UMass falls to Merrimack, 3-2, in second game of home-and-home series

The Warriors take down the Minutemen, 3-2, at Lawler Rink

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Chris Tucci/UMass Athletics

By Evan Marinofsky, Assistant Sports Editor

Massachusetts hockey team head coach Greg Carvel put out a plan last week as to how his defensive-minded team would win hockey games: score at least three goals and don’t give up more than two.

That plan fell just short for the Minutemen (2-3-1) on Sunday night, as they fell to Merrimack (1-1), 3-2, in the second of the home-and-home series.

“The usual game at Merrimack,” Carvel said of the loss. “Physical, fast-paced. [Merrimack] plays well here. I didn’t think we came ready to play…[Merrimack] deserved a win tonight.”

Merrimack began its pressure in the UMass offensive zone early in Sunday night’s battle.

After already having a goal waved off due to goalie interference less than three minutes into the game, the Warriors capitalized on a Marc Del Gaizo hooking penalty midway through the opening frame.

Sophomore d-man Zach Vinnell fired a tailing wrist shot on the UMass net and because of the screen in front, UMass goalie Matt Murray never saw it fly past him, giving Merrimack the 1-0 lead.

UMass opened the second period on a tear as just 27 seconds into the middle 20 minutes, senior graduate transfer Carson Gicewicz fired one past Warriors goalie Zachary Borgiel on a 2-on-1 to even the score. It was Gicewicz’s first goal as a member of the Minutemen.

But UMass’ tying goal started a trend the maroon and white couldn’t seem to shake all game: When they scored, Merrimack answered.

Just a few moments later, Warriors freshman Alex Jefferies burned UMass d-man Gianfranco Cassaro down the left side of the ice and snuck one past Murray’s blocker to put Merrimack back in the lead.

UMass found itself on the power play three minutes after Jefferies’s goal when Merrimack freshman Conor Lovett was charged with a hook.

On the ensuing power play, the duo of Marc Del Gaizo and Aaron Bohlinger moved the puck at the top of the zone well enough to find Cal Kiefiuk loaded and ready, as he fired a one-timer past an out-stretched Borgiel to tie things up 2-2.

And then once again, the Warriors answered. The only difference with their next goal: it was the game-winner.

Midway through the second period, the puck found its way back to Vinnell at the point and his shot was re-directed by Patrick Holway in front of the UMass net and past Murray to give the Warriors a 3-2 lead.

The one big issue UMass faced throughout the game was penalties. In total, the Minutemen skated to the penalty box six times.

“First period, Merrimack controlled the game, we took too many penalties, didn’t allow us to get going,” Carvel said after the loss. “Second period we were better. Third period we played fine but again, three penalties made it hard for us to melt a continual push and Merrimack played hard.”

The most notable call on the Minutemen was Matthew Kessel being whistled for a cross-check with just 2:47 remaining in the game. It was debatable and came at a time in which most want the referee’s whistles to be kept in their pockets.

“It’s frustrating to me when you don’t know what’s a penalty and what’s not,” Carvel said. “I’m not at all calling the refs out, but I’m just saying there’s two and a half minutes to go. I’m not so sure that was a call that needed to be made.”

Nevertheless, Sunday night was another in a long line of close, low-scoring games between Merrimack and UMass at Lawler Rink. The Minutemen just wish they would’ve found themselves on the winning side.

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @emarinofsky.