UMass battles BU to a 2-2 tie on the road

Minutemen win shootout with Lucas Mercuri goal

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Luis Ramirez/Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

After 65 minutes of back-and-forth hockey, the Massachusetts hockey team ended its Friday night matchup against Boston University in a 2-2 draw. No. 8 UMass (6-2-1, 5-0-1 Hockey East) won the shootout.

A physical tone was set less than a minute into the game when a scrum broke out in front of Terriers (3-7-1, 2-4-1 HEA) goaltender Drew Commesso after the first stoppage in play. That theme carried through the entire 60 minutes, a side effect of the Minutemen’s familiarity with their conference rival.

“They’re a big team, they got three defenseman 6-foot-6 or taller,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “Watching them in the pre-scout we told our guys to get ready for a physical game and it was a fast, physical game … it was as physical a game as we’ve had this year.”

With the heightened intensity came penalties, and the Minutemen capitalized on one extra-man opportunity in the first period when Bobby Trivigno found Reed Lebster in the slot to fire home the opening goal. Ufko had a secondary assist on the goal and generated his second point of the night finding Garrett Wait on a picture-perfect pass that Wait buried before Commesso had a chance to make it to the far post.

“[Ufko] makes plays with the puck, that was an outstanding play,” Carvel said. “He’s playing heavy, learning how to play at this level, and he’s a quarterback on the power play as a freshman … you can get a lot of quality minutes out of him.”

Each time UMass found a lamp, BU had a response to it. Another penalty – this time on the Minutemen – led the Terriers to find a second equalizer in the middle frame to knot the game back up at 2-2.

“I felt like when we played the way we wanted to, we played well,” Carvel said. “Second period we took too many penalties and didn’t manage the puck.”

Eric Faith continued his successful run as UMass’ top line center into Friday’s contest, winning 85.7 percent of his draws, with 24 wins and only four losses through 65 minutes.

“We gave the game puck to [Faith] tonight,” Carvel said. “He was ridiculously good on the faceoffs … He’s a very reliable player, really stepping up. I’m very happy with his play.”

Though it officially counts as a tie in HEA standings, the Minutemen were sent home happy with a shootout win after Lucas Mercuri sent a shot between the legs of Commesso. Neither Trivigno nor Cam Donaldson lit a lamp on their shootout attempts, but Matt Murray stood tall and turned aside all three BU shooters to secure the extra point in HEA standings. Murray finished the night with 32 saves.

UMass nearly finished the game without extra time, though. Late in the third period a scramble in front of Commesso led to Oliver MacDonald collecting a loose puck and flipping it into the net. After an official review the play was waved off due to incidental contact with the goaltender. Three points for the standings would have gone a long way for the Minutemen, but one is still better than coming away empty in conference play.

In the league UMass is in, every point is going to count. Carvel was happy to go home Friday with the extra point.

Aaron Bohlinger returned to the lineup on Friday and skated a few shifts as a forward after Cal Kiefiuk went down with an injury. Although he didn’t leave a big mark on the ice, getting minutes so soon after his injury is a positive sign in his progression back to full strength.

“We didn’t expect him back this soon,” Carvel said. “He looked a little rusty out there but he’s a really smart player, I have to get him more ice time [Saturday]. We wanted to have him as a safety valve, didn’t want to play him too much if we didn’t have to.”

UMass’ game plan worked in the first night of the series, and Carvel’s focus heading into game two is more about cleaning up mental mistakes than adjusting the system the Minutemen utilized. Puck drop for Saturday’s contest is set for 7 p.m. from the Mullins Center.

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