UMass hockey notebook: Injuries forcing creative solutions; 2 selected to Team USA World Juniors camp

  • Scott Morrow and the UMass hockey team will be shorthanded this weekend when it plays UMass-Lowell Friday and Saturday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/30/2021 7:08:43 PM
Modified: 11/30/2021 7:08:11 PM

AMHERST – Desperate measures were two plans ago for the UMass hockey team.

Injuries are forcing Greg Carvel and the coaching staff to manufacture creative solutions after a week without games.

The Minutemen might not have enough players to fill a full lineup when they face No. 16 UMass Lowell on Friday and Saturday, Carvel said. They’re down six forwards (Josh Lopina, Garrett Wait, Eric Faith, Cal Kiefiuk, Oliver McDonald and Eric DeDobbelaer), four of whom played on the top two lines earlier in the season.

Some of them may dress so UMass has enough bodies on the bench, but they likely won’t play since they haven’t practiced or trained enough to be in game shape.

“We’ve got enough kids. I’m not complaining about it, it’s just the reality of it,” Carvel said. “We’ll show up, battle and try and be a good defensive team.”

The initial rash of injuries has pushed freshmen and transfers higher up the lineup. It’s opened up opportunities for freshmen Lucas Mercuri, Taylor Makar and Ryan Lautenbach

“Those are the kind of guys we needed more from,” Carvel said. “I’m seeing improvement. When all these injuries started, you’ve got to step back and say ‘what's the silver lining?’ Their development’s going to fast forward a little bit.”

The evaporation of UMass’ lines has also pressed defensemen Ty Farmer and Linden Algier into service as emergency forwards. Farmer has played the role for two games now, while Algier is newly stepping into it. It’s similar to the transition Kolby Vegara made in March of 2020 when the Minutemen needed healthy bodies.

“Linden’s a good hockey player, he’s just behind a lot of other good defensemen,” Carvel said. “Not excited that he’s going to get time playing forward but he may very well.”

Those “good defensemen” will be the rock of UMass’ team, as they have for most of Carvel’s tenure. Freshman Ryan Ufko and Scott Morrow have found their feet after rocky starts, while assistant captains Matthew Kessel and Colin Felix are stalwarts.

“We need their games to elevate,” Carvel said. “We’re rally banged up, and it’s not getting any better. We need those guys in the back end to be extremely good.”

They haven’t considered bringing in a recruit for the second semester to fill in the holes since Carvel expects most of the Minutemen to return by the end of the season. They have the two games against Lowell this weekend and a Dec. 8 matchup against Merrimack before the winter break.

“We just got to find a way to get through another week,” Carvel said. “So that’s nothing that's crossed our mind. It's not necessary.”

STARS & STRIPES – Morrow and goaltender Luke Pavicich were two of 31 players named to the preliminary roster for the 2022 U.S. National Junior Team on Tuesday. The freshmen will participate in a training camp at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., starting Dec. 12 hoping to earn a spot on the 25-man roster that will compete at the 2022 World Junior Championships Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Canada.

New York Rangers defenseman Zac Jones was the last Minuteman to compete for the U.S. at the World Juniors, representing the USA in 2019. Former goalie Filip Lindberg won a goal medal with Finland that year, as well. 

Cale Makar won a gold medal with Canada in 2018. 

William Lagesson competed for Sweden in 2016, and Stephen Werner suited up for the USA in 2004.

UMass Director of Equipment Operations Josh Penn earned a Bronze medal on staff with Team USA in 2018.

NO DROPPING POINTS – UMass hasn’t lost a Hockey East game in regulation though eight games. The Minutemen fell against BU at home in overtime and on the road at New Hampshire. They also picked up a shootout win over the Terriers and beat Merrimack in overtime.

“We’ve not won in dominant fashion like we have in the past. We’re just getting by in wins, which is fine,” Carvel said. “It’s been a very uneven year.”

The Minutemen, ranked 14th nationally, are second in the league with 18 points. Providence is first with 19 but has played one more game than UMass.

UMass is the seventh-highest scoring team in Hockey East – middle of the pack – but the Minutemen have allowed the third-fewest goals in the league.

“I think we have to score more,” senior forward Anthony Del Gaizo said. “Guys like myself need to score more goals. Hopefully we’ll get some production this weekend.”

HARVEST TIME – After growing mustaches all month in support of men's health, the Minutemen raised nearly $8,000 through the Movember foundation.

“It gets to a point where it becomes the norm and you kind of forget how ugly they all are,” Carvel joked.

Ryan Sullivan grew the thickest, fullest mustache of the bunch. Colin Felix and Anthony Del Gaizo also acquitted themselves well in the fundraising effort that served as a bonding moment

“Early on (Sullivan) was the front runner. His is dark and stands out,” Carvel said. “He did a nice job keeping it tight. Maybe that’s why he started to play well. It’ll force him to keep it on.”


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