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

Newcomers make an impact in UMass’ first win of the season

Musa and Niinisaari score in season opener
Kira Johnson

For eight of the Massachusetts hockey team players, Saturday night’s 5-3 victory over AIC marked the first time they took the ice for the Minutemen. They didn’t allow their debuts to overshadow their performances however, as two newcomers scored while the rest of the rookies made their presence known on the ice.

Defenseman Samuli Niinisaari and forward Jack Musa each picked up their first goals as Minutemen (1-0), a meaningful mark for UMass which will need its newcomers to supplement the team’s scoring.

Niinisaari scored the second goal of the game on a tap in after a Scott Morrow point shot trickled into the crease. Niinisaari crashed the net among a crowd of bodies and managed to poke the idle puck into the net.

“It felt really good,” Niinisaari said. “What else can you say, it always feels good. Scoring goals is not my main job, so it always feels good when you get one.”

The graduate transfer from Brown was a plus three on the night, the highest of any Minuteman skater. His sturdy presence on defense as well as some offensive glimmers are exactly what head coach Greg Carvel is looking for in Niinisaari.

“We were really excited to get him on our team because we had a pretty good idea of what he was going to be,” Carvel said. “He’s a really solid, steady presence with enough ability to add some offense. I think he’s still finding his comfort zone and I think you’ll see his game continue to improve.”

Musa was brought to UMass with the hopes that he could bring some much-needed top end scoring to the lineup and he got off to a good start on Saturday night with a greasy rebound goal in front of the net.

“Jack Musa has been really good through practice, through September,” Carvel said. “He’s going to find ways to affect the game. To me, he’s got a lot of Bobby Trivigno in him; same size, can play physical, can score goals, he’s got good speed. He’s going to be an important player for us for a few years.”

Musa has been skating with fellow freshmen Aydar Suniev and Dans Locmelis through the preseason but still looked strong skating with two other UMass newcomers Liam Gorman and Cam O’Neill on Saturday night.

As for the other six newcomers they showed up by less tangible means, blocking shots and playing physical against a gritty AIC squad.

The fourth line of Bo Cosman, Lucas Vanroboys and Christian Sanda threw their weight around, bringing the “be tough to play against” mentality that Carvel preaches to the ice. With each member of the line coming in at over six feet tall, there is potential for the trio to be a strong checking line for the length of the season.

Arguably the two most intriguing newcomers Suniev and Locmelis didn’t suit up Saturday night but are expected to be back in the lineup within the next few games. Both bring a dynamic look to the offense that will only improve the depth of UMass’ goal scoring unit.

UMass will look to improve on their first win effort on Saturday night against Dartmouth in scrimmage on Sunday. The Minutemen will likely give most of their players an opportunity to take the ice without the restrictions of an official game.

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

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