ORONO, Maine – The UMass Lowell River Hawks ice hockey team (7-13-2, 3-7-1 Hockey East) fell short, 5-3, in a hard-fought battle against #8 Maine (15-4-2, 7-3-1 Hockey East) Friday night at Alfond Arena.
Junior Owen Cole (Dunnville, Ontario) scored for the fourth consecutive game for the River Hawks, while sophomores TJ Schweighardt (Manahawkin, N.J.) and Mark Cooper (Cambridge, Ontario) each potted their first goals of the season. Cooper’s also marked the first of his collegiate career. Senior Jake Stella (Karlstad, Sweden), graduate student Filip Fornää Svensson (Linköping, Sweden), senior Ben Meehan (Walpole, Mass.), freshman Jak Vaarwerk (Clarence, N.Y.), Senior Brehdan Engum (Burnsville, Minn.) and sophomore Jack Collins (Canton, N.Y.) all gathered assists in the matchup.
Defensively, 11 different skaters recorded at least one blocked shot, with Schweighardt leading the way with six. Sophomore Mitchell Becker (Rogers, Minn.) and Stella had three apiece, Fornää Svensson had two, while seven others were all tied with one. Junior Luke Pavicich (Clarence Center, N.Y.) got the nod in net, totaling 30 saves.
“Tonight was a very tight Hockey East game,” said Head Coach Norm Bazin. “The difference came down to a few missed opportunities. With the game tied in the second, we generated a few good looks that we didn’t cash in on. I thought the effort was there all night. The guys played hard for each other and I felt we responded to several challenges including losing a forward early in the game. At the end of the day, we couldn’t convert on special teams and they did. We will look to improve in a few areas and come out stronger tomorrow.”
The River Hawks got going early, as Cole lit the lamp just 2:56 into the game. Fornää Svensson fed Stella, who got the sequence started, sending a pass to Cole. He wrapped around the net and sent a shot that ricocheted off the pads of Maine goalie Victor Ostman, creating a loose puck in front of the net that Cole kept chopping at it until it snuck by Ostman for the 1-0 lead.
Maine’s Donavan Villeneuve-Houle managed to score a shorthanded goal at 11:29 and the Black Bears were called for another penalty at 12:32, giving the River Hawks nine seconds of 5-on-3 action, before another UMass Lowell power play. The squad got three quality shots on net during the power play, but to no avail, and after four crucial Pavicich saves on the other end, the period concluded with a 1-1 score.
The first major chance of the second period came at 6:34 on a River Hawks power play, when Fornää Svensson found himself alone in front of the net and took two quick shots that were both saved. Pavicich and the River Hawks’ defensive unit then came up big on a Maine power play that started at 7:53, killing it off with one save and two Schweighardt blocks to keep the score the same. Later in the period at 15:41, the River Hawks collected another great scoring opportunity when Vaarwerk entered the offensive zone with the puck and centered it to sophomore Scout Truman (Lethbridge, Alberta) who had an open shot on goal that Ostman got in the way of. Both teams traded shots in a hard-fought end to the period, but it ended scoreless and the 1-1 tie remained.
The back-and-forth battle continued into the third. Maine scored a power-play goal at the 9:10 mark, followed by another goal 53 seconds later, making it a 3-1 game. The River Hawks battled back with some great chances, including one from Cole at 11:28 after Fornää Svensson dished a pass to him in front of the net, and a hard shot from Truman off a pass from junior Matt Crasa (South Setauket, N.Y.) at 15:40. Late in the period, at 18:28, Schweighardt sniped one to the back of the net to cut the deficit to two off assists from Meehan and Vaarwerk. Maine responded with an empty-netter before Cooper’s first goal came trickled over the goal line off a pass from Collins and Engum with three seconds remaining, making it a 5-3 final score.
Next up, the River Hawks will be back at Alfond Arena tomorrow, January 20, for game two of the road series at 7:00 p.m.
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