On Saturday afternoon, the UMass Lowell River Hawks (5-8-1) faced the Army Black Knights (3-10-0) for third place in the Turkey Leg Classic. Both teams arrived at this game coming off losses on Friday. Army jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Merrimack after one period. Then a bad nine-minute stretch in the second period where the Black Knights allowed five goals, they lost the lead and the game 7-3. UMass Lowell played maybe their worst game of the season on Friday. A tie game after forty minutes, they would give up three goals in the final twenty minutes to lose to Bentley 4-1. These two teams have not met each other since November 24, 2001, when the River Hawks defeated Army 4-0 at Tsongas Cente the site of this game.
Army has had a really tough time winning non-conference games. Their last win was back on December 30, 2022, vs Dartmouth. Their last win over a Hockey East school was back on December 11, 2016. The starting goalies for this one were Luke Pavlicich (2-3-0, 2.80 GAA) and for Army, Evan Szary (2-5-0, 3.31 GAA). At the 1:53 mark, the Black Knights went on the power play as Brendan Engum for Lowell went off for tripping. At 6:47 the River Hawks did it again when they picked up their second penalty of the period as Nick Granowicz went off for holding. On their second try, the Black Knights scored at 8:24 of the period. Ricky Lyle scored his fourth of the season, a stuffed shot between the pads of Pavicich. The assists went to Jake Hewitt and Mac Gadowsky. The PP goal was Army’s 11th of the season.
Lowell went on the power play for the first time at 16:59 as John Driscoll went off for slashing. Despite plenty of time in the Black Knights zone and a great chance for Mitchell Becker who decided to pass instead of shoot, Lowell could not get the equalizer. With under a minute to play, Army’s right winger Jake Hewitt scored his fourth of the season at 19:26. A rising shot from the right side that beat Pavicich under the crossbar. Assists went to Hunter McCoy and Gadowsky. Army left the ice after one period the same way they did on Friday at Merrimack up 2-0. They were outshot 9-8. However, they were the better team in the first twenty minutes.
If you are a River Hawks fan, you have to think something had to change and change in a hurry. The last four periods by the River Hawks have been poor, to say the least. Army forechecked and their skating seemed to be a step faster than Lowell’s. The Black Knights went back on the PP at 9:16 as Nick Rheaume of Lowell went off for a crosscheck. The River Hawks started playing a bit of a chippy game trying to change momentum. The change of tactics may have been the key for Lowell as Jake Stella scored his first of the year at 13:34. This was all Stella as he circled the Army zone from right to left and beat Szary with a short-side shot from the left wing. Lowell was given a shot at tying the game on the power play as Army’s Vincent Salice went off for hooking at 15:36. The PP was cut short because of a hooking penalty on Vaarwerk at 17:35. An endzone faceoff with 16 seconds left proved to be deadly for the River Hawks. Joey Baez got his sixth of the year from Brent Keefer at 19:52. A faceoff win by Sacco set the play in motion. The puck came to the left of Pavicich where Baez picked it up and put it in the back of the net to give Army a 3-1 lead after two periods. Shots through forty minutes was even at 19-19. Army had an 11-10 advantage in the period.
Lowell had work to do in the third down two and trying not to go winless in their own tournament. Instead, Army added to the lead as Brent Keefer skated down the right side on a 2-on-1 and beat Pavicich to the short side under the crossbar. The goal came at 51 seconds. For Keefer, it was his sixth of the year. At 1:17 Lowell went on the PP as Max Itagaki went off for slashing. Army killed off the penalty as the River Hawks got a shot on the PP.
For the game, Lowell had five power play chances and put a total of six shots on net. Goalkeeping was coming up big for the Black Knights as well. Szary made two big stops on Stella and then a glove save on Jaiden Moriello off a pass from Becker. Lowell did get one back as Dylan Bentley scored his third of the year, and second in two days. He beat Szary on the right glove side. Issac Jonsson and Moriello had assists. Right after the goal, the River Hawks went back on the PP as Itagaki went off for Army for high sticking. The power play went nowhere and Pavicich was pulled by head coach Norm Bazin with 2:12 left in the game. It was 6-on-5 hockey as Lowell was trying to score twice to even the game. Army would get the job done and beat UMass Lowell 4-2.
The River Hawks outshot the Black Knights 30-26 for the game. Once again, the power play had a tough night going 0-for-5. It may be time to go back to the drawing board for the coaches and players of UMass Lowell. Army head coach Brian Riley was very happy with the week spent in the Bay State. He believes his team which “is a very young team” is gaining “a confidence level” that should help them going forward in the Atlantic League. River Hawks head coach Norm Bazin thought the “effort was better on Saturday than Friday.” However, he did not think “his team was prepared for the game vs Army” and he took responsibility for that. The River Hawks will be on the road next weekend with games at Connecticut and Vermont.
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