AMHERST, Mass. — When the Boston Red Sox are in the World Series, it’s tough for even a losing coach to get down in the dumps.
After watching his team fall victim to a Stephen Werner wrist shot that beat goaltender Chris Davidson (23 saves) through the five-hole 48 seconds into overtime, Massachusetts-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald saw the bright side.
“Maybe it’s a good omen for tomorrow’s game,” MacDonald said, referring to the “knuckleball” wrist shot from Werner that gave Massachusetts a 3-2 win at the Mullins Center Friday night.
It was a clear reference to the fact that knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield is the starter for Saturday’s World Series Game 1 between the Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. After a bitter loss that saw the River Hawks give up an early lead, then surrender an overtime goal, turning to baseball seemed like a good proposition.
That’s not to say that Friday night’s clash was forgettable for the River Hawks. Lowell saw good play from the top line of Andrew Martin, Ben Walter, and Danny O’Brien, including a late goal from O’Brien off a feed from Martin. In addition, the River Hawk penalty kill fought off a 5-on-3, as well as a five-minute major assessed to Kelly Sullivan, who laid a vicious hit on UMass’ Matt Anderson in the second period and was sent off with a game misconduct for hitting from behind.
However, the River Hawks barely had time to set up in overtime before Werner gave the Minutemen the win in their Hockey East opener.
Werner drew the puck off a faceoff win by Anderson, and quickly fired from the high slot. The initial shot bounced off of a Lowell defender, but right back to Werner’s stick. He reloaded and the second shot slipped between Davidson’s legs for the clincher. Anderson was credited with an assist on the play.
The Minutemen improve their record to 3-1-0 (1-0 Hockey East), while the River Hawks fall to 1-2-0 (0-2-0 HEA).
The UMass offense was dormant for the first period, but awoke in the second period after a Lowell goal to end the first. After entering the period down 1-0, the Minutemen turned on the juice, sparked by the all-freshman line of P.J. Fenton, Dan Gordon, and Matt Burto.
Fenton took a feed from Burto with 10:29 to play in the second, walked in front, and promptly deposited the puck for his second goal of the season.
Matt Anderson followed up five minutes later, off a pretty play from linemates Garrett Summerfield and Stephen Werner. Werner started the play with a slick cross-ice feed to Summerfield, stationed near the right post. Summerfield dropped it back to Anderson, who trailed into the slot and buried the chance to give the Minutemen a 2-1 lead.
The River Hawks answered in the third period, when O’Brien became the beneficiary of a great pass from Martin and had a gaping net for the tying goal. UMass had another chance late, when a flurry around Davidson resulted in the puck popping up over his head, but the Lowell defense defused the situation.
The two teams fought a low-powered first period, totaling six combined penalties and very few scoring chances. The River Hawks broke the ice with a power-play goal late in the period. UMass’ Tim Vitek was sent to the box for holding with nine seconds to go, and Cleve Kinley scored off of the faceoff four seconds later, sending Lowell to the locker room with a 1-0 lead. UMass goaltender Gabe Winer (25 saves) later said he never saw the shot.
“I thought we played pretty well in the first period, but it definitely gave a wakeup call for them to score like that,” Werner said.