UMass defensemen show up on both sides of the puck against Vermont

Scott Morrow and Matthew Kessel add goals to the score sheet


Nina Walat/ Daily Collegian

By Kayla Gregoire, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts hockey team’s defensemen were showing up both on the score sheet and on defense on Friday night against Vermont.

The Minutemen (18-10-2,13-6-2 Hockey East) defensemen were keeping Vermont off Murray throughout the first frame of the game, holding the Catamounts (6-22-2, 4-14-2 HEA) to only two shots on goal.

“We had to have a very specific game plan for the way Vermont plays and I thought our defensemen executed it very well, especially on our breakouts. We got out of our zone pretty well tonight and we needed to,” UMass head coach Greg Carvel said.

Many of UMass’ 13 shot attempts on goal came from defensemen, leading two blue-liners to score in the first period of the game. The first goal came when the Minutemen were put on a 5-on-3 about eight minutes into the frame. Scott Morrow shot the puck, and it was deflected off Catamount player, Philip Lagunov to give Morrow a goal early into the game.

Morrow has not scored since the Minutemen’s game at UMass Lowell on Jan. 30, a six-game scoring drought for the offensively minded defenseman.

While the Minutemen were still on the power play, Cal Kiefiuk passed the puck to Matthew Kessel and from the point Kessel shot the puck past Vermont’s goaltender to make a 2-0 game.

The last time two defensemen scored in a game for UMass was in its’ 6-3 win against Long Island University on Feb. 4, where Kessel and Ryan Ufko each added a tally.

Kessel did not stop generating both offense and defense after his goal in the first period of the game. During the second frame of the game Kessel had an important play when Catamount players were crowding the net with the puck, but Kessel was able to swat the puck away to stop any other scoring chances. In the same shift he skated down the ice and added a solid shot against the Vermont goaltender.

“Morrow and Kessel are two big bodies and there is no reason why they can’t be really good on both sides of the puck,” Carvel said.

A noticeable player on the ice throughout the game was Ufko. Ufko added two assists on both Morrow and Bobby Trivigno’s goal and had four shots during the first period. One of his shots came in the first few minutes of the game when he skated behind the goal and then backhanded it on Catamounts goalie Gabe Carriere.

Ufko and Morrow have been put on special teams together all season and have continued to generate offense for UMass on the power play. Throughout all the Minutemen’s power plays, the pairing wer always the ones to start off the shift and generate shots while also eliminating chances.

Ty Farmer had a solid shift in the first three minutes of the second frame when he added a shot on net, but the puck deflected back into the neutral zone. Farmer skated back quickly to eliminate the chance of a Vermont player breaking into UMass’s defensive zone and quickly passed the puck to Morrow.

The third defensive pairing that consists of Aaron Bohlinger and Colin Felix also had a good night in the defensive zone.

Bohlinger had a puck hit his foot in the second frame of the game that made him slowly limp to the UMass bench. Despite being stung by the puck, Bohlinger did not miss a beat and went on for his next shift. On Tuesday, Felix talked about the importance of playing with a player like Bohlinger.

“I love playing with [Bohlinger],” Felix said. “He’s really reliable, obviously he has his offensive talents. Honestly, his defensive game has come along since I’ve started playing with him here. I really like playing with him. I think we feed off each other really well.”

In the last frame of the game the Minutemen faltered but were able to keep Vermont’s offense off Matt Murray until UMass was put on the penalty kill and former Minuteman Lagunov scored to make a 5-1 game.

When freshman goaltender Luke Pavicich came into the game, the UMass defensemen made sure to not put too much pressure on the young goaltender, allowing him to only face a total of three shots in the last five minutes.

“I thought our backend was solid and it needs to be, it should be,” Carvel said. “The best part of our team is our backend. They should be a contributing offensively and playing good defensively.”

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