LOWELL, Mass. - You can learn a lot about a hockey team by the way it responds to adversity; UMass Lowell responded with big plays and came through flying colors.
Senior center Joseph Pendenza's (Wilmington, Mass.) third period goal gave the #9 River Hawks a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over #11 Clarkson University, Saturday afternoon, before a crowd of 4,649 at the Tsongas Center.
The goal completed a challenging comeback from an early first period 2-0 deficit.
With the win, UMass Lowell improves to 14-5-1. The River Hawks, who play only Hockey East opponents the rest of the way, went 10-3-1 in non-conference games. Clarkson's record drops to 12-6-2.
Pendenza's goal, his third in four games since the winter break, came midway through the final period as he redirected a pass from senior forward Derek Arnold (Foxboro, Mass.) into the Clarkson cage.
"Derek Arnold made a great play," said Pendenza. "I was driving the net, if I'd missed it, it would have been really bad because he put (the puck) right on my stick."
Arnold, after taking a pass from sophomore Ryan McGrath (O'Fallon, Mo.), cut back against the grain moving from the left wing to the high slot, and appeared to be preparing to shoot on net, when he spotted Pendenza bursting from the right wing to the net front and snapped a bullet pass to Pendenza who did the rest. Arnold and McGrath picked up assists on the play.
The goal was the culmination of hard work and a stick-to-it attitude. The River Hawks had trailed, 2-0, before the game was six minutes old. A. J. Fossen and Matt Zarbo had built the visitors lead with opportunistic goals off rebounds at the UMass Lowell net.
BUT, the River Hawks never got down on themselves.
"It's something we talk about," said Pendenza. "It's all about how you respond; great teams know how to respond and tonight we responded very well."
The first response came from junior forward Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.) A Wilson wrist shot from the right wing eluded Golden Knights goaltender Steve Perry to cut the lead in half midway through the period. Junior forward Terrence Wallin (Yardley, Pa.) picked up the only assist on the play.
The River Hawks tied the game in the second period. McGrath, who had two assists on the day's work, picked up the game tying goal when, driving toward the net from the left wing, he drilled home the rebound of an Arnold shot. Junior defenseman Zack Kamrass (Atlanta, Ga.) also picked up an assist on the play. The goal came at the 5:46 mark of the period.
Four minutes later, UMass Lowell grabbed its first lead of the game. Freshman forward Chris Maniccia (St. Catharines, Ont.) banged home a loose puck turning a scramble in front of the Clarkson net. It was 3-2, but the lead did not last long.
Clarkson defenseman Sam Lebrecque evened the count when he one timed the puck into the River Hawks net from the high slot. The lead had lasted only 1:39. It was Lebrecque's second goal of the weekend.
"We never got down on the bench," said Pendenza. "We kept saying 'let's keep it going, we're better than this,' and luckily we came out with a win."
The win came on Pendenza's goal at 9:55 of the third period.
The goal stood up in large part because of a terrific performance by the penalty killing unit. UMass Lowell was whistled twice in the period leaving them to play shorthanded for four minutes during a four-and-a half minute span.
"Those (kills) were huge," said UMass Lowell Head Coach Norm Bazin. "A couple of guys on the bench did not play a whole lot until the PK and they came up huge for us there and that was the difference in the game."
Clarkson was 0-for-2 on the power play, UMass Lowell was held off the score sheet in its one man-up opportunity.
The River Hawks were outshot in the game, 32-14. Doug Carr made 29 saves in picking up his 7th win of the season.
UMass Lowell takes its game outdoors when it returns to action, Saturday, at Fenway Park, in Boston. UMass Lowell and Northeastern square off at 3:00pm.
Clarkson hosts Merrimack twice next weekend.