UMass Lowell had four different players score in the victory over Merrimack. (Matt Dwyer/Connector)
The UMass Lowell men’s ice hockey team scored not one, not two, not three but five unanswered goals to put an end to the 2017-18 regular season and a pesky five-game losing streak. The River Hawks had a huge second period, scoring three goals within a span of five and a half minutes, which held them aloft for a much-needed win.
UMass Lowell had not won a game since Tuesday, Feb. 6 in a decisive 4-0 home campaign against American International.
“I thought it was a big win for us, to get out of this funk. Obviously, we played a great opponent and now comes the second season. We’re looking forward to next weekend,” said UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin.
The River Hawks lost Friday night’s opening game against Merrimack 4-1 and were ready to redeem their performance with play more characteristic of themselves. After a slow first period, with some questionable puck moving but moments of some offensive brilliance, the second period was 20 minutes that River Hawk fans were much more accustomed to seeing.
“Anybody that watches Lowell hockey [knows] there is very little deviation, and they stuck to their game plan. [The River Hawks] were on the balls of their feet tonight, they were playing fast… nothing that they don’t normally do,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy.
The River Hawks dominated puck possession and zone time and were aggressive on offensive chances. Even on the defensive end of the game they excelled, killing three penalties and clearing the puck three times on one penalty kill.
“Last night, they certainly had the edge and tonight we found a way to finish,” said Bazin.
Beyond that, the River Hawks did something that they had not done in the previous game: they showed up and asserted themselves.
“Obviously, our effort was better tonight than it was last night, and it was good to get the result,” said Tyler Mueller, senior defenseman and captain of the River Hawks.
Mueller pointed out that the main difference between the play on Friday and Saturday night was the intensity with which UMass Lowell played.
“We were able to clean up some goals on the offensive end and prevent some on the defensive end where they were able to capitalize the night before,” said Mueller.
The River Hawks’ upperclassmen did well for themselves on Friday night, taking four of the five goals of the night and tallying the assists.
Junior forward Ryan Dmowski scored two power play goals for the River Hawks. The burgeoning Dmowski is having somewhat of a breakout season with 11 goals and 21 points in 33 games. He has smashed his career-best point total of 13 and appears to just be heating up in time for the postseason with four goals in his last six games.
His two-goal night earned him First Star of the Game honors and impressed his coach. “When Ryan’s on, he can be a beast. He’s a strong kid, he has a heavy shot. When he can be heavy down low, he can provide a punch for an offensive unit out thereHe’s.”
Senior defenseman Tommy Panico began the goal onslaught with his shot from the blue line just 1:14 into the second period.
Just four minutes later, sophomore defenseman Mattias Göransson shot from the identical spot where Panico scored and junior forward Ryan Dmowski deflected the shot for his first power play goal of the night.
Senior defenseman Chris Forney added on another tally at 6:57 in the third period, bringing UMass Lowell its fourth goal. At 10:49 of the third frame, Dmowski struck the final nail in the regular season with his second goal of the night.
Saturday night will not be the last time that UMass Lowell faces Merrimack. Next weekend, starting on Friday, March 2, the River Hawks will host the first round of the Hockey East tournament for a series with the Warriors. Merrimack will have six days to lick their wounds, and UMass Lowell six days to continue their momentum.
Bazin said that he and the River Hawks hope to take the playoffs “one series at a time,” and will be focusing hard on the opening round play. It is the first year since the new playoff format was implemented that the River Hawks have not had a first round bye in the Hockey East playoffs, but none of that will keep Bazin up at night.
“It’s Hockey East, you’ve seen it all year long. Anybody can beat anybody. We’ll concentrate on the next opponent, and that happens to be Merrimack and they’re a great team with a great coaching staff.
Dennehy was glib about spending another weekend in Lowell.
“Nothing we’d rather do, nothing we’d rather do,” said Dennehy.