McCarthy: UMass is playing with confidence offensively

Minutemen rattle off nine goals in two games against Northeastern

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Chris Tucci/ UMass Athletics

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

To say the Massachusetts hockey team had a bounce back series against Northeastern would be a massive understatement.

No. 14 UMass (12-6-2, 9-2-2 Hockey East) made a statement after a tough Michigan series, proving that when healthy it can be dominant. As sound as the Minutemen played on Friday night, they exploded offensively against the No. 12 Huskies (16-7-1, 8-5-1 HEA) on Saturday and played with more confidence than they’ve displayed all season.

Bobby Trivigno tends to set the tone for UMass, and he set a strong one on Saturday, speeding down the ice and winning a puck race towards Devon Levi before putting a slick move on the Richter award watch-list goaltender and finishing for a key goal. That goal by the captain put the Minutemen up a pair of goals less than three minutes into the contest.

And it only continued to unravel from there.

UMass put 11 different skaters on the scoresheet on Saturday alone and ended Levi’s night very early after scoring four first period goals in 14 minutes of action. For the Minutemen to display that level of goal-scoring against an elite netminder who will represent team Canada in the 2022 winter Olympics is the kind of performance that will put the rest of college hockey on notice: UMass is still reigning national champions and it is capable of another deep postseason run.

The Minutemen offense wasn’t necessarily underwhelming at the beginning of the season, but it was dependent more on individual efforts and outside of Trivigno and Scott Morrow’s sustained efforts in the offensive zone, UMass didn’t seem to have clear goal-scorers it could rely on night in and night out.

That switch has been completely flipped now and it seems like the Minutemen are skating one of their deepest lineups to date, and that includes last season’s national championship squad. Fourth lines typically are the ones that coaches want to provide a little bit of scoring, but mainly not get goals scored against them. That isn’t the standard being set for UMass’ fourth line, though. The bottom trio of Oliver MacDonald, Lucas Mercuri and Ryan Lautenbach all found the back of the net against the Huskies, and MacDonald and Lautenbach in particular had very nice goals featuring good hands and pinpoint accuracy.

Those three are the Minutemen’s youngest forward line, so scoring goals was huge for their confidence individually and as a group. But Cam Donaldson also needed a boost, and he got that on Saturday. Since transferring to UMass, Donaldson had yet to record a goal despite playing in almost every game this season. He finally got that monkey off his back, scoring a slick goal for his first as a Minuteman.

That was no garbage-time goal either, Donaldson scored in the opening minutes and was the first UMass player to beat Levi. Minutemen coach Greg Carvel expressed after Friday’s game that he wanted to see more from the graduate transfer, and Saturday was a step towards that.

Having all four lines firing on all cylinders, as well as players like Donaldson, MacDonald and Anthony Del Gaizo playing with as much poise and conviction in the offensive zone as they have been lately is a sign of great potential for UMass this season. And like last year, this could be the game that sparks a dominant run straight to the postseason for the Minutemen.

Last year UMass came off of a three week athletics pause related to COVID-19 concerns and took on a strong Providence College team that it tied with in two previous matchups. The Minutemen could have easily dropped that game but instead routed the Friars 8-1. The very next game UMass knocked off then-No. 1 ranked Boston College and started a run of complete dominance that only ended in a 5-0 win over St. Cloud State giving the Minutemen their national championship.

There’s no guarantee that Saturday’s 6-0 win will have the same effect, but it definitely felt like UMass needed a spark of some sort, and it got that in a major way against the Huskies.

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