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 grinds out 3-2 win over Merrimack

Lucas Mercuri scores game winning goal
Jonathan Shi
Daily Collegian (2023)

NORTH ANDOVER —The Massachusetts hockey team’s gritty style of play led to a close 3-2 win over the Merrimack Warriors on Friday night. Lucas Mercuri gave UMass (14-6-3, 7-4-2 Hockey East) an early third period lead which Scott Morrow grabbed his second point of the night on with an assist, and the Minutemen held on.

“I was kind of looking for [Ryan Lautenbach] back door, he likes to fade off like that and got the puck on my stick,” Mercuri said. “Got a really lucky bounce so good play by [Morrow], good faceoff win by our wingers to jump there.”

With the Warriors (10-15-1, 3-12-1 HEA) struggling getting the puck in the net, physicality ramped up. The teams combined for six penalties in the third frame, with UMass taking some shifty penalties. In the last few minutes, the Warriors were peppering the goal with shots but could not find the back of the net, cementing the Minutemen win.

“We took some penalties we didn’t need to take but it was a chippy game,” head coach Greg Carvel said. “The guys were competing hard and I liked our start, I liked our finish.”

The Minutemen’s first goal came from a big play from Mercuri that led to UMass’ early lead. The junior attempted a pass to Jack Musa, but a Merrimack player swatted the puck away and Mercuri grabbed the puck back. He waited and passed to Musa in front of goaltender Zachary Borgiel, who quickly shot an across ice pass to Cole O’Hara who took no time tapping it in the net.

O’Hara’s hard work in practice for the week paid off with netting the early goal.

“He was the best player on the ice in practice all week, he was unbelievable,” Carvel said. “He scored and stopped being unbelievable the rest of the game.”

Despite the early goal from O’Hara, the Minutemen and Warriors were evenly matched for the first 20 minutes. Both teams grabbed a penalty in the first period, playing physical from the jump.

Merrimack took advantage of Lautenbach’s shot off the post that turned into a Warriors goal. David Sacco shot the puck in for his first goal of the season which tied the game at one goal apiece heading into the second period.

In the second period, after going three games without a point, his longest pointless drought in his collegiate career, Morrow netted a goal with a big pass from Kenny Connors.

“It was just a great play by [Connors], having poise,” Morrow said. “He’s usually a shooter but that was a great play he made and that’s a primary part of the ice to shoot so I saw some net and tried to work with it.”

Both netminders looked shaky in net, continually coming out of their nets to block away shots. In the second period, Morrow bailed Michael Hrabal out a few times, swatting the puck away in front of the net before it could get to him. Borgiel was tricked by UMass but shuffled and made quick saves.

Hrabal, not looking too confident in net, allowed the Warriors to score which tied up the game for a second time. Ethan Bono’s swiftness with the puck was too fast for the goaltender, knotting the game back up again at 2-2.

In the third period, Hrabal settled into the net, making swift saves and not allowing a Merrimack goal in the third period. The freshman made 26 saves, nine of them coming in the third frame of the game.

UMass travels back to the Mullins Center to take on the No. 6 Maine Black Bears. Puck drop is set for Saturday, Feb. 2 at 7:00 p.m.

“We made some mistakes [Friday], but we obviously did a lot of good things,” Morrow said. “We are not intimidated that [Maine] is highly ranked because we feel like they play a very similar style to us and it’s going to be a similar game to tonight.”

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

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