Tyler Wall eyes a Merrimack shot during Friday’s 4-1 win. (Matt Dwyer/Connector)
Playing in their throwback jerseys, the UMass Lowell men’s ice hockey team beat the Merrimack College Warriors 4-1 at the Tsongas Center. With this win in the River Hawks’ first of the home-and-home series against Merrimack, the River Hawks are now 9-5-3 overall for the season.
Senior defenseman Dylan Zink scored two of the River Hawks’ four goals, with the other two coming from sophomore forward Ryan Dmowski and junior forward C.J. Smith.
UMass Lowell won the opening face-off and would hold a majority of the possession for the first period. The River Hawks had many quick passes and multiple shots that came close to the goal.
The Warriors had a strong defense that prevented any of the shots from entering the net. Merrimack’s goaltender Collin Delia stopped all 9 of UMass Lowell’s shots on goal in the first period.
The River Hawks’ goaltender Tyler Wall was equally as effective, stopping the Warriors’ 7 shots in the first period. Wall made 16 saves in his 13th career start.
UMass Lowell was matching their defensive abilities with an offensive strength. Junior forward C.J. Smith showed great passing skills, as he weaved in and out of Merrimack’s defense.
The first period was aggressive, but only had a total of three penalties, all for different reasons. Smith’s boldness would lead to a penalty for him for tripping.
There was a great breakaway opportunity for the River Hawks in the eighth minute, but they were unable to score. The first period would end with no goals, but the most number of shots on goal by both teams for the whole game.
While both teams were working to find their footing to start the second period, Merrimack’s captain Jared Kolquist was able to score just one minute into the game to take the lead.
Merrimack stole the puck from the River Hawks a few times, resulting in near goals for the Warriors. The River Hawks were struggling to find a rhythm to start the period, but that soon changed.
Senior defenseman Dylan Zink was able to score his third goal of the season from some distance, and his shot went right to the back of the net. He was assisted by freshmen forwards Colin O’Neill and Kenny Hausinger.
There was some uncertainty in the goal and it was reviewed by the referees. They determined the goal was good, and the River Hawks were able to secure a tie of 1-1.
UMass Lowell continued to apply pressure on the Warriors, resulting in many attempts that mirrored those of the first period, where they would shoot many times, but Merrimack’s defense was too strong. The aggressive nature of the game continued with a Merrimack player even breaking a stick.
At the end of the period, a fight almost broke out, but was quickly stopped by the referees. However, UMass Lowell’s Connor Wilson was given a penalty for roughing. There were two more penalties on UMass Lowell in the third period, both for tripping, but nothing came from Merrimack’s power plays.
Even with fewer shots on goal by both teams, both were able to score and maintain the tie going into the final period.
The third period started off slowly, with Merrimack holding much of the possession. This all changed after Merrimack’s goaltender was taken out due to an unknown injury. The flow of the game seemed to turn in the River Hawks’ favor, as Dmowski was able to score not long after to put UMass Lowell in the lead.
Smith was able to follow with another goal, assisted by Gambardella and Hausinger. With the assist, Gambardella earned his 100th career point, which is the total number of goals and assists for a player.
Gambardella spoke about his relationship with his teammates and how he learned so much from them over the years, giving credit to his success to his current and former teammates.
“It just shows the caliber of players our coaching staff brings in. [The team has] some good chemistry and I owe all my compliments to them. They’re some good, solid players,” Gambardella said.
UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin was proud of the way his team handled the aggressiveness of the game, especially in regards to the penalties.
“I was happy tonight with the resiliency. Things weren’t quite going our way, from a standpoint of staying out of the box, but they found a way and that’s what’s most positive for me” coach Bazin said.
With 4 minutes left to go in the game, Merrimack pulled their goaltender to have 6 players on the ice. This allowed UMass Lowell to secure their lead with Zink’s second goal.
The River Hawks look to close out the series against Merrimack with another win Saturday night at Lawler Arena in North Andover. Puck drop on Saturday’s game is at 7 p.m.