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

Depth of UMass hockey peeks through in win against Harvard

13 players contribute on the scoresheet
Jonathan Shi
Daily Collegian (2023)

In a night that opened up scoring opportunities for all classes of the Massachusetts hockey team, the depth of the Minutemen (9-3-1, 6-2-1 Hockey East) shined through in the face of Harvard with a 6-5 victory.

In previous matchups of the season, UMass has struggled to bring all of its classes together, often relying on veteran juniors like Lucas Mercuri and Ryan Lautenbach or its pack of freshmen.

Friday night, though, was a different story as the team meshed together with 13 players taking away at least one point from the contest. Mercuri, Samuli Niinisaari and Kenny Connors each exited the rink with two points.

“I thought our forwards were awesome, all lines were going,” Mercuri said. “To see a bunch of guys get on the scoresheet, it was great.”

Defenseman Linden Alger was one of the Minutemen to come out of the shadows against the Crimson (1-2-3, 1-2-3 Eastern College Athletic Conference). The senior found his way for a second-period goal, his first of the season.

Alger, who was originally slotted into the lineup as an extra defenseman for the Minutemen before closing out the night as the team leader, stationed himself at the left circle Friday night.

His goal came from that left side, taking the puck from Lautenbach and Mercuri. Alger took a swing at the puck and netted the puck under a minute after Harvard’s Ryan Healy regained the lead.

“We’re deep on [defense],” head coach Greg Carvel said. “[Alger’s] the kind of guy that waits and goes in when we need him, and when he goes in he does a really nice job. That was a huge goal… for us.”

The senior ended his star performance on Friday with four shots on goal from eight total attempts.

The second and third periods of the night highlighted the identity UMass has been trying to recollect after a faulty 2022-23 season.

Trailing 5-3 due to Harvard’s determination to keep the Minutemen down, graduate Lucas Vanroboys had other plans in mind. To shift the momentum back in his team’s favor, the forward found the puck from Cam O’Neill and Aaron Bohlinger before quickly releasing the puck off of his stick and sending it high into the net.

The combination of the graduate transfer, true freshman and senior captains highlighted the community of the Minutemen and success they find together as they compile all of their strengths. This was O’Neill’s second point of his collegiate career and Vanroboys’ first goal with a protected net.

This period was opened up by Scott Morrow’s goal. The defenseman took control of the puck and sliced his way down the sheet, clashing into some of the Crimson before getting the puck on his stick once again. Challenging Koskenvuo, Morrow went unassisted to sneak the puck in.

The silent sophomores also joined forces to put UMass on top. Connors, who took the assist on Mercuri’s goal, broke his stagnation with a game-winning goal. His linemate, Cole O’Hara, provided the assist alongside Niinisaari.

O’Hara was a quiet Minuteman for the start of the season, rarely being a player to keep eyes on. However, the sophomore jumped into the limelight with the rest of his team on Friday, taking six shots with two on goal and keeping up with the UMass identity in the absence of breakout sophomore Michael Cameron.

As for the dynamic junior duo of Mercuri and Lautenbach, their strengths together proved on Friday that they can succeed alongside whoever joins them in the top line. The Montréal forward tallied the game-tying goal in the third period, an assist and four shots on goal. Launtenbach closed his night with three shots on goal and an assist.

“There was never a doubt in our locker room that if we just kept playing hard, kept putting pucks on net… our shots were really high, we knew we’d capitalize eventually,” Mercuri said.

Playing catch-up for a majority of the night, UMass had to power through to pick up some Minutemen momentum heading into the three-goal second period. The Crimson appeared to be the dominant force, putting up two goals against freshman Michael Hrabal early in the first period. Jack Musa, however, chopped that lead in half with nearly forty seconds before skating into the locker room.

Captain Ryan Ufko stood along the boards and swiped the puck further up the ice to meet Suniev. The freshman inched his way forward and took his shot right above the dot. The puck bounced off of Musa, who was stationed in the midst of the mass, and sunk it in behind the net.

“I thought it was a dominant effort by us [on Friday],” Carvel said. “We scored six, we probably should’ve scored twelve.”

The Minutemen remain on the road as they head to Burlington, Vermont for their third contest against the University of Vermont. Puck drop against the Catamounts is set for 7 p.m on Friday, Dec. 1.

“We continued to play to our identity,” Carvel said. “I don’t have to convince these guys anymore. They know what they’re capable of.”

Sydney Ciano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SydneyCiano.

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