LOWELL, Mass. — One night earlier, third-ranked New Hampshire jumped to an early lead and then held on for dear life in the third period. This time, the Wildcats left no doubt, scoring five unanswered goals to complete a sweep of their home-and-home series with Massachusetts-Lowell, 6-2.
As a result, UNH (5-1-2, 3-1-1 HEA) leapfrogged inactive Boston College into first place in Hockey East. The Eagles, however, hold two games in hand.
“Obviously, we’re real pleased with the way we played tonight,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “I thought the team played a great game for 60 minutes. We got four points. Any time you get four points in Hockey East, it’s a great weekend.
“I was really pleased with all the lines and the specialty situations. The team played a real solid game. It’s as good a game as we’ve played in a while.”
Lowell (4-5-0, 0-4-0 HEA) remains winless in Hockey East, having played only nationally ranked league opponents to date.
“We got beat by a real good team tonight, a team that at this point in the season is much better than we are,” said UML coach Blaise MacDonald. “I thought there were a few differences in the game.
“The overriding difference was that they’re a team that has an awful lot of good habits: strong on their sticks, great spacing, great positioning and they’re very thorough. We have a team that has good habits, but yet on an inconsistent basis. So we need to take a page out of their book.
“The other difference in the game was their ability to capitalize and yield off their opportunities. They got 11 shots in the second period and got four goals whereas we had three two-on-ones and two or three grade A chances and we yielded zero goals. That’s the difference between a top-level team and a team that’s trying to get on the rise.”
An otherwise evenly played first period saw a stunningly soft goal give Lowell a 1-0 lead. Four minutes into the game, Josh Reed tossed the puck toward the net from the red line while shorthanded. The intended time-killer handcuffed UNH goaltender Mike Ayers, an All-Hockey East selection last year, and bounced into the net.
Four unanswered UNH goals in the second period, however, rendered the softie irrelevant. Tim Horst evened the score off a faceoff at the three-minute mark, beating UML goaltender Dominic Smart with a screened shot along the ice from the point.
Midway through the period, Steve Saviano fed Nathan Martz in front from along the left boards and the uncovered junior redirected the puck into the net for his fourth goal of the season.
Tyler Scott made it 3-1 at 15:59 when he buried the rebound of a Brian Yandle shot from the point. After the River Hawks failed to capitalize on two two-on-one rushes, Saviano made them pay. Martz returned the favor from the second goal, feeding Saviano from behind the net. Uncovered and on the doorstep, the junior buried the backbreaking goal at 19:14.
Lanny Gare and Ed McGrane swapped third-period goals before Colin Hemingway closed out the scoring. Hemingway’s seventh of the year came on the power play, UNH’s first this year in league play ending an 0-for-20 drought.