LOWELL, Mass. – For the second night in a row, Massachusetts-Lowell staged a third-period comeback to extend its unbeaten streak to 11 games. The River Hawks erased a 4-1 Northeastern lead and tied the game with 55.3 seconds remaining. Then with 1:53 left in overtime, Christian Folin blasted a one-timer into the top corner to send the largest crowd in Tsongas Center history into a frenzy.
Joseph Pendenza cut the lead to 4-2 with 11:07 left in the game when he raced down the left wing and beat Bryan Mountain (33 saves) glove-side. Five minutes later, Derek Arnold made it 4-3 with a power-play goal that came less than a minute after he had a goal waved off. The score remained that way until the final minute. With the extra attacker on, Riley Wetmore pulled the puck out of a scramble in front and fired it past Mountain.
What I saw
-Northeastern blew another third-period lead. For the third time in the last four games, the Huskies led by two goals or more in the third period and couldn’t close out the game. They did still end up with the win against BU last weekend, but not before they blew a three-goal lead. This weekend, they saw a two-goal lead turn into a tie last night, and a three-goal lead turn into a loss tonight. When this happens early in the season, you can write it off as a team still finding its way and still learning how to close out games. But it’s the end of January now. There’s no excuse for it. Even if it had happened just once, you could chalk it up as a bad night. But three times in two weeks is indicative of a bigger problem. Whether it’s a conditioning issue or a coaching issue or a players issue, I don’t know. But whatever it is, it could very well cost the Huskies a playoff spot.
-Joseph Pendenza registered a goal and three assists and really played a remarkable game, possibly his best in a Lowell uniform. He assisted on Lowell’s first goal, scored the second, and then assisted on both the tying goal and the winning goal. He led all players with six shots on goal and an incredible plus-4 rating. Beyond the numbers, though, he was just a terror for the Northeastern defense all night. He was aggressive all game and consistently created scoring chances, whether it was making good decisions with the puck or driving hard to the net without it.
What I thought
-Like Friday’s game, this wasn’t exactly a goaltending duel. Both goalies gave up a bunch of juicy rebounds, and both goalies paid for it on a couple goals. Doug Carr, who got pulled Friday night, didn’t have a great weekend, but he’s proven he’s a good goalie and I’d expect him to still get some starts even when Connor Hellebuyck comes back. Northeastern’s goaltending is much more concerning, though. Chris Rawlings’ inconsistency throughout his four years has been well-documented, and Mountain hasn’t really been much better. He’ll make some great saves, but then let one in that he should’ve had. Add in the defensive struggles in front of the goalie, of which there are many, and it’s easy to see why the Huskies are fighting for their playoff lives.
-The River Hawks didn’t really come anywhere close to playing their best hockey this weekend. They only sustained offensive pressure in spurts, they didn’t do as good of a job clearing out the front of their own net as they usually do, and, as previously mentioned, Carr wasn’t really on his game. But despite all that, they still came away with three points. Part of being a good team is winning even when you don’t bring your A-game, something the River Hawks couldn’t do earlier in the season. They’ll obviously need to be better moving forward than they were this weekend, but they can also be encouraged by the fact that they came back twice and proved to themselves that they’re never out of a game.
What they said
-Lowell coach Norm Bazin: “Well, it was an exciting hockey game tonight. We certainly made it dramatic, more dramatic than the coaches would like. But obviously it went our way, so we’re very, very pleased with the result. I thought it was a tale of two games. The first half we definitely lost. The second half we definitely won.”
-Northeastern coach Jim Madigan: “We obviously let it slip away. We worked hard for two and a half periods, and then we just let it slip away at the end. We’ve got to get better and have more composure later in games. … We got tired a little bit, I think more mentally than physically, and they capitalized. They’re a good team. I thought we were weathering the storm, but then we made a couple bad plays late in the period and they capitalized.”
What else you should know
-The game drew a crowd of 7,013, the largest in Tsongas Center history. The fans didn’t have much to cheer for most of the game, but as Lowell came back and eventually tied it, they got very loud. The fact that Lowell drew a record crowd against a ninth-place team really speaks to the ever-increasing excitement around this program.
-With the win, the River Hawks moved into a tie for fifth in the standings with Merrimack. They remained seventh in the Pairwise as of 11:05 p.m. The Huskies dropped to ninth in the standings with the loss.
-Northeastern defenseman Drew Ellement left the game in the first period with an apparent leg injury and did not return. He was involved in a post-whistle scrum and ended up falling awkwardly. He tried to come out for another shift a couple minutes later, but then he left for good. Madigan said after the game that he wasn’t yet sure of the extent of the injury.
-Ryan McGrath was back in the lineup for Lowell after missing Friday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Connor Hellebuyck missed a third straight game with an undisclosed injury. Bazin said on Friday that Hellebuyck is day-to-day.