Sophomore forward Ryan Dmowski scored the first goal of Saturday afternoon’s game against Cornell. (Matt Dwyer/Connector)
The UMass Lowell men’s ice hockey team came in hot to the semifinal, winning the Hockey East Tournament and 11 of their last 12 games and maintained their streak with a 5-0 win over Cornell.
For the eighth time in Division I school history, the River Hawks made the NCAA tournament with a chance at securing their second Division I Frozen Four appearance at the Northeast Regionals held in Manchester, N.H.
Sophomore forward Ryan Lohin found himself on the scoresheet twice, scoring an important goal to go up 2-0 and adding some insurance to put Lowell ahead by 4 later on. The two goals brought Lohin to 14 on the season.
Freshman goaltender Tyler Wall, starting in his first ever NCAA Tournament game, shut Cornell out making 19 saves. Cornell had gone the whole year without being shut out.
“You talk about a young goalie getting a shutout in a crucial game, it’s very important and I think it’s going to help his confidence. Tomorrow’s another challenge and he’s going to have to put this one behind him,” said UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin.
Wall’s performance also impressed Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “[Wall] made some big saves,” said Schafer.
The River Hawks maintained puck possession for most of the game. Active sticks and forechecking allowed for Lowell to force turnovers and score off of them.
“We wanted to keep moving, move the puck and move our feet. We were able to do that throughout the game and we benefited from it. We created some chances off the forecheck and were able to put a couple in,” said Lohin.
It looked as if Cornell had themselves a good start, but the goal scored by senior Eric Freschi at 0:54 of the first period was waved off due to a high stick.
“No matter what happened, if they would have scored… we were confident just to get back to our game plan and stick to the process there,” said senior defenseman Michael Kapla.
Cornell started the second period off hot, recording shots at a fast pace and forcing UMass Lowell’s defense to make errors. But UMass Lowell quickly responded, returning to dictating play like they did in the first.
Lohin scored a goal to put the River Hawks up 2-0 at 6:09 of the first period. His twelfth goal of the season was assisted by senior Michael Kapla, earning his 30th point of the season.
“I don’t think we ever felt safe (even after a second goal)… It’s always easier playing with a lead, and chasing a game against Cornell would be a recipe for disaster because they’re very good defensively,” said Bazin.
After going up 2-0, the River Hawks continued to mount the pressure on Cornell.
The majority of the second period was spent in Cornell’s end of the ice as Lowell set up their offense and maintained possession of the puck.
“I thought as the game went on we got better from that standpoint (possessing the puck). I think it’s about guys moving their feet and not pushing for hope passes,” said Bazin.
Junior forward C.J. Smith was active on the ice all game lifting sticks, forcing turnovers and generating chances for the River Hawks.
After receiving a tape to tape pass from linemate John Edwardh, Smith buried the puck in the back of the net to make it 3-0. Joe Gambardella was also given an assist on the score.
“We saw several things in the pre-scout we were trying to alleviate… [Cornell] has some outstanding set breakouts, and they have some timing associated with those. So we tried to break some of that” said Bazin.
UMass Lowell ended up adding their only two power play goals towards the end of the third period on a five-minute major on Cornell, resulting in a 5-0 score line.
The River Hawks went 2-5 on the power play for the game.
UMass Lowell will play the Regional Final against the winner of Notre Dame vs. Minnesota tomorrow, Sunday March 26 at the SNHU Arena in Manchester, NH. Puck drops at 3:30 p.m.
“We’re excited to get by that opponent… we knew they were a tough opponent from the prescout and they gave us that and more. It was a tough game despite what the score might indicate afterwards,” said Bazin.