BOSTON — UMass-Lowell overcame the absence of its two biggest guns to defeat Northeastern, 2-1, in a kickoff of second semester league action on Thursday. Playing without Ron Hainsey (World Junior Tournament) and Yorick Treille (concussion), the River Hawks used offense from unlikely sources and solid goaltending by Jimi St. John to secure the win.
St. John, who sat for eight straight games prior to the holiday break, stopped 21 of 22 shots while Geoff Schomogyi scored his third goal of the season and Steve Slonina got the game-winner on his first point of the year.
“We got contributions from a lot of different people, which is what we needed,” said UML coach Tim Whitehead. “We had a couple new faces on the scoresheet, but also defensively a lot of guys contributed who didn’t show up on the scoresheet. We needed that.”
As a result, Lowell (8-8-2, 2-6-2 HEA) moves out of exclusive residence in the Hockey East cellar. The River Hawks are now tied with Merrimack (which holds a game in hand) for eighth place and are only a point behind Northeastern (7-8-3, 2-5-3 HEA) for seventh.
While Lowell has posted a 5-2-2 record in its last nine games, Northeastern fell to 2-6-2 in its last 10 after a promising start. Nonetheless, NU coach Bruce Crowder sounded upbeat after the loss.
“I told the guys to keep their heads up,” he said. “We didn’t make a lot of mistakes. I thought we made two mistakes and [Lowell] capitalized. It could have been anybody’s game. …
“I don’t have any complaints about how they played. You’re going to have nights like this.”
Northeastern dominated territorially for the first eight minutes of the game, but had nothing to show for it. At 5:21, St. John made a nice stop on a Brian Cummings backhander. Graig Mischler then walked off the resulting faceoff unmolested only to hit the post.
Half a minute later, Scott Selig and Trevor Reschny broke two on one, but Reschny shot wide on the one-timer. A minute later, Brian Tudrick came in off the right boards and tested St. John on the shot and rebound.
Nonetheless, the score remained 0-0. Lowell, having bent but not broken, buried its first serious opportunity at 8:20. NU goaltender Mike Gilhooly roamed behind the net to field the puck, but communication between his defenseman and him went awry. As a result, Brad Rooney was able to center the puck from behind the net to Schomogyi. The sophomore beat an unprepared Gilhooly far side along the ice.
“That first goal was huge,” said Whitehead, “because [Northeastern] had a couple of chances, [but] we weathered the storm. Then we got one and it gave us confidence.”
The River Hawks made it 2-0 at 13:40 when Slonina got behind defenseman John Peterman, collected a perfect long bomb from Jeff Boulanger and sniped his shot into the top right corner. It was Slonina’s first point in 14 games this season.
With the game potentially hanging in the balance, Northeastern killed a penalty incurred just 20 seconds into the second period and then narrowed the gap to 2-1 at 2:30. Chris Lynch and Willie Levesque broke into the zone two on one. While Levesque cut across the net, screening and distracting St. John, Lynch shot and the puck found the back of the net. St. John argued for goaltender interference, but to no avail.
Lynch’s tally ended an unenviable Husky streak of 96 minutes, 52 seconds without scoring a goal at home.
Midway through the second period, Mike Jozefowicz failed to cash in on an excellent chance to tie the game, putting his shot from in front over the net.
Northeastern frittered away another golden opportunity that arose out of a fracas at 12:53. A host of penalties boiled down to a two-minute minor for the Huskies and a five-minute major and game misconduct to Lowell’s Kevin Kotyluk. With a three-minute advantage looming, however, Northeastern took one penalty while still four-on-four and then another later.
As a result, the Huskies left themselves with little power-play time and two shorter penalty kills.
They also committed an inordinate number of offsides, ending threats such as their three-on-two rush in the second period’s closing minutes.
While the lost opportunities proved frustrating for Northeastern, they also served notice to Lowell that the third period would have to be played differently if the win was to be theirs.
“If we had come out in the third period the way we played in the second half of the second, [Northeastern] would have eventually gotten one.
“But the third period was our best.”
Both sides had chances over the final 20 minutes. Northeastern would press and Lowell would counter with an odd-man rush. Neither side could capitalize, however, and the game ended as a 2-1 win for Lowell.
The River Hawks return to action on Saturday, hosting Merrimack, while Northeastern is off until next weekend when it faces UMass-Amherst in a home-and-home series.