UMass’ fourth line trying to make an impact in series against Lowell

Unit saw decreased minutes halfway through Saturday night’s game

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Maya Geer/ Daily Collegian

By Kayla Gregoire, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts hockey team’s fourth line may have not shown up on the score sheet during its series against UMass Lowell, but their presence on the ice was known throughout the series despite their little ice time.

On Friday night, Eric Faith was slotted back into the lineup as a center on the fourth line after missing games due to injury from the Boston University series. Faith added faceoff wins for the No. 14 Minutemen (8-4-2, 6-2-2 Hockey East), winning four of his six draws, along with adding scoring chances.

During the first period of Saturday’s game, Matt Baker was eliminating scoring chances from the No. 15 River hawks (8-3-3,6-2-1 HEA) to keep the Minutemen from losing their lead early in the game. At one point goaltender Matt Murray left a wide-open net for the River hawks, but Baker quickly swatted the puck away before any UML player could get to it.

Baker was also protecting the net throughout the second, but despite his efforts, he was on the ice when River hawk Matt Allen scored. With very little ice time, Baker was still able to win three of his faceoffs.

Taylor Makar started off his second period with a penalty when he was whistled for interference. Makar has gone to the penalty box in four of his seven games with the Minutemen.

Though Makar has not played consistent minutes for UMass, he has started to get his feet under him with adding more playing time from forwards being injured. Makar was a pest along the boards to make the River hawks falter in their offense.

For all of Makar’s rough edges, his potential is clear. His willingness to take hits to move the puck and his surprisingly explosive speed even at 6-foot-3 show exactly why Greg Carvel and his staff brought the freshman to Amherst.

“I’m glad [Makar] is getting some ice time,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “He has some really great assets. He’s a big kid, he skates so well, he’s really got a lot of energy. He’s a very charismatic kid. He just needs to learn how to hold onto a puck and make plays and stay on his feet. He’s in the big boy pants club, he’s got to find the pants and he’s got to earn them. When he does, he’s going to be really affective.”

On Saturday night, defenseman Ty Farmer was slotted into the fourth line, dropping down from the third line and taking Faith’s spot. Baker moved to center and Farmer was out at a right wing.

Farmer, a natural born defenseman, played with freshman Scott Morrow towards the beginning of the season, but when the Minutemen were plagued with injuries had to step up and play offense. Farmer uses his speed to his advantage and his defensive ability provides upside as a forward, particularly on the forecheck.

Baker generated offense on his first shift; just as his line mates were coming off the ice to make a line change, he shot the puck at River hawk goaltender Owen Savory, but Savory covered it up to negate the chance.

During one sequence as the River hawks were about to pass the blue line, Makar checked a UML player into the boards, then right after, Farmer did the same thing to eliminate any chance of getting a puck to Murray.

The performance of the fourth line on Saturday night was not as strong as their performance on Friday night with the loss of Faith on their line. This led Carvel to take the line out halfway through the second period, and they never returned.

“Tonight, it dropped down to three lines halfway through the game and the kids that played all those minutes really sucked it up,” Carvel said.

The Minutemen will travel to Merrimack on Wednesday, Dec. 8 before going on a three-week break. Puck drop will be at 7:00PM.

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