UMass completes weekend sweep of AIC with 4-2 win on Saturday

Mercuri and Sullivan each score first career goals

Chris+Tucci%2F+UMass+Athletics

Chris Tucci/ UMass Athletics

By Kayla Gregoire, Collegian Correspondent

UMass fans packed the student section in the Mullins Center for Saturday nights matchup against American International College. The Massachusetts hockey team (2-2) left them cheering after picking up its first home win, 4-2 over the Yellow Jackets (0-3).

AIC came out against the Minutemen with a lot more physicality following its loss on Friday. Right away the Yellow Jackets were fighting on the boards against the Minutemen and played a very aggressive style of hockey. UMass was still able to dominate the first period, though, with the shots favoring the Minutemen 26-8 in that frame.

“They make it hard. It’s the best forechecking team in the country,” AIC coach Eric Lang said of the Minutemen. “We played a pretty darn good team in North Dakota last year in the NCAA tournament, which is as good as any NCAA team as there was and they don’t come at you as hard as UMass does … they challenge you to make plays all over the ice.”

One of the deciding factors of the night was the younger players having breakout performances. Freshmen Lucas Mercuri, Ryan Ufko, and Ryan Lautenbach all were key factors in UMass’ win Saturday night.

“Morrow and Ufko played important roles, Mercuri we need him to be important. He’s a big centerman with skill, so we need him adding offensively. I’ve got to find depth guys I can rely on,” head coach Greg Carvel said.

Josh Lopina and Ryan Sullivan were the ones to get on the scoresheet first in the opening period. Sullivan had his first career goal on a feed from Garrett Wait.

At the start of the second period, AIC winger Chris Dodero had an open net on Matt Murray, but missed his opportunity to capitalize. Shortly after, senior Chris Theodore made the most of his own chance and found the back of Murray’s net to tie the game 2-2.

The dominance of the defense was shown on the ice today. UMass’ defense held AIC to only 16 shots on goal, while the Minutemen offense had 43 shots on goal of their own.

“At times I didn’t know how we were going to get the puck out of the zone,” Lang said. “Territorially, they had the puck a lot and it’s hard to defend like that as hard as we had to.”

The Minutemen were also able to stay out of the penalty box with only two penalties, a major improvement compared to their six penalties from last night.

In the third period, senior Ty Farmer heard his shot clink off the post but came up empty. That play summed up the first half of UMass’ third period performance. The Minutemen were generating continuous scoring chances but could not put the puck into the back of the net, keeping the game tied 2-2 for most of the third.

But with only a few minutes to play, Mercuri earned his first collegiate goal in a major way, receiving a pass from Aaron Bohlinger to bury the eventual game winner. Mercuri also added a point from Lopina’s goal.

 

“You can’t really put a lot of words on it, it felt really good,” Mercuri said about scoring his first goal. “It was obviously a really good moment. It’s pretty easy when you play with good players. It was a really nice pass and the atmosphere in the rink was obviously spectacular tonight, so to celebrate with everybody was really cool.”

To top the Minutemen’s last-minute comeback, defenseman Matthew Kessel scored an empty net goal to cement their win.

“I always tell our guys you get what you deserve, and the better hockey team won tonight,” Lang said.

Kayla Gregoire can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @kaygregoire.