DURHAM, N.H. — New Hampshire’s Darren Haydar notched a power-play goal with 12:13 remaining in the game to break a 3-3 tie, and send the UMass-Lowell RiverHawks home with their second league loss on the weekend, 4-3 on Saturday.
With UMass-Lowell’s R.J. Nolan in the box for holding, Jim Abbott slid a pass through the slot to Haydar, who one-timed it past goalie Cam McCormick (21 saves).
“The [penalty-kill] box collapsed, the forwards sunk down, there was a pass across, and then a one-timer. I just didn’t get there fast enough”, said McCormick.
“It was a great pass by Jim [Abbott]. Stafford and Jim were playing catch with [the puck], and I had an open lane to the net,” said Haydar, who along with Abbott and linemate Matt Swain have each notched at least one point in all six games this season.
The first period saw plenty of scoring, as six of the seven goals were scored within the frame. The RiverHawks started the scoring flurry just 39 seconds in when Chris Gustafson notched his first goal of the season. Wildcat goalie Ty Conklin went behind the net to clear the puck, and got stuck behind a forward. Gustafson fired the shot into the net from just inside the blue line before Conklin dove back into the crease.
New Hampshire tied the game barely a minute later when Kevin Truelson scored his first goal of his career at 1:56. Forward Johnny Rogers sped up ice with the puck, and dropped it at the top of the right-wing faceoff circle and Truelson rifled it through McCormick’s five-hole along the ice notching the score at 1.
New Hampshire carried the play for the next few minutes, and less than two minutes later, Abbott broke the tie with his fourth goal of the year. Nathan Martz centered a pass from the right wing, and found Abbott all alone in front of the crease. Abbott poked the puck past McCormick, giving the Wildcats their only lead until the final frame. Travis Banga also assisted on the goal.
UMass-Lowell responded by playing an extremely tough, close-checking game, and frustrated the Wildcats’ breakout. The RiverHawks notched two consecutive goals to take a 3-2 lead.
Brad Rooney tied the game at 2-2 when he carried the puck from inside his own zone, faked two defenders left, skated through the slot, and slid a shot past Conklin at 8:20. Geoff Schomogyi and R.J. Tolan assisted on the goal.
Schomogyi gave UMass-Lowell the lead when he beat Conklin at 12:26. On a play almost identical to Abbott’s goal, Rooney fed Schomogyi, who was wide open in the slot, and Schomogyi tapped it past Conklin. Tom Rouleau also assisted on the goal.
The 3-2 lead would stand until Matt Swain beat McCormick on the power play with 1:14 remaining in the period. Swain carried the puck to the top of the faceoff circle to McCormick’s right and slapped a shot that beat McCormick just inside the glove-side post. Mark White and Corey-Joe Ficek assisted on the goal.
The period came to a close with the RiverHawks and Wildcats deadlocked at 3. UMass-Lowell outshot New Hampshire 12-11 in the opening stanza.
“I don’t think both teams played well defensively in the first period”, said New Hampshire head coach Dick Umile.
“The first period was a pretty good period for us”, added UMass-Lowell head coach Tim Whitehead. “We did a good job at taking the body, moving our feet, and moving the puck up ice. We took it to the net a couple of times. We did not do this in the second period.”
The second period saw New Hampshire generate several great chances to score, including two consecutive shorthanded breakaways by David Busch in the first four minutes. McCormick stood tall in the second period stopping all seven Wildcat shots.
“He’s definitely improved this year”, said Whitehead of his junior netminder. “He’s up on his feet a lot more, he was a bright spot for us on the weekend.”
The period closed with no scoring, and New Hampshire outshooting the RiverHawks 7-3.
The game remained tied until Haydar’s goal in the third period.
The crowd was almost treated to a rarity when Conklin cleared the puck toward the empty UMass-Lowell net, but missed by a few feet with five seconds remaining. The Wildcats held on to the 4-3 lead, and improved to 5-0-1 (1-0-0 in Hockey East). The RiverHawks dropped to 2-2-0 (0-2-0 in Hockey East).
“We have to start finding a way to win these close one-goal games”, Whitehead said of his team’s effort. “We played a pretty good first period, but got away from it in the second. The third period was pretty good as well, but we took a tough elbowing penalty, and it proved costly.
“We’re tired of moral victories. We need to have real victories like against RPI. We found a way to win a close game. The last two nights we didn’t do that.”
“Lowell has shown they’ve been a strong team. They’re very physical”, said Darren Haydar. “That’s they way they play, and you have to give them a lot of credit.”
“We started off slow, but we played well in the second and third period”, said Umile. “That’s what it’ll be like all year in our league. There won’t be any games like last week against Miami. Lowell competed very hard, they’re better than last year, and there won’t be any easy games in Hockey East like last week against Miami.”
New Hampshire returns to action Nov. 3 when its hosts Yale at 7 p.m. UMass-Lowell returns to action Friday when it hosts UMass-Amherst.