Marc Del Gaizo’s return to the lineup keys UMass’ win over Merrimack

Del Gaizo missed two games due to injury

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Chris Tucci/UMass Athletics

By Noah Bortle, Sports Editor

“It’s hard when you have two injuries to defensemen—especially Marc Del Gaizo,” Massachusetts head coach Greg Carvel said after the first leg of his team’s sweep at the hands of Boston College last weekend. “It would’ve been helpful to have him out there tonight.”

Del Gaizo provided the help Carvel expected on Friday night, returning to the lineup for UMass’ (2-2-1) win over Merrimack (0-1).

The junior defenseman’s presence was felt nearing the end of the second period. After getting a drop pass near the slot, Del Gaizo held the puck, looking ready to shoot. The hesitation was enough to draw a defender, leaving Josh Lopina wide open on his left to bury the shot and put the Minutemen on top 1-0.

“He’s a huge factor,” Carvel said of his assistant captain. “That was evident last week. When you have to replace him with another player, there’s a big drop off there.”

UMass’ second goal of the game epitomized what Del Gaizo brought to the team. On the power play, Del Gaizo controlled the puck near the end half wall, surveying the defense. The d-man then carried the puck to the blue line before cycling the puck to the other point where Colin Felix would blast a shot on net—one that got tipped in by Eric Faith.

It was just one of many instances where Del Gaizo was the creator for the Minutemen on the man advantage.

“His speed and his compete—and I know he had a bunch of shots on net on the power play,” Carvel said. “He plays big minutes for us.”

On the power play, Del Gaizo racked up shot attempts. On the evening he totaled 10 total shots, the most on the team.

Beyond just the power play, Del Gaizo caused problems for the Warrior defense.

With just under 15 minutes left in the third, Del Gaizo forced a turnover in the defensive zone. Then, using his speed, he split two Merrimack defensemen, taking it the length of the ice and earning himself a breakaway attempt.

“He’s a huge factor for us,” Carvel said. “I think he had two assists. He almost created a breakaway.”

After an injury riddled sophomore season, Del Gaizo looked destined for another disappointing campaign after an injury in just the team’s second game of the year.

No. 2 missed a home-and-home series against BC last weekend—one in which the Minutemen defense looked badly in need of their veteran defenseman, allowing 10 goals across the two games.

In his return to the ice, Del Gaizo anchored a UMass defensive unit that held the Warriors off the board until late into the third period. After back-to-back games surrendering four or more goals—granted against one of the countries top offenses in BC—the Minutemen turned around and shut down Merrimack’s offense.

“Marc is always going to be a catalyst for us,” Carvel said, “and he was tonight.”

Noah Bortle can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.