Young players starting to make an impact for UMass

Mercuri, Morrow and Ufko have started all four games

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Kira Johnson / Daily Collegian

By Kayla Gregoire, Collegian Staff

The freshmen on the Massachusetts hockey team continue to grow as they adapt to college hockey.

The Minutemen (2-2) started out the season with ten new players on the team, seven of which are freshmen. Of the seven fresh faces, Scott Morrow, Ryan Ufko and Lucas Mercuri have been the reoccurring faces of the four UMass regular season games.

“I’ve seen positive growth,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “Ufko and [Morrow] in the backend, they have a lot of offensive ability, but it’s their growth without the puck that is the focus for me right now. I think [Ufko] is getting a little better. [Morrow] is a little better, but they still have a ways to go. Up front, [Mercuri] is probably the one forward, I think he’s played all the games.”

Mercuri is the first of the freshman class to get a goal this season. Mercuri, a forward, was known for producing offense even before his time with the Minutemen. He played for the Des Moines Buccaneers (United States Hockey League) before UMass and had a total of 37 points in the 48 games he played with the team. In his four games with UMass, he already has a total of three points on a goal and two assists.

The two defensemen, Ufko and Morrow have started to make an impact on the ice as well. Morrow has three points on the season, while also having a goal in the exhibition game against Dartmouth.

Ufko has also started to prove himself, though he may not show up on the score sheet with only one assist. Carvel has put faith in the young defenseman by pairing him with junior and alternate captain, Matthew Kessel on the first line.

“At first, it’s definitely an adjustment, especially here,” Ufko said on adjusting to college hockey. “The rink is a lot bigger than most rinks in junior and NHL. The speed and then just keeping guys in front of you. We are a very defensive team, so you just got to be really smart and really defensive when you are playing here.”

Players that have been seen in a few games have been Taylor Makar and Ryan Lautenbach.  Makar, forward and brother to former UMass defensemen, Cale Makar, has been known to spend some time in the penalty box. In his 2020-21 season with the Brooks Bandits (American Junior Hockey League), he had 63 penalty minutes. Makar has logged four penalty minutes in his two games with UMass.

Lautenbach, though he has yet to put the puck into the net, can be seen all over the ice. In his two games with the Minutemen he has put up seven shots, including six against American International College.

“I think they’ve come a long way since the time we have been here in the summer obviously, and even since the beginning of the season, they’ve came a long way,” Kessel said of the freshmen.

Carvel got a sneak peak of goalie, Luke Pavicich in the exhibition game against Dartmouth. Pavicich played half of the regulation time, the 3-on-3 and the shootout. In the game, Pavicich blocked 11 of the 13 shots on net.

Freshman Eric Dedobbelaer has begun the recovery process from a recent shoulder surgery that will most likely keep him sidelined throughout the entire 2021-22 season. In his season with Brantford 99ers (Ontario Junior Hockey League), he logged 56 points in his 114 games with them.

“There’s growth which I’m optimistic about,” Carvel said. “I think there’s a long way to go for all of them, which is a good thing. They are starting to score, they are starting to get points, but there is a long way to go in all of their games.”

The Minutemen will travel to Merrimack on Friday, Oct. 29. Puck drop will be at 7:00 p.m.

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