UMass hockey: Top line of Lucas Mercuri, Ryan Lautenbach and Michael Cameron lift Minutemen to 4-1 win over Vermont

UMass freshman Dans Locmelis (10) skates deep into the Vermont zone during the Minutemen’s 4-1 Hockey East victory on Friday at the Mullins Center in Amherst.

UMass freshman Dans Locmelis (10) skates deep into the Vermont zone during the Minutemen’s 4-1 Hockey East victory on Friday at the Mullins Center in Amherst. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

UMass’ Scott Morrow (23) crashes the Vermont net during the Minutemen’s 4-1 Hockey East victory on Friday at the Mullins Center in Amherst.

UMass’ Scott Morrow (23) crashes the Vermont net during the Minutemen’s 4-1 Hockey East victory on Friday at the Mullins Center in Amherst. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

By HANNAH BEVIS

Staff Writer

Published: 11-10-2023 11:34 PM

Modified: 11-10-2023 11:35 PM


AMHERST – Throughout most of the first two periods, it seemed like neither UMass or Vermont would be able to break a scoreless stalemate. The beginning of Friday night’s Hockey East game was almost relaxed, and it looked like Vermont might be able to keep UMass off the scoreboard and escape with an all-important point or two. 

Luckily for the UMass fans in attendance, the Minutemen’s top line took control of the game decisively in the latter stages.

UMass head coach Greg Carvel has been asking for more from his veteran players all season, and they delivered on Friday night. The top line of juniors Lucas Mercuri and Ryan Lautenbach and sophomore Michael Cameron were outstanding for the home team in the second and third periods, combining for seven points in a 4-1 victory.

Three of those four goals came in the third period, including a dramatic unassisted shorthanded tally from Cameron for the Minutemen’s fourth goal of the game, putting the win firmly out of reach of the Catamounts with just over three minutes left to play.

Senior Cole Brady got the start for UMass, stopping 21 shots for the win. His shutout bid was spoiled with just 2:18 left in the contest when Vermont scored its lone goal on the power play. 

“It's nice to get a regulation win in the league, big three points and it was nice to go into the third period with a lead and extend it and play pretty good hockey. I thought Cole Brady was solid in net but to me the difference tonight was Mercuri’s line,” Carvel said. “Not just that they scored, but they scored because they played so well. The other three lines need to pick it up for [Saturday] night.”

Lautenbach finished with a goal and two assists while both Mercuri and Cameron posted a goal and a helper. Scott Morrow was also a difference-maker for the Minutemen, picking up a goal and an assist, single-handedly setting up Mercuri’s goal to make it 2-0 seven minutes into the third period and giving UMass the spark it needed to close out the game. 

Until relatively recently, UMass has kept its lines fairly consistent, only changing them up when sick or injured players were able to get back in the lineup. But Carvel and his staff have started to shuffle them to try and get their players going. It was a nice reunion of sorts for Cameron, who has played with both Mercuri and Lautenbach prior to their time together at UMass. 

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“We've known each other for a long time now. Me and Mercs used to play with each other when we were 16, (I) played with Lauty in juniors,” Cameron said. “We have that chemistry and we communicated a lot on the on the bench tonight and I think we trusted each other a lot and it showed. We had a pretty good game.”

The first period was relatively quiet, with neither team getting many chances even though both had power play opportunities. UMass had a pair of PPs that it wasn’t able to convert on, and the UMass PK shut down Vermont’s lone chance with Liam Gorman in the box for holding.

The Catamounts poured on the pressure in the second, outshooting UMass 9-4 in the middle frame. 

“The start was just kind of blah. I thought the last 10 minutes we got it going. But I give Vermont a lot of credit. For stretches they had us pinned in our own zone and it was a pretty sloppy game both ways,” Carvel said. “I’d like a little more from our team, but I’m not going to complain about a 4-1 win.” 

With 2:38 left on the clock in the second period, the top line combined to score the first goal of the night. Cameron dished the puck off to Lautenbach, who passed it to Mercuri and then got it back for a tap-in in a textbook 2-on-1 play. 

Mercuri’s goal in the second doubled the Minutemen’s lead, and Morrow netted a goal three minutes later off a picture-perfect pass from Lautenbach below the goal line. Morrow pinched in from the blue line and snuck all the way to the top of the crease, where he was able to send Lautenbach’s feed into the back of the net. Cameron’s shorty rounded out the scoring for the home team. 

The two teams will battle again on Saturday night at the Mullins Center at 6 p.m. Fans can watch the game on ESPN-Plus.

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.