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River Hawks soar through quarter-finals; fall short to Merrimack in semi-finals

(Photo courtesy of The Lowell Sun) “River Hawk’s goalie Gustav Grigals blocks shot from UConn’s Justin Pearson.”

Sarah Mahannah
Connector Editor

The UMass Lowell River Hawks (18-14-3) was the underdog in the Hockey East quarter-final game versus the fourth-seeded University of Connecticut Huskies (20-12-3). The River Hawks ended up winning the game and advancing to the semi-finals at TD Garden on Friday, March 17th.

The game against UConn was going to be an uphill battle for the River Hawks. The game was held in Connecticut’s new Toscano Family Ice Forum, making this Lowell’s first appearance in the arena.

UMass Lowell made the most of its 17 shots on the net. The River Hawks scored two goals in the first period, thanks to senior Blake Wells and sophomore Owen Cole, to take a 2-0 lead. The River Hawks’ goalie, graduate student Gustavs Davis Grigals, along with a strong defense from Lowell held off the Huskies until the end of the third period.

When there were 1:29 minutes left in regulation, UConn got on the board. UConn goaltender Arsenii Sergeev had been pulled off the ice in exchange for a sixth skater. Huskies player Nick Capone ultimately snuck a puck past Grigals making the score 2-1. Luckily for the River Hawks, the score stayed unchanged until the end of regulation arrived.

The star of the game versus UConn was definitely Grigals. Grigals joined the River Hawks this year after transferring from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he had previously played in his undergraduate career.

The Latvia native stopped 40 of the 41 shots against Lowell in their 2-1 victory over Connecticut. Grigals is ranked ninth in the nation for goals against average (2.10) and 10th for save percentage (.922). His other accolades include being named Hockey East’s third-team all-star.

The River Hawks went into the game against Merrimack College in the Hockey East semifinals confident for a win and hopefully for a bid into the NCAA Tournament. The River Hawks look to add an additional accolade as Hockey East champions, with their past wins being in 2013, 2014 and 2017.

The UMass Lowell River Hawks went into their St. Patrick’s Day game against Merrimack College feeling lucky. The River Hawks were out for blood and vengeance, as the Warriors had won both games against Lowell in the 2022-23 regular season.

Merrimack did not come to play either. They acquired nine shots on goal while the River Hawks were not as offensively strong, only having three shots on goal within the first period.

Both teams stayed off the board during the second period. Merrimack received a penalty halfway through the period, but the River Hawks were not able to gain a lead with their upper hand in the power play. At the end of the second, Lowell racked up a penalty, but even with a power play, the Warriors could not gain an advantage.

Into the third period, Merrimack was more aggressive at the goal, leading the period with 24 shots on goal while Lowell had eight. About three minutes in, River Hawks defender Isac Jonsson took a hard hit against the walls and was taken out for the rest of the game with an injury.

With both teams racing to score a goal and take the slot in the National Championship, Merrimack ultimately took the lead with 10 minutes left in regulation. In the last minute, Lowell tried to get on the board by pulling their goalie. This would lead the River Hawks to success by scoring a goal by freshman Scout Truman with 30 seconds left in the period.

The River Hawks and Warriors fought hard in overtime. The score stayed tied by the end of the first overtime, and the game even went into a second overtime period. Unfortunately for the River Hawks, the Warriors would snatch a goal in the second overtime period, ending the River Hawks’ 2022-23 season.

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