Own goal delivers UMass hockey another wild win over Merrimack

  • Scott Morrow, of UMass, takes a shot against Minnesota State in the third period Saturday night during the season opener at the Mullins Center in Amherst. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2022 9:29:33 PM
Modified: 1/3/2022 9:28:53 PM

AMHERST — UMass and Merrimack apparently can’t play a normal hockey game in the 2021-22 season.

Monday’s meeting, the teams’ fourth, was decided by a Warriors own goal in a nonconference matchup of Hockey East teams. The schools pulled the game together over the weekend after both had contests postponed by their opponents’ COVID-19 protocols. The previous three, all UMass wins, either went to overtime or ended with a last-second game-winner.

Merrimack defenseman Zack Uens inadvertently tipped a Ryan Lautenbach crossing pass past Warriors netminder Zachary Borgiel with 4 minutes, 55 seconds left to secure a 4-3 victory for the Minutemen at the Mullins Center. Lautenbach was credited with the goal since he was the last Minuteman to touch the puck before it went into the net. Defensemen Scott Morrow and Ty Farmer were credited with an assist each.

“I give my kids a lot of credit, they came out in the third period and played really well,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “It’s the first time I’ve coached a team that’s come from behind so many times to win games, and that’s a good sign.”

No. 10 UMass (10-4-2) won its third game in a row. The Minutemen haven’t lost in regulation since being swept by No. 1 Minnesota State to open the season.

Morrow, back in a UMass sweater after departing the canceled 2022 IIHF World Juniors Championships, played a large part in putting UMass in a position to take the third-period lead at all with two goals and an assist. It was his fourth and fifth goals in the past five games.

He shook three Merrimack defenders between the UMass blue line and the Merrimack net before firing a wrist shot past Borgiel short side to put the Minutemen up 1-0 11:45 in. Fellow freshman Lucas Mercuri received an assist on the play.

Merrimack tied it at 1 just 5½ minutes later when Logan Drevitch converted a breakaway for the Warriors.

Merrimack hit two posts in the first four minutes of the second period – one on the power play after a slashing penalty by UMass’ Taylor Makar – coming centimeters from taking a 2-1 lead each time.

Filip Forsmark finally gave the Warriors that particular advantage when he poked the puck in close and it trickled past Matt Murray’s pads with 14:46 left in the second.

UMass forward Reed Lebster leveled the game at 2 again 13:36 in from Farmer, who had three assists in the game, and Cal Kiefiuk after the Minutemen caused several scrambles in front of the Merimmack net that Borgiel was able to hold or fall onto the puck and get out of.

“(Farmer) will do whatever we ask of him,” Carvel said. “I really like his skill set. When he has that poise and confidence, he’s a great player.”

That even footing didn’t last. An interference call against Kiefiuk at 16:06 tilted the ice the Warriors direction. Then 56 seconds later Mercuri went to the box for handling the puck, creating just over a minute of 5-on-3 hockey.

Max Newton fired a low shot right up the middle of the ice at 18:02 of the second that dribbled through Murray’s legs to put the Warriors up, 3-2.

“I really though we were taking the game over at the end of the second period. I thought we were going to find a way to  separate ourselves from them,” Carvel said. “Discipline was an issue for me. We’re taking too many penalties, and in a game like that it’s a big factor.”

UMass created a perfect opportunity to knot the game at 3 just 46 seconds into the third period when it snuck Bobby Trivigno into the Merrimack zone on a breakaway. He went to his left and tried to slide a shot by Borgiel, but he star fished out across the crease and kept it out.

Trivigno skated with two lines most of the night, centering UMass’ top line with Josh Lopina and Garrett Wait – both returning after long injury absences – and the Minutemen’s fourth line with Makar and Harding. He replaced Linden Algier on the fourth line, filling in for a defenseman by trade trying to fill a hole at the bottom of the lineup.

“We still tried to play four lines so Lopes and Waiter weren’t gonna get overworked,” Carvel said. “That’s a strong line in this league, to have them back and get the rust off was necessary.”

No one on the first line scored a point, but Lopina secured 12 of UMass’ 27 face off victories. Merrimack owned a 33-27 advantage on the dot.

While the Minutemen got their top forwards back, they needed to fill in for some missing pieces down the line chart. Carvel said UMass was without “four or five guys” against the Warriors.

“We needed to play. It had been a long time,” Carvel said. “I really look forward to having a full lineup and to see what these guys can do when we’ve got all our bullets in the gun.”

Strong showings form the blue line helped cover up for those deficiencies. Defensemen accounted for six of UMass’ 11 points.

Morrow struck again with 14:46 left to tie the game at 3. Lautenbach carried the puck up the right side of the ice past a fallen Merrimack defender, who slipped. Morrow filled the center of the ice, and slammed Lautenbach’s pass into the roof of the net on his first touch. Farmer also got an assist on the play.

After the Minutemen took the lead late, Merrimack called timeout with 1:29 remaining and an offensive zone face off. The Warriors pulled Borgiel for a sixth attacker, and Murray made two key saves to help the Minutemen preserve a victory. He made 23 saves in the game.

UMass now heads to Ann Arbor for a weekend series against Michigan on Saturday and Sunday.

“I’m really looking forward to someday coaching the full team. It hasn’t happened since the opening weekend,” Carvel said. “Of course, we haven’t lost since then, so maybe this is the way to do it.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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