A big weekend series began on Friday night at Tsongas Center as the UMass Lowell River Hawks (16-12-3) played host to Merrimack College (19-12-1). The River Hawks came into this weekend with two games in hand in the league. Those games will be made up this weekend. The Warriors arrived in Lowell off a weekend sweep of Boston University. The River Hawks are hoping this series will allow them to gain ground on Merrimack. There was a five-point spread between the two.
The starting goalie for Friday night’s game for Merrimack was Zachary Borgiel making his 15th start with a 2.10 GAA. For the River Hawks, Gustavs Davis Grigals made his 17th start and has a 1.97 GAA. Merrimack struck first in the opening minutes of the first as Matt Copponi put his 13th of the season past Grigals at 1:51 to give the Warriors an early 1-0 lead. Assists went to Ottoville Leppanen and Alex Jefferies. The goal was created behind the River Hawks net as Copponi was out front and took a feed from Leppanen and put it home. The River Hawks’ power play had two chances to tie the game. However, the PP did very little as has been the case for most of this season. Once the second penalty was taken care of, the Warriors added to their lead. Mike Brown got an unassisted goal at 9:01 to make it 2-0 Warriors. The next goal was critical for the River Hawks to get and they did. TJ Schweighardt scored his second of the season at 11:39 with assists going to Carl Berglund and Owen Fowler. Some nice work down low set up Schweighardt for the goal. Late in that period, Lowell had a great chance to tie the game up down the left wing side Scout Truman got off a shot that Borgiel got a glove on, and the rebound was picked up by Owen Cole who tried to 5-hole it but Borgiel put the pads together and made the save. Merrimack went to the locker room up 2-1. Shots in the period were in favor of Lowell, 13-8. The River Hawks are 2-6-1 when trailing after one. Merrimack is 11-3-0.
Merrimack received an early second-period power play as Matt Crasa went off for slashing at 21 seconds. The Warriors got one very good shot on goal as Tristan Crozier from the left side of the net fired one on goal that Grigals fought off with his right shoulder. The River Hawks tied the game up at 4:07 off a goalmouth scramble and Carl Berglund picked his 10th of the season and second point of the night. The assists went to Ben Meeham and Fillip Fornåå Svensson. Merrimack went back on the power play for the second time in the period as Matt Crasa went off for interference at 7:40. The power play was short-lived for the Warriors. Off the faceoff, the River Hawks took off on a 2-on-1 with Cole getting a shot on goal that was stopped. On the ensuing play, Filip Forsmark went off for hooking at 7:53. 4-on-4 hockey was next, followed by a short River Hawks power play, but nothing happened. Merrimack went on their third power play of the period, and this time they cashed in. The River Hawks could not get the puck out of their own zone and paid for it. Ben Barr added to his career high in goals with his 13th of the year and third on the power play. The assists went to Will Calverley and Forsmark. The River Hawks got their crack at a power play as Hugo Esselin went off for holding at 15:08. The penalty occurred behind the River Hawks’ net. Some good puck movement in the Warriors’ zone did not amount to much. The second period ended with the Warriors still holding a one-goal lead at 3-2. Lowell still had the shots on goal advantage at 23-16 thru two. The Warriors are 13-1 when leading after two. Lowell is 2-6-0 when trailing after two.
An important third period was on tap or the River Hawks. They got an early power play to work with as Merrimack’s Alex Jefferies went off for goaltender interference at 2:43. If there was ever a time for The River Hawks’ power play to come through this was it. Come through it did when Berglund got his second of the night, and second on the power play that tied the game at 3-3 at the 3:11 mark. The point was his third of the night. The goal was scored off the right side of the Warriors’ net. Assists went to Svensson (2nd point of the night) and Dillan Bentley. It was a brand new game for the crowd of 5,025. Merrimack took the lead back as Mac Welsher notched his sixth of the year on the backhand off a rebound of a left-wing shot by Brown (goal and assist for him) that was stopped by Grigals but he left a juicy rebound that Welsher pounced on. The time of that goal was 8:51. The Warriors were back in front 4-3. The River Hawks now had ten minutes to respond. They buzzed around the Warriors net as they started to tilt the ice in their favor. With 5:32 left they still needed one to tie the game again. Could the power play do the trick? Well, we were about to find out as Merrimack’s Slava Demin went off for tripping at 14:58. The River Hawks got only one shot on goal during the man advantage. Any hope of getting that tying goal took a bad turn when Owen Fowler was sent off for roughing at 18:49. Soon after on the power play Will Calverley scored his fifth of the season and his first on the man-advantage at 19:07. Zach Bookman got the lone assist.
Merrimack gets a big road win 5-3 over the River Hawks. The win on the road for the Warriors was their tenth of the year. They have now won three in a row. The River Hawks are now 9-5-2 at home. Lowell had a 32-27 shot advantage. Borgiel finished with 29 saves, and Grigals had 22 saves.
Merrimack’s head coach Scott Borak thought “it was a pretty good hockey game.” He did not believe his team had the River Hawks on the ropes even after taking a 2-0 lead. He thought his team “relaxed a little bit” and started playing a 200-foot transition game which is not his team’s strength. Coach Norm Bazin thought his team “was caught chasing the game.” He liked the way his team responded to it, but in Hockey East, it is not the way to win games. He said that “Merrimack is a deep group, an older group” and did not get rattled when the game was tied. The two teams will meet again at Lawler Rink in North Andover, MA. on Saturday night.
- ACC2023.03.23ACC Baseball News & Notes: Tight Early Season Division Races
- America East Conference2023.03.22America East Baseball News & Notes: Conference Play Has Begun
- College Hockey2023.03.21Boston University and Merrimack make the NCAA Hockey Tournament
- America East Conference2023.03.18America East Basketball Postseason News