Kenny Hausinger (right) skates with the puck past Omaha’s Mason Morelli. (Matt Dwyer/Connector).
Looking to put a winless season opening series with the University of New Hampshire behind them, the UMass Lowell men’s ice hockey team was dealt a 4-2 loss at the hands of an unranked University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Mavericks team.
The Tsongas Center saw 5,321 attendees, among them countless university students and alumni, on Friday night for the first of two Homecoming ice hockey matchups between the River Hawks and UNO.
“[It was] a disappointing outcome. We have to focus on a few positives, because that is all we have to hang our hat on at the moment,” said UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin.
The opening two periods displayed a dominant UNO who scored all four of their goals, three of them coming at even strength, in the opening 30 minutes.
Senior captain and defenseman Joel Messner came up big for the team, netting two goals, one of them being the game winner, and getting the helper on UNO’s final goal which was scored by junior forward Fredrik Olofsson.
Maverick junior forward Tyler Vesel also found himself on the score sheet a number of times Friday night, scoring one goal unassisted and was the lone assist on Messner’s first tally.
Following UNO’s fourth and final tally, the Tsongas saw a reinvigorated UMass Lowell.
With just under 30 minutes of regulation time remaining, the River Hawks pulled starting goaltender, sophomore Tyler Wall. Junior backup Christoffer Hernberg faced down 18 shots and finish the game with a clean sheet of his own, coming up big on several key UNO scoring opportunities.
“I liked the second half of the game… I thought Chris Hernberg did an excellent job in coming in relief for Tyler Wall… He made a couple of key saves, I thought, to keep us in it. He did a great job,” said Bazin.
With fresh legs in the crease, UMass Lowell finally tallied a pair of their own goals, which came on two of the River Hawks’ six power play opportunities.
Senior defensemen Tyler Mueller and Tommy Panico came away with their first goals of the season, assisted by Mattias Goransson and Ryan Lohin, and Chris Forney and Charlie Levesque, respectively.
Just three goals total were scored on the power play Friday, despite a grand total of 13 minor penalties (26 total penalty minutes) being logged.
“We’re going to have to find some chemistry and play the game the right way. Play from underneath… You’re not connecting on spurts, it’s because you’re on the wrong side of the puck usually. They’re a good hockey club, they’re playing with tempo, and we’re going to have to combat that,” said Bazin.
Improvements from the Uinversity of New Hampshire home-and-home were the focus of reflection on the night for the River Hawks.
“I saw improvements… When you’re in a funk like this you have to look at some of the positives. Hopefully we’re going to go in the right direction, and make a push,” said Bazin.
The River Hawks look to split their Homecoming series with the Mavericks on Saturday, Oct. 14th at the Tsongas Center at 7 p.m.