AMHERST, Mass. — Although the Alumni Cup had already been clinched with a weekend sweep by Massachusetts earlier in the year, UMass-Lowell got some sweet redemption by keeping its brother school from clinching a Hockey East playoff spot with a 3-2 victory.
“Desperate times take desperate measures,” Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald said. “I don’t have an adjective to describe how good it feels. You want your players to get what they deserve. We’ve been very pleased with them in practice.”
Freshman Ben Walter got the game winner at 12:17 of the third period when he pounded home a rebound from in close.
Mark Concannon wrapped around the net for a point-blank shot that was saved by Gabe Winer, but Walter was opportunistic in poking home the weak-side rebound.
After sitting for the final 7:24 of the second period, freshman goalie Dominic Smart returned for the third period to halt a UMass surge.
“I thought he played great,” MacDonald said. “You look at their two goals and one was right off the inside post and the other was a perfectly placed shot.”
Smart was instrumental in stifling a Minutemen power play 10 minutes before Walter got the winner.
He stopped Stephen Werner on a wrist shot from just inside the faceoff circle and he made a glove save on a screened Sean Regan point shot.
The freshman made seven stops in the third period and 17 overall for his fifth win of the season.
Winer, on the other hand, had his second consecutive solid game but was a victim of a defense that collapsed around him.
“We’re not skating away from the puck like we’re capable,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “We started giving up ice and we didn’t maintain lane control.”
UMass took a 2-1 lead at 3:54 of the second when Josh Hanson postmarked a slapshot for the left post. Jeff Lang sprang Hanson into the zone and he did the rest, beating Smart from the right faceoff circle.
Following the goal the Minutemen picked up their play, which led to the first power play of the game.
UMass had a trio of good looks from the point with Marvin Degon providing a pair of one-timers and Thomas Pock supplying a slapshot of his own. But Smart fought through traffic in front to make the saves.
With 7:24 remaining in the period Smart was pulled in favor of backup Chris Davidson. The sophomore made only two saves but it seemed to spark the River Hawk offense.
“Dominic Smart had really pulled his groin,” MacDonald said. “We had to do it for health reasons.”
A pair of good shifts led to a James Solon hooking penalty and Ed McGrane scored on the first shot of the man advantage.
Concannon fed McGrane all alone at the right point and he wound up and beat Winer through a screen to tie the game at 2.
With both teams coming off losses the first period was not a smooth 20 minutes of hockey. Most of the play was of the chippy variety and in the neutral zone.
Lowell opened the scoring at 6:06 of the period. Steve Slonina slid a blind backhand pass from behind the net to Elias Godoy in the slot. The freshman then slid a wrist shot inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.
UMass answered just over four minutes later when Greg Mauldin scored his 16th goal of the year.
Mauldin took a pass from Stephen Werner in the neutral zone and sped past Josh Reed on the left wing. Mauldin cut back and let Reed go by him before lifting a wrist shot over Smart’s left shoulder.