Cal Kiefiuk powers UMass to victory and road sweep against Maine

Senior nets two goals against the Black Bears

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Colin McCarthy/ Daily Collegian (2023)

By Colin McCarthy, Video Editor

Orono, Maine — On Friday night, Cal Kiefiuk put the icing on the cake for the Massachusetts hockey team when he tacked on an empty-net goal to secure a win over Maine. On Saturday night, the senior forward ate the entire cake.

Kiefiuk netted two goals in the first period alone and was a catalyst for UMass’ (13-16-5, 7-14-3 Hockey East) offense throughout the game.

“[Kiefiuk is great for the program,” Cole Brady said. “He does everything right, the guys love him and he plays probably the hardest game I’ve seen. We know every night what we’re going to get out of him.”

Kiefiuk’s second goal of the night was something not often seen in his style of play. The forward received the puck from Reed Lebster at the top of the right circle and wasted little time blasting a quick wrist shot over the shoulder of Victor Ostman. Kiefiuk typically makes more of his offense in the dirty areas of the offensive zone, but his confidence on Saturday resulted in the blistering shot that beat one of the better goaltenders in HEA cleanly.

The first goal of the night for Kiefiuk was more in line with his identity, and just like the second, it was assisted by Lebster. The Minutemen assistant captain had the puck on his stick behind the net and fired it in front quickly where Kiefiuk was waiting on the doorstep to tap it past Ostman. He found a soft spot on the crease and took advantage of that opportunity to kickstart the scoring for UMass.

With six minutes remaining in the first period, the Minutemen were being outshot 9-2, but thanks to Kiefiuk, they had a 2-0 lead.

Greg Carvel has always seen Kiefiuk as a talented and capable offensive player, and even though the senior never quite developed into an elite scorer in Amherst, he’s still been a model of consistency on the ice, and what he brings to the team as a leader is difficult to replicate.

“That was a beautiful shot by Cal [on the second goal],” Carvel said of Kiefiuk. “Both his goals, right in around the net, good finish on both of them.”

Kiefiuk and Lebster finished the night with five points between the two of them. Lebster had assists on both of Kiefiuk’s goals as well as an assist on Scott Morrow’s second period tally.

“We’ve spent the last two weeks talking about honoring these guys,” Carvel said of the seniors. “This is a very special time of their lives and it’s coming to an end so they’re going to play with some urgency and you’re seeing that.”

After the game ended and Kiefiuk was coming off the ice, Maine’s head coach and former Minutemen assistant Ben Barr was waiting to greet him and the other UMass players with a hug. There’s no love lost for Kiefiuk, who was recruited by Barr at Western Michigan and then again in Amherst.

“That was pretty nice,” Kiefiuk said. “I got a good relationship with ‘Benny’ so that was nice to see him and catch up with him … I wish him all the success as long as he’s not playing against us.”

There’s no certainty on what the future holds for the Minutemen seniors since the pandemic gave them an extra year of eligibility. But, if this season is the last time Kiefiuk and Lebster don the Maroon and White, they don’t want to go down without a fight. The seniors are aware that starting on Wednesday, any game could be their last.

“It’s been a special four years here … we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we get one last run before we head out,” Kiefiuk said. “Obviously we’re in a little bit different of a position than we have been in the past, usually we get a first round bye, but I think the belief in that room has been the same since the beginning. I don’t think that record shows the type of team we are and I think this weekend proved that.”

On March 8, UMass will take on Boston College in the opening round of the HEA tournament. Kiefiuk is very familiar with the Eagles, having played them 11 times in his career. He has yet to register a point against BC, though, and with his season on the line, he’ll look to break that streak on Wednesday.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.