(Photo courtesy of Julia Stanley) “River Hawks and Warriors fight for the puck against the boards on Saturday night.”
Last week, the River Hawks were able to split the weekend series with Providence College. Despite the obstacles, it was a new weekend, and on Friday night, Merrimack College came to town to take on the River Hawks at the Tsongas Center.
First Period: The Merrimack College Warriors quickly got off to a hot start, with forward Matt Copponi opening the scoring under two minutes into the contest. The Warriors would strike again a few minutes later when defenseman Mike Brown made it a 2-0 game for Merrimack College. The River Hawks would not leave the period silent, however, as forward Filip Fornåå Svensson cut the lead in half after two and a half minutes. After that, both UMass Lowell netminder Gustavs Grigals and Merrimack College netminder Zachary Borgiel held down their respective nets, and the River Hawks went to the locker room down 2-1.
Second Period: The River Hawks took to the ice for the second frame of the game, looking to tie the game up. In just a little over four minutes into the second period, they did just that, when forward Carl Berglund tied it up at two apiece. While the tie looked secure, Merrimack College turned that thought upside down, when forward Ben Brar put the Warriors back on top 3-2 on the power play. After that, the River Hawks furiously tried to tie the game once more, but Borgiel held it down, and going into the second intermission, the River Hawks saw themselves again trailing by one.
Third Period: After starting the third period trailing once again, the River Hawks tied the game once more when Berglund got his second of the night on the power play to tie the game at 3-3. And again, the Warriors would answer nearly six minutes later, when forward Mac Welsher put the Warriors on top 4-3. Unfortunately, the River Hawks could not get back into the game, despite their best efforts to try and answer back. Then, with an empty-net goal by Warriors forward Will Caverley, the River Hawks fell to Merrimack College on Friday night by a score of 5-3.
After a tough loss on Friday night, the River Hawks knew that in order to get themselves back into the swing of things, they needed to get a win to keep themselves in the hunt for a conference title. At a packed venue in North Andover, it was not going to be easy. On Saturday night, the River Hawks traveled to enemy territory and took on the Warriors in the second-smallest arena in the Hockey East Conference.
First Period: Merrimack College again got themselves off to a hot start when New York Islanders forward prospect Alex Jefferies opened the scoring just a little over two minutes in, giving them a 1-0 lead. A few minutes later, they would extend their lead when forward Otto Leppänen made it 2-0 for Merrimack College. That second goal forced UMass Lowell to take goaltender Henry Welsch out of the game and put in Grigals for the rest of the contest. Girgals, along with Warriors goaltender Hugo Ollas, kept their nets tightly guarded, and going into the
first intermission, the River Hawks already found themselves in trouble, being down by two early.
Second Period: The River Hawks came out firing, trying to get back into the game by any means necessary, but Ollas made sure that any and all scoring chances were on lockdown. Grigals, too, made sure any and all Merrimack College chances were put on notice and taken care of. Despite the River Hawks’ best efforts, they headed into the second intermission still searching for answers.
Third Period: The River Hawks came out for the final 20 minutes of play, looking to tie things up and keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. As the minutes counted down and shot after shot was denied, it seemed that a win was unreachable. With the final buzzer sounding, Merrimack College swept the weekend series and defeated UMass Lowell 2-0 on Saturday night.
This was a tough weekend for the River Hawks, and with one more weekend of regular-season hockey to go, things are beginning to look questionable for UMass Lowell’s tournament hopes. Currently, UMass Lowell has a record of 16-13-3, including an in-conference record of 10-9-3. Next weekend, UMass Lowell closes their regular season with the Northeastern University Huskies coming to town on Friday night, followed by the season finale at Matthews Arena in Boston on Saturday night.