AMHERST, Mass. — UMass-Lowell defeated in-state rival UMass at the Mullins Center Friday night, 4-2. Josh Holmstrom scored twice for the River Hawks, as the team enjoyed an appreciable power-play advantage, with five more opportunities than their opponent.
The River Hawks sealed the victory with an even-strength goal late in the third period. Lowell’s sustained pressure in the final minutes prevented Mastalerz from leaving the net for an extra-attacker. That effort was a microcosm of the game for the River Hawks, whose spirited play created multiple scoring chances and stifled the UMass offense. The Minutemen had cut the deficit to one goal
With the victory at the Mullins Center, the River Hawks clinched the season series. Both teams meet again Saturday night in Lowell.
What I Saw
In the first period, UMass was fortunate to survive with the score level at one. The Minutemen took five total penalties and afforded Lowell four chances with the man advantage. UMass was guilty of several stick-related infractions, including a hooking penalty by captain T.J. Syner — which resulted in a Lowell power-play goal. The team did well to kill the first of three power plays, but evidently the fourth was too much for the UMass penalty kill.
The River Hawks succeeded in controlling the tempo of the game, while frustrating UMass and its ability to the get the puck to the net. Lowell neutralized the speed of its rivals by aggressively pressuring UMass forwards.
“Except for a few lulls in the game, I thought we had excellent speed of our own,” UML coach Norm Bazin said. “And that’s how we were able to counteract the speed of UMass. We did a much better job of helping our defense out than we did [against Providence on Tuesday]. I was more pleased with our defensive game and it made [goaltender] Doug Carr’s life just a little bit easier.”
What I Thought
This game had significant implications for the Hockey East standings. UMass entered the weekend with the potential to catch the River Hawks in fifth place if the team swept the pair of games. Now Lowell has a six-point advantage and owns the season-series tie-breaker. It’s also a deflating loss for UMass, as the team had hoped to ride its three-game winning streak further up the standings.
Though Carr played well in goal for the River Hawks, the sophomore owed a lot for his performance to the strong play of his defensemen. The goalie allowed many saves to bounce around the crease before being cleared by the defense. Securing the puck was not Carr’s strength Friday night.
For the Minutemen, coach Don Cahoon has maintained his lines in recent games to allow the players to develop chemistry. At times, that familiarity was evident. However, an injury to Rocco Carzo during the game forced the coach to shift his lines. The status of the forward is uncertain, but Carzo remained on the bench for the third period and did not receive treatment until after the game.
In addition, the play of senior defenseman Michael Marcou needs to improve for the Minutemen to have a chance to beat talented teams like Lowell. Marcou took a senseless roughing penalty early in game. In the second period, the defenseman found himself unable to cover for his partner, Joel Hanley, who pinched deeply near the Lowell net. Once the River Hawks collected the puck, Terrence Wallin found Joseph Pendenza streaking toward the other end of the ice, unmarked. The forward easily converted the breakaway chance, giving Lowell a 2-1 and a definitive shift in momentum.
Though certainly these errors were not the difference in the game, as an assistant captain and leader, Marcou needs to set a better example and not put his teammates in situations where it’s difficult to be successful.
What They Said
“The leadership core of this team is pretty strong,” Bazin said, describing one reason for his team’s success on the road. “I like the way they prepare for games, I like the way they’ve played on the road thus far. We hope to keep that going.”
Looking forward to Saturday’s game at Lowell, the UMass coach was clear that motivating his players and convincing them to play the style of hockey that allows them to win games.
“Some guys will respond, and the guys that don’t, won’t play,” Cahoon said. “There’s not a coach at this level who can just say, ‘ok boys, let’s just change it up here,’ [and expect significant changes]. The game tomorrow night will be a significant measurement for them.”
“All successful teams need to be able to win on the road. And we just haven’t found that yet,” Syner said, giving his assessment of his team’s approach looking toward Saturday night’s game in Lowell. “All of the guys in the locker room are frustrated right now. You want to channel that frustration and let it set the tone for tomorrow.”
What Else You Should Know
One defining factor for the River Hawks this season has been scoring first. Nine of the team’s wins have come with Lowell taking the early lead. Friday’s win represents the team’s improved ability to overcome a deficit.
Last year the Minutemen won all three games between the two sides.
The loss ended UMass’ undefeated record at the Mullins Center this season. The Minutemen had a 7-0-3 mark entering Friday’s game.
Mastalerz started his third-straight game in net for the Minutemen. The freshman earned victories over Boston College and Vermont over that stretch. Cahoon did not specify who would start in net Saturday, but its likely that freshman Kevin Boyle or sophomore Jeff Teglia will play.