Taylor Makar leads UMass offense in 1-1 tie

Makar records a point in each of his last three games

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Colin McCarthy/ Daily Collegian

By Matt Skillings, Collegian Staff

Despite coming away with a 1-1 tie on Saturday night against No.16 UMass Lowell (9-6-1, 5-4-1 Hockey East), a positive takeaway can be found for the Massachusetts hockey team (7-5-3, 3-5-1 HEA) in the performance of sophomore left winger, Taylor Makar. Makar scored the game’s only goal and has been one of the No.15 Minutemen’s strongest players since he returned from injury.

Makar has a point in each of his last three games, a stretch where the team as a whole has only scored five total goals. His presence on the ice and on the scoresheet have been invaluable as the Minutemen have worked themselves out of a slump and are 2-0-2 in their last four games.

For head coach Greg Carvel, the most important facet in Makar’s improved play has been his confidence on the ice to use his speed.

“We played on some big sheets over there in Ireland, so it’s a huge advantage for him,” Carvel said on Makar. “I think he’s just gaining confidence in his game and he’s a high energy player, and a high energy kid. He’s just realizing how effective he can be doing that, did a great job tonight.”

Makar’s goal that opened up the scoring on Saturday night was a perfect example of what Carvel expects out of the winger. Makar carried the puck up the ice and dropped it off at the offensive zone blue line for Lucas Mercuri. From there, he used his speed to sneak behind a Lowell defender, placing himself in a perfect spot for Mercuri to be able to find him driving to the net. Makar received Mercuri’s pass with a slick skate kick to his stick and finished the play off with a mix of power and finesse, avoiding two defender’s sticks and tucking it past goaltender Gustavs Davis Grigals.

A classic knee-kick celebration later, and it was 1-0 UMass early on. It was a perfect storm of all of Makar’s most valuable assets on the ice, his speed, physicality and ability to finish close to the net. In that quick seven second span, he showed exactly how valuable he can be to the team moving forward.

“You’ve got to try as hard as you can whenever you get thrown in,” Makar said. “I’m lucky enough to play with [Kenny Connors and Reed Lebster], they can both make really good plays.”

A huge factor that has played into Makar gaining confidence on the ice has been his relationship with Greg Carvel off the ice and at practices.

“We’re definitely working on our relationship, and we work really close together,” Makar said. “It’s nice to have that talk in the back of my head and know that he’s supporting me, so it’s been good to have.”

Carvel expressed early in the season that Makar was someone he felt got left behind last year. This year, he’s made an emphasis to work with Makar and help him develop his game. Up to this point, it has paid off as Makar is now tied for fifth on the team in goals with Lebster.

After showing his potential throughout the first half of this season, the Minutemen will rely on Makar’s goal scoring prowess as they get into the meat of their schedule after winter break.

Matt Skillings can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @matt_skillings