UMass remains unbeaten, defeats Merrimack 3-2 in overtime

Taylor Makar scores game winner for Minutemen

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Kayla Gregoire, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts hockey team was not dominant to start the game, but all it needed was Taylor Makar’s overtime lamp lighter for a 3-2 win over Merrimack.

There were multiple changes to the lineup due to Cal Kiefiuk still being out on injury. Cole O’Hara slotted out of the lineup, putting junior Ryan Sullivan on the typical freshman line. Kennedy O’Connor was listed as the extra defenseman.

The Minutemen’s (5-0-1, 1-0-0 Hockey East) third line started where they left off in the Union series. The trio of Ryan Lautenbach, Makar and Lucas Mercuri got the start due to their dominant performance. In the first five minutes of the game, Makar passed the puck to Lautenbach for the first goal of the game. Makar’s pass marks his first assist on his collegiate career.

“It helps to find an identity you can fall back on,” Head coach Greg Carvel said on the sophomore line. “There’s a lot of size and speed so it should be a tough line to deal with. They were our best line tonight.”

Makar was one of the best players on the ice throughout the game. Makar’s speed allowed him to beat Warriors (3-3-0, 1-1-0 HEA) players to pucks. The sophomore was also being physical when he did not have the puck. He eliminated scoring chances to attempt to keep shots away from net. To start off the third period, Makar skated into a breakaway, but the puck slid away from him so he could not get a quality shot on net.

Makar’s overtime winner was scored off a Ryan Ufko pass on a 2-1 breakaway to cement a 3-2 win.

“[Makar] was our best forward,” Carvel said. “He creates the first goal; he wins the battle. He’s using his size and his speed right. He’s not exposing pucks; he’s winning more battles.”

Luke Pavicich took the start in net and stood his ground for 30 minutes. With defensive breakdowns, Merrimack was getting constant shots off of Pavicich. Despite many of the Warriors’ not shooting quality shots, they slipped one by Pavicich in the second period. Trevor Griebel shot the puck and with an Aaron Bohlinger deflection, the puck slipped past Pavicich to make a tie game heading into the third period.

Pavicich made saves look easy even with pucks constantly being thrown on him. During the second period, to not allow a deflection to become a goal, the goalkeeper slid out of his crease to call the play dead. Also, in the first, the puck hit Pavicich, causing the puck to fly into the air. A Merrimack player with his stick in the air was ready to hit it, but Pavicich put his glove up high to catch the puck.

“It really changes having a confident goalie behind you,” Makar said. “Any mistake you make, hopefully he’s there to save it and he’s been doing a great job.”

UMass did not dominate the game despite being the first on the board. The Minutemen were struggling to get into the offensive zone. When they eventually got near the Merrimack goalkeeper, they caused turnovers. By the end of the second, the Warriors had 22 shots, compared to the Minutemen’s nine shots.

In the second, with a frustrated UMass team, Eric Faith sent the Minutemen to the penalty kill on a slashing call. Faith and a Warrior were on each other while skating towards goalkeeper Hugo Ollas. With the puck in front of him, Faith tried to add a shot on goal, but slashed the Merrimack player.

The first power play did not come until the third period, but the Minutemen came out dominant. Merrimack could clear the zone once during its penalty kill, but that was not enough. Scott Morrow passed the puck to Ufko who was in the middle of the ice. Ufko lifted the puck, scoring a goal bar down. The goal gave UMass a 2-1 lead game, putting some weight off the Minutemen’s shoulders.

“I noticed before the game that [Ufko] hadn’t scored yet this year so it’s good that he has a goal, but we needed that power play,” Carvel said.

The weight was put back on only a few minutes later when the Warriors added pressure onto Pavicich. While surrounded, the goalkeeper allowed the puck past him.

UMass will travel on Saturday, Oct. 29 to North Andover for the second game of the series against Merrimack. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

“Tomorrow night it’s going to be a battle,” Ufko said.

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