Physicality and finesse on full display in UMass’ win over Merrimack

Trivigno and Kiefiuk lead the Minutemen’s dual identity

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

NORTH ANDOVER — Bobby Trivigno skated into the offensive zone and flashed his crafty moves, weaving his way through Merrimack defenders before sending a shot in on Merrimack goaltender Zachary Borgiel. His attempt didn’t reach the net, but line mate Josh Lopina dug the puck out of a traffic jam and found Trivigno with a cross ice pass that the captain buried to take the lead.

That goal perfectly captured two common themes of the Massachusetts hockey team’s 2-1 win over the Warriors (3-4, 1-2 Hockey East) on Friday: physicality and finesse.

No. 12 UMass (3-2, 1-0 HEA) set the tone for hard nosed play early in the first period. Bodies were constantly colliding in the frame, but Cal Kiefiuk caused a turning point with under eight minutes on the clock when he put a Merrimack skater into the Minutemen bench and gave him an extra shove afterwards for good measure.

From that point on, heightened levels of physicality were shown by both the Warriors and UMass, with Kiefiuk appearing at the center of a few different scrums. In his next shift following the board-shaking hit, Kiefiuk was chased down by Merrimack’s Jake Durflinger and the two engaged in a shoving match in front of Minutemen goaltender Matt Murray. The pair was sent off for penalties, Durflinger for roughing and Kiefiuk for grabbing the facemask.

“I don’t think we were near the line [of physicality without taking penalties],” head coach Greg Carvel said. “Merrimack plays hard, they walked the line, which is good for us because it made us come to the line … we tried to match their intensity and physical play.”

Kiefiuk wasn’t the only aggressor, and the Warriors dished out plenty of punishment of their own. With under two minutes remaining in the first period Steven Jandric was called for boarding after slamming UMass freshman Ryan Ufko head-first into the glass. The chippy play continued for 60 minutes with both teams trying to break the other down physically and mentally.

“We knew coming into it that this is a tough place to play, and they play a hard game,” Kiefiuk said. “We knew that if we stayed hard and continued to play our game things would go our way, so we came into the game with a mindset to be physical.”

While Kiefiuk made an impact on the ice with his body, Trivigno affected the game with his hands and skates. The senior dipped into his bag of tricks on a couple of occasions, stopping on a dime with the puck glued to the tape of his stick. In the second period Trivigno created an offensive chance by putting a Merrimack defender on his back and then quickly dished the puck to Ty Farmer, who nearly tucked in a wraparound shot between the left net post and the foot of Borgiel.

The Trivigno clinic continued into the final frame when he used a spinning deke to skate around another Warrior defender, and then attempted a wraparound shot of his own that was again stopped by Borgiel. Though he couldn’t add another goal to the scoresheet, Trivigno made his presence known in the offensive zone and contributed in a positive way through his creativity.

Conference games are usually met with a greater intensity between teams very familiar with each other. The Minutemen’s ability to match physicality while still showcasing their puck skills — led by Kiefiuk and Trivigno — became a combination that was difficult for Merrimack to stop and led to UMass picking up a crucial win to help gain momentum early in its season.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.