Amherst, Mass. - Massachusetts-Lowell scored three first period goals on its way to a 6-3 rout of Massachusetts Friday night at the Mullins Center.
Junior defenseman Joe Houk found Derek Arnold twice for goals, and Riley Wetmore’s third period tally gave him his 100th career point.
Freshman Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves for the River Hawks in the win, while Kevin Boyle struggled for UMass, making 13 saves on 19 shots for the game.
What I Saw
- There were points in the game where UMass played well — the Minutemen outshot Lowell 19-11 in the first two periods — but the River Hawks got the better of the scoring chances and capitalized on UMass’ mistakes. The backbreaker came late in the second period when Houk found Arnold wide open in the neutral zone for a breakaway goal to give Lowell the 4-2 advantage heading into second intermission. The Minutemen were caught with three players stacked to one end of the ice with the two others pinching, leaving Arnold wide open at the far blue line. That one sequence told the story of the game as the River Hawks capitalized one UMass mistake after another in the win.
- Both Hellebuyck and Boyle had shaky performances out there. The UMass netminder put himself in a tough hole early in the game as he let in a pair of preventable goals in the first period. The second goal scored by Joseph Pendenza at 14:22 was an easy shot that simply trickled slowly through Boyle’s legs. All three of the Minutemen’s goals can certainly rest on the shoulders of Hellebuyck, whose performance was aided by a strong defensive effort by Lowell. UMass got on the board with a shorthanded goal in the first period when Michael Pereira caught Hellebuyck outside his crease and well out of position. Pereira beat him easily with a wrap-around to cut the River Hawks lead to 2-1. The Minutemen’s second goal was scored on a shot from the point by Conor Sheary to beat the Lowell netminder in the second period. Fortunately for Hellebuyck, UMass got few good opportunities outside of that as the River Hawks neutral and defensive zone play was strong. The Minutemen had trouble getting pucks to the net, and had to settle for outside shots that the blue liners were able to get a stick on.
- The combination of the defenseman Houk and winger Arnold was one of the biggest difference-makers offensively for Lowell. The two connected twice for goals — the River Hawks third and fourth of the game. While it may not sound like the most dynamic offensive duo in Hockey East, they were opportunistic at big moments. Both of their goals came on costly mistakes by UMass. A neutral zone turnover resulted in Houk leading a two-on-one break and finding Arnold sweeping into the slot from the right side and burying the feed from Houk past Boyle for the goal in the final minute of the second period.
What I Thought
- The River Hawks showed a real drive by not allowing the Minutemen to get any closer than to within a goal at any point in the game. UMass scored three times on special teams to pull to within a goal. But Lowell responded by scoring a goal in the final two minutes of all three periods, which was more defeating than allowing any special teams goal. The River Hawks were forced to adjust to the Minutemen’s speed as the game progressed, and they finally had it figured out in the third period by controlling play and outshooting UMass 10-8 in the period for a couple of goals, including Wetmore’s 100th point.
- Lowell’s special teams play was difficult to watch at many points in the game, both on the power play and a man down. All three of the Minutemen’s goals came on special teams — two power play and one shorthanded — something that results in defeat on most nights. The River Hawks allowed UMass to move the puck fluidly in the offensive zone on the man advantage, and it allowed the Minutemen to be patient and find an opening. This happened on Carzo’s goal in the third period as Hanley received a pass from Darren Rowe at the point while Carzo cut across to redirect Hanley’s shot for the goal. Lowell won’t get away with these kinds of opportunities against a team like Boston College or New Hampshire, so that’s something that’ll need to be shored up.
- Both teams came out in a fast pace to start the game, but it was clear there was some rust for the River Hawks in the early stages of each period. It took until about midway through each period for either team to start finding quality chances at the net. Much of that can be accredited to Lowell playing it’s first game in two weeks. It was interesting to see how the River Hawks would respond to a lay-off after consecutive losses, and it was clear there was some rust to shake off. UMass established the pace it was looking for, but failed to take advantage the way Lowell did in the later stages of each period, something that has cost the Minutemen throughout the season.
What They Said
“I was obviously pleased with the two points on the road. I thought it was a fast game. I thought we made some adjustments after the first period that served us well and I was happy with our depth as far as the four forwards (lines) all contributing.” -Norm Bazin, UMass Lowell coach.
“I can’t say enough about Riley Wetmore. Apart from the 100 points I thought he was a catalyst for us all game long in terms of being our best face-off guy. He’s probably our most positive guy on the bench with everybody else — he’s just a leader.” -Bazin on Wetmore’s 100th point.
“I think all of their goals were directly a result of very poor decisions. Why that is, whether it was coincidental to our goals and our mindset at the time trying to come from behind, I don’t know that I have an answer for that. I just know that it was uncharacteristically poor reads that led directly to their goals.” -John Micheletto, UMass coach.
What Else You Should Know
The two teams meet again Saturday night at the Tsongas Center for a 7 p.m. puck drop.