LOWELL, Mass. — UMass-Lowell led Colgate, 7-2, after two periods and appeared to be home free in its last game before the holiday break. With 5:31 left in the contest, however, a head injury to Yorick Treille threatened to render the victory a Pyrrhic one for the River Hawks.
Treille, who ironically led the team with two goals and an assist on the night, had just taken a shot while on the power play when he was hit in the head and fell in a clump to the ice. Clearly unconscious, he may well have blacked out even before hitting the surface. Although he bled considerably from the facial area, most likely the nose, the major concern involved his head injury since he lay on the ice for several minutes and appeared rubber-legged when he got to his feet.
He could not remember the events surrounding the hit and was taken to a local hospital for a CAT scan.
“He could be in lots of trouble,” said UML coach Tim Whitehead. “That’s his head and he’s blacked out. We’ll see what happens to him. There’s no place for that. … It was a dangerous play.”
Colgate coach Don Vaughan saw the injury from a different perspective.
“I didn’t see the hit, but my guy told me that he put his shoulder into him,” said Vaughan. “I guess the tape will tell. I think [Lowell] obviously felt a lot differently than we did.
“It certainly wasn’t anything calculated. The kid took a shot and was following through, I think. It’s not a pretty thing. It’s an ugly part of the game.”
Amazingly, all three on-ice officials, led by referee John Gravellese, did not see the controversial play even though it was in the vicinity of the puck. As a result, no penalty was called, which enraged the River Hawks. Ugliness ensued.
“They said they didn’t see it,” said Whitehead. “There were three guys on the ice and he was right there!
“The situation that followed could have been averted with a simple penalty there. There was no reason not to call a penalty there.
“I was very disappointed with how that situation panned out, first of all that a guy is going to hit one of our players in the head in a cross-ice check and then that there were no consequences for it.”
With no two- or five-minute penalty called in a game that had long since been decided, a sequence of battles broke out that would eventually add up to 21 minor penalties and four misconducts. As a whole, the entire third period included 122 total penalty minutes.
To Gravellese’s credit, he assessed no game disqualifications that would have automatically suspended players for the next game even though there were a couple borderline cases.
“Aside from the garbage at the end, it was a good game,” said Whitehead.
Indeed, it was considerably more than that for the River Hawks, who were coming off back-to-back ties in defensive struggles with New Hampshire last weekend. After going 120 minutes, 30 seconds without scoring, Lowell exploded for three goals in the first period and four more in the second to grab the 7-2 lead.
“I thought they took it to us,” said Vaughan. “They owned us for two periods. They controlled the boards, controlled our end and controlled their end. They played very, very well.
“We didn’t play the way we’re capable of, but I’m not sure how much of that had to do with us and maybe more to do with how they played. They played physical. They were stronger than us on the puck.
“They got a couple of what I would consider soft goals, got up by a couple and then we were playing catch-up. That’s an all-too familiar theme for us recently.”
Lowell heads into the holiday break with a 6-7-2 record while Colgate stands at a sobering 3-10-2. The latter mark stands as a remarkable drop for a team that qualified for the NCAA tournament last year.
“We really welcome this break,” said Vaughan. “As far as we’re concerned, this is a perfect thing for us.” He then added with a rueful, gallows-humor half-chuckle, “It might be the best thing that’s happened to us so far this season, having a break.”
Lowell took a 3-1 lead in a first period that included two Colgate hit-from-behind penalties and a third that was termed a charging. The River Hawks made the visitors pay for the offenses with two power-play goals.
“The intent was a good one,” said Vaughan of the hits from behind. “Those two guys were trying to jumpstart us to play more physical, get a hit and get themselves involved. But they have to do a better job of holding up in those situations. You can’t hit a guy in the numbers. They were both good calls.”
Lowell, having killed off the first penalty of the game, scored on its first man advantage at 6:56. The Hawks worked the puck down low and converged on the slot, where Ed McGrane beat goaltender Jason Lefevre low.
Less than two minutes later, Lefevre let in what at first appeared to be one of the softest goals of the year. Off a faceoff, defenseman Ron Hainsey shot low from the outside right hashmarks. The puck got through the netminder’s pads and trickled slowly through the crease and barely over the goal line before he tried to swat it aside. Video replay later showed that Treille tipped Hainsey’s shot, letting Lefevre somewhat off the hook.
Colgate struck back just 21 seconds after Treille put them behind, 2-0. Etienne Morin collected a rebound and roofed his shot over a sprawling Cam McCormick.
The River Hawks regained their two-goal margin at 12:58 on another power play. Hainsey shot from the point through a Tom Rouleau screen and it found twine.
Early in the second period, Brad Rooney’s shorthanded goal broke the game open. Picking off a loose puck, the UML captain gloved it down and was off to the races. He deked Lefevre, stuffed it five-hole and it trickled in.
A few minutes later, Treille and Laurent Meunier — Lowell’s French Connection — collaborated on another nail in the coffin to make it 5-1. Meunier passed from along the right boards to Treille in the slot, where he one-timed it high past Lefevre. The beleaguered goaltender was then pulled in favor of David Cann.
Lowell made it 6-1, cutting through Colgate in the neutral zone like a hot knife through butter, and Tom Rouleau put in the rebound of a Rooney shot.
Colgate’s P.J. Yedon got one back 11 seconds into a power play, but another 39 seconds after that Dan Fontas answered by swatting in a loose puck in the crease.
The 7-2 score would hold through a scoreless third period that was dominated, as was the entire game, by the Treille injury.