LOWELL, Mass. — Two goals in 17 seconds in the third period helped New Hampshire tie UMass-Lowell 2-2 Friday night in front of 4,408 fans, the biggest crowd of the season at the Tsongas Arena.
The team’s physical presence also helped the River Hawks (5-7-1) against the Wildcats (10-3-2).
“Lowell is a big physical team and they pushed us around the entire game,” New Hampshire forward Corey Joe Ficek said.
Said UNH coach Dick Umile: “We were fortunate to gain a point tonight. I give a lot of credit to Lowell for the way that they played.”
Lowell got the scoring started at 3:32 of the first period. Ed McGrane led a three-on-two breakout and was able to backhand the shot above the right shoulder of UNH goalie Ty Conklin for his fifth goal of the season.
A little over three minutes later, Brad Rooney gave the River Hawks a 2-0 lead. He picked up a loose puck in front of the UNH net and scored his fifth goal on the season.
Lowell dominated the first two periods of the game, limiting UNH to only four shots on net. The River Hawks had many other chances in the period but were turned aside by Conklin. Lowell outshot UNH 11-2 in the opening period.
The second period was almost a carbon copy of the first with Lowell outshoting UNH 8-2. Lowell controlled the play in UNH’s zone for most of the first two periods but were only able to score twice on Conklin, who made numerous quality saves.
UNH got on the board exactly four minutes into the third period. David Busch took a centering pass from Ficek and scored his sixth goal of the season.
Before the UNH fans could sit back down, Ficek and Busch broke in the Lowell zone again off the center-ice faceoff. Ficek circled in front of Lowell goaltender Cam McCormack and scored again for UNH 17 seconds later.
Conklin ended the night with 27 saves and McCormack had 14 saves.
“We lost out on the playoffs last year by one point. Any point is a good point in this league,” Lowell coach Tim Whitehead said. “We played with passion tonight and we played for each other this evening.”
“We knew that this was a huge stretch for us going into the Christmas break,” Lowell captain Brad Rooney said. “We started skating hard in practice on Monday.”