Sometimes the best offense is a group of transition defensemen.
That was the case as UMass Lowell opened the second half of the season with a 5-2 win over Canisius College in the opening round of the Sheraton/TD Bank Catamount Cup, Saturday, in Burlington, Vermont.
"It's a bonus," says Head Coach Norm Bazin. "I don't care who scores, but getting contributions from your back end is very important over the course of the season."
UMass Lowell sophomore defenseman Christian Folin (Gothenburg, Sweden) scored a goal and added two assists and junior defenseman Zack Kamrass (Atlanta, Georgia) set up three goals to power the River Hawks who were coming off a 21 day break for final exams and the winter holidays.
"I was pleased with our effort," said Bazin. "We responded well after giving up the first goal of the game, we scored on the power play; all positive things. I thought the work ethic continued throughout the game."
UMass Lowell improves to 12-5-0, Canisius' record drops to 5-9-1.
The River Hawks fell behind early in the first period. Taylor Law put Canisius on top, 1-0, with a power play goal at the 6:56 mark of the period.
UMass Lowell responded less than five minutes later. Senior center Joseph Pendenza (Wilmington, Mass.) took a pass from Folin, accelerated wide on the right wing into the Canisius zone, beating a defenseman and then drove to net beating goalie Tony Capobianco to even the score, 1-1, at 11:39 of the period.
The goal was Pendenza's sixth of the season and changed the tone of the game. Folin and Kamrass picked up assists.
The River Hawks took the lead for good with three minutes remaining in the period. Sophomore A. J. White (Dearborn, Mich.) redirected a Folin blue line shot into the net. Folin and senior Josh Holmstrom (Colorado Springs, Col.) were credited with assists.
The UMass Lowell power play upped the lead to two, at 4-2, with a goal midway through the second period. Folin's blue line cannon blast found the back of the net with a crowd in front.
"I felt like I had a lot of time," said Folin. I looked up and I saw the far corner, so I decided to shoot and it went in, it was relief."
Kamrass and junior Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.) got assists on the goal.
The River Hawks went one-for-three with the man advantage. The goal continued a hot stretch for what has become Hockey East's most effective power play unit. UMass Lowell has scored a power play goal in 11 of its last 13 contests and is 17-for-51 (33.3%) over that period.
"We had a good net front presence," said Folin. "We've been working on the power play a lot in practice; we're doing it as a five-man unit, it's about getting pucks to the net with traffic."
The Golden Griffins narrowed the gap to a goal when Cody Freeman scored less than a minute later, but UMass Lowell added two more markers before the period ended.
Holmstrom scored at 17:07 of the period deflecting a freshman defenseman Michael Kapla (Eau Claire, Wisc.) show just inside the left goal and into the back of the net.
Sophomore forward Ryan McGrath (O'Fallon, Mo.) closed out the scoring with a breakaway goal at the 18:26 mark of the second period.
It was a thing of beauty; McGrath was sent in alone by a terrific airborne pass from Kamrass and then beat the goaltender high to the stick side.
UMass Lowell hunts for a championship Sunday afternoon at 4:00pm. The River Hawks will face Clarkson. The Golden Knights lost to Vermont, 3-2, in their tournament opener. It is possible that the Catamount Cup, a tournament in which UMass Lowell and Vermont do not play one-another, will be decided through a tie breaker. Goal differential is the first step, goals scored in second and the River Hawks lead in both categories.
Canisius faces the tournament host Vermont in the late game Sunday.