Freshmen provide much-needed scoring in UMass’ win over UMass Lowell

Taylor Makar notches first career goal, one of four first-year skaters on the scoresheet

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Maya Geer/ Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

LOWELL — Massachusetts hockey coach Greg Carvel wanted to fill his lineup with as many big bodies as possible to combat the physicality that runs up and down UMass Lowell’s lineup. As part of that game plan, he suited up Taylor Makar in place of Cam Donaldson on the third forward line.

Makar responded with his most confident performance of the season, leaving the Tsongas Center on Sunday with his first collegiate goal.

“Felt pretty good, can’t do it without any of the boys … it felt good to get that off my chest,” Makar said of the goal. “It’s always nice scoring a goal, I haven’t for a while, and it was tough to get that [first] one called back but I think it gave our team a little more momentum on the bench.”

Makar thought he scored in the second period, but after video review the officials overturned that tally. The freshman kept his foot on the gas all night long, though, and as the clock dripped away in the third period, Makar added a no-doubt goal when No. 9 UMass (13-8-2, 10-4-2 Hockey East) needed it most, tying the game at 3-3 with six minutes remaining.

“That was awesome,” captain Bobby Trivigno said of his emotions watching Makar score. “Really excited after the first one but obviously they called that one back, but he definitely earned the second one. He earned his first college goal for sure, I’m really happy for him and proud of him.”

“We needed a goal from anyone at that point, to come from Taylor was just awesome for him and awesome for our team.”

Trivigno extended his goal and point streak on Sunday, but it was the freshmen who stole the show. Lucas Mercuri and Scott Morrow added goals on top of Makar’s, while Morrow’s tally turned out to be the game-winning score. In total the Minutemen finished with four freshman point scorers as Ryan Ufko added two assists of his own to get on the scoresheet.

“Three goals by freshmen tonight, that’s huge,” Carvel said. “Those are all big kids, [Makar], [Mercuri] and [Morrow] are all six-foot-two or bigger and they’re all capable of adding offense. Those are the kind of kids you want, big kids who will compete, and [Morrow] is just on a different level offensively.”

Mercuri and Morrow’s goals were created in opposite ways typical of their contrasting play styles. Mercuri won a fight for the puck in front of the net and scored a scrappy goal from the dirty area. He has used his size to generate the majority of his scoring this season. Morrow on the other hand showcased his hands, scooping up a rebound, putting it on his backhand and lifting it over River Hawks (14-6-3, 11-5-1 HEA) goaltender Owen Savory.

Scott Morrow is second on the team in points with 24 so far this season and Ufko sits at third with 16 of his own. Mercuri is also in double-digits with 11 points in 23 games this year.

“They are a skillful group I would say,” Trivigno said of the freshman class. “They’re all really good players and smart with the puck and they all just find ways to get on the stat sheet, put pucks in the net, assists, whatever it is, they’re contributing offensively for sure, really proud of them.”

The freshmen have contributed in positive ways all season and have been relied on by Carvel to make an immediate impact. Their ability to show up in the offensive and defensive zones each game has helped the Minutemen see a lot of success this season. The group was thrust into a large role early to combat injuries at the beginning of the year and is coming into its own as of late.

“It’s the time of the year where your freshmen should stop being freshmen and start being impactful players,” Carvel said.

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