Key forwards to UMass hockey’s lineup back off injury help in win against Merrimack

Josh Lopina had 10 shots on goal

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Kira Johnson / Daily Collegian

By Kayla Gregoire, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts hockey team hosted a last-minute non-league game on Monday night against Merrimack after its series against Union College was postponed.

The Minutemen (10-4-2, 7-2-2 Hockey East) took this game as a chance to knock off any rust they had before they head out to take on Michigan after not playing a game since Dec. 8th that was against the Warriors (7-10-1,3-7-0 HEA).

Players that needed this game more than their fellow teammates were Josh Lopina, Garrett Wait and Oliver MacDonald who were coming off of long-term injuries. A player that was expected to be back in the lineup was Eric Faith, but when the lineup came out Monday afternoon he was not listed.

Amidst the time when UMass had multiple forwards out due to injury, freshmen Lucas Mercuri and Ryan Lautenbach stepped up and played multiple games on the first line with captain Bobby Trivigno. Against Merrimack they were bumped down to the third line with MacDonald, which allowed for the third line to have an increase in playmaking ability.

Lopina on his first shift was falling behind and lost his edge throughout the shift. He was able to pick it up throughout the first period and added three shots on goal in the first. He also went back to his role of taking faceoffs and slowly started to be up to his typical performance as he finished with 12 faceoff wins out of 20.

“We got killed in faceoffs tonight,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “Luckily [Lopina] was out there. I think he won most of our faceoffs.”

Lopina was hungry to add another collegiate goal after adding three goals in his five games this season. In the third period he added a shot on goal from his stomach when he was knocked down from attempting to tap in the puck. He ended up with six shots on goal, the most out of the Minutemen lineup.

When a penalty was called on UMass’ Linden Alger, Lopina was put back on his spot on the penalty kill unit. He started where he left off by killing off 30 seconds of the Warrior’s powerplay. A few seconds into the Minutemen’s penalty kill, Trivigno passed the puck to Lopina to give him a breakaway. Lopina on his backhand shot the puck on Warriors goalie, Zachary Borgiel, but came up shorthanded.

Lopina was later out when UMass had been put in a bad situation when both Mercuri and Cal Kiefiuk were sent to the penalty box to give Merrimack a two-man advantage.

Both Lopina and Wait were generating scoring chances throughout their shifts with Trivigno. Wait and Trivigno were both giving the puck to Lopina to allow him to get shots on the Warriors goalie.

“The top line [for us] is just two guys trying to shake rust off and get their feet under them,” Carvel said. “[The top line] will be better going forward, but [Lopina and Wait] gave us a good effort tonight.”

Wait could be seen battling for pucks and seen everywhere on the ice. He was put on the powerplay with his fellow line mates Trivigno and Lopina.

MacDonald did not see too much in the first, but he was on the ice when Logan Drevitch scored for Merrimack to tie the game up at one apiece. He redeemed himself during the second period when he kept the puck on his stick for a few seconds before passing the puck to Lautenbach who shot it on the backhand but came up short. Thirteen minutes into the period on a breakaway, MacDonald got a shot off on Borgiel but tripped before he could finish the scoring chance.

“I really look forward to when we have a full lineup and to see what these guys can do when we’ve got all our bullets in the gun,” Carvel said.

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