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 finishes sweep of UMass Lowell with 4-3 OT win

Ryan Ufko walks it off for the Minutemen for the second night in a row
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

The Massachusetts hockey team finished its regular season slate at the Mullins Center with a 4-3 overtime victory over its “little brother” UMass Lowell. Ryan Ufko was the hero for the second night in a row, rewarding the nearly 6,300 fans who turned out for senior night with a thrilling game winner.

On the man advantage in the extra frame after Lowell’s Jak Vaarwerk was sent to the box for hooking, head coach Greg Carvel sent out a squad he knew could get the job done; Scott Morrow, Aydar Suniev, Kenny Connors and of course, Ufko.

The play started with a faceoff win from Connors, allowing UMass to possess the puck in the offensive zone. As the Minutemen cycled, Ufko used his vision to recognize a soft spot in the defensive structure of the River Hawks, on the back door at the bottom of the faceoff dot. Suniev recognized Ufko’s awareness and sent a pass right to his wheelhouse.

All Ufko had to do was blow on the puck to send it into the wide-open net.

Although Carvel hand-picked the unit he was going to put on the ice, the play itself was all Ufko’s idea.

“I actually saw it when the Buffalo Sabres did it the other day,” Ufko said. “It was like two days ago I was just scrolling through Instagram, Twitter. They were in overtime and [Rasmus Dahlin] was up top and they ran that play where the D passed it and then went to the backdoor. So, I figured let’s give it a try, just with how Lowell was pressuring out, figured there might be a seam there and lucky enough it worked.”

Ufko sent the game to overtime when he brought UMass back to even with a goal midway through the third period. He sent a shot from the point that was screened well by Cole O’Hara.

He capped the play off with a classic chest rip celebration in honor of  Anthony Del Gaizo, who did the same to Lowell his senior year.

Ufko finished the weekend with three goals and an assist.

Aydar Suniev took back the team lead in goals with his 12th of the year. The freshman sniped one past former UMass goaltender Luke Pavicich a minute into the second period to tie the game at two.

“Very few players at this level are going to score that goal,” Carvel said. “He’s a shooter, he’s a scorer, he works on that stuff. You give him a little bit of space to shoot, he’s going to shoot, and that was a heck of a shot.”

Suniev’s goal was important for the momentum after Lowell scored back-to-back goals in the first to take an early 2-1 lead on the Minutemen. Jak Vaarwerk scored both goals 64 seconds apart for the River Hawks.

“I didn’t like the way we started the game,” Carvel said. “I think it’s kind of the human nature, we win last night, hard game on the road. We weren’t ready to compete, I thought Lowell was really good tonight, I thought they played a really good road game and maybe deserved to win.”

It was a successful senior night for the Minutemen, as they celebrated their eight seniors and graduate students. Linden Alger and Aaron Bohlinger are the two seniors who have been with the program for four years.

With the OT win, UMass is now tied for fourth place in Hockey East with Providence, the final seed that gets to host a quarterfinal Hockey East playoff game. They are also just two points behind Maine, which is the final opponent of the regular season for UMass next week, meaning a sweep would clinch third place and a playoff game at the Mullins Center.

The Minutemen will travel to Orono on Friday, Mar. 8 to cap off the regular season. Puck drop on game one of the weekend is slated for 7 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.

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

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