The final home game of the regular season took place on Friday night as the Northeastern Huskies (16-12-5, 13-7-3 in HE) visited the UMass Lowell River Hawks (17-13-3, 11-9-3 in HE). For the Huskies, the chase for the regular season title is still very much on. The one thing Northeastern does not have to worry about is where they will begin play in the Hockey East Playoffs. They have secured a home game in the quarterfinals which will take place on March 11. The Huskies finished the month of February 3-2-2, while the River Hawks ended the month at 1-4-2. Lowell is coming off a tough weekend with Merrimack losing both games to the Warriors. Northeastern meanwhile split a weekend with the UMass Minutemen.
Before the game began, the UMass Lowell River Hawks graduating members of the team were honored in a pre-game ceremony. The eight seniors, along with their parents, were featured at center ice. The starting goalies for Friday night’s game were Gustavs Davis Grigals, one of the eight seniors honored by the River Hawks, and for the Huskies, Devon Levi, who brought a streak of 13 straight wins into the game. He also has a 1.69 GAA, and six league shutouts. It took all of 2:37 seconds for the game’s first goal to be scored. Riley Hughes, off a pass from Jack Williams, scored his 10th of the season. Williams made the play as he took advantage of Lowell’s mistakes and went up the right wing side and fed Hughes who put it in between the legs of Grigals to give NU a 1-0 lead. It would take a while, but the River Hawks tied the game at 14:58. Great puck movement inside the Huskies zone eventually set up Carl Berglund on the left side. He ripped a wrist shot on the near side that beat Levi. Assists went to Gabe Blanchard and Owen Fowler. For Berglund, the goal was his 12th of the year. A good hard skating first period came to an end with the score tied at 1-1. Lowell outshot Northeastern 7-6. The Huskies were 2-3-2 when tied after one period. Lowell was 8-4-1 when tied after one.
The second period began with five-on-five hockey. The River Hawks took their first lead of the night on a bad angle goal off the right boards from Gabe Blanchard, his second of the season at 2:26. The assists went to Brain Chambers and Dillan Bentley. It was a goal that Levi would love to have back. Blanchard was working on a 2-point night. Grigals came up with his biggest save of the game on a partial breakaway by Williams. A penalty shot was awarded after the play was over. Matt Choupani took the shot, moved across the River Hawks blue line, made a couple of deck moves, and was stopped at the right post by Grigals. A turning point in the game? Time would tell. The River Hawks answered that question by adding to their lead. Brain Chambers, off some nice passing from Blanchard and Bentley, found himself walking in on Levi and firing one past him from the left side of the slot. For Chambers, the goal was his seventh and gave him a 2-point night. Bentley also had a 2-point night working, and for Blanchard, the assist gave him a 3-point night. The time of the third River Hawks goal was 11:25. 3-1 UMass Lowell. Bentley almost added to his good night as he came up the left wing side and played peek-a-boo with the puck and put a backhander on net that Levi had to be ready for. The second period ended with Lowell up 3-1. The River Hawks outshot Northeastern 8-5 in the period 15-10 for the game. Northeastern is 1-6-3. Lowell is 11-2 when leading after two.
After playing one of their better periods in recent memory, the River Hawks were looking to protect and maybe add to a 2-goal lead. The River Hawks got some good shots on net from Berglund and Bentley. However, Levi stoned both of them. With twelve minutes left, UMass Lowell was looking good on Senior night. The Huskies had only three shots on net halfway through the third period while Lowell had just two. Northeastern pressed the attack as the period reached the fourteen-minute mark. The River Hawks had chances of their own late. Marek Korencik and Fowler put shots on net that Levi had to fight off. With four and a half left, Northeastern had to start taking chances. The Huskies pulled Levi with 3:19 left in the game for the extra attacker. Still down two, the Huskies called time out with 1:02 left to try and map out how to score twice in a minute. Instead, the Huskies got called for the lone penalty of the night with 48 seconds to play as Sam Colangelo was called for tripping at 19:12. It would end any thoughts of a Huskies comeback. Lowell wins 3-1. The River Hawks outshoot Northeastern 20-19 outshooting the Huskies 5-4 in the third period.
Huskies head coach Jerry Keefe was not a happy man with his team’s performance. The coach said, “we chased the game, did not win the 50-50 battles.” He credited Lowell with playing their game on Friday night. Head Coach Norm Bazin was “pleased with the result.” He thought his team got better as the game went along. Gabe Blanchard was praised by his coach and it was well deserved as he was the game #1 star with a three-point night. However, Bazin knows that the River Hawks will need to play as well on Saturday night with home ice in the quarterfinals of the HE tournament on the line. The River Hawks head to Matthews Arena to end the regular season vs Northeastern.
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