Everyone who follows the Massachusetts hockey team, or college hockey for that matter, knows the name Cale Makar. The highest draft pick in school history is the undisputed star on the UMass blueline. Mario Ferraro isn’t too far behind Makar, in terms of name recognition or talent among Minutemen defensemen. Marc Del Gaizo has also quickly established himself as an offensively-oriented rearguard in just his first season, slotting in 16 points in 22 games.
Ty Farmer is next.
Rounding out the top four UMass (18-4-0, 10-2-0 Hockey East Association) defensemen, Farmer hasn’t jumped off the stat sheet and might not have quite the same reputation, but his impact has been just as valuable.
“I think he distributes the puck–him and Cale [Makar] are both pretty elite at outletting the puck, distributing the puck,” coach Greg Carvel said. “He sees the game extremely well, and he’s agile, he’s mobile.”
Farmer is a prototypical puck-moving defenseman. His skills come to life in the transition game, particularly when he’s hitting forwards in the neutral zone with a hard first pass out of the zone. The cleanliness of that connection can be the difference between a scoring chance or a turnover and Farmer consistently hits his mark.
He can also defend admirably for a guy with his size – 5 feet 11 inches – and the O’Fallon, Missouri native feels his game in the Minutemen’s own zone has seen the most change.
“I think I’ve been making a lot smarter plays with the puck [and] I think my defensive game has improved a lot as well,” Farmer said. “Boxing guys out, being a smaller defenseman, it’s not always easy, especially in a league like this. I think my defensive game has moved up and I think my offensive ability is starting to show a little more.”
In UMass’ 2-1 overtime loss to Northeastern last Saturday, Farmer assisted on John Leonard’s goal coming from a shot below the goal line. His skating ability allows him to take chances with rushes up the ice and gives him the freedom to make such plays like his helper on Leonard’s game-tying goal.
“I think he’s been very consistent, just from day one to now, we get about the same thing out of him every night,” Carvel said.
Farmer holds a three-game point streak heading into UMass’ upcoming weekend series with Maine which sees the Black Bears (8-11-3, 4-5-3 HEA) in eighth-place in Hockey East. However, that spot in the standings won’t fool the Minutemen from thinking any less of the competition.
“It’s tough. Every team is good,” Farmer said. “Every night you have to bring it and there’s teams that’ll sneak up on you that you don’t expect, especially where we’re ranked right now, we have a target on our back. Everyone is coming, bringing their best game.”
While Farmer’s talents might not be the flashiest, they certainly will go a long way in aiding the Minutemen for the rest of the season in league play, starting with Maine Friday night.
Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @_RyanAmes.