LOWELL, Mass. — He didn’t improve his goals against average or save percentage by even one digit.
UMass-Lowell goaltender Cam McCormick, who entered the game with a 0.00 GAA and 1.000 SV%, maintained those perfect statistics in a 1-0 win over UMass-Amherst with a 24-save shutout.
Fresh off the heels of a 1-0 victory last weekend at New Hampshire and a 6-0 win over UConn in his only other start of the year, McCormick set a new Lowell record for consecutive minutes without a goal. Dating back to last year, he has now stymied opponents over the last 193:50, breaking Dana Demole’s previous record of 177:08.
“Records are fine individual accomplishments, but we’re looking out for the big picture,” said McCormick. “We got the W tonight and that’s all that matters right now.”
In an otherwise drab affair, Lowell moved to 6-2-0 overall and 4-2-0 in Hockey East. UMass-Amherst fell to 4-5-0 and 2-2-0, respectively.
Ed McGrane’s power-play goal at 4:27 of the first period, assisted by a delayed penalty extra skater, was the only tally of the game, the second straight 1-0 win for the River Hawks. Ironically, in the school’s first 1000 games of hockey, it recorded only a single 1-0 contest, but now has recorded that result in back-to-back games.
The shutout win allowed some playful postgame banter between UMass-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald and his goaltender.
“I think shutouts are overrated,” said MacDonald, glancing at McCormick with a sly grin. “There’s just one puck out there. He just needs to get in front of it.”
With a laugh, McCormick replied, “I really can’t argue with him.”
The game saw relatively few strong scoring chances for either team as the Minutemen did a good job of frustrating Lowell’s forechecking game.
“We did a poor job of dumping the puck,” said MacDonald. “I saw at least eight times that we dumped it right to their defenseman who put it down and went the other way.
“That’s a basic fundamental that got away from us tonight and as a result took a lot of energy and enthusiasm and created a level of frustration for us.”
On the plus side for the River Hawks, they allowed few serious chances.
“The positive clearly was our determination and dogged effort in our D-zone coverage,” said MacDonald. “We showed poise with the puck. We were solid. To get it done the way we got it done, we should be able to access that experience in the future to help us.”
While the Minutemen controlled territorial play late in the second period and early in the third, they could not draw even after the early Lowell goal with serious chances rare for both sides.
“They’re physically a real strong team,” said UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon. “It was hard for us to get real advantage down low on them and we were able to contain them enough down low to keep their chances somewhat limited.
“That was part of our scheme to be able to contain them because they’re so dominating below the [faceoff] dots in tight.
“They won the game. That’s the bottom line.”
For McCormick, the shutout marked a total reversal from a game against the Minutemen last year when he allowed four goals on all four first-period shots leading to a frustrating loss.
“It’s amazing what a year will do because last year he didn’t play with that poise and that composure,” said Cahoon. “Here he is a year later breaking records. Kudos to him.”
The River Hawks scored at 4:27 during what amounted to a six-on-four advantage. Already on the power play, they added a sixth skater on a delayed penalty and controlled the puck long enough to get off several shots, the last of which was a Peter Hay wrister from the top of the left faceoff circle. McGrane knocked in the rebound.
In the second period, Lowell dominated play midway through, but almost saw Tim Turner get the equalizer while shorthanded at 13:30. Turner picked off a telegraphed pass and outraced the River Hawk defensemen down the ice. On the resulting breakaway, however, McCormick made the big save.
The Minutemen surged territorially to the end of the period and into the third when Randy Drohan sent Tim Vitek on a breakaway. Excellent hustle by defenseman Chris Gustafson, however, allowed him to tie up Vitek’s stick at the last instant and foil the last significant Minuteman opportunity.
Cahoon pulled goaltender Mike Johnson with 1:19 remaining, but could not generate any real testers for McCormick.
The two teams finish their home-and-home series at the Mullins Center on Saturday.
Thanks to Lowell Sun writer Chaz Scoggins for the note about Lowell’s history of 1-0 games.