UMass’ defensemen step up on offense in series against BU

Ryan Ufko totals 4 assists and one goal in the series

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Mehroz Kapadia/ Daily Collegian

By Kayla Gregoire, Collegian Staff

A difficult series for the Massachusetts hockey team against Boston University (4-7-1, 3-4-1 HEA) pushed the Minutemen (6-3-1, 4-1-1 Hockey East) defensemen to step up to the plate in the offensive zone.

Friday night Aaron Bohlinger was put back into the lineup after battling a wrist injury which caused head coach Greg Carvel to switch up pairings. Carvel changed the usual Scott Morrow and Ty Farmer pairing to Morrow and Bohlinger.  Colin Felix was put with Slava Demin on Friday but was switched to Farmer Saturday night.

The pairing that did not change and has not changed since the start of the series was Ryan Ufko and Matthew Kessel. That pairing alone had seven points in the series against the Terriers. Ufko earned five of those points with four assists and one goal.

Ufko was the difference maker on Friday night with two assists against the Terriers and the freshman has stepped up this series when it comes to his offense. Ufko, towards the beginning of the season, was not coming up with many points, but noticeably turned around his offensive capabilities this series.

On Saturday night Ufko elevated his game even more by adding two more assists and his first goal of the season. His first collegiate goal was scored from captain Bobby Trivigno keeping Terrier defenseman Domenick Fensore behind Ufko, which gave Ufko time to breakaway and get the puck behind goaltender Drew Commesso.

“It felt really good in the moment,” Ufko said. “It’s what every college hockey player wants. You want to score your first goal … It was a good experience and I’ll always remember it.”

Kessel, Ufko’s line mate, also came up big against the Terriers in the series. On Friday night, the assistant captain added an assist in the first period on a Garrett Wait goal. The next game, Kessel caught a pass from Ufko and fired the puck from the blue line to find the back of the net.

Ufko and Kessel also cost the Minutemen however, both stepping into the penalty box on Saturday night. In the first period, Ufko was called for interference, giving BU its first powerplay of the game.

In the second period, Kessel was whittled for tripping with less than eight minutes left in the frame. Kessel’s time in the penalty box did not have as good of an ending as Ufko’s. Terrier Wilmer Skoog shot it past Matt Murray with just eight seconds left on his penalty to take a two-goal lead.

“They both scored tonight so those are real positives,” Carvel said. “They need to be more responsible defensively. Kessel takes a penalty in the second period which to me was a poor penalty and they score. It needs to be more than given … They are a top pair defense, so they need to be plus players throughout the game.”

A pairing that was on display during special teams was the Ufko and Morrow pairing. The two, who are not just teammates, but roommates, got a few minutes together on the ice during the powerplay.

Ufko and Morrow only needed a few minutes with each other to create offense for the Minutemen. Ufko passed the puck behind his back to Morrow. Morrow proceeded to dance around Terrier Case McCarthy to send it across the ice to Trivigno who found the back of the net.

Morrow has continued to be a big factor in the UMass lineup. Though he did not add a point to the score sheet on Friday night, he was able to make defensive plays without the puck that helped the Minutemen keep the game tied.

The Minutemen’s defensemen look to continue progressing against New Hampshire on Friday, Nov. 19. Puck drop will be at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

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