LOWELL, Mass. — UMass-Lowell mounted a furious comeback in the third period to tie UMass-Amherst 3-3 Saturday night at the Tsongas Arena. For the second straight night, Lowell scored a late goal to salvage a tie. Friday night, it was Ed McGrane’s goal that tied the game at Providence. Tonight, it was Andres Strome’s turn for the heroics.
UMass-Lowell (17-8-3, 9-6-3 HEA) was down three goals going into the third period before they started the rally. By virtue of the tie, Lowell sneaks ahead of Northeastern into fourth place in Hockey East. UMass-Amherst (8-20-2, 3-15-2 HEA) rode the solid goaltending of
Mike Johnson, who ended with 39 saves.
“Putrid display of hockey the last two periods,” said a frustrated Amherst Coach Don Cahoon. “We played well in the first period. We executed well and then fell flat on our faces. It was a good effort by Lowell.”
Lowell continues to struggle to put the puck in the net without their Olympic players. Since Yorick Treille, Laurent Meunier, and Baptiste Amar left to skate for Team France, the Riverhawks have managed to score just 14 goals over a 1-3-2 stretch.
“Goals aren’t coming easy for us,” said Lowell coach Blaise McDonald. “There was no doubt that we were going to tie or win that game. It took a strong will to get back into the game.”
Amherst got on the scoreboard first courtesy of a good bounce. A Lowell clearing pass hit Peter Tormey’s skate and deflected in front of the net. Mike Warner picked up the loose puck and backhanded it home past Lowell goalie Cam McCormick.
Amherst extended its lead later in the period. Toni Soderholm led a three-on-two break and fed a trailing Dusty Demianiuk. He took the pass in the slot and sneaked a wrist shot into the lower right corner for his first career goal.
Lowell outshot Amherst in the first period but was unable to generate any quality scoring chances until very late in the period. Johnson was solid between the pipes, turning away all nine of Lowell’s opportunities.
The bad bounces continued to haunt Lowell. While killing a penalty, Steve Slonina and McGrane led a two-on-one shorthanded scoring chance. Slonina fed McGrane whose blast clanked off the post. A little over a minute later, Amherst took advantage of the power
play. Soderholm wristed a shot initially stopped by McCormick, but the rebound bounced right to Tim Vitek. He deposited the shot into the net with only one second left on the power play.
Things turned around early in the third period for Lowell when Amherst was unable to clear the zone. McGrane continued his scoring streak by netting his 19th goal, just 44 seconds into the period.
Lowell kept up the pressure on Johnson spending the majority of the period in the offensive zone. Lowell cut the lead to one off a Dan Fontas faceoff win. He won the draw back to Josh Reed, who sent a shot through traffic that managed to find the back of the net. It was Reed’s third goal of the season and it set up the dramatic finish for the second straight night.
The Riverhawks found themselves down a goal with less than a minute to go in regulation. They pulled McCormick for the extra skater and it paid off. Chris Gustafson blasted a shot that Johnson got a piece of but trickled to Strome on the doorstep. He buried the puck to send the game into overtime.
“I was hoping it would squeak through to me,” said Strome of the tying goal. “It was nothing but net.”
Lowell came out hard in the overtime period but was unable to get the puck past Johnson. Gustafson had two shots that Johnson stopped. One of them sneaked behind him but he was able to cover up before the puck crossed the goal line.
McCormick didn’t face much pressure over the last period and overtime. He made a total of 11 saves for the game.
Lowell continues its Hockey East schedule next weekend with a home-and-home series with Boston University. Amherst has an exhibition game against the U.S. National Development Team before returning to Hockey East play the following weekend at Maine.