UMass’ third line integral in series against Union

The trio combines for 10 points on the weekend

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Kira Johnson/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Kayla Gregoire, Assistant Sports Editor

As the Massachusetts hockey team closed out its series against Union, the third line remained one of the largest contributors on the weekend.

The line that consists of Ryan Lautenbach, Lucas Mercuri and Taylor Makar combined for 10 points in the series, the most of the four lines. The third line has chemistry both on and off the ice as roommates.

“It’s great,” Mercuri said on playing with Lautenbach and Makar. “I love those guys. We room together, we’re roommates. We spend a lot of time together so we’re really tight off the ice so it makes it easier to play with each other.”

Mercuri added one point on Friday off an assist but on Saturday the sophomore totaled for three points. His first point of the game came off his goal in the power play after Cole O’Hara threw the puck on the goaltender. Mercuri in the right place at the right time, behind the goaltender, tapped the puck in.

“[Mercuri] is a big guy that gives us a lot of minutes,” head coach Greg Carvel said after the game.

Mercuri’s two assists were both in the third period of the game, with one being on Makar’s goal. Mercuri along the boards passed the puck to Makar, springing Makar free on an odd man rush. He skated down the middle of the ice, shooting the puck in to cement a 7-0 UMass victory.

Makar’s goal on Saturday marked his second goal of the series. On Friday, Lautenbach wrapped around the net to attempt a goal of his own but came up empty. The shot led to a buildup in front of the net, allowing Makar to tap the puck in for his first of the season.

“The thing that I enjoy this time of the year is seeing which guys are starting to take steps and Taylor Makar had a big weekend,” Carvel said. “What he did in that goal is what I’ve known he’s been capable of and we’ve working with him to use his size and speed. I thought he did a lot this weekend.”

Lautenbach tallied three points on Friday off a goal and two assists, the most he has recorded in a game. In five games, the sophomore has five total points, while last season in 31 games he had 10 points.

On Friday Lautenbach had a shot at two goals in the first minutes of the game. Lautenbach celebrated a tap in but after review, the goal was called back for goaltender interference. The goal did not discourage Lautenbach, instead it lit a fire under him. He looked like the best player on the ice every time he stepped onto it.

“Ryan Lautenbach is becoming one of our best forwards,” Carvel said. “His speed, tenacity, he’s learned to be a point producer.”

His goal came on a power play after parking himself in front of the net. A tap in marked his first goal of the season and second point of the game. Lautenbach added assists on the first goal of the game off of Taylor Makar’s lamp lighter. He also added an assist shortly after his goal on Kenny Connor’s goal.

Despite not being the biggest guy on the ice, Lautenbach felt like a big body presence every time he went on for a shift. He constantly was checking players along the boards, being a constant threat on the ice. When the Dutchmen (2-5-1) players were attempting to pressure Lautenbach, he did not falter, staying with the puck. In the third period, Lautenbach in the neutral zone checked a player in front of the UMass (4-0-1) bench, stinging the Dutchmen player.

Along with physicality, Lautenbach was using his speed to constantly beat Union to the puck. Pucks that looked untouchable he was able to beat.

The line despite not being the top line contributed throughout the series. Last season, the three played most of the season together and was not seen as a threat. This season, the line has generated scoring chances every time they step on the ice.

“If that’s our third line and they can score for us and play important roles for us in special teams then that’s a good sign,” Carvel said.

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