‘They’re gonna score a lot of goals’: Freshman fourth line adjusting quickly for UMass hockey

  • UMass forward Tyson Dyck, center, eyes a pass against Union at the Mullins Center. He’s part of an all-freshman line that is playing beyond its years. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/27/2022 3:37:57 PM

AMHERST – The orientation lanyards came off, and the pucks went in.

All three members of the UMass hockey team’s fourth line are freshmen, and they all adjusted to college hockey quickly and together. Center Kenny Connors is tied for the team lead with seven points. he’s scored three goals with four assists.

Left wing Tyson Dyck has put away two goals with an assist, while right winger Cole O’Hara has two goals and an assist.

“They’re all really smart, good players. They’re going to get better quickly as they adjust to this level and get stronger,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “I imagine they’ll move up from a fourth line status to higher, but right now it’s a pretty good situation to be in.”

All three were selected in this summer’s NHL draft. Connors went to the L.A. Kings from Dubuque (USHL) in the fourth round, Nashville picked O’Hara also in the fourth round from Tri-City (USHL) and Ottawa took Dyck out of the BCHL in the seventh round.

Despite arriving from separate leagues, systems and backgrounds, the freshmen gravitated toward each other.

“I think it was pretty natural. We gelled off the ice as well as on the ice. The coaching staff saw that and they were able to trust us,” Dyck said. “Early on, we definitely needed to focus a bit more on structure coming from different teams, different systems. It took a few days for us to get to know each other, but now we're definitely just playing with a bit more feel.”

Rather than fitting in with more experienced players, they were all able to learn and adjust together. The line leans on each other in new scenarios and shares what they’re picking up.

“I think we're all kind of rowing in the same boat together,” Dyck said. “We have two other guys that are going through the same process.”

Part of that process is scoring your first career goal. All three found the net within the first four games of the season. Connors and Dyck put one in in the home opener against Denver, while O’Hara opened his account in the first game against Union.

“It was awesome to celebrate together but also kind of get it out of the way together,” Dyck said. “None of us are like gripping the stick extra hard or anything anymore.”

They barely resemble most bruising fourth lines with their pedigree and skill. That doesn’t mean they’re shying away from the grit necessary to match up.

“We’re all new guys and trying to make it work as best I can right now,” Connors said. “We’re a confident, talented group. Anyone can score on any night. We’re trying to do the best we can to support the team.”

The scary part is this is just the beginning. The freshman line will only get older.

“They're gonna score a lot of goals here,” Carvel said. “They  just need experience.”

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