After a successful start to the season on the road winning three out of four games, the UMass Lowell River Hawks returned home to Tsongas Center to begin Hockey East play vs the UConn Huskies. This is the 57th season of ice hockey for the River Hawks, the first season was back in 1967-68. From there, it moved to division one in 1983-84. They joined Hockey East in 1984-85. This year’s team has 11 new faces on it which includes eight freshmen and three transfers. This was the 48th time that the River Hawks and Huskies have met on the ice. Last season, the Huskies took four of a possible six points from Lowell. Youth is being served for both teams in the early going. Five of the Huskies’ nine goal scorers are either freshmen or sophomores.
The River Hawks have been led by junior Matt Crasa who in four games has six goals in the team’s first four games. A sold-out crowd was at Tsongas to welcome back the River Hawks. The starting goaltenders for the opener were, for the Huskies, sophomore Arsenii Sergeev, and the River Hawks Luke Pavicich the transfer from UMass Amherst.
The first twelve minutes were lively with both teams getting good scoring chances. The home team broke the ice first at the 13:54 mark as Mitchell Becker put home his first of the season assisted by Stefan Owens. The River Hawks had a 1-0 lead. The pace of play continued at a high level after the goal. The River Hawks had a golden chance to add to the lead as Scott Truman, on a nice down low give and go, had his shot from in front of the net stopped by Sergeev. The period would come to an end with the Huskies on a power play that would carry over to the second. The River Hawks had a 9-8 shot advantage.
The second period began with UConn on the power play for 34 seconds. UMass Lowell took care of it and we were back to 5-on-5 hockey. Lowell had more good scoring chances. Dylan Bentley with a wrist shot off a giveaway in the Huskies zone. Then off a goalmouth scramble, Jake Stella was denied in close by Sergeev. Halfway through the game, the River Hawks had the lead and shot advantage. The Huskies picked up their second man-advantage at the 10:10 mark as Ben Meehan went off for interference. They got a great chance as Jake Richards got behind the River Hawks’ defense and put a shot that Pavicich turned aside. UConn received a 5 on 3 thanks to a penalty called on Adam Carddoa at 11:26. UMass Lowell killed off both penalties behind some solid goaltending by Pavicich who made several terrific saves. Lowell picked up their first power play of the night at 15:52 when Oliver Flynn went off for tripping. The Huskies took care of it and with just under two minutes to go the game was still 1-0 Lowell. The River Hawks went back on the power play as John Spetz was sent off for hooking at 18: 26 of the second. Lowell had two good shots on net. First, Owen Cole was stopped in close then Bentley was stopped by Sergeev who did the splits to make the save. The second period ended with Lowell carrying over four seconds of power play time.
The action continued into the third, and the hitting picked up as well. Lowell was a little loose with the neutral zone coverage in the second. They were hoping to play a tighter third. Oliver Flynn had a tip attempt turned aside by Pavicich in close. Pavicich’s best save of the night came at 11:35 of the third when he robbed Matthew Wood right on the doorstep with a big-time glove save. UMass Lowell went back on the power play for the third time in the game when Chase Bradley went off for elbowing at 10:53. However, the chance did not last as Dylan Bentley went off for tripping at 11:22. It was now 4 on 4 hockey.
Soon after, a UConn power play was awarded as Isac Jonsson went off for tripping at 12:28. A penalty Jonsson needed to take to stop a possible goal. The River Hawks killed off the penalty and with five minutes left the game was still there for anyone to have. Pavicich was the story in net for the River Hawks. Time and again he came up with big stops to keep his team in the lead. UConn pulled their goalie with 2:06 left in the game to try and tie the game. UConn had one more power play chance as TJ Schweighardt went off for tripping at 18:26. It was 6-on-4 hockey. It paid off as Bradley scored on the power play with 1:15 left it was his second of the year as he put home a rebound of a shot. Assists went to Lucas and Jake Richards. The game went to overtime.
The team’s changed ends for the extra five minutes of 4-on-4 hockey. The Huskies had great chances. Richards and Samu Salminen were all alone in front of the River Hawks net and both were stopped by Pavicich. After some solid goaltending by Sergeev. The Huskies broke out on a 2-on-1 and the game #1 star Andrew Lucas won the game for UConn with a low shot that beat Pavicich’s glove side. 2-1 UConn. The goal came at 3:40 of OT. It was assisted by Hudson Schandor.
In the end, the youthfulness of the River Hawks may have come back to bite them in the third period and overtime. UConn outshot Lowell by a wide margin, 42-29, for the game.
The two teams meet again on Saturday afternoon in Storrs, CT.
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