Aidan Kaminska an unlikely hero in UMass’ win over Hofstra

Sophomore scores hat trick against the Pride

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Eva Trainer/ Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

In the fourth quarter of the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team’s game against Hofstra, Aidan Kaminska collected a pass from Logan Liljeberg and quickly fired a shot into the top corner of the net. As he watched the rubber ball strike twine, he calmly embraced his teammates on the field.

It was a routine celebration, but far from a routine goal or routine day for Kaminska.

Kaminska, a sophomore, didn’t see any playing time during his freshman season at UMass (7-5, 2-2 Colonial Athletic Association). Before Saturday he only played in three career games, recording one shot and one goal against Towson. Against the Pride (5-9, 1-3 CAA), he scored a hat trick.

“Aidan [Kaminska’s] been really good in practice the last couple weeks … it’s just a matter of him finishing his opportunities, he had four shots and three goals,” head coach Greg Cannella said after the game. “It’s because of his preparation and feeling a little more comfortable.”

It took the Minutemen five minutes to get going offensively, but Kaminska showed confidence in himself the moment he stepped on the field. The first time he touched the ball, he immediately drove past a Hofstra defender and took a shot while fading away from the crease but snuck it past Mac Gates for his first goal of the day.

Kaminska’s minutes on Saturday were limited by the number of midfielders being utilized by UMass, but the sophomore still took advantage of opportunities given to him. In the fourth quarter he made a move nearly identical to the one that got him his first goal of the game, but instead of fading away from the net, he drove in towards it and scored a goal from a low angle.

A Long Island, NY native, Kaminska didn’t waste his homecoming moment. He grew up in Port Jefferson, about an hour away from Hofstra’s campus depending on traffic. And even though he rode into New York with a small role on a big team, he left a hero for the Minutemen who needed a win on Saturday to help regain postseason positioning.

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it difficult for players to crack into the lineup consistently for the Minutemen, and Kaminska is the latest example of that. With 46 players on UMass’ roster and a deep offensive rotation, the minutes for role players differ from game to game. Even Dillon Arrant — who started the majority of the 2021 season at attack and scored 20 goals for the Minutemen — had his role minimized by the depth on UMass’ sideline.

But even through all that competition, unexpected players have still found ways to create defining moments for themselves all season long. Senior Jackson Cummings scored his first career goal against Lowell. Tim Hoynes scored a game-winning goal in overtime to top Delaware. And on Saturday, Kaminska added to that narrative with a three-goal afternoon to help UMass beat the Pride 13-9.

“Guys that excel in practice, we’re going to play them, and he’s one of those guys that really has stepped up over the last few weeks,” Cannella said of Kaminska.

Although Kaminska’s hat trick celebration seemed mild, there was a lot of power behind it because of the adversity he faced in getting to that point. And his teammates let him know they appreciated him.

Liljeberg was the first to hug Kaminska after assisting his third goal. Kevin Tobin couldn’t contain his excitement after the play, leaping up for a shoulder bump before coming down and giving a hug of his own. And once Kaminska finished his on-field celebration and reached the sideline, nearly every UMass player was there to show him love.

His impact on the game was crucial. But more than that, Kaminska created a moment he’ll never forget.

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