UMass loses to Merrimack 2-1 in the Mullins Center

Luke Pavicich makes 37 saves in the loss

Juliana+Yacoubian%2F+Daily+Collegian+%282022%29

Juliana Yacoubian/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Kayla Gregoire, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts hockey team failed to put offense together after the first period, falling to Merrimack 2-1 on Wednesday.

Taylor Makar continued his tear through college hockey against the Warriors (12-4-0, 8-2-0 Hockey East). Makar was the one to open up scoring for UMass (7-6-3, 3-6-1 HEA). After Kenny Connors passed the puck to Makar, he tapped it in to make a 1-0 game early in the night.

“[Makar] is a completely different player than he was last year,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “He’s been outstanding. He has six goals now, probably leads us in goals. He’s been the dominant player that I thought he could be.”

After Makar’s goal, though, the Warriors were quick to respond, creating a break away chance in the shift after. The Merrimack player shot the puck, but Luke Pavicich got a piece of the puck, allowing it to hit the post.

Despite Pavicich standing tall in net for most of the first period, he did allow one puck by him past the halfway mark of the period. Ivan Zivlack passed the puck to Matt Copponi and the sophomore from the center of the zone shot the puck past the goaltender for a tie game.

Lucas Mercuri plagued the Minutemen in the first two periods, giving them two minor penalties and one major penalty. Mercuri came off one of his penalties and skated towards the Merrimack goaltender with the puck on his stick. He shot the puck, but the puck went off the goaltender, but he then got another shot and could not get the backhand on the puck.

After that shift, Mercuri was called for a slew foot that put the Minutemen on a five-minute major. As UMass killed off the Mercuri penalty, Makar was also called for a penalty, putting the Minutemen on another penalty kill.

Due to constantly being on the penalty kill, the Minutemen started to look tired towards the end of the second period. The fourth line and second defensive pairing had been trying to keep up with Merrimack for multiple minutes to end the second period. Due to this, in the last second of the period, the tired players could not put pressure on Merrimack. This led to Ottoville Leppanen tapping the puck by Pavicich.

The Minutemen were put on a power play in the third period that did not benefit them. After losing Reed Lebster in the second, UMass went without one of its lead guys on the power play. With Ryan Lautenbach taking over, he struggled to figure out his place on the power play.

Pavicich kept his composure throughout the second period, facing 19 shots in that period alone. Most notably, Aaron Bohlinger turned over the puck in front of the net. A Warrior player made his way to the right side of the net and tried to back hand the puck past Pavicich. The goaltender stretched his leg out, getting the puck by just his foot. Pavicich ended his night with 37 saves.

Physicality always plays a role in Merrimack games and that did not change on Wednesday. All over the ice players were making hits to keep one another off the puck. Bohlinger behind the net made a big hit on a Warrior after the player tried to make a pass to his teammate. Lautenbach was also a key factor when it came to physicality. Lautenbach on the penalty kill took a Merrimack player down on the blue line after the player attempted to make a shot.

Face offs are an area where the Minutemen can take pride in their game. Josh Nodler went 71 percent on faceoffs, going 15-for-21. Eric Faith also had a good game in the dot, with a 67 percent win percentage.

“That’s a big part of my game is face offs,” Faith said. “I’m not a flashy guy so just being a guy that can win face offs, win puck battles and chip bodies when I can, that’s a big part of my game so when that’s going it’s good for me.”

UMass will take a break before heading to Wisconsin on Wednesday, Dec. 28 to take on Clarkson in the Kwik Trip Holiday Face-off. Puck drop is set for 5:00 p.m.

“At some point saying our team has potential is no longer a compliment,” Faith said. “We gotta start making some changes and start put our foot on the gas. We are losing games and we are losing points.”

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