Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ryan Ufko notches first career hat trick in UMass’ tie against Vermont

Ufko secures an extra point in Hockey East with shootout game winner
Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2023)

Ryan Ufko led the UMass hockey team to a shootout victory almost single-handedly Saturday night, scoring his first hat trick as a Minuteman. Ufko has been an on-ice leader for UMass (10-13-5, 4-11-3 Hockey East) all season both offensively and defensively, and his hat trick Saturday night further proved just how vital he is to this program.

Ufko’s third goal of the night was both the most impactful goal of the game for the Minutemen and the most skilled goal the defenseman scored on the night. With the score tied at 3-3 and less than seven minutes remaining in regulation, the Minutemen needed a spark. Having allowed three goals against in the span of less than three minutes, (a lead they ceded two nights in a row) UMass was desperate for any kind of momentum.

And who better to deliver it than the hottest player on the ice. The goal was a bullet of a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff dot that was in the net faster than the blink of an eye. Just 13 seconds after Vermont (9-15-5, 4-12-3 HEA) tied the game, the lead was back in favor of the Minutemen.

“He’s our best player, it’s not even close,” UMass head coach Greg Carvel said. “He plays really well with and without the puck, just makes simple, smart plays. Really gifted, shoots the puck really well. So yeah, he’s a lynchpin for us and makes a huge difference in most games.”

Just one night removed from being ejected in game one against Vermont for a hit to the head, the standout sophomore needed to come up big for his team in his return to the ice. With the game tied at 0-0 early in the second, Ufko got the scoring going for the Minutemen.

His first goal of the night came from a point-shot that seemed to have eyes of its own. The shot was taken with the intention of being tipped, and although it wasn’t, it was placed so perfectly that Vermont goalie Gabe Carriere didn’t see it until it was behind him.

UMass has struggled offensively for a majority of the season, so to spark offense from the backend, the Minutemen have begun to combine Ufko and Scott Morrow together on the top pairing. The combo has paid off as the Minutemen have now avoided losses in three straight games and have scored 10 goals in that span.

“Those two guys [Scott Morrow and Ryan Ufko], they’re almost forwards in my opinion,” Vermont head coach Todd Woodcroft said. “Those are two pros, we’ll be watching those guys on TV, they’re dynamic.”

Although Ryan Ufko will only be credited with three goals, he provided the dagger for the Minutemen with the game winning shootout goal. His goal secured the extra Hockey East point for UMass, a point it desperately needed.

Ufko estimates that this was his first hat trick since he was 10 years old.

“Definitely a cool feeling, something I’ll definitely remember,” Ryan Ufko said. “Wasn’t really thinking about [the hat trick] during the game, just kind of glad we got the win at the end.”

Despite being having the archetype of an offensive defenseman, Ryan Ufko is not necessarily known for scoring goals. His offensive capabilities usually show through his playmaking abilities, setting up teammates with slick passes or well-placed point shots, but his pinpoint accuracy as a shooter often goes unnoticed.

Saturday night however, it was on full display for all the fans at the Mullins Center to see.

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

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