UMass Lowell’s C.J. Smith (left) tries to defend a pass in his own zone last Friday night against Northeastern. (Christina Laderoute/Connector)
Alexander J. Salucco
Losers of four straight games, the UMass Lowell ice hockey team is in need of a spark. However, the defending Hockey East Champions Northeastern University will have more bite than bark.
With a Hockey East record of 7-7-1, the River Hawks currently sit at sixth place in the conference standings and have an overall record of 15-9-3.
These two teams took the ice against each other last Friday night in Lowell, Mass. The River Hawks blew a 3-1 lead in the third period losing by a final score of 4-3. Northeastern forward Dylan Sikura scored all three of his goals in the final period.
Last season the Huskies got off to a rocky start but won 20 of their last 23 games heading into the NCAA Tournament. Although the late season surge of this year is not at the magnitude of last season’s, the Huskies are on a roll.
Do not let the 11-10-5 overall record or the 5-8-3 conference record fool you, because the Huskies are 7-3-2 in home games this season.
Over the last four games UMass Lowell has struggled on both sides of the puck. The River Hawks have been outscored 15-10 over their losing streak with freshman goalie Tyler Wall allowing 11 goals in just over nine periods of play. The struggles do not end there, as putting the puck in the net is also something UMass Lowell has struggled with.
Over his last six games, senior forward Joe Gambardella has been held without a goal. Gambardella leads the team in points with 35 (11 g, 24 a).
The team leader in goals, junior forward C.J. Smith, has been struggling heavily. Since Smith’s hat trick in late December against Dartmouth, he has scored one goal in his last seven games.
Senior defenseman Dylan Zink and freshman forward Ryan Lohin have been playing consistently good hockey over the small losing skid. Zink has totaled four points (1 g, 3 a) over the last four games while Lohin has totaled three points (2 g, 1 a) in that span, including goals in consecutive games.
Scoring is not something Northeastern has had a problem doing all season or during their winning streak.
Northeastern forward Dylan Sikura has been on a tear over his last five games totaling 13 points (5 g, 8 a) and five multi-point games. Sikura’s 44 total points (17 g, 27 a) lead the Huskies this season.
Forward Adam Gaudette has been right there with Sikura. The sophomore has totaled eight points (4 g, 4 a) over his last four games.
The line of Sikura, Gaudette and Zach Aston-Reese have combined for 125 total points this season. Huskies scorers not named Sikura, Gaudette or Aston-Reese have combined for 127 points.
The River Hawks have to stay out of the penalty box on Friday night. Committing 20 penalties over the last four games is unsettling, especially when Northeastern’s power play has been successful 43% of the time over their last four games.
UMass Lowell leads the all-time series history between their Hockey East foes with a record of 59-43-10. Although the Huskies have been playing better than they have all season, the last time they beat the River Hawks at Mathews Arena was in a game played in 2011.
Matthews Arena in Boston, Mass. will play host to the action on Friday with puck drop scheduled for 7 pm.