Cale Makar returns as UMass heads north for games at Vermont, Maine

  • UMass freshman defenseman Cale Makar will return to the lineup this weekend against Vermont. Makar missed a couple games while playing with Team Canada in the world junior tournament. THOM KENDALL PHOTOGRAPHY

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The UMass hockey team will be back at full strength as the Minutemen try to begin gaining ground in the Hockey East standings with three games in five days.

UMass (9-9-0, 3-5-0 Hockey East) is at Vermont, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and at Maine, Tuesday at 7.

The Minutemen are in 10th place with six points, but have played just eight league games. No other program has played fewer than 10 and most have played at least 12 so there’s an opportunity to climb in the standings if they can earn some points.

UMass will get Cale Makar back in the lineup as the freshman defenseman will rejoin the team in Burlington after winning a gold medal at the world junior tournament in Buffalo, New York. He has a goal and eight assists for the Minutemen and leads the team in plus-minus at plus-7.

Vermont is struggling at 4-13-3 (1-7-2 Hockey East). UVM is 1-8-2 in its last 11 games and is winless in its last six.

The Catamounts are last in scoring with 2.00 goals per game and 10th in goals allowed with 3.30.

Sophomore Ross Colton’s 11 goals are more than a quarter of the team’s total (40).

Sophomore goalie Stefannos Lekkas has logged most of the minutes in net. He’s 4-12-2 with a 3.26 goals against average and a 90.3 save percentage.

Despite their recent woes, the Catamounts have always given UMass trouble. The Minutemen are 0-9-1 in their last 10 games against their northern neighbors.

Maine will host UMass after games at Northeastern Friday and Saturday.

The Black Bears are 11-7-2 (5-4-1 Hockey East). They’re in the midst of a major turnaround after starting the year 4-7-0. They are 7-0-2 since their last loss on Nov. 24.

They’re the No. 2 scoring team in the league at 3.45 per game. Mitchell Fossier and Eduards Tralmaks have matching seven-goal, 10-assist stat lines to lead Maine.

Freshman goalie Jeremy Swayman, whose draft rights belong to the Boston Bruins, is 8-3-1 with a 2.37 GAA and a 93.2 save percentage. The Bruins took the Alaskan in the fourth round.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage