Two teams looking to get things back on track met at Tsongas Center on Friday afternoon. The UMass Lowell River Hawks played host to Bentley College from the Atlantic League in the second annual Turkey Leg Classic before a crowd of 3,568. Bentley (7-7-0, 4-5-0) came into this tournament having lost three in a row while the River Hawks (5-7-1, 2-5-1) have a win and a tie to their credit in their last two games, both vs Merrimack last week. This is the first time in five years that these two teams have faced each other with Lowell having a 6-1-0 record in those games. The offense has been a bit of a problem for the Falcons in the early going. They have only one player with four goals on the season, left defenseman Sam Duerr. The River Hawks, on the other hand, like playing low-scoring games. They are 3-5-0 in one-goal games this season and 2-0-0 when they have a bit of an offensive outburst, that is scoring three or more goals.
The River Hawks lineup got a boost on Friday with the return of forward Jake Stella who was making his season debut on Friday. Your starting goalies for the game were Henry Welsch for Lowell (3-3-1, 1.98 GAA) and for Bentley Connor Hasley (2-4-0, 2.34 GAA). The best chance in the first six minutes came off the stick of Falcons left wing Kellan Hjartarson whose shot from the slot was stopped by Welsch. The first penalty also went to Bentley as Jonathan Bendorf was sent for tripping at 9:59. The River Hawks would get one shot on net. They did spend plenty of time in the Falcons zone, however, nothing much came of it. Once the power play was over, the River Hawks put some rubber on the net. Matt Crasa rang one of the crossbar and Scout Truman was stopped by Hasley in tight. The first period, which featured a lot of skating but not much else, ended in a scoreless tie.
The second period got underway with each team at even strength. As was the case in the first period, plenty of skating but everything was for the most part on the outside. UMass Lowell went back on the power play as Tucker Hodgson went off for roughing at 5:29. Seconds in, the River Hawks scored a power-play goal as Dylan Bentley beat Hasley from the high slot. The goal was his second of the year and was assisted by Jak Vaarwerk at 5:59. It was 1-0 Lowell. Bentley went on the PP for the first time in the game as Nick Rheaume went off for tripping at 7:46. UMass Lowell would be short-handed again as Ben Brunette went off for Tripping at 10:14. Lowell was playing with fire in the second period. They would kill both penalties and with 6:21 left in the period still had a 1-0 lead. Bentley tied the game at 1-1 on a goal by Arlo Merritt, his first of the season at 16:57. It came off a pass from Ryan Mansfield on a down low 2-1. Ryan Upson also assisted. The goal got Bentley going as they would buzz around the River Hawks net getting some great chances on Welsch who stood his ground and kept the puck out of his net. The second period ended 1-1. The River Hawks were outshot 20-2 in the second and 24-13 for the game so far.
The third period opened at even strength. Bentley did get the first power play of the period as Vaarwerk went off for boarding at 2:14. The Falcons would score the power-play goal when Hjartarson stuffed one by Welsch at 3:49. For Hjartarson, the goal was his second of the year. Seconds later, the Falcons added to their lead as Ryan Nause scored his first of the year at 4:01. That goal was unassisted. Suddenly it was 3-1 Bentley. The Falcons went back on the PP at 10:00 when Brunette went off for cross-checking. Lowell was just digging themselves an even bigger hole to climb out of. With 7:21 left in the third period, the River Hawks had zero shots on goal. They did get a power play chance when Bentley’s Upson went off for holding at 12:39. Bentley took care of it. Just like they were taking care of the third period. The Falcons were spending most of it in UMass Lowell’s end of the ice. Lowell pulled their goalie with 3:03 left in the game. It would do them no good as the Falcons added an empty net goal from center ice by Garrett Horsager his first of the year at 17:46. The fourth goal was unassisted. The Falcons would come to Lowell and take the first game of the Turkey Leg Classic 4-1. The River Hawks put only three shots on net for the period and 15 for the game. Bentley had 39 for the game and 12 for the period.
River Hawks head coach Norm Bazin was not a happy man after the game and who could blame him? He thought his team and coaching staff “were not good enough.” He said the turning point was killing the two penalties in the second period. That started to flip the game in Bentley’s favor. He stated this was the first game all season “where the effort was not there.” For the coach, there were only two good things on Friday night. Dillan Bentley’s PP goal and a game vs Army on Saturday. Puck drop for that game is at 4 PM.
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