LOWELL, Mass. — Massachusetts-Lowell beat the University of Toronto 5-2 in an exhibition game Saturday. The River Hawks opened the scoring 7:54 in when freshman Michael Colantone buried a Terrence Wallin rebound. Toronto’s Paul Van De Velde tied the game at one two minutes later, but then Joseph Pendenza scored a pair of goals to give Lowell a 3-1 lead after one.
Scott Wilson scored late in the second and freshman defenseman Greg Amlong capped the scoring with a power-play goal in the third. Freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck played the first half of the game and stopped 12 of 13 shots, while Doug Carr saved seven of eight in the second half. The River Hawks open the regular season against Vermont on Friday.
What I saw
-Redshirt freshman defenseman Dmitry Sinitsyn played his first real game in more than a year. The seventh-round pick of the Dallas Stars wasn’t playing anywhere to start last season due to visa issues, then he committed to Lowell and redshirted the second half while practicing with the team. Obviously both Norm Bazin and the Stars saw a lot of promise in the offensive blue-liner, and he showed flashes of that Saturday, notably leading a couple rushes up ice. Sinitsyn also looked a bit rusty at times, but that was obviously to be expected. Bazin said it will be good for Sinitsyn to watch some video and be able to see where he should be in certain situations.
-Hellebuyck, a fifth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets, saved 12 of the 13 shots he faced. He gave up a couple rebounds that he seemed a little unsure of, but for the most part he looked solid. There wasn’t much he could’ve done on the one goal — it came on a cross-box pass to a wide-open player on the doorstep. Toronto tested Hellebuyck with a bunch of high shots, but he was able to take away any open space. Being 6-foot-4 certainly doesn’t hurt.
What I thought
– Colantone and Ryan McGrath looked like freshman forwards who should make an impact. Colantone scored the game’s first goal when he banged home Wallin’s rebound, but he looked good in the offensive zone all game. Bazin also used him on the point on the power play, showing that he has faith in the rookie’s puck control and decision-making. McGrath is only 5-foot-7, but he was digging in the corners all game. He never shied away from contact and he took the puck to the net all game. He earned an assist on Pendenza’s first goal, as he had the shot from the circle that led to the rebound, and finished the game with five shots on goal.
-Wilson looked like the best player on the ice, which is probably something that’s going to happen a lot. The sophomore forward set up Lowell’s first goal when he collected the puck in the corner and found Wallin with a perfect centering pass. Then he scored Lowell’s fourth goal when he one-timed a Riley Wetmore feed past a helpless Garrett Sheehan. Other usual suspects had good games as well. Pendenza had two goals, but Wallin, Josh Holmstrom, Riley Wetmore and Derek Arnold all created scoring chances too. On defense, Chad Ruhwedel played his usual stellar game at both ends of the ice.
What they said
-Bazin: “I thought we had energy. I thought we pursued the puck fairly well. I think there were a lot of anxiety mistakes, in terms of the guys wanting to make the right play, having energy, being in a good position, but not having the poise or composure to settle it down. But that’s gonna happen at this time of year. I’m just glad it’s over with and we have some footage to learn from and move on.”
That pretty much perfectly describes “early season jitters.” As Bazin said, though, the River Hawks have to be pleased with the energy and aggressiveness. They dominated time of possession all game, even if they did look a little sloppy at times.