BOSTON-The No. 19/20 UMass Lowell men's hockey team (4-2-0, 1-0-0 Hockey East) opened conference action with a 3-2 victory over the No. 12/14 Northeastern Huskies (3-2-1, 2-2-0 HEA) Saturday night at Matthews Arena.
"Anytime you win in this building, they are valuable points come the end of the year. I thought we had some flashes in the game. I wasn't necessarily satisfied with the whole game. It wasn't a work of art tonight, but there were some positives: scored a shorty, ended up 100% on the PK and a couple of guys scored their first of the year," said Head Coach Norm Bazin following the game. "There's still a lot to be worked on. We're a work in progress right now."
Senior Zach Kaiser (Orangeville, Ontario), junior Ben Meehan (Walpole, Mass.) and freshman Owen Fowler (Tewksbury, Mass.) found the back of the net in the physical conference clash. Fowler's second period shorthanded goal marked the first of the rookie's career and the first goal for the UMass Lowell penalty kill unit this season. Getting on the scoresheet with a pair of helpers, sophomore Owen Cole (Dunnville, Ontario) ended the night with a team-best two points for his second career multi-point game.
On top of Meehan's first period tally, the Massachusetts-born defenseman led the team with four blocked shots and a +2 rating against Northeastern. Junior netminder Henry Welsch (Lakeville, Minn.) earned his second win of the year with 26 stops to improve to 2-1-0 on the year.
"Goaltending was good, no question. We usually don't get limited to 17 shots, but at the same time, it happens. It's a long season. You're not going to be at your best every night. You need goaltending. (Henry) was there for us," commented Bazin.
Though the Huskies controlled the opening faceoff, UMass Lowell turned the pressure on in the opening minutes of the first. Senior Jake Stella (Karlstad, Sweden) earned the River Hawks' first real chance on net just five minutes into play. Junior defenseman Marek Korencik (Zilina, Sweden) ripped one toward Northeastern's Grant Riley from the blueline for Stella, who went for the tip out front but was shut down.
The River Hawks' push for first blood paid off moments later. Clean puck movement between sophomore Isac Jonsson (Ängelholm, Sweden) and Owen Cole brought the puck along the perimeter and up to the blueline as UMass Lowell set up in the zone. A sneaky offensive weapon, Meehan wound up for a direct one-timer that zipped past Riley for the 1-0 lead at 5:43 into play.
The host Huskies earned a window of opportunity at just about the eight-minute mark when a penalty against the River Hawks sent Northeastern onto the power play. Welsch opened up the UMass Lowell penalty kill with a massive diving save on the weakside to deny the equalizer attempt. Meehan added to his full-ice contributions with a timely poke check to deny another close shot from the Huskies.
Northeastern leveled the game at 1-1 at the 12:25 mark. Defenseman Jeremie Bucheler brought the puck behind Welsch looking for the wraparound attempt. Unable to find the clean shot, Bucheler passed to Justin Hryckowian, who sent the one-timer past the UMass Lowell defense for the equalizer.
Huskies' Riley Hughes earned another chance for Northeastern as he barreled down the middle in a one-on-one footrace with Korencik. Keeping pace with the forward, Korencik denied the potential go-ahead goal with a quick flick of the stick to stay locked at 1-1 heading into the intermission.
Physical defense by the River Hawks stifled Northeastern's attack plan throughout the second. Most notably, McDonald's gritty net-front efforts stole a game-tying tally from Northeastern's leading goal scorer Aidan McDonough in the opening minutes of the period. Huskies' winger Cam Lund flew up the right side of the ice and connected with McDonough on a centering pass. McDonough looked to sneak a quick redirect past Welsch, but McDonald threw his six-foot frame in front of the potential momentum changer to keep the Huskies at bay.
The River Hawks brought out special teams at 2:32 after an unlucky call sent sophomore Matt Crasa (South Setauket, N.Y.) to the box for two minutes. With just seconds left on the Huskies' extra-man chance, Sam Colangelo went for a cross-ice pass after pressure from Fowler and Meehan forced him to dump the puck out. Cole capitalized on the turnover and flipped momentum back toward the River Hawks' offensive zone. Getting the edge on his defender, Fowler zipped down the slot and went toe-to-toe with Riley, beating him through the five-hole for the go-ahead goal.
Senior Carl Berglund (Hammaro, Sweden) and Jonsson made solid contact on goal to try and push the two-goal margin moving into the third but came up short. With just a little over two minutes left in the second, Northeastern put another close call on target, but McDonald was there once again with a block to keep the River Hawks out in front going into the final break.
An insurance goal for the River Hawks came just 4:58 into the third period off the stick of Kaiser. Aggressive backchecking by Berglund forced a turnover in the neutral zone that gave possession right back to UMass Lowell. Kaiser grabbed the look from Berglund and took his shot, racing to the goal head-on and hitting the puck off the crossbar for the security goal.
The Huskies clipped the River Hawks' lead back to one less than a minute later thanks to a goal from defenseman Jayden Struble. An acrobatic performance from Welsch in the final minutes of play was ultimately the decision-maker for UMass Lowell. With just over 20 seconds left to play, Welsch shut down a close-range shot from Northeastern's McDonough with a two-pad kick save to send the River Hawks back to the Mill City with three points and the win.
UMass Lowell continues conference play next weekend, Oct. 28-29, with a home-and-home series against No. 9/11 Boston University.