LOWELL, Mass. — It was a power play that decided both first and last place in Hockey East.
With 4:10 remaining in a 2-2 game, UMass-Lowell went on the man advantage. Instead, however, the Massachusetts Minutemen capitalized. Peter Trovato scored the shorthanded game-winner on a rebound after James Salon jumped on a center-ice turnover, broke into the offensive zone and put a shot on net.
“It was a perfectly executed penalty kill that we had been working on all week,” Travato said. “We jammed up the middle on their break-in and next thing you know the puck squirts to Jamie. My hat’s off to Jamie Solon for taking it wide and getting it on net. That’s basically a gimme goal. It popped right out to me and I stuck it in the net.
“Those are the types of goals that I get. I’m not going to come down and snipe one from the corner. I’m a rebound goal-getter. That’s my area right there.”
With the other seven Hockey East teams still waiting to play their first league contests, the win puts UMass into first place and Lowell into last. A frivolous fact to be sure, but the two points in the standings are anything but.
“It was an early-season game; it wasn’t a pretty game by any means,” UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon said. “There were a lot of turnovers both ways and it didn’t really flow the way either coach would hope it will flow later in the year.
“[But] every game in this league is so critical and every game in this league is so hard to get points in. You take the points and you’re thankful you got the points, and you move forward and hopefully learn something.”
Travato’s shorthanded goal served as the exclamation point for a stellar performance by the UMass penalty-killers. They shut out the Lowell power play, 0-for-6, with the notable highlight being a late second-period five-on-three for a full two minutes.
“[That] kill was the biggest play of the game, maybe other than the shorthanded goal,” Cahoon said. “Those two plays were the difference-makers.”
For Lowell, which had rallied to tie the game earlier in the third period, it was a frustrating loss.
“They deserved to win the game and the best team won the game,” UML coach Blaise MacDonald said. “It’s just a little unfortunate that we kind of giftwrapped them the win.”
The game opened with a sustained feeling-out period befitting its early-season nature. Eventually, though, the scoring opportunities developed and Lowell cashed in at 12:41. With a delayed penalty looming after Andrew Martin forced a tripping call, Danny O’Brien centered a pass to Ben Walter in front and the sophomore buried it.
Arguably the first turning point came with two minutes left in the period, when Lowell went on the power play after Elias Godoy forced a takedown. Not only did UMass kill the first half of the infraction, it picked up a Lowell penalty to even the sides temporarily at four-on-four. On the resulting power play, 35 seconds into the second period, UMass defenseman Thomas Pock evened the score with a wrister from the slot.
The middle period continued to fall decisively in the Minutemen category. At 8:12, Greg Mauldin made it a 2-1 lead when he beat his defender and then UML goaltender Chris Davidson along the ice to the far side. Perhaps most importantly, UMass’ penalty killers kept Lowell off the scoreboard late in the period during the five-on-three.
Lowell evened the score, 2-2, in creative fashion at 7:38 of the third period. Without his stick, Andrew Martin kicked the puck across to Walter, who put his second tally into the net.
Martin had a great chance to get a go-ahead goal soon after, picking off the puck on a four-on-three penalty kill and taking off on a partial breakaway. Mauldin’s determined backcheck, however, included enough of a hook to slow Martin down without being so flagrant to prompt a whistle.
All of which set up the heroics by Solon and Trovato.
Next weekend UMass hosts St. Lawrence while Lowell flies to Alaska to play in the Nye Frontier Classic with Miami, Air Force and Alaska-Anchorage.