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Wall shines, River Hawks split series with Minutemen in Kennedy-Cup Challenge

(Photo courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics)

Jeffrey Ring

Connector Staff

LOWELL, Mass.- Senior goaltender Tyler Wall (Leamington, Ont.) furthered his case for the Hobey Baker Award this past weekend, saving 83 of 90 shots faced in a home-and-away series, as the No. 14 UMass Lowell River Hawks (16-10-5, 10-7-4 HEA) split a weekend series with the No. 8 UMass Amherst Minutemen (19-10-2, 12-7-2 HEA) during the Kennedy-Cup Challenge.

With Governor Charlie Baker making an appearance during the ceremonial puck drop, the River Hawks took the lead late in the opening matchup this past Friday night at the Tsongas Center on a goal scored by junior forward Chris Schutz (Keller, Texas) with just 27 seconds remaining in regulation completing the Lowell 3-2 comeback victory.

“It was almost a tale of two games for us, the first thirty weren’t good and the next thirty got a little bit better,” said River Hawks Head Coach, Norm Bazin. “I’m happy for Schutz.”

The Minutemen certainly controlled the first half of the game, outshooting the River Hawks 16-2 in the first period and 30-14 through the second. With two periods completed, the visiting Minutemen held a 2-1 lead.

The Minutemen switched goalies with 6:30 remaining in the first period.

“Two goals on two shots,” Minutemen Head Coach Greg Carvel said.

The change came after a replay of the second goal, which overturned the call.

Freshman forward Carl Berglund (Hammaro, Sweden) would tie the game for the River Hawks in the final period, leading the way for Schutz to stick the dagger in the hearts of the Minutemen.

Saturday night’s game saw the matchup take place at Mullins Arena in Amherst, as the Minutemen would take a 5-3 win, logging 50 shots on the night, over the River Hawks.

The Minutemen won 42 out of 59 faceoffs against Lowell. The River Hawks came into the game leading the Hockey East in faceoff percentage, while Amherst placed seventh.

With the River Hawks scoring the openers in both contests, sophomore Chase Blackmun (Hudson, Wis.) scored the only goal of the first period, at 10:52, for Lowell.

The Minutemen scored three goals on 20 shots in the second period giving the hosts a 3-1 advantage after two periods.

Wall made a diving glove save that was nothing short of magnificent to keep the game 3-1 with 6:23 remaining in the second. Even UMass Amherst junior forward John Leonard was visibly stunned that Wall was able to stop his shot from in close.

The third period began with a River Hawks powerplay goal scored by sophomore Jon McDonald (Livonia, Mich.) in the opening 24 seconds. Senior forward Colin O’Neill (Odenton, Md.) would tie the game just eight minutes later.

Leonard would score his second hat trick in three games for the Minutemen scoring the second goal to give his team a 4-3 lead. As he dove to flip a loose puck into the empty net, the Amherst forward’s third goal was highlight material.

Again, the Minutemen outshot the River Hawks, 50-18, Saturday night. The total for the weekend was a resounding 90-40, in favor of the Minutemen.

Wall set a career record for saves at Mullins Arena with 45 saves on 49 shots faced and logging an impressive save percentage of 92 on the weekend.

The River Hawks will look to bounce back Friday night at the Tsongas Center when they face the University of New Hampshire Wildcats with puck drop set for 7:15 p.m

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