Second line steps up in No. 1 UMass hockey’s 3-1 win over No. 8 Quinnipiac

Philip Lagunov, John Leonard and Jacob Pritchard each played key roles

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(Amelia Shaw/Daily Collegian)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

In the Massachusetts hockey team’s 4-0 loss to Quinnipiac on Friday night, the second forward line of Philip Lagunov, Jacob Pritchard and John Leonard were a combined minus-six. The trio finished with just three shots on goal and weren’t much of a factor in any facet of the game.

For UMass coach Greg Carvel, that performance wasn’t good enough.

“I wasn’t happy at all with that line’s play [Friday] night,” Carvel said. “I thought they were very soft.”

Afterward, Carvel admitted he had a “heart-to-heart” with the line in hopes of making sure their effort in Hamden was not one to be repeated.

Fast forward about 24 hours and those same three each played vital roles in the Minutemen’s 3-1 comeback victory over the Bobcats, Saturday night.

Leonard fired six shots on goal, Lagunov picked up a primary assist and Pritchard scored the game-winner with a backhand beauty, all in No. 1 UMass’ win over No. 8 Quinnipiac.

Message received.

“Last night, my line mates and I, we’d probably tell you the same thing, we didn’t have a good game,” Pritchard said. “Tonight, I thought we had a good game. We came out strong and had a really good third period.”

The combined aggressiveness from Lagunov and Leonard on the forecheck specifically set up Pritchard for the go-ahead goal, following an impressive rush into the offensive zone from Ty Farmer.

The play exemplified just how dangerous that line can be when they are on their game.

”As I’ve told that line, they make our team go up or down,” Carvel said. “They have that ability to affect the game where, [Jake] Gaudet, [Mitchell] Chaffee, [Oliver] Chau, I know what I’m going to get from them every night. But Lagunov, Pritchard and Leonard, some nights they’re sky-high and they’re flying around the ice, then [Friday] night at Quinnipiac they didn’t touch the puck and they didn’t check anybody.

“As the game went on [Saturday] I thought they got stronger and stronger,” Carvel added. “Pritchard was flying around and Leonard makes that hit to cause the turnover so when your scorers are making big checks to help you win games, that’s a big sign.”

Pritchard, Leonard and Lagunov’s 16 goals are the most among any forward line, with the next closest being the third line of Brett Boeing, Anthony Del Gaizo and Bobby Trivigno’s 12 goals.

“I just thought we were way harder on pucks, harder on our forecheck and [were] creating more turnovers,” Pritchard said.

The entire team seemed much more comfortable on home ice in the latter matchup of the home-and-home as the Minutemen erupted for three third-period goals after withstanding a power play goal from Bobcat captain Chase Priskie in the second period.

If not for the resurgence of UMass’ second forward line in front of the sold-out Mullins Center crowd, the Minutemen offensive attack would have had an entirely different feel.

The Lagunov line is like the nuts and bolts of a car — when some are missing, the entire structure falls apart. But when all are accounted for, they’re a well-oiled machine.

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