Amherst, MA- The Massachusetts Minutemen hit the ice with expectations and optimism. Against the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers on Friday night, UMass delivered on their expectations and flaunted their offensive talents.
The opening 10 minutes were even, with good skating and each goalie facing some shots. Shortly after the halfway mark, UMass capitalized on a pair of RPI mistakes. Ottoville Leppanen took a holding minor and Will Reilly took a cross-checking minor 1:16 apart from each other. While skating 5on3, St. Lawrence graduate transfer Jacob Pritchard wrister home a shot from the right circle to stake his new team to a 1-0 lead. Only 1:07 later, while still on the power play, freshman Marc Del Gaizo landed his first collegiate goal from the left circle and UMass led 2-0.
Jakub Lacka beat Minutemen goalie Matt Murray on a putback shot to cut the lead to 2-1. RPI appeared to be close entering the break. However, another Engineer mistake and UMass’s talent killed momentum late. Lacka took an ill-advised slashing minor. In the waning seconds of the power play, John Leonard stickhandled through a defender and found Mitchell Chaffee in the slot. The sophomore from Rockford, Michigan, wired a shot through RPI starting goalie Linden Marshall. Less than 30 seconds later, Cale Makar split the Engineer’s defense and beat Marshall with Reilly draped over his back. UMass ballooned the lead to 4-1 in the final minute of the period.
UMass dominated the second period, outshooting RPI 18-6 and not allowing the young Engineers space to work with. The Minutemen again capitalized on a power play chance late in the period when freshman Ty Farmer scored his first collegiate goal following a Kyle Hallbauer slashing minor.
RPI switched out Linden Marshall for Owen Savory in the third period, and the freshman handled himself well. He faced nine shots and made eight saves, many of them quality chances. The only shot that got through was Cale Makar’s shot off a rebound for the star sophomore’s second score of the night. RPI did not crack Minutemen goalie Matt Murray again and UMass claimed victory in their regular season opener 6-1.
RPI Head Coach Dave Smith was upset with the result but understood where his team went wrong. “I thought we had good energy. The game was pretty even. They got the first one at the 11-minute mark. Right before that, we made a fundamental flaw that we talked about on the bench. Everyone felt it and it took us down. In a game of ups and downs, we went down.”
Minutemen Head Coach Greg Carvel was pleased, especially with the special teams, yet still intently focused in on improvement.
“For the first game of the season, I thought it was a very sloppy game. Fortunately, our special teams were very strong tonight. We felt that last year, our power play let us down. We could have won more games if our power play was more effective. So we made it a focus point through September. It’s good to see it be successful and effective. It was a lopsided score but not a lopsided game. We’ll need to be much better tomorrow, we’re playing an angry RPI team.”
UMass scored four power-play goals on seven chances and held RPI 1-7 on the man advantage.
Carvel added praise for his top two players, Cale Makar and Mario Ferraro. “If he (Makar), isn’t one of the best players at this level, no one is. He’s outstanding. He’s gotten quicker, he’s gotten faster, he’s gotten stronger. Same with Mario Ferraro. Those two guys are elite players at this level. You could see that tonight.”
Makar posted two goals and two assists for a four-point night. That doubles his prior career high in goals and points. Ferraro didn’t post any points, but handled himself well defensively and skated hard. Former St. Lawerence player Jacob Pritchard had one goal and two assists for three points. Matt Murray recorded 27 saves on 28 shots faced.
UMass is 1-0 and RPI is 0-1. The teams will rematch in Troy, NY tomorrow night and conclude their weekend series. Puck drops at 7 pm at Houston Fieldhouse.