LOWELL, Mass. - The UMass Lowell River Hawks' (4-3-0, 1-0-0 Hockey East) extended their winning streak to three games with a 5-3 win over the visiting University of New Hampshire Wildcats (1-4-1, 0-1-0 Hockey East). The two teams will meet again tomorrow night in Durham, NH for the backend of the home-and-home series.
"This is a very good hockey team that we played tonight, and we're happy to come out with some points," said River Hawks Head Coach Norm Bazin. "Tomorrow is going to be an even bigger challenge on the big sheet."
UNH got on the board first as defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk took a pass from Dalton Speelman and scored one-on-one with a backhander between Connor Hellebuyck's legs to put the visitors up 1-0 at 6:06 of the 1st period. The River Hawks tied it 2:19 later as team captain Josh Holmstrom (Colorado Springs, Col.) spun around in front of goaltender Casey DeSmith to collect his second of the season.
Adam Chapie (Oxford, Mich.) upped the lead to 2-1 at 11:00 of the 2nd. After terrific three-way passing off the rush with Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.) and Michael Fallon (Glenview, Ill.), Chapie finished off the play, settling down the pass from Wilson and putting it home past DeSmith.
The River Hawks took at 3-1 lead at 8:15 of the 2nd on Jake Suter's 1st goal of the season and 2nd career goal for the stay-at-home, shot blocking defenseman. Suter one-timed a slapshot past DeSmith who could not find the puck through a crowd in front.
UNH fought back as Kevin Goumas closed out the second period scoring at 17:22 to close the gap to 3-2. The River Hawks fought back in the second as Ryan McGrath (O'Fallon, Mo.) scored a game-changer at 11:52 of the third period. After knocking the puck away from a UNH defender, the 5-7 McGrath muscled past the much-larger defenseman and walked in on DeSmith, scoring with a backhand to the goaltender's left. Scott Wilson continued the momentum shift, finally breaking through his scoring schneid to pick up his first of the year just 23 seconds after McGrath to give UMass Lowell the insurmountable 5-2 lead. UNH closed on the scoring with just :19 showing on the clock as Nick Sorkin put his name in the scorebook with an even strength tally.
For the River Hawks, an increased compete level has resulted in not only a three-game winning streak against three quality teams but also some much-needed team chemistry.
"I like the group of guys we have, I've liked this group of kids from the beginning," Bazin said of his 2013-14 squad. "I think it takes some adversity to build chemistry, and we're seeing all of it in the early going. The trip last weekend (to Michigan) was a good bonding experience, and success when you're bonding is even better."
"Obviously, it was a slow start (to the season) for us. We've gone back to basics with our D zone, and we're really playing a structured game right now," echoed River Hawks forward Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.). "It was a big weekend for us last weekend and then playing a good team like UNH - it's great to get the 2 points and be on a bit of a roll right now."
UNH and UMass Lowell will complete the home-and-home series tomorrow night in Durham, NH at 7 PM. The game will be televised on WBIN-TV and River Hawks fans can also listen to the game on the ESPN River Hawk Radio Network: ESPN 900 (flagship station), ESPN 1250 AM, WSMN 1590 AM, WCAP 980 AM, www.espnnh.com and the ESPN Radio smartphone app.