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

UMass hockey comes out with close 4-3 win against Merrimack

Freshmen line leads the Minutemen in win
Devin Lippman
Daily Collegian (2024)

The Massachusetts hockey team grabbed its first victory of 2024 on Friday night, breaking its streak of three games without a win against Merrimack, 4-3.

The Minutemen (12-5-3, 5-3-2 Hockey East) came out weak for the first five minutes of the game but started to find their footing as the period went along. While UMass began to look like the better team in the middle of the period, it was not until 5:40 left in the first period when it got on the board. Jack Musa sent a shot from the left side of the net past Warriors (9-10-1, 2-7-1 HEA) goaltender Zachary Borgiel that quickly snuck by him.

“We needed a regulation win, wasn’t easy, never is against Merrimack,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “Solid win, I didn’t like our start but once we got going I liked our game.”

Musa continued his tear through his freshman year, scoring his fourth point in two games. With the goal, he leads the team in goals with nine, as fellow freshman Aydar Suniev is right behind him with eight.

Suniev led UMass in points, coming away with three assists on his linemate’s goals.

This is the freshmen line’s first time back together since the game against Alaska Anchorage on Dec 9. Locmelis was playing for Team Latvia in the World Juniors Tournament, allowing graduate student Liam Gorman to slot in. While the line found ways on the scoresheet in Locmelis’ absence, they looked stronger on Friday with him back in the lineup. Locmelis led Latvia offensively in the tournament and continued to come up big offensively on Friday. He scored the third goal of the game for the Minutemen to keep them ahead of the Warriors.

“It’s great when your best players on the ice are freshmen,” Carvel said.

Goaltender Michael Hrabal also came back from the World Juniors Tournament, winning bronze for Team Czechia. He played strong as Merrimack overwhelmed him with shots in the third period. The goaltender made 31 saves on 34 shots.

Merrimack got the best of Hrabal a minute into the second period after Matt Copponi slipped the puck past him on a wraparound. Hrabal reached his stick across the crease and appeared to make the save at first glance, but a video review confirmed that the puck crossed the line, tying the game 1-1. Later in the second period, Ben Brar also squeezed the puck between Hrabal’s legs.

In the second period, though, two goals by the Minutemen put them up 3-2 heading into the final period. Ryan Lautenbach allowed UMass to regain the lead in the second period off a Cam O’Neill pass.

The game was similar to most of the matchups between the two teams in the last few years, yet another one goal affair. Despite the Warriors outshooting the Minutemen, UMass was able to prevail through timely scoring.

“Both teams play really hard and to an identity,” Lautenbach said. “It’s always a battle with (Merrimack), we’ve known that since I’ve been here. You’ve just got to play your hardest, especially in their rink tomorrow.”

What put the nail in the coffin for the Warriors was a third period goal from Ryan Ufko.  When the Minutemen were put on the power play, Ufko sent a hard one-timer past the goaltender to bring the Minutemen up by two goals.

“I think the greatest teams have captains and leaders who do everything right and lead by example and [Ufko] does that,” Carvel said.

UMass will look to build off the win, continuing the series on Saturday, Jan 13 at 7:00 p.m. The Minutemen and Warriors are set to faceoff at Lawler Rink.

“We need to be ready to start and discipline will be important,” Carvel said. “I just want our guys to show up and compete and be ready to compete, compete for 60 minutes. When they do that, I love this team.”

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

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