Sophomore forward Kenny Hausinger assisted on the River Hawks’ first goal of the game. (Matt Dwyer/Connector)
Things to clap and cheer about were in no short supply for UMass Lowell students and fans this past weekend. The 4-2 win over the Northeastern University Huskies was certainly among them.
The Tsongas Center took to its feet in ovation twice during Saturday night’s men’s ice hockey game; first in rousing Veteran’s Day tribute to America’s men and women in uniform, in which players on both teams took part by tapping their sticks, and again at the close of the night to celebrate a River Hawk victory.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game. I thought our team competed this week; minus one period…Fortunately for us, that second period wasn’t our downfall. We were able to make it up in that third, and I was happy to see the guys get rewarded,” said Norm Bazin, head coach of UMass Lowell men’s ice hockey.
Despite a handful of trips to the box and a second period in which Northeastern University dominated possession and shots on goal, the River Hawks were able to control the pace Saturday and deal the Huskies their first loss in Hockey East conference play.
The victory came to fruition, for the most part, in a fast-paced, UMass Lowell-controlled third period.
The third period of play saw three points for the River Hawks. Senior defenseman Tommy Panico played a large role in the come-from-behind effort, having a hand in each of the third period goals.
Panico scored two goals. The first of which came on a five-hole shot off the rebound with helpers from freshman forward Charlie Levesque, who assisted both Panico’s goals Saturday, and junior forward Ryan Dmowski. Panico’s second goal came in the form of a rink-wide clearing attempt which found an empty Northeastern net in the final minute of regulation.
“We were really working together in tandem. Communicating and playing aggressive, and just sticking with the play,” said Panico.
Alongside freshman defenseman Anthony Baxter, Panico also assisted junior forward Nick Master’s game-winning wrist shot.
The River Hawks did, however, enter their impressive third period coming off what very well might have been a disastrous second, had it not been for strong pay on the back end.
“I thought we attacked for part of that game, however, I refer back to that second period where we just didn’t. And we get in trouble. We know what gives us trouble, we just need to learn to stay away from those things that give us trouble,” said Bazin.
The second period saw Northeastern dominating play and keeping UMass Lowell locked in their defensive zone for a majority of the time.
In one of the River Hawks’ few offensive zone opportunities in the second period, freshman forward Connor Sodergren was dealt a five-minute major, and game misconduct, for goaltender interference. Despite immense pressure, Northeastern was only able to come away with one goal on the lengthy man advantage. The go-ahead goal came late in the period by way of senior forward captain, Nolan Stevens who was assisted by junior forward Adam Gaudette and freshman forward Zach Solow.
The River Hawks managed to weather the storm and close out the period down only one goal. UMass Lowell junior goaltender Christoffer Hernberg had a large role in keeping the score to a one-goal game. He stopped 33 shots on the night, 20 of those shots came in the second period. He has maintained a 1.64 goals against average and a .941 save percentage.
“Chris gave us a chance. I thought he came up with a monster save on the penalty kill. A goalie is a big part of the penalty kill and he has been playing well for us so far this half,” Bazin said.
The other two goals Saturday night came in the first period of play, one to each team. The first team to break onto the scoreboard was the Huskies, when sophomore defenseman Jeffrey Davies scored from the slot on the power play with assists from Stevens and Gaudette. The River Hawks answered late in the period with a power play goal of their own. Ryan Lohin tallied his fifth goal of the year when he capitalized on a net-front pass from a patient sophomore forward Kenny Hausinger.
The win Saturday night left the River Hawks perfect on the weekend, and allowed them to close out the three game season series against Northeastern with a win. The River Hawks had been dealt two defeats by the Huskies just two weekends prior.
“Too much is made from the media, and whoever else, of a particular weekend,” Bazin said. “You inch your way forward, and make sure your team is improving. The last few weekends the points haven’t been terrific, but I feel we are inching forward.”
Now at .500 on the season, the River Hawks look to learn from struggles early on and carry as much good as possible into the remainder of their season.
“I think the guys are learning that without a high compete level, you’re just not going to have a chance in Hockey East. It’s just that good. But I think we’re giving ourselves a chance now,” said Bazin.
The River Hawks take the ice again at the Tsongas Center on Friday, Nov. 17 to kick off their home-and-home weekend with the University of Connecticut.