Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ferraro’s defensive efforts leading UMass into final stretch

The sophomore scored his first goal of the season Thursday against UConn

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Ferraro’s defensive efforts leading UMass into final stretch

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

By Liam Flaherty, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts hockey team built a one-goal lead in Saturday’s matchup at Providence, but after losing Mario Ferraro midway through the first period, it fell behind and could never regain the lead.

After Cale Makar’s 11th goal of the season gave No. 2 UMass the initial edge, Ferraro was whistled for a hit from behind against the boards. He received a game misconduct and was subsequently ejected.

Following the 3-2 loss, Minutemen (24-7-0, 16-5-0 Hockey East Association) coach Greg Carvel succinctly expressed the impact of losing the sophomore defenseman. “It’s almost like losing two players,” he said.

Carvel did not totally blame the loss on Ferraro’s absence but admitted the dismissal “was a factor.”

“He plays a lot of minutes and he plays them heavy,” Carvel said on Tuesday following practice. “There aren’t guys like him in our league that play that hard defensively and are all over the ice and can chip in offensively. He has a presence about him that gives our team confidence. When you take that off the bench, it’s palpable.”

Ferraro, who impressed with his offensive abilities on 23 points last season, has experienced trouble recreating that scoring touch. Through 31 games this season, the Ontario native’s recorded 10 points.

Although his offensive numbers are less than expected, Ferraro continues to anchor UMass’ defense.

“Defense always leads to good offense,” Ferraro said after practice at Amherst College. “Over the past couple years, I’ve definitely learned that, especially being a lot better of a team this year. The points are never a concern to me because we’re having success as a team. We’re winning and each guy has a role.”

After Carvel split up last year’s duo of Ferraro and Makar at the start of the season, Ty Farmer joined the second D-pairing. Alongside offensive-minded players, Ferraro said, his defensive game has improved.

“Cale and Ty are both great players and they both have great offensive ability. Being out there and working on my defensive game gives them a lot more confidence to be involved offensively,” he said. “Of course, I’m a guy that likes to get involved offensively as well, but that’s why it goes both ways.”

As an alternate captain, along with Makar in the defensive zone, Ferraro’s impact with the unit is felt off the ice as well; in addition to what his surprisingly quick, 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame brings to games.

“He’s the vocal leader,” Carvel added. “He does a good job of relaying the message the staff sends down about being hard to play against, responsible defensively and elevating that part of our game. As a captain he does a real good job of that and then goes out on the ice and physically follows through.”

One message Ferraro has stressed to the rest of the team as the regular season draws to a close, is one that’s been prevalent around the locker room and coaching staff down the stretch: compete level.

“It’s something we’ve talked a lot about heading into playoff hockey,” Ferraro said. “You get away from the Xs and Os quite a bit and it comes down to how bad you want it. We have to be the team that’s hungrier and harder to play against. To do that, you have to limit time and space especially in the defensive end.”

After getting that first goal of the season out of the way, the sophomore is mindful of not trying to do too much and just staying the course.

“Keep it simple leading into this playoff run,” he said, with three games remaining. “It’s really essential and we’re still looking to accomplish our goal of finishing first in Hockey East. In order to do that we have to be strong. That’s the kind of mindset that we have to continue to have going into March.”

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.

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