TROY, N.Y. — The Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks defeated the Vermont Catamounts 5-0 in the first game of the Auld Lang Syne tournament Saturday afternoon before 2,500 at Thompson Arena.
UML used stifling defense and a 17-save performance by freshman Dominic Smart to record its second shutout in three games.
“Early in the game, we had a couple of chances to put the pucks in the net and we just didn’t,” Said longtime Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan. “They played very well . I don’t know why they are 0-7 in their league.”
The Catamounts, the tournament winners two years ago, were looking to bounce back from a disappointing end to the first semester: a loss to the U.S. National Under-18 Team. Instead, Vermont remains winless (0-4-2) versus Hockey East opponents this season.
UML, meanwhile, had just snapped a five-game losing skid with a sweep on the road, shutting out St. Lawrence on Friday and beating Clarkson Saturday to run its nonconference record to 6-1-0.
The River Hawks opened the scoring at the 4:24 mark of the first period. Andrew Martin tallied his fifth of the season after converting on a centering pass into the slot from behind the net. The pass came from Bobby Robins for the first point of his career. Freshman Ben Walter also got his first collegiate point, as he had the second assist on the play.
The ECAC’s leader in goals, Vermont winger Jeff Miles, had the best chance of the period for the Cats. Miles stole a clearing pass along the boards from Smart and fired a shot over the crossbar. Vermont defenseman Gerard Miller also rang the post off the faceoff.
Lowell held a 13-9 shot advantage after one period.
Vermont goaltender Shawn Conschafter (39 saves) stood on his head for most of the contest, making saves behind a defense which was missing one of its best defenders. Freshman Jaime Sifers is out this weekend with a shoulder injury.
“I thought Shawn played pretty well. I thought our defense didn’t,” said Gilligan,”It was a pretty solid effort by Lowell, but my biggest concern is unforced errors — turning the puck over on the breakout pass and also making mistakes on the blue line.”
Lowell made it 2-0 at 6:43 of the second with a shot from the point, which Darryl Green slipped through a screen as Conschafter had no chance. Walter and Martin got the two assists. The line of Martin, Walter, and Robins accounted for eight of 15 UMass-Lowell points.
Lowell was not finished. Walter scored his first career goal at 15:46 of the second on a pass from behind the net. Assists were by Robins and Martin.
The third period was much of the same. Lowell controlled the play and Vermont was not able to make clean breakout passes to generate offense, allowing the River Hawks to add two more for good measure. Stephen Slonina scored from passes by Jerramie Domish and Peter Tormey, and senior Ed McGrane pounded a rebound home off of a Peter Tormey shot for the final count.
UML coach Blaise MacDonald was pleased with his team. “These are times that are unpredictable for college teams. They have a bit of a layoff, and I think it shows the character of a team, and how they come back.”
The River Hawks will play in the championship game against Dartmouth at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Vermont faces Notre Dame in the consolation game.
“After a poor game like that, they’ve gotta have one good effort this weekend,” Gilligan concluded.
Said MacDonald, “We wanted to play in the championship game, whether it’s Dartmouth or Notre Dame. They’re two great programs, two great schools.”