LOWELL, Mass. – Freshman defenseman Zack Kamrass picked a great time to score his first collegiate goal. With 8:31 left in overtime, he collected a rebound off a Joseph Pendenza shot and buried it into an open net to give Massachusetts-Lowell a 3-2 win over Providence and push their quarterfinal series to a decisive Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.
After getting outplayed for much of the opening period, the River Hawks struck first at the 17:28 mark when Chad Ruhwedel kept a puck in at the right point and raced to the slot before flipping a backhander past Alex Beaudry (33 saves). Lowell upped the lead to 2-0 early in the second when Matt Ferreira banged home a loose puck in the crease for a power-play goal.
The Friars came storming back late in the second, though. Myles Harvey cut the lead to one when he ripped a slap shot past Doug Carr (34 saves) from the top of the left circle. Then Stefan Demopoulos tied the game 1:56 later when he knocked in a rebound off a Shane Luke shot.
What I saw
-The first 17 minutes of the opening period were reminiscent of the second period of Game 1. The Friars once again dominated time of possession and prevented Lowell from doing much of anything in the offensive zone. It looked as though the River Hawks would be lucky to go into the intermission scoreless, but then Ruhwedel’s goal completely turned the tables. The River Hawks kept the pressure on after the goal and wound up with a late power play after Josh Holmstrom drew a frustration penalty on Tim Schaller. Ferreira wound up scoring on that power play early in the second. Lowell coach Norm Bazin said after the game that Ruhwedel’s goal took some pressure off his team and helped everyone calm down.
-The Friars had the better chances in the third period and overtime, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. They outshot the River Hawks 12-5 in the third and hit two posts in overtime. The first came on a shorthanded rush when Schaller hit the left post with a shot from the high slot. The second came less than two minutes later when Ross Mauermann hit the meeting point of the right post and the crossbar. That shot was reviewed, but replay upheld the no-goal call. Providence coach Nate Leaman said those two shots just go to show that hockey really is a game of bounces, but Bazin pointed out that the River Hawks also hit a crossbar and had a goal called back in the game.
What I thought
-The Friars showed a lot of heart in the latter half of the second period. They could’ve easily deflated after Lowell scored late in the first and then again early in the second, and for a few minutes, it looked like maybe they had. But then they started sustaining some pressure and generating chances like they had done for most of the first period. It finally paid off with Harvey’s goal, then carried into the next couple shifts and resulted in a tie game two minutes later.
-I couldn’t help but feel good for Kamrass. He’s had a very good freshman season that has gone largely unnoticed by those outside the program. Like classmate Jake Suter, his primary responsibility is to be a stay-at-home defenseman who blocks a lot of shots, and he has done a good job filling that role. He is second on the team with 40 blocks, and he’s also done a decent job helping out on offense when called upon (he also registered his 10th assist of the season on Friday). His game-winner Friday night started with a good play in his own zone that allowed him to lead the breakout. He then moved the puck up to Pendenza, who took it wide before firing the shot that led to the juicy rebound for Kamrass to bury.
What they said
-Bazin: “I just told them to stay the course [after Providence's two goals]. I was very proud of our effort, because I thought our guys persevered. That’s an important part of hockey. … By no means did we think we were in hot water at that point. We just had to dig down deep and get the next one.”
The River Hawks didn’t exactly regain momentum after those two Providence goals late in the second, as the Friars outplayed them for most of the remainder of the game. But they did do a better job of clearing out the front of the net and cutting down on the number of quality chances they allowed. The old cliché of bending but not breaking would be a good way to describe Lowell’s play in the third period and overtime.
-Leaman: “I think our guys are hungry. I think our guys are really hungry. They’re obviously disappointed to come pretty close there with the amount of opportunities we had in overtime and hitting the two posts, but I sensed from our team afterwards that they were hungry. We’re just gonna feed off that. We’ll have kind of a light day tomorrow and recover and get ready for a great Game 3.”
Leaman was asked if the day off Saturday might be beneficial in helping his team recover from Friday’s loss, and that was the answer he gave. Assuming he’s telling the truth, it’s certainly a good sign for Friar fans that the players are itching to get back on the ice and not hanging their heads.
What else you should know
-Game 3 is Sunday at 4 p.m. This series had to start Thursday rather than Friday because there is a high school basketball tournament at the Tsongas Center on Saturday.
-With Friday’s win, Bazin set the all-time record for biggest turnaround by a first-year head coach. The River Hawks’ 23 wins this season are 18 more than they had last year during what ended up being the worst season in program history.
-As of 11:45 p.m., Lowell was tied with Miami for fifth in the PairWise.