After Carvel’s challenge, Marc Del Gaizo pushes UMass to crucial win

No. 2 finished with two goals and a go-ahead assist on the night

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Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Liam Flaherty, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts hockey team badly needed somebody to step up on Saturday night, somebody that wasn’t John Leonard. Insert Marc Del Gaizo.

After scoring just two goals during an injury-laden season that’s seen No. 2 sit out 13 of UMass’ 33 games, the sophomore defenseman scored two goals and set up Bobby Trivigno’s go-ahead goal to anchor a massive  victory that the Minutemen (20-11-2, 12-8-2 Hockey East) so desperately needed.

It was a breakout showing that had been in the works for a long time for the New Jersey native.

“I challenged him,” coach Greg Carvel said after the 4-3 win at home. “I thought he was our worst defenseman last night, so I challenged him today, and you could just tell he’s been waiting to break out. Maybe he was overthinking it a little bit too much last night and tonight he just decided to play and let things come naturally – he just did things quickly; scores two goals and he makes a beautiful play on Trivigno’s goal. It’s great to have difference makers on the blue line and he’s capable of that.”

Before challenging him on Saturday, Carvel called out his sophomore d-man after practice on Tuesday saying Del Gaizo needed to be, “more influential.”

Del Gaizo responded saying that he knew he still had “more in the tank.” And boy, was he was right.

Coming off Friday’s last-second stunning loss in Hartford that made the penultimate game of the regular season and rematch with the Huskies (15-14-4, 12-9-2 HEA) a must-win the following night back in Amherst, Del Gaizo stepped up in the clutch when the Minutemen needed him most.

Three and a half minutes into the contest, he set the tone when he beat Tomas Vomacka with a wrist shot all alone in the low slot that came off a feed from John Leonard at the bottom of the circle.

“That was a really nice play,” Del Gaizo said after the important win. “That was a part of our game plan was popping the puck to have three in the scrum and then having the D go down like I did.”

Midway through the second, he came back again with his second of the evening to break a 1-1 tie.

A minute into the advantage, the sophomore took a puck from Zac Jones on the right faceoff dot, wound up and ripped a wrist shot on net that beat Vomacka and gave UMass its second lead.

After UConn tied it 2-2, Del Gaizo made his third impact play, slipping a pass through a slew of bodies that Trivigno took in stride and buried.

The sophomore’s three-point night rings even louder as UMass was skating just nine forwards. With fewer bodies in the offensive zone, Del Gaizo and the back end made an effort to pinch up.

“[They] were gassed,” he added. “We were playing down to like nine guys. We talked about having to carry the load and we definitely all had to step up.”

After being challenged by Carvel on Tuesday, and then again on Friday, Del Gaizo responded with a vengeance when UMass needed him the most.

Plus, his breakout came at the perfect time.

They needed a win and they got it, and Del Gaizo was a major reason in pushing the victory along.

“It’s been an uneven year for him from the injuries,” Carvel said. “But if we can get him cranking here down the stretch it’ll be a huge asset for us.”

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