” M. Del Gaizo recalled after the game. “I just kept going to the net… Anthony [Del Gaizo] tipped it in front and it was just there laying for me and I tapped it home.”

Philip Lagunov forced the extra five minutes after netminder Filip Lindberg skated to the bench for the 6-on-5 advantage, notching the evening tally with 32.3 seconds left on the clock. Three periods of neck-in-neck play erupted at the end of regulation with a physical scuffle in front of the UMass bench.

“Merrimack is very effective in this building, it’s tough to come in here, I don’t know why it is, but it’s tough to play here,” coach Greg Carvel said, “and they always seem like they have the upper-hand and the momentum.

“Things happen so fast and we work a lot on that 6-on-5 with the goalie out and so I think that’s the second time we’ve scored with the goalie out this year.”

UMass center Jake Gaudet and Merrimack forward Derek Petti received penalties for roughing after the whistle, prompting overtime to start 4-on-4. The Warrior’s first shot of overtime almost sent the crowd of over 2,500 home early as it rang off the crossbar.

The Minutemen turned on the pressure toward the end with Cale Makar, Anthony and Marc Del Gaizo all crashing the crease, resulting in Marc Del Gaizo’s game winner.

The Minutemen discussed how they wanted to approach the 4-on-4 before they took the ice for overtime, anticipating how hard Merrimack was going to press early on. Makar recalled how the team reminded one another to be aware in the defensive zone and to maintain steady pressure.

Makar believes getting the first overtime out of the way will act as a positive for the team, but especially for the freshman. He acknowledged how nerve-wracking it can be for a player who hasn’t experienced a collegiate overtime battle, but securing the win definitely helped.

“It was definitely physical,” Makar said. “I mean, it was a physical game even last night at the Mullins Center and then coming here to an even smaller rink, you know it’s going to be chippier and more physical.

“I think we managed it well for the most part, we got off to a slow start, but with the team we have I was happy with how we came back.”

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at MWalker2019.