The River Hawks fell just short of sending it into overtime Saturday night against UNH. (Photo courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics)
On a night were they out-shot their opponent 45-16, out hit their opponent, and were flat-out faster on their skates, the only thing the River Hawks did not do was win.
UNH (10-14-4) opened with three unanswered goals, and UMass Lowell (17-6-5) ran out of time to catch back up in what resulted in a 3-2 defeat at the Tsongas Center Saturday night.
“We were chasing the game the entire night,” said UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin. “There are a lot of good teams, and we allowed a 20-goal man to score first early in the game which is not a recipe for success. We need to have a better start next game, and we certainly realize there are a lot of good teams in Hockey East.”
For the Wildcats, it was their first victory over UMass Lowell since 2012. The win can largely be credited to their goaltender Danny Tirone, who made 43 saves.
“I was more pleased with tonight’s game than I was last night’s,” said Bazin. “I liked the effort. We shook stuff up in the third period. Like I said it’s tough to chase the game, you have to push. That goal we gave up in the third period wasn’t something I was too fond off because it was the difference in the end. But hey, that’s hockey.”
Even though the scoreboard did not show it, UMass Lowell controlled play during the first period. They doubled up the Wildcats in shots on goal, 14-7, and came away with the better chances. This was highlighted by a near two minute stretch where the River Hawks controlled the puck in their offensive zone. C.J. Smith ripped a cross-ice pass to a wide open Adam Chapie, but he could not settle the puck in time to bury it.
As the two teams headed to the first intermission however, the Wildcats held a 1-0 lead. Andrew Poturalski was in the right place at the right time in front of the net, and poked a rebound past UMass Lowell goalie Kevin Boyle just 30 seconds into the game. The goal was an impressive twenty-first of the season for Poturalski.
It was an odd second period. The River Hawks controlled play again, but found themselves facing an old-fashioned penalty shot. A River Hawk committed the equivalent of a clear-path penalty, which the referee deemed was flagrant enough for a penalty shot. The call came to a chorus of boos from the UMass Lowell faithful in attendance. Facing down the one-on-one, Boyle did not fall for any jukes, and turned away the shot attempt, keeping the River Hawk deficit at only one.
Despite the clutch save from Boyle, UMass Lowell saw the lead grow midway through the second. A terrible pass from a UMass Lowell defenseman was intercepted at the blue line by UNH. Three quick passes later, the Wildcats capitalized on the 3-2 the giveaway created, and Shane Eiserman put UNH up 2-0.
Things got worse before it got better for the River Hawks. Ara Nazarian made it 3-0 UNH when he made a nice right-to-left juke move to get inside position and fire the puck past Boyle stick side. UMass Lowell finally got on the board with their thirty-ninth shot on goal. Jake Kamrass got one past Tirone to give the home team some life down the stretch.
Still down 3-1 with two minutes to go, UMass Lowell pulled Boyle to get the 6-5 man advantage. The tactic worked, as Nick Master put away his fifth goal of the season with 1:15 left to play. The River Hawks peppered the net in the final minute, but were unable to get the tying goal.
“You have to play 60,” said Bazin. “This time of year there are no easy points in Hockey East. I don’t think our guys took anything for granted tonight. I liked the effort. When you out-shoot your opponent 2-1 you have to convert, and we didn’t execute enough.”
The River Hawks will have to put this disappointing weekend behind them to gear up for a home-and-home next Friday and Saturday against Conference rival Boston University.