LOWELL, Mass. — Senior captain Ed McGrane scored the eventual game-tying goal at 14:53 of the third period, along with adding an assist as the UMass-Lowell tied No. 4 New Hampshire 4-4 Friday evening in front of 5,254 fans at the Tsongas Arena.
“Clearly a very good point for our team,” said UML head coach Blaise MacDonald. “I liked the way we obtained the point. We came from behind against a great team. Coming back against UNH and Maine a few weeks ago gives us some confidence to fall back upon as we continue our drive to the playoffs.”
The tie denied UNH head coach Dick Umile his 300th win, but it also denied UML its first win at home since January 7. UML is one point behind eighth-place Northeastern with three games remaining, while UNH is currently tied with Boston College for the league lead, with the Eagles holding a game in hand.
The contest got off to a slow start, as the Wildcats registered the game’s first shot three minutes after the first faceoff. Junior Steve Saviano redirected in the slot a classmate Mick Mounsey blast from the right-side blue line to break a scoreless tie at 9:58 of the first.
The Wildcats had an opportunity to go up by two when sophomore Sean Collins had a wide-open net all alone with a rebound. Collins could not convert on the opportunity, though, before a crowd descended on the net and dislodged it from its moorings.
UNH increased its lead to two at 6:18 in the second with senior Lanny Gare’s 21st goal of the season. Linemate Colin Hemingway sent a beautiful pass from the right dasher to Gare at the left post, and Gare made sure the puck found the back of the net with a power-play marker for a 2-0 Wildcat lead.
The River Hawks reversed the momentum of the match midway through the second period, scoring three times in under three minutes.
Senior Mark Concannon passed the puck from the right side faceoff circle to classmate Steve Slonina at the top of the crease. Slonina lifted a wrister over junior netminder Mike Ayers at 8:53 for UML’s first goal of the game
At 10:38 the River Hawks tied the game when freshman Bobby Robins collected the puck from behind the Wildcat net and skated out from the left. Robins’ attempt beat Ayers along the ice to make it a 2-2 contest.
UML took its only lead over a minute later. Junior Anders Strome collected a Mark Pandolfo rebound and bounced the puck off the crossbar and into the net at 11:56.
The Wildcats knotted the game up at 14:33. A defensive breakdown allowed for a plethora of UNH players to crash the net, and before the dust had settled senior Josh Prudden had picked up his seventh goal of the season, sending the contest into the second break tied at three.
Sophomore Justin Aikins gave the Wildcats back the lead when he took a feed from behind the River Hawk net and sent it past UML goaltender Dominic Smart . Aikins goal was the second power-play goal of the game in as many chances for the Wildcats, and put UNH up 4-3 at 8:53.
McGrane netted the tying goal after receiving the puck in the left corner and skating toward the net, banging his shot in off a set of UNH shinpads.
Smart made a career-high 34 saves in the tie for UML, while Ayers matched the total, stopping 34 shots as well. The power play worked to the Wildcats’ advantage, as they went 2-for-3, while the River Hawks were 1-for-5. UML outshot UNH the entire game until the overtime period, with the Wildcats holding a 7-3 advantage. Both teams ended with 38 attempts.
“I thought our guys played hard in the first and second periods,” said Umile. “The guys battled in the overtime period, but it didn’t happen.”
Tuesday UMass-Lowell (10-17-4, 3-15-3 HE) will host Merrimack in the final meeting of the two teams this season, while New Hampshire (20-7-5, 14-5-3 HE) is idle until next Friday when it travels to Boston College. All games are scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m.