LOWELL, Mass. — In a game that appeared not to be in doubt through the first 25 minutes, Massachusetts challenged UMass Lowell in the second period, before succumbing, 5-2, in the final stanza.
Lowell dominated the first period and appeared poised to continue that domination through the second. But UMass defenseman Joel Hanley beat the typically reliable Doug Carr with a shot the goalie usually stops. That goal kicked off an excellent second period for the Minutemen. However, a rash of third-period penalties ended any opportunity to mount a comeback for UMass.
With the victory, the River Hawks swept the season series against their rivals — one season after being swept by the Minutemen themselves. The three wins against UMass are indicative of a remarkable turnaround for Lowell this season after winning only five total games last year.
In addition, the weekend sweep affirms Lowell’s quest to finish in the top half of the conference, while UMass must focus on merely securing conference play-off qualification.
What I Saw
With their unique combination of speed, physicality, and puck possession, the River Hawks are capable of controlling games for minutes on end. Though this type of pressure is hard to sustain for long periods of time, it allows UML to frustrate their opponents and encourage them to take penalties as a result of that emotion.
It’s also hard for Lowell’s opponents to adapt to at the start of games. In addition, it offers partial explanation for how the River Hawks have managed to score first in the majority of its games. Once Lowell takes a lead on its opponents, it’s generally hard for those teams to fight back and tie the score.
For the second consecutive game, UMass spent substantially more time than its opponent on the penalty kill. The challenges of spending significant time killing penalties are obvious. For the Minutemen, the frequency and timing of the infractions prevented the team from building any appreciable momentum — which was critical given how the team trailed in both games against Lowell.
What I Thought
The second period may have been one of the best of the year for UMass. The Minutemen outshot UML 18-7 in the stanza. Though a careless turnover leading to a goal prevented UMass from entering intermission with a level score, the effort proved that the Minutemen could overcome a no-show first period on the road.
If not for the strong play of Teglia, the game could have gotten seriously out of hand for the Minutemen. It’s hard to make a strong argument that a goalie played well while surrendering five goals and making only 24 saves. But the sophomore was thrust with the responsibility to lead continuous penalty-killing efforts and correct the danger associated with the many odd-man rush opportunities his defense allowed.
It will be hard for Cahoon to justify playing Teglia against next weekend given his 1-5-1 record and the recent strong performances of freshman Steve Mastalerz and the good play of fellow-freshman Kevin Boyle to start the season.
“Jeff battled and competed tonight — he probably would have liked to have the first and fourth goals back,” Cahoon said. “He was not the issue tonight. We’re simply not going to be able to make the kinds of mistakes we’ve made and win a lot of hockey games.”
What They Said
The River Hawks did a nice job of converting their odd-man rush opportunities, including a 2-on-1 transition chance taken up ice by Matt Ferreira and Terrence Wallin that gave UML a 2-0 lead in the first period.
“When a team comes at you with their defensemen also — they just join the rush — you’re going to have to execute on your 2-on-1s and your breakaways or its going to come back to haunt you,” Bazin said.
“I don’t always see the offensive stuff sometimes, but I always see who’s skating back to back-check,” Bazin said. “This was a difficult game to play our guys have to get back since they bring their defensemen on the rush.
What Else You Should Know
Lowell has a great opportunity to extend its quest for home ice in the Hockey East playoffs with four additional as it hosts last-place Vermont in a pair of games. Depending on Merrimack’s results and the possible continuation of Boston College’s free-fall down the standings, UML could find itself in the No. 4 spot at weekend’s finish.
Meanwhile, UMass — which must keep battling for a playoff spot — faces Northeastern Friday night in a critical match-up. The Minutemen then face Merrimack at home the next night.