Lucas Mercuri provides important role for UMass on Saturday night

Mercuri opens up scoring for the Minutemen in the first period

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Shilpa Sweth/ Daily Collegian

By Kayla Gregoire, Collegian Staff

It’s only natural for a freshman to open up scoring for the Massachusetts hockey team on its senior night against Boston College.

Lucas Mercuri got the Minutemen (19-12-2, 14-8-2 Hockey East) on the board in the first period of the game when UMass was starting to fall behind the Eagles (14-17-5, 9-12-2 HEA). Mercuri skated through all areas of the zone trying to find a hole to shoot the puck but could not find a way and passed it to his teammate. Not too long after, Ryan Lautenbach shot it on net and Mercuri was there to redirect the puck past Eagles goaltender Eric Dop.

UMass head coach Greg Carvel has wanted more from Mercuri, knowing that the forward was capable of more than what he was showing offensively this year. On the season, Mercuri has only added a total of five goals prior to the game against BC on Saturday afternoon. His last goal came during the Long Island University series on Feb. 5.

Mercuri has played most of the season on the third line with Eric Faith and Lautenbach. Due to an inconsistent performance, he was brought down to the fourth line with Jerry Harding and Ryan Sullivan on Saturday.

“I thought [Mercuri] was better,” Carvel said. “He’s one of the guys on our team that gets rewarded when he goes to the net. Most of his goals are deflections or right around the net. He was much better tonight, and we need him to. We need that depth scoring and he’s one of the guys capable of doing it.”

Mercuri is no stranger to adding offense to a team. While in the United States Hockey League with the Des Moines Buccaneers, the forward amassed 37 points over a span of 48 career games. Carvel wanted Mercuri’s performance in the USHL to translate into his college hockey career.

During the first game against the Eagles on Friday night, Mercuri’s performance was not up to his typical standards. Mercuri went 3-for-10 in the faceoff circle and added a hooking penalty for the Minutemen. As Mercuri watched from the penalty box, an Eagles player scored to tie the game on Friday night.

His efforts were more up to Carvel’s standards on Saturday. On top of the goal he scored in the first frame of the game, he was making continuous efforts to allow for scoring chances for his teammates as the Minutemen were down a goal. The forward has added nine assists to the season, for a total of 15 points in his freshman year.

On one play in the second period, Mercuri skated behind the net and passed a puck to Sullivan right in front of the crease, but Sullivan came up short on his shot attempt. In the same shift, Lautenbach was close to the net and Mercuri managed to get the puck to Lautenbach, but as he got his stick on it the goaltender covered the puck to eliminate the scoring chance.

Mercuri was sent to the faceoff dot seven times on Saturday and won three of his draws. Though he finished under 50 percent, Saturday’s performance was an improvement on the night prior.

With the few shifts and little ice time Mercuri and the fourth line had, they were able to make plays to keep the puck off Minutemen goaltender, Matt Murray. BC was rushing the net and when the puck eventually got to the corner behind the goal, Mercuri held the puck on the boards to take pressure off the goaltender.

Despite Mercuri’s efforts, a BC goal in the last five minutes of the game gave the Minutemen a 4-3 loss to close out the regular season. Mercuri and the Minutemen will be back in the Mullins Center Mar. 12 for the Hockey East Quarterfinals. Puck drop is to be determined.

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